The worlds of work and education have changed due the COVID-19 pandemic. When lockdowns were announced, organizations began working remotely and educational programs shifted online. In the eighth of our series of interviews with Harappa faculty, we asked education expert Deepa Kapoor what the impact of the lockdown has been in her field and how she has navigated the challenges.
Deepa tells us that while there is certainly an increase in reliance on technology across industries now, we need to learn to use our devices better to get work done and stay connected with our colleagues in these challenging times. Read on.
The Importance Of Communication And Collaboration
We asked Deepa Kapoor which of the five Harappa Habits—Think, Solve, Communicate, Collaborate, Lead— she has relied most on during the lockdown. She says that she has used two habits—Communicate and Collaborate. According to her, people have had to overuse these two habits for work during this period because they are not physically interacting with their teams.
Deepa says she used these habits by sending lots of detailed emails, having more conversations, bringing the team together for projects, and playing games with teammates to help everyone work better together.
Deepa feels that everyone should learn to Communicate and Collaborate virtually. According to her, all of us use devices, but we don’t use them well to get our work done. Additionally, people tend to focus on their individual responsibilities but don’t see how things fit together, and whether the overall targets are being met. They need to take more initiative to collaborate and get things done. She believes people are struggling to do this during the lockdown because they are used to doing all of this face-to-face and not virtually. She thinks young professionals should communicate more with each other, not just for deliverables, but to keep each other updated about their progress.
On the personal front, Deepa has done a lot of self-reflection in this period. She says the first month of the lockdown was novel, but now life has become all work and no social contact. Hence she is taking a step back to figure out what she can do to feel fulfilled. She has been asking herself how she can get the boost she would get from spending time with her friends. She has been trying to build some social connections virtually through Zoom calls and telephonic conversations.
Learning New Skills In The Lockdown
We asked Deepa which three professional skills she has adopted in this phase.
She said that the first is empathy. She believes that each person has their own challenges in these difficult times. Deepa realized that she should be sensitive to the needs of each team member. Being empathetic has helped her elevate her relationships at work.
In her experience, the team’s transition to remote working has come with its challenges. She has seen people pointing fingers and losing their cool in times of crisis. In the beginning, she says, she tried to respond to these conflicts, but it backfired. So she decided to take a step back and not react immediately in such situations. Whenever there is a conflict, she assesses the situation and brings people together to figure out how they can best work together.
She has learned how to motivate her team virtually. She makes it a point to bond with her team by doing values exercises, playing games, and doing courses together. She also avoids being too tactical and transactional in her interactions so that she can foster trust and care in her relationships.
The Impact Of The Lockdown On Her Work
We asked Deepa how the lockdown has influenced her professional life. She believes that it has enabled her to work more closely with her boss. Even though they no longer meet physically, they have been in touch with each other more through WhatsApp. She feels she is also reaching out more often and he’s responding a lot more. Deepa thinks this could be because both of them are going through a phase of self-reflection and have realized that they need to work more closely together.
The other exciting change has been the increased business opportunities. She had thought that most clients would pull out of projects due to the lockdown, but they have in fact invested more now.
There is a lot of focus on lifelong learning, unlearning and relearning in the world of work today. We asked Deepa what the top learnings have been for her in this period, and what she has had to unlearn and relearn.
Deepa says her biggest learning has been about leading a team of people with very different work styles. She says that it has taught her to evaluate what each of them brings to the table, where they come from, and what they are good at.
She has had to relearn how to handle the personal struggles as well as the professional challenges her team members are facing. She says that normally people don’t bring too much of their personal life into their professional work. But in these times there is a blurring of the personal and professional, with the former affecting the latter. She has learned to be sensitive to these issues.
The Importance Of Technology In The Post-COVID Workplace
When we asked Deepa what big changes her organization has made during the lockdown, she said that her team has started using technology far more. Zoom, Google Suite, and other softwares have become critical for the team to stay in touch. They have also been transforming client deliverables to online modes, including running sessions on influencing, feedback and leadership for a consulting firm and delivering interior design courses online for a design institute.
Deepa sees technology as an enabling, yet challenging frontier for professionals in the post-COVID world. She feels that we have a lot to learn about leading teams in a technology-enabled virtual environment. She believes simple things like sending a harsh email could have a larger impact than one intended. Similarly, meetings can drag on, but one has to learn when to cut in without being insensitive. Another challenge will be how to motivate, communicate, and collaborate virtually—which can become very tiring.
She believes that people have to think about education programs and technology in parallel and not serially. Any new program has to incorporate online learning tools and technologies.
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Deepa Kapoor was interviewed by Sanjay Deshpande who is a Senior Specialist in the Curriculum Team at Harappa Education.
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