COVID-19 has abruptly thrown our lives into unprecedented times, testing our resolve. It has taken over life as we know it, our work, daily routines, and entertainment. However, through adversity, it has also sown the seeds of hope, endurance, and perseverance. Stories that show us that with solidarity, we can carry each other through the hardships.
Together, we are stronger and better. A critical and strange time in history, we have a story to tell now and in the future. As we adjust and adapt during this pandemic, #ThroughTheEyesOf is a campaign launched by WriteHaus Asia for people to share their stories of new normal with us.
This has proved to be a difficult time for most. Through the stories of encouragement and inspiration, we hope to share that the pandemic has brought humanity together.
We can now see Through the Eyes of each other, that we are one.
Managing Director, Soccajoeys Group (Sydney, Australia)
“COVID-19 has hit our country, and I guess the world dramatically over the last couple of months. It was business, as usual, one day and in an instant, pretty much everything came to a sudden halt, it has been an adjustment that we have had to get used to. I guess the uncertainty circling around the situation has been the biggest challenge — when can we leave our homes again? — when can kids go back to school? —when will businesses re-open?
The unemployment rate has spiked drastically and expected to hit above 10%, and a lot of people have lost their businesses and livelihoods. I must say that the Australian Federal Government has acted swiftly and they have done a great job supporting people and businesses during this time. If not for their stimulus packages that are keeping 50% of the population receiving some form of payment, we would be in a much dire situation. Yet it still has affected many families who have lost jobs, suffered losses in their business and as a result, seen a decline in their mental well-being. Australians, in general, are very resilient and supportive. The whole country has done well to support the Government measures & restrictions to help minimise the COVID-19 spread. This has all stood out for me.
My negative impact would lean more towards the psychological side of things. Though,it has always been in me to be thinking of new initiatives, advancements, business insights, product offerings and so on, COVID-19 has escalated that a lot more now. Having to deal with the abrupt shutting down of the business and thinking of ways to get back up and running again is a challenge, particularly during these times. As a franchisor, I have that added pressure of ensuring that my franchisees succeed and a lot of the decisions I make can affect that.
Now that COVID-19 has brought our business to a halt, I have had to stand tall with my senior management team and work on initiatives and strategies to keep our whole network moving forward. Like many other businesses, we have had to pivot and decided to move our programmes to an online platform so that children can continue to enjoy Soccajoeys and revenue will still come in.
Businesses need to take a hard look at their whole business model and operations and how they have been running to date. This will allow them to discover new ways and initiatives to re-invent themselves, to handle this crisis and to make the necessary changes. You must stay positive through this time against the negatives around us, especially from what the media portrays, which can fill unnecessary fear in people.
My life before the pandemic was always very busy. Running a large business means I rarely switch off from work. I have three children, so my wife and I are kept busy keeping up with them. Now, I have more time to nurture my children and play with them; I do homeschooling with my eldest and help him overcome challenges by finding a solution to achieve success, keep active with my second boy and savour the moments with my 7-month-old daughter. Just to be able to see my young children play, discover, grow, and develop daily has been a pure blessing. My beautiful family is what keeps me going during these times.
With this pandemic and with our business pretty much coming to a standstill, it has afforded more family time for me. I now realise how much of my time the business occupied. As a family, we miss visiting our extended family and going to the beach and on holidays, but we must sacrifice in the meantime for a better cause.
During this time, I stay motivated and positive by listening to podcasts of business leaders and CEO’s about moving forward with business growth, lifestyle and well-being amongst others. This has allowed me to view my everyday life and business with an alternative viewpoint. I understand gratitude for the things I have achieved and know that I have more to look forward to. My physical fitness is a big part of my weekly routine as well, and it helps my mind and body stay sharp and motivated. I have learned that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. There are still ways of re-inventing yourself and your business.
I believe this is the circuit breaker we needed to put life into perspective and recognise what we want out of it and what is significant to us. It has certainly opened my eyes.”
Owner of Grand Monarch Nursery (Colombo, Sri Lanka )
“In Sri Lanka, the impact created by this pandemic has caused enormous consequences which have resulted in disruptions to our day to day life, reduction in business activity, increased unemployment rates, poverty and overall an economic downfall. This is what all countries globally are facing, but here in Sri Lanka we just overcame an Easter attack that took place on 21st April 2019. Since then we are still trying to recover and get on with our normal lives, and with this pandemic, it has caused more unplanned pressure in all manner of our life and caused a further downfall in the economic growth.
