In Part 1 of this series, Agilence is defined as a higher order life-skill that will help every system and person adapt to the new (post-pandemic) reality.
Medical practitioners have likened this pandemic to a war between the virus and the human race. We believe the citizens who emerge from this crisis will have changed in fundamental ways.
For instance, lockdown-habits like regularly disinfecting oneself and surrounding surfaces is already part of everyday life. The fear-based tendency to hoard essentials is also hard for people to completely let go off.
Given the things people took for granted (like community life, health, and safety) have completely shifted as a new reality and a new way of living came into being - our belief is the world’s citizens would benefit from adopting the philosophy of ‘Agilence.’ This approach could bolster people towards new resilient behaviour and paradigms that are evolving right now.
Putting the pandemic puzzle together for citizens
The pandemic has been testing for everyone, from president to pauper. There are a lot of experts weighing in on how the pandemic has changed people’s outlook. Constraints around free movement, all the extra time that people now had on their hands, the uncertainty around jobs and in some unfortunate cases, the sheer inability to obtain food, medicines and shelter have impacted the way a lot of people view their personal life, choices and future.
This also meant a resounding array of personal ‘agilent’ experiences became commonplace – social distancing forced people to rapidly pick up the necessary online skills and devices needed to complete tasks for work and home.
For example, senior citizens, teachers and the corporate world quickly learned to navigate platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and other video/voice conference tools. Free spirited children had to stay indoors far longer than they preferred. Most people spent unforeseen amounts of time in solitude. And, many used their time to self-reflect, pick up hobbies and/or just survive. Today, most students attend online classes and their social gregariousness has been restricted to the online world.
A key takeaway: Citizens must harness agility to self-train and transform.
A much needed appreciation for the human race’s vulnerability alongside a dilution of entitlement could be the biggest lessons from this pandemic. We believe people have an opportunity to be liberated and humbled by current times. This can help us train our minds and fundamentally transform into a more resilient people.
While there is much ado about people discovering the magic and ease of remote working, this luxury has been reserved for white collar professionals. Well, at least those who succeeded in overcoming the several challenges that came with working from home – caring for the elderly and young in the family (who were stuck at home), no domestic help, less space to work and live in, merging lines between work and personal lives/time, no proper work setup, etc.
On the other hand, job loss and career uncertainties shattered the livelihood of many in sectors like airlines, travel and hospitality. These industries are only now beginning to revive themselves – “The Indian aviation industry has seen some bounce back and the transport sector like railways will become the catalyst for the recovery....expect the recovery to be in double digits once the vaccine is freely available.” With respect to the hospitality industry, “Digital Check-In & Check-Out and digital payments are already a new normal….altered the seating style in lobbies, restaurants, banquets, making fewer tables (is also being made) available...”
In spite of such turmoil, we have seen extraordinary displays of agilence. Vahan, which uses WhatsApp-based virtual assistants to automate hiring of blue-collar workforce, said it first saw an uptake in hiring from the delivery segment including food and grocery. This was followed by the manufacturing, ancillary and BPO sectors.
In the health sector, teleconsultations have shot through the roof. Education has moved online and forced teachers to rapidly adopt new models of engagement and newer technologies. Students have also had to adapt to learning online and working with small mobile screens depending on availability.
The shift in working styles has also led to a change in work-culture.Micro-managing leaders have had to learn to let go and trust their subordinates. Also, professionals have become comfortable with sharing their family life while working remotely, over video calls or when schedules need to be rearranged because of familial needs.
The professionals who had to step-out without a choice, like emergency care, public transport and sanitation workers braved several odds to do their jobs.
A key takeaway: Citizens must embrace ambiguity with agility.
Every working professional and their dependants would have been concerned with livelihood at some point during the last several months.The pandemic has rushed us into a distant future of work that’s a combination of remote setups, gig economy, work from anywhere, hybrid or the hub and spoke working models etc.
