It’s been a year since Covid-19 got escalated into an pandemic in 2020. If we ask anyone about how has the year been for them, I am sure no one would answer it affirmatively. Maybe with the only exception of billionaires and Tech firms whose wealth almost doubled or even grew several times more during the pandemic. After all, these businessmen have mastered the art of making profit even during crisis, be it artificial like 2007 subprime crisis in America, or natural like Covid-19.
The last year saw the world turn upside down. Hardly can we find any industry or sector which remained unaffected. The lockdowns shut down the businesses, wiped out the small startups, ended the tourism and hospitality industry, started the laborious ‘Work from Home’ culture, even ‘Study Online’ over On-campus classes, and skyrocketed the demand for online tech services, be it amazon, zomato, swiggy, facebook and many more. Enough has been written and talked about the after effects of the pandemic in our life.
And this has continued till date. Even though the vaccines have arrived and however, they might be mismanaged or delayed for rollout, the hopes amongst the people have risen that soon, things will get better. Experts are saying that things will get back to normal. But the real question remains, Is it really going to be normal again?
Let me highlight my own experience of both the worlds when I was in the United States. I like to call the two worlds, as BC and AC. That stands for ‘Before Covid’, and ‘After Covid’. Funny it may sound, but we simply cannot deny the fact that our world has indeed changed to such a large extent. I had been working for an Energy Management company before moving back to India in Sep 2020. My work involved substantial amount of traveling to customer sites, where our customers included Energy companies all over the USA. I got to travel to quite a few places like Pennsylvania, St Louis, Colorado, Minneapolis, Florida, Illinois and Georgia. Traveling for business by flights, staying in some of the finest hotels, renting posh cars, sight seeing after work, eating food in famous restaurants ( often a different restaurant or some international cuisine), all this was a part of business trip. And we also worked hard in office during office hours. All such perks which come along with such business trips, were all paid at the company’s expense. For a 25 year old guy, who had never been to America before, this is the one of the best American experience he could get, isn’t it?
But then Covid-19 happened. And everything changed overnight. Our customer site visits or business trips all were cancelled, that means no staying in nice hotels, or parties. The business continues through work from home. The networking which we used to have with the customers and guiding their tech teams for efficient deployment solutions all became virtual using Teams, or similar video conferencing calls. The field experience through such business trips, the networking with the clients, the real world experience which helped me to become matured and even business savvy, all simply disappeared. Work just became work from home, and it just ended up as ‘All work and no play’
And then as Covid-19 became worse, things also took a downward spiral. I had to come back to India for visa issues, and also having some family responsibilities. And later I joined a new company in India. But I heard from my previous company colleagues that the Covid has impacted this industry so much, that mass firings have become a common thing. The revenues have plunged, and the customers are no longer interested in signing new contracts. The work from home has become the new work standard not only to stay away from the virus, but also it serves as a cheap work option. As the business continues, no longer is the need to travel to meet customers, or even get a field experience. The companies have not only accepted the ‘work from home’ culture but also promotes it for saving expenses. This is understandable from accounting point of view, but for a business which depends on in-person trainings, networking and gaining and sharing of knowledge from field visits, this will have long term implications on the business. And this pandemic has affected this industry, such that it has changed the way I worked prior to Covid. Learning new skills, and being prepared for an uncertain work is the new norm.
I am sure not only in energy business, but many other professions like banking, movie industry, performing arts, tourism, hospitality, aviation, sales, retail and many more have seen dramatic change in work pattern. The long established rules of delivering work has been changed. Because after all, not all work can be done from home or remotely. A pilot needs in-flight experience and cannot be replaced by simulation. A tourist guide cannot perform his work through some video conferencing, and neither can a theatre artist. This is one of the biggest change in human history.
Its been one year after Covid started, and for me, its been more than 6 months, since I have returned back to India. Having seen both the pre-Covid and post-Covid world, it seems a big change in work culture, networking, travels, and in personal life as well. There are pros and cons , and it would be too early to say that this change is bad. Maybe we have to adjust to the new change, and even change the statusquo. The work from home might stay for sometime, and the future might remain uncertain for coming days. Its as if like nature is testing our patience, and we have to continue with our strengths, and keep the hope alive.
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