Before the pandemic life was active for me; busy with work and a good social life with friends and family. I worked half a day to spend time with my daughter in the afternoons. We would head to the parks, play areas, restaurants and drive around as a family. It was a good balance between work and home.
Today, life revolves in the house, which required some getting used to. I think of it positively as a well-deserved break because I am a workaholic. It was a beneficial chance to focus on myself, which I have missed over the years. I caught up on sleep, movies, self-care and even read a novel after a long time, which cued me that I had not spent time on myself much over the years doing the things I loved. I also managed to do a bit of spring cleaning!
Though there are positives during this time, the negatives are that I miss work and the school environment very much. I also miss the buzz of daily life; shopping, going to the salon, meeting friends and cousins for a meal or a drink. Otherwise, it feels normal except I am home all day. I wish every day that life would return to normal soon.
During this time, most families struggle financially, so we are grateful to be managing okay thus far. Our business is the most affected –schools are closed and as a pre-school owner that has affected me drastically. Parents had to delay payments or were unable to pay as they dealt with their losses of income.
The challenges of the business are tough. We tackle it as it comes with measures such as waiving the termly payment that parents had to pay for books, stationery and yoga, and the decision not to draw a salary for myself so that I can pay our school employees promptly. I did not want to reduce their salaries as teachers in Sri Lanka are not highly paid.
I also spend quality time realigning the school’s goals by researching new ways to move forward. I deliberate about our next steps should the schools remain closed, the safety measures to implement once we re-open and new advertising avenues to reach parents as we are still unable to meet. As a team, we are in constant communication to think of activities to keep our students engaged at home.
As a business owner, I learned that prudency is very important. Because of the savings I had, I was able to tide over for a period. My husband, who owns a chicken farm remains operational because it is an essential service. However, he has experienced his fair share of troubles; they have difficulty getting the items and the workforce they need to function smoothly, resulting in considerable losses. As a business owner, I emphasise the importance of keeping good personal relations with customers to build trust, which will help during transitional periods as now. They will also help spread the word about the good work we do.
The pandemic has undoubtedly taught me to be more prepared for the unexpected and to make the best use of life every single day and cherish the moments I have with my loved ones. Gratitude is another big win; I have learned to appreciate the good life that God has given me. I stay positive, by keeping busy with housework, spending time with my daughter, meditating, which has greatly helped me to relax and stay focused. I pray and find that my dedications and recitations have improved which help to keep my mind motivated. The last few weeks have taught me to believe in myself – to accept change with confidence, to love more by opening my heart to other’s feelings, especially my loved ones at home.
Mother nature has taught us a valuable lesson; global warming is a huge concern. Despite reminders of the consequences, we chose to turn a blind eye. Today she is healing, which is necessary, she has certainly gotten our attention to doing more. The pandemic has also shown a different side to people, the Sri Lankans have always been warm people, but this has brought out overwhelming support to lend a helping hand to those in need. I am a proud Sri Lankan!”
Independent Corporate Finance (London, United Kingdom)
“At present in the UK we have had over 34,000 deaths thus far with a lack of medical supplies to manage the pandemic. I know of people who have died either personally or through a friend. These are uncertain times, and it is hard to imagine how we will pull through, but we have faith that we will.
Prior to the pandemic, I travelled throughout the country for business meetings and sporting events. Now I cannot visit my daughter and granddaughters who live in Cyprus. I miss the gatherings with family and friends mostly; we would get together frequently to watch football and visit our favourite restaurants at least once a week. The only positive is spending time with my children who live with me. However, I have also found during this time, that being alone provides us with a different perspective on life.
Work is challenging now as people are not too keen to spend on non-essential products. I deal with conceptual selling, i.e. stocks and bonds, hence it has put a strain on my income. Right now, I am drawing on savings and the government’s help. Work still goes on, and I conduct business primarily on the phone, so I work from home and talking to people has motivated me, as we talk about personal matters as well as business, which brings people closer through adversity. I am a positive person by nature, so I try to lift people I talk to.
