The COVID-19 crisis has pulled the proverbial rug out from underneath our feet but that doesn’t mean we are helpless in the face of change. Now might be the time to turn off Netflix and start putting together a come-back plan to prepare for life after lockdown. One thing’s for certain: hoping for things to get back to the way they were is not a good strategy.
By: Abu Addae
In its latest Monetary Policy Review, the SA Reserve Bank delivered painful news that South Africa’s economy is on course to contract by as much as four percent this year. At the time of publication, the 21-day lockdown was expected to result in about 370,000 initial job losses and 1,600 business closures. The extension – while necessary – will have made things much worse.
Almost overnight, it feels as though the proverbial rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Those who spent the early part of the year planning their next career move, financial investment or business play have had to hit the pause button and move into crisis mode. Those who were just managing to keep their heads above water are now in full-on survival mode.
On top of the financial strain, we’re having to find new ways to live, work and look after loved ones, with none of the usual opportunities for letting off steam, whether meeting up with friends, hitting the gym or going for a walk.
The barrage of bad news and bleak economic outlook is enough to make you want to stay in bed all day, but it’s important to cultivate a positive outlook and start planning for a life during – and beyond lockdown. This doesn’t mean pretending things are fine, it means acknowledging they aren’t and putting yourself in the best possible position to bounce back.
Build resilience and be realistic
Psychologists agree that people who are able to look at a challenge square on and choose to remain optimistic or positive, who can think through things rationally, and who are able to regulate stress levels and stay calm under pressure are much better at dealing with adversity and rebuilding their lives after a crisis.
These kinds of people have an innate resilience. They experience the same setbacks as everyone else, but are better at winning the battle in their minds. Losing that battle and believing there’s no hope for the future is a sure recipe for failure. The same is often true of economic crises more broadly: the more we believe a recession is going to happen, the more we collectively create the conditions for one.
So, what does all this mean for us, as we a) try to get through the rest of this lockdown and b) start thinking about how we can rebuild our lives when things return to some kind of normal?
In the short term, financial survival might mean dipping into a rainy-day savings fund or emergency reserve, if you have one. If you don’t, it might mean accessing credit to get through the next few weeks.Either way we should be planning for less income in the months ahead – and deciding what small luxuries we can do without at the time and which goals can be shifted out.
Accept that things will not get back to the way they were
But what happens after that? Hoping for things to “get back to the way they were” is not a strategy. The world is a very different place from what it was a few weeks ago and this virus may transform the way we work, live, consume and travel over the long term. What are the implications for your business or career? How will you adjust to stay relevant?
In every crisis there are winners and losers. Take Zoom for example: it’s gone from 20 million daily users to 200 million daily users in two months, increasing its value by $36 billion. It’s become one of the most valuable and relevant tech companies globally. Airlines, on the other hand, fear this may be the end of the golden era of air travel.
Our local tourism and hospitality industry is another possible long-term loser and businesses in that sector will need to prepare for a change in customer behaviour and priorities. Restaurants may need to look at new delivery models while visitor attractions and malls may need to embrace the contactless economy and think of ways to spread demand and enable social distancing so that locals can still head out to enjoy the sites after lockdown has been eased.
Those who anticipate these kinds of changes early will have first-mover advantage. Crises can actually lead to growth by forcing us to try things we wouldn’t usually do.
Pivot for success
Already, I’ve been impressed by the number of people who have found creative ways to adapt their work or businesses. Granadilla, a small online business which manufactures and sells funky swimming trunks, for example, has partnered with the Oranjezicht Farmers’ Market, a collective of small farmers producing organic goods that previously sold via a weekly market at the Waterfront, to make home deliveries of fresh foods. The two are a perfect match. One has the product that is in demand right now – healthy food – while the other has an effective distribution channel to offer. They’re putting together customised home deliveries on behalf of the famers who would otherwise have lost out, as their market is no longer available.
Businesses and individuals that find a way to pivot like this to stay relevant at this time may even find themselves in a better position than they were before. If you have a small business that is facing irrelevance or failure, you have an opportunity now to think about how you might adapt to use your skills and resources to meet a new need. Or perhaps you have an idea for a new business that you can consider starting up now.
For now you need to take the time to do the research and think about what you really want for your life in the longer term. What are your values and goals? This is a great time to read or even to sign up for an online course – provided it is not going to cost you too much. You also need to look after yourself. Stay healthy by making sure you get enough exercise and sleep and are eating well. And feed your creativity in whichever way works best for you. Being proactive is a good way to build resilience.
Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to accept that no-one is coming to our rescue and, painful as it may be, we have to take responsibility for our own bounce-back plan. How we overcome the many challenges ahead is more within our own power than we realise.
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Abu Addae is the CEO and founder of LifeCheq.