The ongoing ‘Corona Crisis’ and the lock down, will have a long term impact on business and workplace. As we see, organizations from the IT, e-Learning, BFSI, Healthcare and e-Commerce to a certain extent, have been operational. Business in other sectors has come to a grinding halt, because of the nature of their work and modus operandi. While the lock down is forcing organizations to strategies on a war footing, experts say that only a small fraction of the Businesses would be able to restart their operations with pre-lockdown vigour, once the lock down ends.
Like most countries, majority of the businesses in our country too fall under the MSME category and, considering that the pandemic appears to be spanning the entire year, things look very scary for the nation. The biggest challenge especially for the non-IT businesses is that, they will be required to operate with reduced headcount, keeping in mind the ‘social distancing’ mandate. Also, more than 80% of the workforce in India belong to the unorganized sector and, employment for these folks will be a major challenge.
The impact of the lock down will be far more in the urban region than rural, for obvious reasons. I think, even after the lock down ends, not many people would be willing to flock out for vacation, shopping nor dine out, at least till the danger of the virus subsides completely. Unfortunately, looks like many folks employed in the retail and transport sector would be losing their job.
I think going forward, part-time employment and freelancing would be lot more prevalent and, the tilt towards ‘Gig Economy’ will be on a fast track mode.
Majority of the working class in India live from pay cheque to pay cheque. With grave challenges in generating income and constant commitment of repaying loans, the Government will have to take few decisions which would ease out the pressure on middle class, especially if the current situation persists for another 2-3 months.
Food, shelter, clothing, education, health care, transport, electricity, mobile and internet connectivity are the basic requirements for a middle class family in Metros and also smaller cities and towns, which by the way, constitutes around 50% of our population.
I think in the context of the urban working class, this is how things would shape up, at least in the first two quarters of this financial year:
1. Food: People would obviously consume more of home cooked food. Which means, very less consumption in company cafeterias and restaurants. Socializing will be mostly through social media and looks like ‘e-team outings’ will be a reality. I think companies would come up with policies to shoulder the responsibility of ensuring timely delivery of daily essentials to their workforce.
2. Shelter: With work from home and part-time employment expected to rise like never before, the demand for commercial real estate would be lesser and, the onus on the company to ensure that their people have a good and safe working experience, would be of paramount importance.
3. Clothing: While masks and gloves have already become part of our life since the past 2-3 months, don’t be surprised if astronaut type body suits become the dress code in workplaces, to ensure better shielding from such infections.
4. Education: There is no substitute to studying in a good school / college. However, considering the nature of this pandemic, I think Government would not take the risk of allowing the schools and colleges to reopen, until things are completely sanitized and safe. Hence, right from KG to PG, looks like this academic year has to be shifted to online mode. The training programmes in organizations too will be largely on e-learning mode. Which means, employees working from home with kids, will be having the additional responsibility of taking care of them the entire day.
5. Healthcare: In general, this pandemic has forced people to be lot more hygienic. And, with people confined to their home, there would be lesser threat of other non-corona diseases. Which means, corporate hospitals would have lesser foot fall. However, the Pharma sector is pegged to boom like never before. There would be many medicines and vaccines in the market, hopefully by the end of the year, which Organizations would want to ensure that it is made available to all their folks.
6. Transport: Dependence on public and company transport will be very less. Commuting that too solo, will be the most preferred mode of transport. However, not many would want to risk unnecessary traveling.
7. Electricity, Mobile and Internet connectivity are the new age ‘Beer and Biryani’, used to woe the voters. And for a business too, it’s their life line. Hence, many more organizations would come up with the policy of paying these utility bills of their employees working from home. In fact, a work station at home costs lot lesser than a work station in a commercial space, provided the organization’s nature of work allows them to operate this way.
Sharing with you the result of a survey on the ‘Lock down – Work from Home experience’, conducted by me with my connections on Linkedin and Facebook, reaching around 1500 of them, between 16th to 20th of April 2020.