My advice to people is to stay positive, stay in touch with existing clients/customers and reach out to government-run offers. We must prepare for the recession by cutting costs and offering more personalised service to customers and business relationships.
Though I miss that we are unable to do any of these things now, and possibly for a long time, environmentally, I believe that this virus has worked positively. We should take some lessons from the positive influence on the environment and do better to protect it.”
Managing Director, Silicon Components Pvt Ltd (Mumbai, India)
“Pre COVID-19 life was about going to work, heading out for leisure and entertainment, exercise, and planning travel activities etc, we did not have to think twice to step out of our house to buy something. Now even meeting your friends for a coffee has become a luxury and going out to buy groceries is a task to overcome. Since workplaces and modes of public travel have shut down, not seeing a sea of people on the roads is shocking, especially for a place like Mumbai.
Covid-19 has severely affected life and businesses across India. We have been in a nationwide lockdown since 22nd March. There are people stranded without ways to go home to their distant villages. There has been a shortage of food and supply across the country, medical staff and infrastructure have been stretched to its limits, and industrial sectors are suffering from layoffs and pay cuts.
The entire style of doing business has shifted and will change. We are going to see a move from the type of product/service which will be needed, workforce management, to government policies. One must think about how these changes will translate in their respective sectors and take appropriate steps to ensure they stay afloat. There is no one solution fits all here, but where there are problems, there is also opportunity. We have had to keep our offices closed for the past two months. As you can imagine, there is tremendous business loss – being in the manufacturing sector, there is not much we can do by way of work from home. But we somehow managed to change processes and given some of our employees’ equipment and raw materials so that they can operate from home.
I suppose the biggest struggle for me was the uncertainty of what this pandemic would mean for the business 6-8 months from now. I have learned to have the foresight to re-strategise and plan for things to lead us out of any problems.
Families who have been directly affected by the virus have suffered. Apart from facing the possible loss of a loved one, there is a social stigma that follows. There is also the lack of staple food and essential items during the quarantine. The lesser privileged suffer much more. But, amid this, people have become more compassionate. The help that the general populace has given in terms of meals and essentials to the lesser privileged is exceptionally heart-warming and inspiring. We have learned to appreciate our workers and medical professionals more since they are the ones placing their lives at risk.
Earlier in the lockdown, there was extreme uncertainty on the availability of essentials required. But surprisingly, we did not see a lot of hoarding-behaviour. One thing we have all come to realise is that it is perfectly fine not to get the exact brand of goods you were used to buying. Also, the purchase of frivolous items has reduced.
Some of the cons that I have personally experienced during the pandemic are; fear of bringing the virus home every time I step out, lack of motivation at times (especially around the 5th – 6th week of the lockdown), business and income loss, getting mentally bogged down due to a change in routine and being unable to play sports.
Some of the positives I have had are spending quality time with family, catching up on movies missed out over the years and reconnecting with old friends. I also have had more personal time to pursue other interests and to sharpen my existing skills.
During this time, I have gained a newfound respect for essential workers and our domestic helpers because it has taught me to slow down and appreciate the contributions of others. Most importantly, it is about learning the difference between what we need to survive and what we want and thus reducing unnecessary expenses.
Some of the things that have kept me motivated is trying to work out at home when possible, reading books and listening to music, meditating every day, and interacting with friends online. I feel I have gotten to know myself much better and have had time to contemplate on what I want to do with my life and how I want to lead it.
There is a widespread fear of contracting the virus and perhaps also transmitting them to your near and dear ones. Luckily, due to the lock down, we have managed to delay the rampant spread of the virus, which is essential especially in India, which has one of the world’s largest population. If not contained, the risk of the virus spreading like wildfire is very high. Hence, although things look bad, there is also an unseen benefit.
I guess what we miss are simple things like meeting friends, going out to a restaurant to have a meal or even play your favourite sport outdoors. There is the unexplainable joy of seeing a familiar face when we step out to buy essentials.
The pandemic is also a sign that we need to take better care of nature. We have seen vast improvements across the earth when it comes to pollution levels, the return of endangered species, healing of the environment, etc. all by shutting down the world for two months. I believe nature has a tremendous ability to regenerate itself if only we allow it to do so.”
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