The use of magic realism in ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, the inspiration of our heavily plagiarized and appropriated blog title, forces us to reckon with the oxymoronic nature of current times.
The global outbreak of COVID-19 and its rapid spread has encouraged people all over the world to practice social distancing in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus. As a result, most employees are working from home, manufacturing industries have halted operations, and public gatherings have been canceled. These measures are of an unprecedented nature and have left the world reeling with change.
Productivity has now become the mythic creature that we hopelessly chase, in the midst of endless scrolling through social media, torn between wanting to know more and being absolutely overwhelmed with the grim news that follows. At the same time, we are now almost compelled to slow down, take stock of our place in the midst of a global health emergency, and question our notions of work and well-being.
For us at Good Business Lab, the transition to working from home was relatively smooth. An existing workplace policy, we had fostered this habit, long prior to the lockdown, being preemptive of the effects of individual autonomy and flexibility to design own work habits on productivity. Familiarity with the now indispensable (hint: Zoom) modes of communication to keep our diversely located team in connect also helped.
However, this imposed isolation brought with it a kind of anxiety that was new for most. In one of our weekly team discussions, we shared our experiences with this lockdown. From being isolated in unfamiliar spaces, balancing chores with work deadlines, to reconciling with the uncertainty of stalled projects — adapting to the new normal, we realized, was something we were all struggling to come to terms with.
India announced a 21-day nation-wide lockdown from March 24, 2020 to control the rapid spread of COVID-19. This announcement meant that we were confined to our homes. All our fieldwork had to be put on hold as our industry partner, Shahi Exports, had to cease all operations in their factories across the country. From then to now, we’ve been in lockdown for over a month.
What makes the events of the past few weeks even more distressing and challenging for an organization like ours is the economic implications of this lockdown on workers, especially migrant workers.
However, through all this change and turmoil, certain practices are emerging which we hope will carry on in the post-COVID world.
Institutionalizing measures to maintain good hygiene practices, introduced recently to control the risk of infection, should be seen as an integral feature in the workplace. Similarly, firms are using innovative technology and other modes of communication to mitigate the fears of their employees during these distressing times. This practice of encouraging dialogue between employees and management should be institutionalized, especially in labor-intensive workplaces, so workers have a platform to seek help, ask questions or air their grievances.
A learning that we take away and hope to contemplate further on, as a research organization working in the development space, is that our lives, our fields of work are governed by interconnected streams of structures, vulnerabilities, and constraints.
To work in silos, moving forward, would be a disservice to the solution that the field demands. Collaboration is important!
Stay tuned for updates on our website soon, for how we put these thoughts in action to do our bit for the world as a Covid-19 gesture.
This article was written by Ankita Nanda, Partnership and Design Associate at Good Business Lab.
Image credit: Nayantara Parikh