Covid and its impact on our social and corporate behaviour

If there is one thing that the onslaught of Corona virus has shown, it is that we are all capable of coming together in the times of crisis, and supporting our communities at large; across any social, economic, or political barriers.

However, as the situation continues to intensify, the crisis has emerged to become a stern test of our temperament. This holds especially true for working professionals across different sectors and even marketing or PR agencies, who are now having to deal with added responsibilities and challenges, both at the personal and professional front. Most of us have been feeling the brut of having to multitask our meetings, calls, cooking, washing, and many other things that we were so used to being taken care of. It is even more difficult for professionals who have more people to take care of at home, such as children, parents or even octogenarians.

The current social situation

These effects are cascading much beyond the realms of the current work-from-home situation. While some may find it okay to pursue a restructured work order, it is significantly discomforting for most of us. And the fear that these changes could last well beyond the pandemic is another worry that professionals are dealing with. Different people will have different reactions to this unprecedented situation, and it remains to be seen how they fare. Or will they stumble hard and fall down?

The ongoing crisis will also alter relationships; differences will now be more pronounced. While there are people who are enjoying this time at home, being around loved ones all the time, it could become difficult for people who are not used to physical proximity. What could once be considered trivial and swept under the rug will now start to come out, forcing most of us to take stock of it. Harmless eccentricities will be more evident, and a calm temperament will be key to ensuring that relationships don’t suffer in the long run.

Disappearing physical contact

In an increasingly digital world almost everyone has the option to work remotely. But the joy of physical contact is what makes human relationships so beautiful. While everyone is putting up a brave face to deal with the situation, if the crisis persists, the facades might come crashing down, doing more harm to personal human relations.

Another interesting aspect of this lockdown phase is that people have been harping about how this is a good time to increase social interactions with people, while maintaining physical distance. However, reports state otherwise. According to a report by The Next Web, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are seeing upticks of around 15% in search interest. And TikTok, which was already witnessing an upward trajectory has progressed 47% above its current growth.

With digital consumption moving up so fast, the world, instead of becoming more social, might actually end up being more introverted; cooped up in their homes with Netflix and their phone, and allowing interactions only when absolutely necessary.

With Coronavirus, the behavioural landscape is altering in a way we had never imagined. And even though communication across geographies seems unified towards a common cause, our social behaviour might take a major hit once we tide past this crisis.

The good examples

When Paytm discovered its first employee case of the virus, it immediately shut down all its offices, disinfected and sanitized its office spaces, discouraged staff from physical meetings, and did everything to stop the spread.

Even businesses who cannot afford a work from home are taking proactive steps to contain the virus. For instance, Reliance has mandated thermal screening for anyone entering its premises. Food delivery companies like Zomato and Swiggy have initiated contactless deliveries to protect both its customers and delivery partners from contact.

The rotten apples

But not all companies have shown the same consideration towards its employees. Consider this. A big tech company in India has been reportedly not only concealing some of its suspected cases of Corona, but has also refused to pay its daily-wage employees. In fact, at its facility, when a worker got tested positive for the virus, the company allegedly asked the rest of its employees to stay at home without pay. The company’s employees have been very vocal in criticizing their employer for not allowing its staff to work from home despite ongoing efforts to lock down vast swathes of the country to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

And this is despite the fact that the central government has already issued an advisory to compensate lost livelihoods of daily wage workers due to lockdown of offices and factories across the country. Not just the central government, but different state governments have also mandated the same.

A silver lining

The corona virus pandemic has shown us a silver lining. That there are companies pulling out all stops for employee safety. That it is possible for all of them to come together in tough times, rise above the daily limitations of growth and bottom-line numbers, and battle crisis. But there are others who are yet to understand the gravity of the situation. The two facets of corporate culture have never been displayed so openly before. Maybe this will become the new normal, pressing the much-needed restart button for Indian corporates and startups, and bringing a fresh perspective to business once we all tide over this extremely difficult and unprecedented time.

The state of corporate India

As scientists and medical experts around the world race to find a cure for the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak, Indian Inc, which includes digital marketing and PR agencies, among many others, is staring at what is potentially going to be the biggest disruption to their livelihood. An uneasy calm is prevailing among entrepreneurs who are now looking at derailed future plans and slump in growth.

But despite the grim situation, a big part of corporate India has stepped up its efforts to ensure employee safety at all costs. Big IT corporates including Cognizant, HCL and Wipro have asked employees to work from home, put restrictions on non-essential domestic and international travel.

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