Lockdown Lessons: "We need to have a contingency plan to pivot existing biz strategies"
India is emerging out of an over two-month long lockdown – a period that has changed our lives, behaviours and the way we conduct business forever. The lessons that we have learnt during the lockdown period and our experiences during the year so far, will help us navigate a world that we had never imagined. It has been a trying time for many of us, with everyone working from home and having to adapt to a new way of working and living. Adgully’s latest endeavour – Lockdown Lessons – is an attempt to present the key learnings that India’s business honchos have learnt and imbibed, and which can help the industry navigate the new normal better.
Vineet Singh, Group CMO, Embassy Group, speaks to Adgully on the importance of having a contingency plan to pivot existing business strategies depending on the situation, the virtue of patience, as well as rationalising costs and maintaining financial agility.
What are the key lockdown lessons as a professional during the lockdown period?
As a professional, the key lockdown lesson for me has been to be prepared and plan for situations like the recent pandemic, where everything kind of came to a standstill. Of course, in a business scenario, we do have plans for crisis situations, but we only tend to think from revenue or a campaign point of view in my case.
Those plans might be pre-planned to achieve long term business goals, but in situations like COVID-19, which none of us had imagined until four months back, we definitely should have a contingency plan to pivot existing business strategies depending on the situation. It is also very critical to be able to marry business demands with changing industry trends and by being able to adapt, being nimble and being on top of the latest trends and understanding new consumer behaviour patterns. This is by ensuring demand that exists is captured by the business and at the same time sustains the amount of reach irrespective of what the situation is towards that demand.
Please tell us some of the key takeaways in terms of life lessons from the lockdown period?
During the lockdown period, I have realised that communication is the most important aspect of both professional and personal life. I mean we have always known that ‘communication is key’, but it holds true today more than ever. During this period of remote working and social distancing, it is the only way one can be in touch with their teams and people who are the biggest assets at work or their loved ones at home. It is during the lockdown period that I have understood how communication is actually imperative to everything we do. The second takeaway in terms of life lessons would be understanding the virtue of patience. While we all somewhere know that this situation we are at present will end someday, but one needs to be patient about it. I think patience is a virtue that most of us had forgotten during the pre-COVID 19 times and we were always in a hurry to close things or search for the next thing. This situation has taught us that contingencies happen and you have to deal with them patiently by realigning your goals and continue working towards them.
How did you manage and achieve work-life balance while working from home?
For me, it’s a simple rule that I follow – switch off after a certain amount of time in the day to replenish and rejuvenate. I also made it a point to start my day early, which means as early as 5 am in the morning. By extending my day, I not only get the time to get my work done, but also a chance to spend time with myself – be it reading, exercising as well as have family time during the early hours and then again jump right into work. Also, I think a simple but important thing, especially while working remotely, is to have a dedicated workspace. This allows me to physically split my work and personal life. When I enter into that space, I have no distractions but a sole purpose to get on with the tasks at hand and when I am done for the day, I step away from my workspace and get on with other things outside work.
It has been more than two months since the lockdown was enforced. How are you gearing up for back to office mode?
I am already back at work! Getting back to work for me was about keeping in mind that I adhere to all safety precautions and yes, working in a space like WeWork just gave me more confidence. This is because the health and safety of every occupant, employee or member, in WeWork buildings has always been of paramount importance. I have seen firsthand how from the period of lockdown to offices being opened, the operations team at WeWork has been working tirelessly, putting into place a stringent set of measures to implement all safety & health protocols in terms of sanitization, density plans, social distancing norms, etc. Keeping this in mind, I was at ease and actually looked forward to going to work every day as I really enjoy connecting with my team and WeWork members, keeping all necessary social distancing rules in mind, of course. I truly believe that connections and conversations inherently foster creativity which is very important in the work that we do.
Any lessons that you picked up in financial management from the lockdown period?
From a financial management point of view, it is very important to be careful about spending – whether it’s your personal wealth or funds for business. It is easy to go with the flow when times are good, but money should be spent wisely to save up for contingencies as a backup. I think being flexible in situations like this is super important and I strongly believe companies should reconsider their fixed asset investments in order to bring in flexibility and conserve as much cash as possible.
As the economy begins to find its way back to growth, it is important to rationalise costs and maintain financial agility. For example, this situation presents a unique opportunity for flexible workspace providers such as WeWork. We have seen companies looking at rationalising costs and not investing in heavy assets like real estate. They are rather going for flexible offices like ours which helps them save operation and maintenance costs.