An Economy Under Lock Down – What You Can Do When You Can’t Do Anything

An Economy in Lock Down
A question that has now come to linger in our minds – what happens if this lock down continues for much longer – weeks more or even months? A pandemic of this scale and the circumstances surrounding Malaysia’s development of COVID-19 point to a need for a longer period of restriction in movements and human-to-human contact. Maybe weeks more. Maybe months. So what are we to do now? First off, we must know that a nation can not run on medical front-liners, delivery boys, grocery outlets and the police force alone, definitely not in the long run. Our livelihoods and our necessities essentially depend on millions of complex, interconnected supply chains. We can adjust to temporary losses of income and supplies but in the long run, we have to work out ways to ensure that this doesn’t escalate into scarcity and chaos. One of the most important things we can do, especially during this two weeks break, is to figure out how to stay relevant in the economy, not just over the next few months but also in the aftermath of this pandemic. Disputes on unpaid leaves are already rife. Renegotiating pay deals at a time when businesses too are grappling with dwindling demand, stalled orders and increasing costs is definitely not the answer. The focus instead should be on how WE CAN KEEP CONTRIBUTING to the economy in the face of a very changed landscape beset with new constraints and challenges. This two weeks time presents an excellent window of opportunity for us to think of alternative ways that will enable us to continue producing goods and services amid a pandemic and amid the precautions, controls and restrictions that follow. It’s not surprising then that the onus to make things like ‘work-from-where-you-are’, online collaboration and human-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications actually work and deliver results is now UPON EACH OF US. It is upon us to move from a state of redundancy, inadaptability and non-productivity to a state where we use whatever tools available to us to keep learning, producing and adding value to the economy so that when we come out of this, we can ensure that businesses will still need us and if they don’t, we can land ourselves new opportunities. This has been evident in China. Young people whose incomes were impacted by the pandemic started contact-less food delivery services and found ways to keep afloat. The gift of a digitally connected world is upon us more than ever – if tapped, we too can keep ourselves productively employed, even in a state of heightened movement controls. Expecting our employers or the shareholders to be the only ones to think, to worry and to stress about the business is not wise. We can not demand from businesses that they take care of us while we don’t innovate and contribute in keeping them afloat during these tough times. As we speak, business owners are saddled with a string of unfulfilled orders, customer complaints, bills, penalties and unpaid wages. Business continuity is their top priority, which in many ways, contributes to us still having our jobs. If anything, employees should rise to the occasion and help their organizations reinvent their delivery models. Be empathetic to the needs of the employer by offering to do market research, call up customers, share catalogues online, test new ways of taking orders, engage with customers continuously, keep tab of competitors’ moves, develop new SOPs for office attendance and client site visits, revise internal processes to minimise human-to-human contact, explore virtual chat/demo rooms for communications, help implement hygiene and safety procedures, help with pending applications and paperwork and anything that can contribute to the business’s continuity. Some business may not make it through, but in the face of adversity, new opportunities will arise. 70,000 more people signed up for unemployment benefits last week in the US, but 340,000 new jobs in total were announced during the same time by Amazon, Walmart, Domino’s, 7-Eleven and others! Accessing these new opportunities, unlearning and relearning, being ready to relocate and restart will be the skills that we should be ready to hone up. These two weeks is a good point to start working on these. We are at a crossroads right now – whether this will be a short term correction or a catastrophe that will leave its mark in the annals of history, no one can tell. The most important thing to remember is that WE WILL HAVE TO KEEP DOING WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING IN THE BEST WAY WE CAN. The world depends on each of us to keep the mills grinding. Despite all the fear and anxiety, we have to keep our supermarket shelves full, our homes and offices and factories operating, our global trade and communications flowing and our science developing. We have to continue to be strong as our already strained healthcare front continues to fight one of the toughest battles of our times. Each of us count.

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