COVID19: Business as UnUsual

An email from the desk of my UK colleague, expresses concern about a Financial Times (FT)headline which talks about a 35% reduction in GDP for the second quarter and the expectation of a long, deep recession far worse than the 2008 Global FinancialCrisis.

My Chinese Partner colleagues reveal that it’s now week 12 of the crisis which started there on January 22, and although business in February was a disaster, March has come back very strongly, with his NGS office announcing three new assignments starting this week.

Personal reports from India, credit the pandemic with uniting the culturally, linguistically and politically diverse nation as never before.

Mid April – From London

Just keeping you updated on the situation in the UK. We seem to be approaching "peak virus" with our healthcare system hopefully just about coping with the infection. Working from home, social distancing and a constant daily feed of grim news on the media is the new normal. It was a bad news day when our Prime Minister got infected and was moved into intensive care but a very good one when he recovered.

The economic indicators are extremely concerning. The FT's headline today is talking about a35% reduction in GDP for the second quarter and a long, deep recession to come- significantly worse than the 2008 financial crisis, probably varying in intensity by industry sector. Many people are worried about not just business health but also their personal finances. The previously announced government loans/grants for companies are not getting through to small-to-mid sized businesses quickly enough to avoid severe cash flow problems. My HR contacts in bigger companies seem to be very busy furloughing staff to take advantage of government financial support.

The crisis is uniting the nation in many ways but we have some very difficult times ahead.

MidApril  – From Shanghai

It's week12 in China of a crisis that began on January 22nd for us.

We are back to the new normal, at work and out and about, meeting people face to face. High Schools will open on the 27th April. It’s spring here and people are itching to get out. We have three new assignments starting this week. 

The new normal is that we all have a downloaded app that shows green if you're safe ,and we show it on entry to office buildings, hotels and malls as well as having our temperature checked every time. We are also still wearing masks 100% in the office and in public but able to go for a run without one. It is clear that we are largely safe, but we know there will be some residual cases and so everyone is cautiously optimistic but still careful. The mum and pop stores and smaller restaurants are still closed, but big chains and stores at scale have opened, like Starbucks and KFC for example. Companies who are also at scale, report that while February was a disaster, March has come back very strongly with an obvious big surge in ecommerce across most sectors. This is not true for hospitality, travel, events and sports all of which remain impacted.  

The overall feeling here is that the Chinese will now begin to travel domestically again and that the upcoming May holidays will be the key indicator of public confidence.

Mid April  – From Mumbai

Herein India, we have all been under a nation-wide lockdown since March 25th and this was to end on April 14th. However, our Prime Minister announced today that the lockdown is going to be extended to May 3rd, and this is to contain the spread of the virus which has till today infected over 10,000people in India. Interestingly, over a 1000 of the infected people have been cured and are back home! We actually would have been better off had it not been for a big religious congregation in Delhi a few weeks ago, held despite a prevailing order that prohibited assembly of more than 5 people, and this led to a significant increase in the cases.

The government is being proactive in preventing an exponential rise in cases givenIndia’s population density and while the lockdown is leading to huge economic stress, most health and administration experts are of the opinion that the longterm cost of a large number of cases is far more than the temporary economic stress.

The government machinery is going all out to identify “hot spots” or clusters of infections across the country and isolating those clusters in order to prevent an outward spread from those areas. In addition, testing capacity is being ramped up aggressively as is capacity for treatment/ hospitalisation. There is a widespread view that we are not testing enough and the actual number of infected people could be far more than what is being reported. But the government and our national medical body are of the view that testing has to be targeted strategically instead of following an all-out approach.

Many corporations and individuals have come forward to help the government’s efforts financially and there are several organisations – both for-profit and not-for-profit - who are delivering basic services to the most underprivileged of people in order to prevent widespread human distress. 

This pandemic has united our culturally, linguistically and politically diverse nation as never before and we are all hoping that we can get on with our normal lives starting May 4th, provided of course, that the daily growth rate of number of cases stabilises and starts showing a downward trend by then.

My view?

It will be quite some before we will know what Business as Unusual will become and it will be different in different countries, regions and d neighbourhoods. What we do know is the importance of resilience.

“We build resilience through hardship. It’s how you learn that even if things look impossible today, the sun will still come up tomorrow. Deal with what is in front of you and learn how to reframe

Broadbent, M. (2019). The AgileExecutive: Embracing Career Risks and Rewards.Melbourne Books.
Credit: The term “Business as UnUsual,” is probably most notably known as the title of the book written by Dame Anita Roddick, environmental campaigner and BodyShop founder.

Recent news

No items found.

Share article

Marianne Broadbent