May you live in interesting times” is an alleged Chinese blessing implying that it is better to be living in an era of unusual occurrences. Some historians speculate that not only are the Chinese origins of this saying doubtful but that the saying was intended as a curse since “interesting times” are, historically speaking, characterized by tumult and strife. With an unprecedented pandemic sweeping across the globe forcing people to stay indoors, businesses to shut down, and the global economy to grind to a halt, it is safe to say that we are currently living in “interesting times” and it certainly feels like a curse.
There are many topics one can talk about with the current global quarantine, but perhaps the most noticeable effect of the various stay at home orders is their impact on the economy. The lockdown has had an unprecedented effect on global commerce and businesses everywhere have been forced to take drastic measures to cope with the new reality.
Even for companies that are managing to stay afloat, business is often slow, and many industries have found that their employees don’t have nearly as much work as they would during normal economic times. While a large excess of spare time might seem at first like a good problem to have, too much of it can lead to boredom and dissatisfaction; it seems a little curmudgeonly to say something like “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” but there’s definitely something to be said for the benefits of keeping busy. With this in mind, there are several things companies and employees can do to occupy this newfound free time, and a lot of it involves improvement.
Companies whose business has slowed down have an opportunity to look inward and take the opportunity to fine-tune everything so that they are ready to hit the ground running when the economy picks back up again. Client-focused industries such as consulting will find that many of their clients are unwilling or unable to do business and will suddenly have an excess of un-used resources that can be utilized inwards. Resources previously focused on clients can now be put on internal projects that have been put on the back burner for months. With internal projects taking priority for the first time, the company can be made more efficient and dynamic than before the pandemic.
This self-improvement initiative should by no means be limited to a company-wide scale as its almost more applicable on an individual level. To employees facing a surplus of spare time brought on by the slow economy, this is a never before seen opportunity to actually learn all those things that have been put off. Free time might seem a luxury at first but, as mentioned before, too much of anything will make it sour, and cultivating new skills is a great way to stay busy. As all schools and colleges have recently demonstrated, learning from home is not only possible but can be very effective. Websites like Udemy offer hundreds of online courses to help anyone expand their skillset across a tremendous range of different subjects. Using just a little bit of suddenly abundant time every day to study can lead to a new range of abilities and allow one to come out of quarantine able to offer much more to themselves and their company.
Staying connected is the last, but by no means least, topic of discussion for working in our plague-stricken world. Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep in touch with fellow co-workers. A company’s internal communications have always been important, but now it is more crucial than ever to stay connected. Meetings over Zoom or other video chat services offer us the chance for some much-needed human interaction as some of us start to get just a little tired of the company we have at home. Weekly standups between teams help us keep in touch with co-workers who we are used to seeing everyday and company organized happy hours are great ways to alleviate the stir-craziness some of us are starting to feel. People are social creatures and it’s important to keep up with one another, even if health concerns keep us from doing it face to face.
It may at times seem like the world is coming to an end during the pandemic, but it’s important to realize that there will be an end to this pandemic and while this is nobody’s ideal summer, it’s important to make the most of our time as best we can.