Week three of South Africa’s lockdown 2020 is now behind us and people have started sharing with me how different their experiences have been.
How are people affected by the lockdown?
On the one side, there are people who started working from home when the lockdown began – especially people that are part of essential services. For these, work continued as normal and the only change was the location: home. For another group of people – those working in non-essential services who don’t have to work every day – the lockdown started like a holiday, but they soon realised that getting up in the morning and staying positive and motivated, was going to be a lot harder than they initially thought. Suddenly finding something to do around the house became a necessity just so that they could get the feeling of satisfaction out of having achieved something.
Lastly, there are people on the frontline that have not stopped working at all. These are our health workers, journalists, people working in the food supply chain, municipal workers delivering services like rubbish removals, fixing water pipes, keeping the electricity on, ensuring telecommunications are working, the world leaders and so on. Our thanks and appreciation go out to every person who is part of this group that risk their lives to perform their essential duties.
How are businesses affected by the lockdown?
The reality is that Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) are greatly affected as for most, if there is no interaction with clients, there is no income. This has naturally caused concern and with uncertainty about how long the lockdown will last there is the mounting fear about whether or not the business will survive.
Large, established, companies have been able to shift their people to work from home and some businesses carry on as usual. Business leaders are challenged with new ways to quickly direct and focus the efforts of their team members and to connect regularly to ensure that everybody is OK. Most business leaders have never been in the situation where they have to manage teams remotely across the country or the world. Their challenge is to continue to make informed business decisions while including management and expert input, and to do so at a time sensitive pace during a crisis such as this. It is insightful to see how different leaders from countries across the world are making their decisions; some are very reassuring while others react too late – some simply make the wrong calls. With Covid-19 being such an unknown quantity, there have been many opportunities for leaders to realise that they have made the wrong call, to learn from their mistakes and then to fix them, hoping all the while that the decisions will not have tragic consequences but acknowledging that they are better prepared for future challenges.
What has changed about the way we work?
Working at home comes with many changes in the way we work:
- we cannot just walk over to a colleague to ask something,
- we have to send an email, make a phone call or request an online meeting,
- there is a delay in response times and those with less patience need to manage it,
- working at home also brings our family and their needs into the workplace. As a business owner, I am also a Partner to my husband, a Mom to my children and I have to ensure that our basic needs as a family are taken care of,
- the people that provide support services to us like cleaning and maintenance, are also in lockdown and we are now responsible for these tasks as well.
The most important priorities are to look after our loved ones and to ensure that we find a new way of doing things, new routines and new responsibilities. Families with school children have received work to be completed during the lockdown, and as parents we have to support and assist our children as needed. It is even more challenging for families with small children who don’t understand what is happening. These children are used to Mom and Dad being home over a weekend or holiday and they want entertainment, play, story time and fun. The challenge here is to be patient, to have lots of energy and love while managing the list of other responsibilities that are waiting.
During the first part of this lockdown, our family spent time organising the new routine, to ensure that there were enough resources in the home like food, cleaning materials and activities to do together as a family. Each of us started the first week with our home responsibilities, work responsibilities and getting used to managing our own time, motivation and leisure activities. Finding that balance between all the roles and responsibilities as mentioned above was our focus.
After the first week a new rhythm started and the days were filled with online meetings and discussions, online activities and tasks. After a long day spent in the virtual office, we then started spending time doing activities together as a family over dinner, playing games, watching movies and most importantly, connecting during conversations. Managing our own emotional states of mind became a priority during this time.
I would like to leave you with the question, how have you reconnected with your family and how are you managing the changes in your home?