How are our Children Coping with the Pandemic

Every child is unique. And so is their reaction to any crisis.

We all slept in one world and woke up in an entirely new one. And as adults while we grappled with a world crippled by the Covid19 pandemic, our children faced an equally unparalleled scenario. 

All of us, including our children, have known the usual and normal way of childhood. Wake up early morning, toss and turn in bed and make puppy faces at parents to get a few extra minutes in bed, get ready in a rush (well because the puppy face worked and now they are late for school), gobble up breakfast, and rush to school; wait for the school bus while chatting with friends at the bus stop; having a fun laugh for no reason in the bus; hi-fives with your friends in school; sharing lunch with close friends; exchanging books and notebooks to refer to queries and questions; sit huddled together in class and assembly and the lunch hall, enjoy the camaraderie that comes with it; play various games and run around carelessly without worrying about the heat or the sweat; spend evenings with friends playing, cycling, or just walking, only to repeat it all the next day! 

Photo Credit: House of Photography

And the flip from a normal (almost boring, repeatable routine) to the new normal was almost in a flash. It wasn’t little changes built over time. There was no time to get used to the new normal. We really did sleep in one world and wake up in another. 

As parents, our lives changed enormously and so did the roles we play. The division between being a leader at work for your teams, being the parent for your kids, being the partner to your spouse and being the son/daughter to your parents or in-laws all melted and fused together. We were playing all our roles all the time, simultaneously. Our offices moved into our homes. Our living rooms were converted into remote offices and remote schools for the kids. And the irony of it all was the word ‘distancing’. We distanced ourselves from the world outside, resulting in no distance or sense of space within our families. 

In order to understand the scenario from the children’s perspective, we spoke to a number of kids in the age group of 10 to 16 years. The insights were interesting and worrying.

No Space: Kids felt smothered in this new way of life, being stuck indoors 24*7, with no physical contact with the outside world. As parents we all worry about what this slowdown will do to our kids. What’s the impact of loss of education for all these months, will the kids be able to learn enough to sit for exams, how will this year pan out in the larger perspective of life? And while all these are valid questions, kids felt their parents were stressing over the entire situation and hence adding more pressure to do more, study more, take more initiative and almost keep a log of achievements during the lockdown. 

High levels of Stress: Kids felt the parents were constantly worried and stressed out about the pandemic situation (and for a valid reason at that)! But that has led to a constant level of stress at home and in their everyday environments. 

More face time but lesser listening time: We all went through soft skills sessions on active listening when we were starting off in the corporate world. Well, now our kids see us at home all the time. But as parents are we listening to what they have say? Are we tuned into their fears, apprehensions, loneliness, or their mindset in general? 

It’s a tall order for parents, I’ll give you that! The pandemic has brought with it an economic recession like never before, and the new normal is scary with everyone questioning their own mortality. 

But as Rabindranath Tagore said: “Every child comes with a message that God is not yet discouraged of man.”

And as we find our coping mechanism in these testing times, it’s only right to help our children cope with the challenges that face them. There is no one way to cope, but here are a few simple ones that work:

Back-off: Two words no parent wants to hear when it comes to their kids. But really.. back-off! I recently heard this snippet of advice from someone who I would otherwise never go to for a wise word. We all have these people in our lives, right? The know-it-all colleague who always has to have the last word, or the classmate from school who forever rides the high horse, or the mother-in-law who always has a comment to make that’s almost never positive, or the ex of a spouse who… well, feel free to complete that sentence for yourself! But the advice was sound. Our kids are going through a way of life that’s not only different but stifling to the very essence of childhood. There are no playgrounds anymore, no huddles, no sharing of lunch, no birthday parties, no handshakes or hi-fives, no classrooms or punishments outside the classroom. It’s everything that makes childhood so precious and it’s everything that has been taken away. Give them their space. It’s fine not adhere to the normal rules now. The normal has changed.  

Actively Listen: Hearing your child while you fiddle with your phone or write that mail on your laptop doesn’t count. If you listen hard enough, you will hear the verbal and non-verbal cues. Something every kid needs now more than ever. Our kids probably confided in their best friend at school or maybe had a cousin they reach out to for advice. Those channels of communication have come to a screeching halt for our children. More than ever, we need to provide that listening ear.  

