Four weeks ago, I was on a Zoom call having a serious negotiation with a client in Europe when his dog started barking. He apologised and mentioned that his dog was barking at the mailman. Meanwhile, my daughter, who is two and a half years old, came running because she thought I was watching some dog video on my laptop, and demanded to see the dog. Jokingly, I told the client that my daughter wanted to see his dog, but he actually brought the dog in and made him sit in his lap while I had my daughter sit in mine. By the time the call ended, not only had we signed the deal, but my daughter had become friends with his daughter and the dog!
Moments like these and many more have brought new aspects to doing business – both while interacting with clients and with colleagues. For years, our interaction was done in a very formal manner. Even the informal part of business life was limited to catching up over a couple of beers or dinner, and a few office parties a year. While the lockdown might have restricted us to our homes, it has brought us closer to our colleagues and family.
I run a small firm that deals with technology consulting and technology services for startups and small businesses. On a normal day, it would take an hour to drive to the office and an hour to get back home in the evening. The lockdown has freed up these two hours which I now spend either reading the many books that I’ve been buying but never had the time to read or in cooking (no, I did not participate in the Dalgona Coffee Challenge). I just extended the cooking that I would do only on the weekends to weekdays as well. One thing that I, and many others like me, have realised during the lockdown is that most of the food we order from outside, can be easily cooked at home with the help of YouTube tutorials. What we might lack in taste and appearance, we make up by earning brownie points from sharing pictures of the food on social media. Yes, I’m talking about the ‘like-comment-share’ dopamine.
‘Tsundoku’ is a term I recently got to know about from a dear friend when I posted the photo of a book that I had bought on Facebook. Tsundoku refers to someone who buys books but does not find time to read them. Although learning the meaning of this term was a good thing, being referred to one was certainly not! The freed-up time from the office commute helped me become ‘non-Tsundoku’ or ‘un-Tsundoku’ – whatever is the opposite of this embarrassing term.
Lockdown was a tough time for businesses. A majority of my clients are startups and small businesses spread across the world, mostly in Europe and the United States. At the time we went into lockdown, most of these countries were hitting a peak in COVID-19 cases. The revenues for small businesses were almost zero and they were laying off employees. Everyday we would get mails from clients to discontinue our services and defer pending payments. These things would have given me considerable stress while sitting alone in my cabin at the office. But, when you are sitting on the couch with your daughter in your lap, surrounded by the fragrance of a freshly baked chocolate cake by your wife, stress doesn’t stand a chance. We not only survived the business and financial crisis brought on by the lockdown across the globe, but grew the business at a decent pace. Earlier, my wife and I rarely discussed our work, but now I know about the amazing work she does and how she’s contributing towards the building of infrastructure for India. Eavesdropping on her zoom calls, I even know the names of the other scientists who work with her and how they sound when they talk.
Lockdown was a tough phase. For some, it created memories to cherish, for others it gave survival stories. One thing is for sure, we will remember it for a long, long time to come.
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