Unlock 1.0 – Where the mind is without fear, and the heart is filled with hope

With the lockdown coming to an end across large parts of India, states are trying to rev back into motion and have started permitting economic activity in a phased-out manner. More than the economics of it, I am hoping that it will help us to step out of the environment of fear, hysteria and pandemonium. The intent has to be driven by the need of a fresh beginning to adjust to the new normal and not throwing caution to the winds.

 It won’t be easy, with a sense of fear gripping the collective consciousness of people across the country, disrupted supply chains, dried-up consumer demand, crippled healthcare infrastructure, sordid tales of migrants trying to get home and a tired and frustrated workforce trying to manage work from home. 

Amidst this negativity, what can we do differently to win this battle? These tough times call for exemplary leadership, from each one of us. We need everybody to lead – not just themselves but their teams and families and their ecosystem, depending on their area of influence. I appeal to all my fellow communication practitioners to join this anti-lockdown movement to usher a positive change.

How can you lead yourself?

Accept the new reality. Let’s adjust to the new normal as we get used to the new ways of life. Nobody has all the answers. Simple tasks in the pre-Covid world, now need balanced considerations.

  • Focus on sanitation and hygiene, use masks, practice social distancing, wash hands and sanitize your work environment
  • Distinguish between must dos and can dos and build your new routine. Learn to be self-dependent cook, clean and repeat
  • If you are dependents in your household, opt for full time help. Re-think your lifestyle, depending on your budgets
  • Build immunity, find the time to exercise, walk or run, eat clean and stay safe
  • Be a good Samaritan, help your neighbours, friends and colleagues – this is a time when we need each other the most
  • Most importantly, don’t forget to decompress, working from home in isolated environments can build stress levels without us realising it, take a day off from work and unwind

How can you lead your teams?

After two months of working remotely, it is safe to say that teams are feeling weighed under fatigue. Humans are social animals and desire social interaction. Even though technology has significantly bridged the gap, we need to touch and feel to get a sense of normalcy.

  • Trust and empathy with your teams are the underlining factorsthat will determine the fate of your organisation in this battle against Covid
  • Open the lines of communications to air, address and eliminate fear. Bring your workforce together as a force virtually, to play games, have a drink, help Covid patients, donate to frontline workers
  • Listen to your people, talk to them one-on-one, talk to them in groups, make sure you are there for them anytime and every time that they need you
  • Devising a rotational roster can create a system wherein those living with elderly parents, young children and pregnant women are shielded from the harshest blows
  • If something goes wrong and God forbid, you have Covid cases in your workforce, help them in every way possible – emotionally, financially and professionally
  • Change your office environment and working conditions – replace the handshake with the humble namaste, maintain adequate distance in meeting rooms, be selective about social gatherings –all these will go a long way in not only protecting you but also your team members and your near and dear ones

How can you lead your ecosystem – Families, RWAs, partners and clients?

I will talk about clients and partners, as every brand and service needs to do its bit, in telling a story which is going to be about the new normal

  • We need to be there for our clients in every way possible, especially when businesses are going through a rough cycle
  • Clients have to communicate to their stakeholders consistently and with a purpose – help them tell their stories with empathy, understanding and addressal of the consumer fears. A good starting point could be to tell the consumers that we will be safe and healthy and we have a prosperous future
  • As communicators, we need to guide, counsel and work closely with our clients and tell stories on their behalf which are about the community and don’t sound like sales pitches
  • We need to advise them to be empathetic in their outreach and ensure that while speaking to their customer, they acknowledge their fears and apprehensions.

To conclude, with ‘Unlock 1.0’ we have entered unchartered waters—a trial and error stage. During this phase, there are times when we will get it right and those where we may faulter. As a community let’s stand together in support one another and not rebuke those who stumble and fall. None of us have faced similar circumstances in our lives, so be kind and empathetic to one and all.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Atul Sharma
Atul Sharma, is Vice President, PRCAI and Managing Director, Ruder Finn India

A business leader and trusted advisor, Atul has worked across sectors, including technology, telecom, venture capital, consulting, aviation, automobiles, sports, lifestyle, retail and consumer durables. He has been part of the public relations business for over 18 years and counsels diverse businesses, Indian and multinational on public relations, marketing communications, advocacy, crisis and issues, messaging, positioning and stakeholder outreach.

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