Aurora Magazine

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Lifestyles in the Time of Covid-19

Published in Nov-Dec 2020

The pandemic has changed not only the way we work and live; it has also changed the way we think – and it is no bad thing.

This world is like a giant teabag – you cannot tell how strong it is until you put it in hot water. Yes, I may have shamelessly borrowed Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote about women to prove a point, but bear with me. The pandemic may have turned the world on its head, but it did make governments, businesses, communities and individuals realise just how flexible we mortals are. If we suspend all conspiracy theories for a second, the truth is that none of us saw this inconvenience coming. The world, however, deserves a pat on the back for steering us through such turbulent waters with great skill. The deconstruction of the old normal has led to the rise of new trends. Let us take a gander, shall we?

Work From Home (Popularly Known as #WFH)

Many companies in pre-Covid-19 times had commitment phobia when it came to remote employees. They could not fathom the idea of hiring someone who would not warm their office seat for a good nine hours every day. It was only when they were left with no choice that many of them realised that offices are somewhat of a corporate formality and hybrid models are the future. According to The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) – one the largest human resources organisations in the world – giants such as Amazon, JPMorgan, Microsoft, PayPal, Salesforce and Slack among others, have already extended their WFH policies and some, like Google, are considering a permanent shift to hybrid models. These models will offer employees a chance to reap all the benefits of WFH as well as enjoy a few days of office life. In Pakistan, the tech sector proved to be the most flexible in coping with the rules of the new normal. For example, software house VentureDive has been working on a remote model for quite some time and has hired resources based in cities that do not have a VentureDive base office.

Fashion Forward Face Masks

As consumers recalibrated their budgets to overcome the sudden dip in their finances due to pay cuts and job losses, home-grown fashion houses such as Generation and Khaadi launched printed masks to tap into unexplored territories. Small-scale, made-to-order bridal brands also introduced embellished matching face masks for Covid-19 brides. Although these brands did receive criticism for cashing in on a global crisis, one cannot blame businesses for exploring every possible avenue to keep their cash inflows stable.

Home-Based Culinary Concepts

The corporate sector took a hit and even pushed a few weaker links out of the market. This dip in financial activity led to lighter workdays for the average employee. The absence of outdoor activity during the lockdowns and a more relaxed work schedule gave many undercover chefs a chance to flex their culinary muscle. As a result, there was a flux of home-based kitchens promising consumers both the quality and cleanliness of ghar ka khana on their social media newsfeed. From bakeries to Bohra food – Covid-19 became the window for aspiring chefs to dabble in their passion and sell their culinary masterpieces at an affordable price. By the looks of it, most of them received a warm response from bored-out-of-their-wits consumers stuck at home. These home-based ventures also became a source of income for people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Small-Scale Weddings

As the government shut down marriage halls and spaces with a capacity to host more than 20 people, the new protocols were welcomed with open arms by advocates of low-key weddings. Gone are the days when you are obliged to call 500 people who do not even know your full name because society expects you to make a circus out of the most important day of your life. Small-scale, at-home weddings are the new normal with only close relatives in attendance. Not only has this lightened the financial burden on the brides’ and the grooms’ families, it has made us realise the amount of waste in terms of food, clothes, and decorations desi weddings entail.

Zoom Calls/Google Meet

This year gave professionals the gift of low investment Zoom/Google Meet calls they could attend to in their loungewear. Zoom sales went through the roof and the company recorded at least 300 million daily participants in virtual meetings. According to the BBC, Zoom expects sales as high as $1.8 billion, almost double what the company predicted in March. Everything, however, comes at a price. Sorry! Desi family issues became the official slogan of 2020 as everyone sheepishly apologised to their bosses and clients as their families barged in at least 56 times to ask “Roti kab khani hay?” or “Iska pyjama kidhar gaya?”. In hindsight, the relatability of these problems enabled stronger relationships and more entertaining meetings.

Sanitizers are a Need, Not a Want

We all know someone who judged us for carrying a bottle of sanitizer. With Covid-19, the demand for sanitizers and disinfecting liquids went through the roof, leading manufacturers to expand their production capacity. Covid-19 encouraged panic buying and manufacturers did not feel the need to advertise for consumer attention – they already had a lot of it anyway!

Mental Health in Focus

After months in quarantine and possibly more ahead, health professionals all over the world are encouraging people to engage in conversations about mental health. The once-taboo topic no longer hides in the shadows, even in conservative countries like Pakistan. Many public and private initiatives such as Umang and Talk2Us offer 24/7 help-lines to anyone finding it hard to cope with the impact of isolation. Earlier in May, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced the launch of a mental health helpline for residents of Sindh. This helpline will help people share Covid-19 related problems and encourage conversation around the psychological toll of the pandemic. This development comes as a refreshing change in a country where the majority of the people tend to think that seeking help from a therapist is something to be ashamed of. With these initiatives (both public and private) coming to the fore, mental health has been normalised to a great extent.

In a nutshell, the pandemic forced us to engage in some serious conversations about stuff that had been demanding our attention for some time. Pakistani society was perhaps standing on the edge of change (remote employment, more conversations around mental health, choosing a lifestyle that leads to less waste) and it seems like it took a pandemic for all of us to take the plunge.

Taniya Hasan is a content marketer.