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Lockdown Lessons

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First published in hasrat.work

Professional websites and our well-meaning office HR teams are creating a humongous pressure of “fruitfully utilizing” the lockdown time to learn something new. There is a forgone conclusion at play here that fuels this attempt of creating FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). The underlying assumption is that Work from Home somehow frees up more time for an individual as compared to working from office and this free time can be invested in honing various skill sets.

No doubt that the argument to focus on self-improvement works fine in some cases but it ignores a number of variables like life stage, mental availability, nature of job etc. This cookie cutter approach to advocate “right time to pick up new skills” definitely falls on its face since many jobs are very well equipped to be carried out from home at the same pace as they were at the office. Moreover, there is the reality of getting the Work FOR Home done that adds to the pressure in absence of house-helps.

I was recently chatting with a dear friend and she jokingly pointed out that one of the solid reasons to stay back in India as a professional has been neutralized by the COVID situation. Now we are also doing our household chores like most other progressive countries while being technologically ill equipped (Dish Washer, Vacuum Cleaner etc) for them.

Come to think of it, I have learned more about household chores in these three months than I ever did in my almost 40 years of existence. I used to boast that I am passionate about “not cooking” and I still maintain that but I have now fallen into the trap of baking and cooking some interesting things. When I share pictures of these delicacies with friends and family, my disclaimer is loud and clear “These skills are valid till the lockdown lasts”.

Having said that, the reality is that learning new things need not always be packaged in nicely curated courses, professional sounding trainers or fancy presentations. Some of the daily chores that we all take turns to do these days, subtly reinstate  valuable managerial lessons. Here I share three of them.

Sweeping

To keep our homes clean, we are picking up the broom ourselves and sweeping the floors. In April, we discovered some corners that the maids would  miss and by July we have reconciled to the fact that the effort needed to reach those corners is anyway not worth it!

By the way, have you noticed in these six months how a new broom sheds more dust than it cleans in the initial few days? On the other hand, once we invest enough time and energy to clean the broomit ends up sweeping just like the old one or most of the time, even better.

 Lesson – With all the new resources that we recruit, we must have the discipline to invest enough time and energy in them so that they perform at par or even better than us some day. Only in the term ROI, “Return” comes before “Investment”. Introspect on your “Investment” before questioning the “Return” on it.

Washing Dishes 

Do you also wonder whether spoons are born out of the sink? How on earth do we end up with so many spoons to wash every single day!

Do you turn off the tap in between scrubbing two utensils instead of keeping it running? Then you have the integrity to optimize resources (water) given to you. You know that your company (in this case our planet Earth) has limited stock of water even if you are fortunate enough to enjoy 24/7 water supply.

Lesson – We might have been allotted a comfortable budget but we must always be sensitive to the fact that the company as a whole always has limited resources.

Cooking

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or makes it to FaceBook or Instagram as a delicious looking post!

Once we are done cooking up a storm, the kitchen actually looks like a storm has hit it.

Lesson – If we remember to clean up post cooking, then it indicates that we are not only sincere in delivering to our Key Responsibility Areas but are also committed to a high standard of facilitating workability with our colleagues as a professional.

While these learnings were linked to certain specific chores, the following two learnings from the bigger picture of these unprecedented times are critical.

A) My spouse and I are both struggling to manage the household tasks, parent a five-year-old and focus on office work. It is indeed a very steep learning curve. One single mantra that has worked for me is to consciously stay away from the extremely alluring and glamorous cape of a ‘super woman’. This cape is a trap! Teamwork is the key to deliver the best output not only at office but also as a family to practice good parenting and manage the chores. Doing it all alone just burns you out faster and is absolutely not worth the miniscule recognition that comes with the pedestal.

B) In the WFH scenario “she is doing it all” is a reality in some of the households but then we all  must realise that it is just a sad reality and not a reason to celebrate. It is easy to confuse absence of choice for heroism and tempting to glorify the frustrating reality of our society. The number of forwards I got glorifying women who do it all proves that some of us continue to take pride in doing everything rather than ensuring everyone does something even when given a choice.

Similarly, do not get intimidated by the high decibel noise surrounding you that screams “What new skill have you picked up?”. If you do have the time and mind space, definitely invest in self growth.

But remember every generation has its war stories and the current COVID crisis is ours. Thus, every single second spent to simply survive this crisis and emerging out of it alive, with our sanity  intact cannot ever be termed as “wasted time”.

Take your time and be kind to yourself. This too shall pass.

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Sanchita Ganguly

Sanchita has more than 15 years of experience as a marketing professional across leading brands like Asian Paints & UltraTech Cement. She is an active advocate of Gender Neutrality & is passionate to expedite the same at Indian work places.

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