Can we balance life ver2.0? By: Indrajeet Sengupta, Chief Human Resources Officer
Is this an illogical question or at least untimely? After all, who will believe in the idea of balancing life when everything around is in a state of flux. For many their life is completely disrupted. Uncertainty continues and it appears that things will continue this way for some time to come.
But as an eternal realist, I believe, we should all take charge of the situation. All we need is to revisit our priorities. Let me drive home the point with a personal experience. Flashback to two and a half years ago. I was caught in a rather difficult bind. An exciting overseas job opportunity beckoned me just around the time when a very close relative was diagnosed with a life-threatening ailment. My wife and I decided to move temporarily to attend to the crisis. Staying in the hospital for some time as a caregiver changed my outlook to life. The only focus was on ensuring my loved ones in the family got the attention and support they needed. Work continued remotely too, technology being the enabler.
In this chaos, our close friends, extended family and some exceptional colleagues at work provided support and balance. There were new friends to make at the hospital - doctors, nurses, housekeeping staff, interns and cafeteria/administrative staff. At times I felt drained out physically, emotionally and sometimes mentally too. But we persisted and never lost hope. All the pain and agony faded as our relative eventually recovered. Believe me, what we learnt in that short period of time was immensely invaluable.
Up until then, my world revolved around family and work like two parallel railway tracks that went along nicely but never met. The unfortunate turn of event on the family front showed me that both life and work were a single track and led by our priorities. This is the reason I never regretted letting that overseas opportunity go by.
And now, we are in the throes of Covid-19 crisis. Once again, it’s life threating and career threatening too – this time for many of us. As I reflect; we don’t realize that every day, all of us go through tough situations, often without realizing the implications. Companies go through mergers and restructuring all the time. As employees, we sometimes face unreasonable bosses, toxic work environment and tough market situations. Amidst all that, we crave for recognition (that we exist). And, please add to the list, the cyclones, flash floods, accidents, earthquakes and many other forms of disaster. Just imagine the anguish and misery of those whose near and dear ones have tested positive for COVID-19. And, there are some who also need to take care of their aging parents often remotely. The list of agony is endless.
So, what do we do? Let’s take a moment to acknowledge and reflect on our fears and anxieties. No doubt, Covid-19 is teaching us some hard lessons and providing us with some amazing choices to make.
Everyone has become Generation A, which is Generation - Agility. Everything else is irrelevant now, no matter how hard we argue. This is a new chapter in our own evolution. This is a generation not defined by numerical age; it’s only defined by agility, purpose, adaptability, new skills, learning habits from peers, using mixed media to interact, health and safety.
Fear and anxiety are a given, just as much as the opportunities. The longer we take to accept it, the worse it is for us. What if instead we only focused on finding incremental progress? As Nassim Nicholas Taleb has described in his book Antifragile: Things that gain from Disorder – “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile.”
Resilience, curiosity and focus are also a given. We have it. Choosing a positive outcome in an interaction, seeking daily progress in everything, making daily plans and sticking to basics (such eating on time, spending time with family watching TV, stopping work at a set time) and enjoying a hobby (music, reading, photography, art) are all different ways of expressing resilience, focus and curiosity. As Victor Frankl famously said - “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.
Like many other things in life, Career is also led by choices we make every day. Many of us are probably looking for the next job out of fear. Finding our own purpose and aligning with the companies we work for, is crucial. A purpose can overcome fear and be liberating if we want it to be that way. It’s all about adding new skills, honing existing skills, impacting communities around us and being passionate about serving employees and customers.
Talent has become global. So why fuss about whether we are global or regional or local talent? Anyone can do a job from almost anywhere, except where a physical infrastructure is needed like a factory or marketplace.
Humility to accept that not everything will go as planned, is the key. The vulnerability helps unlock new ideas, new friendships, new opportunities and an entirely new path of evolving ourselves. It’s our self-awareness and perspectives, which allows us to make progress incrementally while helping others progress with us. Covid-19, in that sense, has opened new possibilities
Creating a support network and seeking professional help such as counseling is the need of the hour. Emotional and mental health issues are on rise and so is burnout. Acknowledgement and gratitude for our families, friends, colleagues and many unnamed individuals who step in and help us is a MUST behavior change.
Empathy is another trait that will help us remain united in turbulent times. The least we can do is to show our genuine concern and appreciation for our families, friends and colleagues. And it must reflect in the way we treat them and take care of their well-being.
Health becomes the biggest casualty in times like this. We don’t realize the emotional, physical and mental load we carry every day. There are many of us who also have existing co-morbidities. Currently, it’s our personal energy that has been challenged the most. We must prevent burnouts of our talents.
Digital connect is the way forward. Sometimes, I wonder if we will see our colleagues in office only after a couple of years! “Digital Trust and Belief” is fast becoming the new currency of culture to enable employees to be productive.
The current experience has taught us that ‘Work from Home’ must be based on mutual trust and not on trackers and apps. Policies provide guardrails.
Ultimately work and life are all about our passions, choices and finding our purpose. As I conclude this article, I am wondering if I should have titled it “Can we focus on enjoying life?”