As the saying goes, what does not break us will only make us stronger to face uncertainties in the future. The professional has had to retool - using online platforms for meetings, workshops and remote pairing. Professionals have also had to upskill based on shifts in the business and industry.
Love and relationships
Not a lot of news has discussed how personal relationships have evolved or disintegrated during the pandemic. What we have seen is information on mental health and wellbeing, and its importance in a physically isolated yet hyper-connected virtual world.
Personal relationships have had to navigate work-life balance, health complications, nurturing kids and elderly at home, chores and more. Without the options of stepping out for a breather, people were forced to take stock of their emotions, and not always in the privacy of their bedrooms that were doubling or tripling up as home offices and the kids’ rooms as well.
Positives were how people were witness to all the roles their partners actually played in the care of home and family. There was greater appreciation and sharing of domestic responsibilities. But, there have also been so many instances of difficult relationships mutating into domestic violence.
A key takeaway: Citizens must revisit their preferences when it comes to personal relationships.
The pandemic has forced people to either form stronger bonds or move out of a non-working relationship. This period also saw a surge in use of online and virtual dating apps for romance and platonic friendships. We expect pre-date video chats to become a norm before physical meetings or dates. This could be an example of an agilent response to the new and socially distanced normal.
One of the immediate changes with the pandemic is the shift from spending just a few hours at home each day to spending all day, every day at home. We have redefined our personal spaces and have learned to repurpose them for working, sleeping, exercise, eating etc.
World over, people are seeing more value in returning to the basics - if eating healthy and organic was a fashionable trend, now it’s an expectation. Several remote-workers have left rented apartments in cities to move back to their towns and villages, and live and work amidst cleaner air, healthier food, lesser crowds and close to their roots.
A trip to the movies or a fine dining restaurant suddenly does not seem as essential anymore. A JP Morgan report talks of drastically different consumer buying habits during the lockdown where, for instance, cosmetics saw a double digit dip in demand.
Governments in many countries have been the central support system, guiding people on information, points of contact and steps to battle the virus. And, it’s become apparent that in times of crisis, community welfare supersedes individual privacy.
A key takeaway: Citizens must re-evaluate the simple life and basic amenities.
People, today, are experimenting with a drive around the neighborhood, a socially distanced picnic with loved ones or even a carefully planned local trip over elaborate international travel – all of which seem like a well deserved luxury. Citizens around the world are negotiating what aspects of their ‘old’ life they are willing to give up, change or not change at all. In the midst of it all, there is a resounding call to take up healthier habits and lifestyles.
Aristotle is known to have said, “Man is by nature a social animal.” Given social distancing and mandated ‘stay at home’ guidance, people have realized, someone who’s 50 meters away is as close as someone who’s 5000 kilometers away. Many of us, old and young, connect with our families and friends over extended Zoom or FaceTime or Whatsapp sessions.
Unfortunately, Zoom would never win a battle against generations of social conditioning. Expected presence at social interactions and rituals like weddings, funerals, festivals and births proved to be the undoing in several communities. People found it difficult to adhere to new lock-down norms, at least in the beginning.
A key takeaway: Citizens have to navigate the digital world and digital connections.
The pandemic has become a backdrop to the display of people's agility. And, while the new digital ‘bridges’ cannot replace personal and physical connections, humanity recognizes its resilience. For instance, after initial resistance, we saw a quick uptake in smaller wedding functions that were broadcast over Zoom for extended family and friends.
This article is a sum of our observations and how people have consciously and unconsciously leveraged the principles of agility and resilience – Agilence. What you can expect from Part 3 of this series is a discussion on how countries have adopted this very philosophy.
Countries around the world have been guiding their people in rewriting preferences and priorities, while also dealing with ambiguity and widespread misinformation. Leaders, government bodies and collaborating organizations across the world have adopted the strategy of preserving, persevering and pioneering to walk their citizens through the pandemic and its aftermath.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.