Other Family Business

Caretaker, Care Giver, Care Receiver In The Coronavirus Era

People need to realise that anxieties, fears, concern will be very different for people who have all the basics in place vs those who are not sure about how they are going to get food for their families tonight.

The daily wage earner/support staff are now seeing their jobs going away and panic is on the rise. We all are having to go through the same crisis yet it’s important for leadership to understand the difference of real-life situations & the realities of different sections of society.

Responsible leaders had started rising to the occasion by extending help, care in various forms to their people, society & environment.  Business owners were equally concerned about their safety of health, worry about holidays being cancelled, whereas for them housework & being home bound was more of a nuisance than anything else.

At this moment they were no longer in control of their life as nature had bound them inside. Now to top it all a cousin had tested mildly positive and was inside the house for isolation … simply too much to take on.

A member who handled the international portfolio tested positive for Coronavirus. Some people were upset in the house- ‘Why did he have to come back now? Most of them were concerned about him and his survival. Had he stayed overseas he would get better treatment!’ people around him voiced, yet his immediate family was scared about his and their own safety. His wife was upset as she was the victim of his long travels. The family doctor ensured that he will be fine after the quarantined period. Some members tried to find reason to move out to other places but sadly curfew was imposed and travel was not possible.

Some took it upon themselves to isolate, while others confined themselves to their bedrooms only to come out forcefully as the lockdown was getting extended every now & then. With domestic help numbers reduced & less available (as most folks had returned back to their families) it was now each one’s duty to do a lot of the household chores and prepare food – enough supplies were in stock.

People were forced to get out.

As a benevolent employer the family had released most staff members and asked them to be in isolation at home. Working from home was being put in place with works hours being adjusted to suit the household needs of people with kids & parents. Anxiety and the thought of a negative future were taking a double toll.

The seniors smiled and started narrating stories of past epidemics/war – saying this will soon be over. All workmen and managers were assured of their basic pay & jobs being protected for the next year. In some their plants already supporting the effort with  much needed items such as masks being produced and distributed free of cost.

Community kitchens were being run to help the needy. Comraderies were on a high and most problems found a solution on the shop floor itself, even leading to small cost saving innovations. Let’s be together, save what we can and make the most of this time was the spirit.  Together they set a few rules to enable smooth functioning  such as:

  • Each couple taking turns to make lunch/dinner/cleaning/tea & snacks
  • The wife of the impacted cousin was not given any responsibility other than taking care of herself & her husband
  • A compulsory short common prayer was held once daily
  • A non-agenda meeting to exchange positive news and hear the children out. Story telling of the past era of war and calamity was being related to reduce overall stress and anxiety about the unknown.
  • Taking care for the safety & health of other older members and young children with better hygiene being practised

For the quarantined cousin care options were discussed and some safe ideas were to be implemented:

  • Sending hand written notes
  • Saying hi from a distance with mask/glass enclosure
  • Voice recording messages and sending text via phone
  • Online games allowed to be played
  • A common prayer daily by all members in which the patient can also participate from their room at the designated time

Suddenly there was a spirit of sharing and caring which the children took the lead. Small moments of happiness and fun were being recorded in memories which could be shared as stories for the next generation. Two young cousins wanted the last piece of chocolate cream biscuit yet both offered it to the other one and then finally had half-half …so touching.

Teams of cousins at competition in a board game/cooking was sowing seeds of better collaboration & communication going forward. Basic hygiene was now a way of life for all as half a minute handwash was enforced. When the cousin emerged out of quarantine a spirit of joy & celebration emerged he decided to personally donate for the welfare of staff & community.

My advice in such a situation is that when my family members try to draw a circle to exclude any coronavirus impacted family member, I shall draw a larger circle to include them while maintaining physical distance & hygiene.  Where they speak out for the privileges of a majority shareholder group, I shall shout for the rights of all in the extended family & the need for collectivism.

For my team members that are Working From Home I understand that it’s important to support each other for closure of issues and ensuring a great customer experience – surprises will emerge each day yet collectively we will deal with them and be on top of it .

Soon when this time passes away, we will have bonded deeper and be better prepared to take on any crisis in the future. Our agility will help us go a long way ahead.

An alumnus of INSEAD, Naveen Khajanchi is CEO of NKH Foundation P Ltd.
The business operates in areas of Leadership Search, Executive Coaching & Training.
Find out more at www.naveenkhajanchi.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal observations and have no semblance to any event or meant to hurt any individual or communities on their personal beliefs. The article contains references to publicly available material for which due credit goes to the originator.

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