When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters — one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity- John F. Kennedy
2020 has undoubtedly been an emotional rollercoaster of a year for most of us, peppered generously with shocks, sighs, disquiet and anticipation. It has stirred our emotions like never before, made us introspect and evoked in us a sense of gratitude we often forget to express. It taught us new ways to approach workplaces and work, to collaborate, communicate and engage. And to accept that virtual is indeed the new real.
For me, working virtually has never been an exciting idea. I love the thrill of being in the thick of things, of meeting my team members, brainstorming and rolling up my sleeves to get work done. I love the drill, the banter and the camaraderie that come with physical proximity at the workplace. And then, all of that came to naught. While most of my team members got used to this new working mode soon enough, I confess that I felt a sense of restlessness and unease for a while- until a few months down, when I finally accepted that virtual can be and is, the real thing for some time to come.
The question then for me was – How will I develop new and maintain existing relationships? How will I get new joiners in the team to connect with others and build relationships? Will I get to know what is really playing on their minds when I am talking to them via virtual calls and not having a cup of tea or sharing lunch with them?
So, it was time to get real and cracking. The almost surreal environment due to Covid-19 was reason enough to reach out to people and ask them how they were doing. Sharing the anxieties of the initial few months, understanding the concerns and challenges friends in the media and peers in the community were facing, made me appreciate real human connections even more. In fact, paradoxically, these times of social distancing have helped us cement some of our relationships and establish stronger bonds.
This year also showed how new relations can be forged by simply being a good professional. As a team, we had in the past made concerted efforts to respond to our stakeholders with agility. Now, we made sure that there was absolutely no room for any gaps on this front. We stepped up to create relevant content in appropriate formats so that it could be quickly used by journalists. In fact, my team worked with the PwC competency and sector leaders to relook at how content is being presented so that it could be easily carried on online platforms where journalists were first posting their stories. We also created avenues through which our experts could also help in dejargonising concepts. Virtual press briefings and webinars became the norm.
To put it simply, we adapted quickly to the changing external milieu. We realised that each person was battling their own share of anxiety on various fronts during these challenging times and the least we could do was ease some of the pressure they were facing with timely responses and help in getting what they are looking for.
I would also like to mention some simple initiatives that probably helped nurture relationships even more. Opportunities to wish on people on their anniversaries, birthdays and festivals, etc. also became occasions to check in and find out how they were doing, to reconnect without any agenda. I think whether it was people within the firm or those outside, since most of us were largely confined to their homes, I usually received a warm response to such calls as people were happy to chat and catch up. These chats enabled me to find about people’s challenges, how they were overcoming them, how their kids were managing, what technology solutions they were using to be effective, etc. And wherever I could, I was more than happy to pitch in and lend a helping hand.
One value that the last few months brought to the fore was trust – trust in the organisation, it’s leadership and people, trust in the person you are dealing with, trust in their capabilities and the quality of service one can provide. Transparent communication with all stakeholders, stating facts and being clear and honest – as always these traits helped build trust. In fact, within our team it was also about Reverse transparency, where the onus is on team members to keep their people managers abreast of how effectively they are using their time when working virtually, further building mutual trust. Our team’s ‘Happiness Officer’ too had a big role to play in making sure people managers were thinking ahead, being empathetic towards team members and enabling them to bring their best to work…virtually!
All in all, I feel that the last few months have done us good, as workplaces, as teams, as professionals, as communicators. This period has helped us leapfrog a few years ahead in terms of cultural change and has heralded a new era for us as a fraternity. We were all in this together, and we are all emerging stronger, together.
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