Create rituals: Most global organisations have a few rituals that help drive the culture of the organisation. These could range from team lunches on a weekday, golf mornings on a weekend, a few drinks on a Friday evening, or an evening with spouses. Typically these rituals raise employee engagement and sense of belonging, while keeping their morale high. Given that we could all use a morale boost, setting some rituals at home could have some merit. We have a simple one. Friday is movie night. We have roles and responsibilities distributed (who makes popcorn, who fetches the drinks, who beats the coffee, etc etc). It’s a simple one but we noticed that kids start talking about it from Wednesday. It’s something they look forward to. The general rule is to keep it simple and look for an activity that keeps everyone engaged. Could be a board game, gardening, baking together, creating some arts and crafts. 

Make them self-reliant: Yes our kids are missing school and a huge chunk of their normal education. But this has also given us an opportunity to make them self reliant. Let them make their own beds, dust their rooms, take care of the pet, water the plants, maybe even learn a simple recipe or two. A little self-reliance goes a long way. I’ve had many parents ask me and my kids ‘what is our Covid story?’. Which basically translates to what new skill did you pick during lockdown, how many kgs did you loose, how many books did you read, etc etc. Which really goes back to point number one; as parents let’s just back-off. Let’s not get competitive and create a rat race where none exists. 

Stay Calm: Robert Fulghum said: “Dont worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” This quote is probably more apt now than ever before. The world is uncertain and so is our future. But our future is watching us in the way of our children. So stay calm and keep swimming! 

Tomorrow is another day! 

Aroti Akash Tugnait Leadership Development Digital Marketing

About the Author: Aroti Akash Tugnait is a Leadership Development Practitioner and a Digital Marketeer with over 2 decades of experience with Harvard Business PublishingAccenture Consulting, and GE. Find her LinkedIn profile as listed:

How to be an Effective Leader During a Crisis

Until recently, I used to love the Sci-Fi movies that started with “The year is 3025, and the world as we know it has ceased to exist.” It promised to be an entertaining ride for the next hour and a half with adventure, fantasy and a whole lot of scientific jargon that I don’t mind not knowing. 

Fast forward to today, the sci-fi movie has become a scary reality. The world is in complete lock-down; social distancing, isolation and quarantine have become a normal way of life; all flights cancelled globally; schools, educational institutes, and places of worship shut until further notice; hospitals flooded with more patients than they can handle and fast-depleting supplies. The number of people directly or indirectly affected by the situation globally is appalling to say the least. 

The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has brought down countries, businesses, families and individuals down to their knees. The numbers to date of Covid cases stand at 4,043,058 and a staggering 277,014 deaths globally (and counting!). All offices across the board have been shut, and working from home has become the new norm. So, as the deadly disease continues to spread its nightmarish wings, people have started to worry about survival. On one hand we grapple with the staggering deadly human toll and disruption to millions of people’s lives, and on the other hand the economic damage that is already significant and far-reaching beyond the current comprehension. 

World over we are adjusting to the new reality of remote work environments. And while we struggle with the new normal, leaders of today are facing the same adjustments, just at a much larger extent. The leaders of today have had to step up and rise to the (unfortunate) occasion of managing business continuity and the output of their teams. And amidst the pandemic, all employees lookup to their leaders to inspire and engage their teams through the crisis and the uncertainty we face every single day.

When in unknown territory, we’ve always looked for lessons in history. Nancy Koehn, the author of Forged in Crisis and a historian at Harvard Business School examines a different kind of crisis. In her book, Forged in Crisis, she draws profiles of five leaders who experienced such stress: Ernest Shackleton (marooned with his entire crew for many months on end on an Antarctic ice floe);  Abraham Lincoln (on the verge of the collapse of the Union); Frederick Douglass (threatened with a return to enslavement); Dietrich Bonhoeffer (an anti-Nazi German clergyman agonising what a man of faith should do when faced with absolute evil); and the 1960s environmentalist Rachel Carson (racing against the clock and the cancer ravaging her in a bid to save the planet). Nancy Koehn studied crisis leaders for two decades, and through this work, she admits that real leaders are not born; the ability to help others triumph over adversity is not written into their genetic code. They are, instead, made. They are Forged in Crisis. Leaders become “real” when they practise a few key behaviours that grid and inspire people through difficult times. As Covid-19 tears its way through country after country, town after town, neighbourhood after neighbourhood, here’s what we can learn from how some of the history’s iconic leaders acted in the face of great uncertainty, real danger, and collective fear. In a recent article in Harvard Business Review (HBR), Nancy elucidates these brilliant insights derived from history. 

