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By Jordan Lee
Essential takeaways from the lockdown experiences of Asian KOLs.
By many early estimates, the COVID-19 pandemic was supposed to be winding down as temperatures rise across the Northern Hemisphere. However, lockdowns around the world are continuing, driving professional and social relationships out of the real world and into the virtual domain.
Although most of us are no longer meeting friends and colleagues in person, interacting virtually has opened a startling window into our private, internal selves. Most people will find themselves staring at their devices much longer than usual.
We’ve come to accept this lifestyle, but adjusting to the expectation that this is the ‘new normal’ going forward is no easy feat. One aspect of the lockdown is that we need to work harder preparing for life after the crisis. Yet, staying organized during this time and constantly feeling the need to be productive during this time can be detrimental to mental health.
All this reminds us that professional management is needed to keep things afloat. Habits are important to maintain a sense of normalcy. Notable Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in the startup space have weighed in with their strategic tips on staying productive and happy.
- Vani Kola: Founder and Managing Director of Kalaari Capital, and a prominent figure in the Indian startup ecosystem.
Kola’s first and more important piece of advice is to set a fixed waking and sleeping schedule. She commences her day with gratitude and ends it with a prayer, which she says helps to eliminate any pessimistic thoughts.
Next, dedicate several spots around the house to be your workspaces. She suggests reducing distractions and structuring your day to mimic your usual ones as closely as possible. Similarly, dressing up for work is crucial even when you are at home – it is the mindset that motivates you to start your day fresh.
Setting aside some time every day for socializing virtually is also necessary to maintain your mental health, and spending time reading a book at the end of the day can help you to disconnect from a screen and remain mentally agile.
- Lauren Kress: Founder at The Change Makers Collective, a science-led growth consultancy.
Rather than offering advice only for remaining productive, Kress suggests that this could be a good time to take a step back and be curious about yourself. She suggests setting aside time for reflection, or taking psychometric tests to better understand yourself.
Kress’ suggestion is to find an optimum time frame when you are most productive and stick to it. We are generally much better at resolving problems and dealing with complex hurdles when we are in the right frame of mind. Whether it’s morning or night, find a time to work that suits you best. It is also essential to take frequent breaks – without watching your television or checking social media – which will work to improve concentration and minimize any distractions.
Most of us will be on our screen for prolonged periods, but it makes a difference to connect with colleagues through a video call. Staying connected virtually will enable you to better pick up on information and important messages, more so than phone calls.
Similar to Kola’s advice, Kress suggests designating a dedicated workplace in your home. Having one will encourage you to “setup” and “pack down” after a long working day.
- Elisette Carlson: Founder at SMACK! Media, a boutique marketing and public relations agency.
Carlson’s advice leans more toward staying healthy, both mentally and physically. She advocates that everyone invest in a standing desk, and taking care to move around the house often while ensuring to maintain good posture.
She also suggests developing a new habit of meal-prepping, and ensuring your fridge has adequate fruits, vegetables, and balanced meals to boost productivity.
Try not to be overly harsh on yourself if you are not productive during certain times of a day. By applying a results-only work environment (ROWE) mindset, focus on your end goals and metrics rather than the process of achieving them – in other words, allow the end to justify the means.
It is also worth having fun with your colleagues throughout the day. Just like in an office environment, create social groups on your messaging platform of choice to keep you motivated during work hours. Most importantly, take time off to relax, ensuring that a definitive boundary is set between work and leisure.
- Bhavik Turakhia: Founder & CEO of Flock, Radix, and Co-founder of Zeta.
Turakhia’s advice is geared to managers and CEOs. He suggests that virtual team building activities are efficient at promoting employees’ happiness and productivity. Using advanced communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Slack, which are all constantly working to build in interactive features thanks to a surge in users, makes remote working more convenient and bearable.
In fact, celebrating festive activities like Good Friday, Easter, or birthdays might bring everyone together, allowing employees to indulge in entertaining activities while working.
With the current situation, asking team members to share inspiring stories will be an indispensable mood-booster for everyone. Senior managers should be responsible for keeping their employees engaged during the lockdown. Encouraging your colleagues and team to spend enough time with their families will bring positivity into their personal lives and their virtual workspaces too.
In times like this, humanity is working together to fight an invisible, deadly enemy. It is crucial to maintain some normality, and learn from others’ experiences when we can’t figure it out ourselves.