Bad news can make one anxious and a pandemic can certainly make one’s head brim with anxiety, depression and stress. It is two months since the nationwide lockdown began in India and with life slowing down to a crawl, confined between the four walls of your room and the gloomy state of affairs all around, it is not uncommon to find yourself in a state of nervous tension.Further, by bringing businesses around the world to a halt, the pandemic has increased pressure on all small and big businessmen with operations shut and no backup plans. Apart from worrying about the safety of their families and loved ones, entrepreneurs and business leaders have additional stress regarding the company and the staff’s survival in times of no revenue. All of this can take a toll on their mental health. “Leaders and founders have a bigger responsibility to shoulder as they are the bridge between their businesses and those who work in their organisations. From ensuring employees their financial stability amongst many other things, the leadership team does wear a lot of hats,” Sarvesh Shashi, founder of fitness firm Sarva, told ET Digital. Shashi says that in such unprecedented situations, decisions can be easily influenced by beliefs and biases and therefore, people with leadership roles, irrespective of how they feel, must analyze and focus on what’s relevant at that point. “So whatever we decide it has to be decided both pragmatically and sensitively taking into account all probable outcomes. Plus, the decisions we take need to weigh what works best for the business whilst making sure the team’s well-being is your number one priority,” he said. He emphasised on the fact that now when work from home has become the new normal, it is the time to improve employee engagement and team leaders should be empathetic to the employees’ needs of working in a new setup and environment. “Try out new things such as a virtual theme day at work or maybe start the day with a Zoom meditation session even if it is for 5 minutes. Little things can make a huge difference at this time and founders can lead by example,” he said. While the work from home culture is starting to gain momentum for corporates, it is also developing and increasing loneliness for many people. A complete change of work lifestyle involving social distancing and self-isolation has the tendency to bring feelings of loneliness. Divya Kannan, Clinical Psychologist, Mind.fit, the mental fitness arm of Cure.fit, believes that there is a need to reframe thinking and perspective, especially understanding that one is not alone in this experience. Further, small recreational activities are always helpful. “Create something special in your day that involves connection at a deeper level either with yourself or with your support system (even if that is through digital forms of communication). Reflective activities like art and writing, are effective means of expressing oneself creatively when alone, and does not amount to feeling lonely,” she said. She highlighted that to carve out loneliness, one needs to understand the perspective that there will be an end to the current way of living even though it may not feel the same at the moment. “The more we can be engaged in activities that keep us in the present, the less we are likely to dwell on the uncertainty of tomorrow,” she said. Saurabh Srivastava, former NASSCOM Chairman and co-founder of Indian Angel Network, believes social distancing may not be the right word to adapt in this environment, but physical distancing. “Even if you all cannot meet, there is no reason why you cannot sit in your room and get on a Zoom call. Human mind is a powerful engine, if you want you can make it feel like you are all in the same room,” he said. He emphasized on everyday calls and video conferences with team members and colleagues in order to fill the proximity gap and maintain the office environment. Looking through the business lens, angel investor Rajan Anandan said, “If you are a founder, you know that this financial crisis is bigger than any other crisis, it is bigger than the 2008 global financial crisis.”Acknowledging that amidst the distressing news, founders need to realise that there is only so much they can do and need to start focusing on what is achievable right now and what contracts are still able to function.“You need to be decisive. Do not go with the thinking of waiting for the next two-three months, that is a bad idea. Plan your worst-case scenario, keep backup plans ready,” he said in a webinar by Startup India.
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