  1. Acknowledge people’s fears, then encourage resolve. As a leader today, your main job at hand is to be brutally honest about the challenges that your business or place of work faces. Show it as it is with your plan to mitigate the situation. Display the hope that you and your teams can collectively navigate the paths ahead with the resources you have and face each day with determination, solidarity and above all a shared purpose. Hear out your people, hear their fears and then communicate your resolve of the shared vision. Inspire and motivate your teams, but above all, ensure that you hold their hand through the storm. 
  2. Give people a role and a purpose: These are uncharted territories. It’s like never before. We are all adapting and adjusting to the new normal every hour of the day. Nancy Koehn goes on to elaborate that when in doubt about what you or your team can do during this pandemic, prioritise helping others – even in the smallest of ways. When we help others, even in the smallest ways, our fear ebbs and our focus sharpens. 
  3. Emphasise experimentation and learning: To successfully navigate crisis, strong leaders quickly get comfortable with widespread ambiguity and chaos, recognising that they do not have a crisis playbook. They navigate the uncharted waters through the turbulence, adjust and improvise and change paths as required. Good leaders understand that they don’t have all the answers, that they will make mistakes, and learn as they go. 
  4. Tend to energy and emotion – yours and theirs: Crisis, as Nancy says, takes a toll on all of us. They are exhausting and can lead to burnout. For many, who lose loved ones, they are devastating. Thus a crucial function of leadership during intense turbulence is to keep your finger on the pulse of your people every and emotions and respond as needed. When tending to energy and emotion, you must begin with yourself. Take good care of yourself, physically emotionally and spiritually. Know when you need a break and take it. Eat well, get least eight hours of sleep, exercise regularly, connect with your loved ones, and plan for at least two device-free periods per day.  

As Albert Einstein said: Strive not be a success, but rather to be of value.

While we draw insights from history, we hope the leaders of today are inspired to see opportunities that can help the world navigate the crisis. Like every crisis in history and the story of success or failure of the leader managing it, one fact has become amply clear: Leadership was and will continue to be highly personal. It requires leaders to create the conditions for their people and themselves to become more resilient, agile, and courageous. In resilience lies adaptability. The leaders who allow themselves and their organisations to adapt and adjust to this new reality stand a better chance to thrive in the new world!

Times are tough and like never before. Each one of us are questioning the mortality of our own self and our loved ones. Each one of us will be remembered for how we made our teams feel. How did we connect, persevere, and progress in the face of the end of the world as it seems to be.  How will be emerge collectively stronger and resilient.

As Maya Angelou so eloquently said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Until Next Time!

Aroti Akash Tugnait Leadership Development Digital Marketing

About the Author: Aroti Akash Tugnait is a Leadership Development Practitioner and a Digital Marketeer with over 2 decades of experience with Harvard Business Publishing, Accenture Consulting, and GE. Find her LinkedIn profile as listed:

Importance of Digital Marketing during a Global Pandemic

The Year 2020. It started like any other. There was excitement in the air, families flew across oceans to be close to their near and dear ones, parties were planned, elaborate dinner and brunch menus prepared, resolutions were made! Like I said, it was a year like any other. 

Little did we know how it would unfold, or what the year would bring with it. Over the course of the next few weeks, a life threatening disease would take the form of a pandemic, shutting us all behind closed doors. 

Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

For the first time ever, we all found ourselves in uncharted territory. We faced a global lockdown. We had no experience, no vaccine, no cure, and no standard operating procedures to navigate this new world we were all thrown into. But to survive, we must navigate and swim to the other side. 

The world is struggling to survive and so are businesses, both large and small. According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), along with the severe health and humanitarian crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, executives around the world face enormous business challenges: the collapse of customer demand, significant regulatory regulations, supply chain interruptions, unemployment, economic recession, and increased uncertainty. And like the health and humanitarian side of crisis, the business side needs ways to recover. Ad hoc responses won’t work; organisations must lay the groundwork for their recoveries now. 

In resilience lies adaptability. Organisations that are agile and nimble will find it easier to adapt to the new normal of the post-pandemic world. In the coming months and years, businesses will find themselves more dependant on their digital media strategy. The change is here to stay, more now than ever! 

