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COVID Pandemic Pains: Coping with the New Normal

India is in the middle of a devastating second COVID-19 wave. Last year, the biggest challenge IT companies faced was in transitioning employees to a remote work model. This time around, the focus has been on employee health and safety. Nearly 10% of the IT industry workforce has either directly or indirectly been impacted. Managing personal and professional commitments has turned into a tightrope walk for employees, and it’s been tough coping with the new normal. Several companies have introduced flexible work hours to help employees manage their schedules better. Most companies are offering hospitalization and vaccination assistance, and at the same time trying to ensure projects are not delayed. US-based retailer Target Corp introduced limited work hours in India to allow employees more personal time, with its US team stepping in to pick up the slack. ET spoke to three people in the technology industry to find out how the last few months have been and how they’re dealing with the outbreak.

Mohit Singal, VP of Technology, Target India

The COVID-19 second wave hit close to home and affected each one of us in multiple ways. It made me realize the importance of building connections and making time for friends and family. Spending time to cultivate those relationships is important. We often forget this as we get caught up in daily tasks. Given the sense of anxiety and stress all around, I’ve been paying close attention to self-care and empathy through mindfulness meditation. I’ve also had time to play with my daughters, who are confined indoors. Most people would say the challenge with the new normal would be to run a multination team or keep productivity up, but for me, the biggest challenge has been in coming to terms with the loss of connections in the virtual world. We need to take time out for self-care and continue to be empathetic to those around us. As a team, we’re navigating the situation through ruthless prioritization and flexible work hours. This additional time has given team members, including me, the flexibility to support and take care of our families or themselves. We’ve asked team members to cut late evening calls and instead use the time to support their families.

Divyabharathi, Junior Engineer, Syrma SGS Technology

Since I stay away from home, I miss my family terribly. While I moved to Chennai for work, they continue to stay in Vellore. Because of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to meet them often. Staying alone in a rented room has been the most challenging part. As our work is classified under the “continuous process industry,” we’ve been working throughout the intensified lockdown in the state. Last year, all of us went back home during the lockdown, but this time people have chosen to stay back, although we’re working near our families, and they’re doing the same. The company has been very supportive throughout, though. Many employees have taken the vaccine, so that gives us hope and confidence. Nothing much has changed at work, except fewer people during shifts, and social distancing norms are being followed as the new normal. What I miss are the company outings in large groups. When I moved from Vellore to Chennai, the freedom of exploring the city, watching films with friends, and going on short trips was memorable. All that has come to a halt.

Deepti Agrawal, Director of Engineering, Flipkart

When we started working from home in March last year, it was a very different experience for me as I hardly ever worked from home. Now, I guess people are used to it. But it’s still a different experience from getting into a room, having a whiteboard in front of me, and solving problems. There are also positives to working from home – I get closer to my family, and being in Bengaluru, travel times are bad. So, it’s a mixed bag, and I don’t think that I have a preference, one way or the other. In some ways, these last few months have been all about adapting to the new normal. I was against using dishwashers and Robovacs, but that’s now a way of life. I’ve become more self-reliant now. I think I’ve been realistic about my expectations. While it would have been ideal for taking travel breaks or meeting up with family, safety has been the most important concern.

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Syrma SGS TechnologyCOVID Pandemic Pains: Coping with the New Normal

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