Lesson from Covid: Because you realize that no one is doing well until everyone is

By Sujaya Banerjee
Companies across industries have set up crisis management task forces and teams, especially after employees started reporting sick as the second wave of Covid escalated. However, what is incredible to notice is the indomitable spirit of unison, solidarity and collaboration to fight the situation together.
The first wave of Covid may have overwhelmed many hesitant and ill-prepared organizations. But this time around, the determination and courage to stand together and support individuals and families is undeniable. In addition to accelerating business changes, the pandemic is also manifesting itself compassion for everyone – not just employees but also communities that need help.
Colleagues, who may not have questioned their families in the past, now do so with sincerity. Many learn about the branch and personal challenges that their colleagues face – such as aging parents, terminally ill family members, children with special disabilities, and home schooling.
The pandemic prompts leaders to empathize, de-prioritize or reorganize tasks in many cases to deploy resources to resolve the crisis. Internal communication has intensified – one to many and one to one. What we are watching unfold is an incredible social phenomenon of the manifestation of the spirit of Ubuntu – the recognition of interdependence and the spirit of compassion and kindness never seen before. Human connectivity is undeniably apparent, even among the most intransigent and mercenary. Pandemic continues to be an incredible teacher – this time evoking the spirit of Ubuntu. It is a Zulu phrase which means: “I am because you are”. It emphasizes the ethics of interdependence and the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all of humanity.
Human interdependence is underscored in these times by the fact that no one can feel good when the community is sick and suffering from a pandemic. Connecting to this universal truth can change our perception of the pandemic and how our interconnected lives and actions can impact each other.
The pandemic is also forcing many companies to seriously invest resources in health, healthcare facilities and mental health support for the first time. Here are some inspiring compassionate actions taken by various organizations during these times:
* Companies have set up Covid war rooms as they scramble to stock up on oxygen, medicine and hospital beds for infected employees
* Presidents and CEOs addressed large city halls, assuring people not to cut wages in these difficult times and urging employees to take preventive measures to avoid getting infected
* Many companies offer psychiatric counseling and support to employees overwhelmed by changes in workplaces and homes that have negatively impacted motivation and morale.
* The working groups are working on a range of issues including work-from-home policy, availability of connectivity, health and wellness across the country, provision of PPE kits to employees, masks and disinfectants for the family, and the coordination of internal communication and collaboration between employees
* CEOs urged staff to put their health and that of their families above all else and urged them not to leave their homes without a mask and to adhere to safety protocols, while avoiding crowds
* Some CEOs urged teams to remain vigilant and continue with safety measures to stop the spread, and others have shown the role of good leadership in these times by remaining directly accessible to staff should they need help during this health crisis.
* As the situation gets out of hand in some areas, leading companies have also started using private healthcare providers to conduct on-site and off-campus Covid vaccination campaigns for all staff, at the expense of the company.
* It has not been uncommon to offer company-wide paid time off to prioritize crisis situations or simply to catch a breath for those who have stepped in and taken on extra duties to help their colleagues and their families in shock from the new Covid wave. Many suffer from fatigue and burnout, and given the grim situation, companies are responding to this by giving people conscious breaks to cool off and recharge.
* It is not uncommon to have fresher conversations and coffee breaks to exchange notes and help each other whenever possible
* Internal communication has intensified, as it should in the event of a crisis. Many organizations, however, also go through a “ radio-free ” day once a week to reduce the burden of video and phone calls, and instead work quietly, to allow employees to slow down, especially those who are overwhelmed. .
This commitment, this solidarity and these attempts to create security are new and essential actions to truly integrate the “human side of the company” into companies. There is an old African adage: “When the rhythm of the drum changes, the dance steps have to adapt”. We’re not just seeing new dance steps, we’re seeing leaders, teams, clients, and the community adapt.
On the other hand, we know that stress can modify behavior. It is increasingly rare to see high performing, high performing employees show burnout and confusion during these times. Many organizations are also facing a parallel pandemic of anger, heightened sensitivities and the emergence of preventable conflict.
Kindness and compassion are muscles that can be built and are contagious in defusing panic. Kindness is also teachable and is an important behavior for role models, as teams face unprecedented obstacles every day.
Compassion is not a general skill – it is a business skill and organizations and leaders are now learning to incorporate compassion into business decisions every day.
American author Henry James once said: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind and the third is to be kind.
The pandemic continues to be a live classroom …
(The author is the CEO of Capstone People Consulting)

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