The enormous challenges businesses face today are unprecedented. The B2B companies used to rely heavily on a barrage of trade shows and exhibitions to network and build customer relations. The B2C companies depended on in-person client acquisition processes and building long-term customer relations. The pandemic has led to an unparalleled total disappearance of all channels related to live events, conferences, meetings and anything face to face. 

According to Forbes, the unprecedented, almost-total disappearance of all channels related to live events and conferences, and the increasing barriers on face-to-face business, pose an enormous challenge. Key to resilience is the development of ongoing contingencies to mitigate against this loss. 

As it seems to be, the future of work lies in using the screen as a medium. Until we have a confirmed and tested cure for the pandemic, it looks like we will continue to be glued to our laptops and phones in a colossal effort of business continuity and survival. 

Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

While the world struggles to survive, can we think of adapting to work in the new normal. As Albert Einstein said, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” Globally we are all confined to our homes. Gallup surveys in 145 countries and territories in 2019 and early 2020 show more of the world is online than ever. According to the Economic Times, Market Research Firm Nielsen said social media volume saw a whopping 50X surge between January and March in India alone in the wake of Covid – 19 pandemic. A senior official of the firm noted that the social media buzz picked up from a 0.4 million in January and 1.6 million in February to a to a staggering 20.3 million till March 24. 

Given the massive increase of users in the online space means more opportunities for large and small businesses to connect with their clients and customers digitally. If your organisation or small business previously held back on your digital strategy, now is the time to revamp it and increase your presence for the audience that matters the most for your business.

Here are five tips to become digitally available and present in times of the current crisis: 

  1. Be Socially Present: To be seen at the right place, you need to be present. And that’s equally true in the digital space. Your social presence is important at this crucial time. Create content, revamp that landing page, find imaginative ways to communicate your messages and reach out to your customers and clients. Think out of the box. If you are a B2B company and historically worked through trade shows and live events, maybe it’s time to create a digital community of your clients and organise an online show. You could host live talks with renowned speakers from the community and the trade. If you are a small business owner, ensure your products are available online and that you stay connected with your loyal customer base. 
  2. Be Empathetic: Every individual and every business is in survival mode. The reality of the situation is that all countries are looking for the ‘next normal’. The news channels are filled with rising death tolls and the increasing spread of the disease. People are likely to buy essential and household goods more now and seize to buy the non-essentials. But that shouldn’t be a reason to decrease your engagement with your clients.  Continue to build relationships online, and continue to empathise with the tough times that face you and your client alike. Your customer and your client will be happy to stay connected with you and appreciate your concerns. 
  3. Share: According to Mckinsey, digital and low-touch activities are growing, attracting both new and increased users during the pandemic. Consumers expect some of these activities to enter their ‘next normal’. During the pandemic, consumers have taken up new ways to learn, work, entertain themselves, procure essentials and non-essentials, connect with others and increase wellness while at home. In these vulnerable times, it helps to humanise your client. While you navigate through these uncertain times, share some of your ‘new normal’ success and failures with your clients. You could be trying a new health app to stay fit during lockdown, or reading something that you could probably share with your client, or tried a recipe that you never tried before; share your experiences with the client as well. These are trying times for everyone, and the human-touch is appreciated (all while maintaining social distancing; pun intended!).
  4. Engage with your Employees: While we seem to worry about our client engagement, it’s often easy to forget the ones who make this all possible: our internal teams. Let’s not forget that their worries and struggles are as real as the clients. They are also struggling in the new normal with work, kids, spouses and all the household work that needs attention. Connect with them on video calls to get some face-to-face time with them. Keep some of these calls entirely ‘no-work calls’. Do something fun online, play a game, maybe ask kids to photo-bomb these fun calls. Whatever helps you engage better with your team. Let them know that you as a leader are genuinely worried and care for your people.  
  5. Stay Calm. It Shows: Rudyard Kipling said: “If you can keep your head when all are about you are losing theirs…!”. According to Harvard Business Publishing, Leaders who act panicky can trigger panic in their team. To project calm, think of yourself as a swan—gliding on the water, while your feet paddle fast below the surface, unseen by your team.

As they say, this too shall pass! But resilience lies in adaptability. So look for ways to adapt and make your mark in the digital space. 

Until next time! 


About the Author: Aroti Akash Tugnait is a Leadership Development Practitioner and a Digital Marketeer with over 2 decades of experience with Harvard Business Publishing, Accenture Consulting, and GE. Find her LinkedIn profile as listed: