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At home for a month now, Raza Beig, CEO of Splash and fashion director of the Landmark Group, says social distancing has given him more time to reflect on his priorities. He tells Friday about his plans to scale down his lifestyle and the challenges he’s facing adopting to technology.
Since when have you been working from home? And how many family members are at home with you?
I have been working from home for close to four weeks now, starting March 13. The initial week, we managed to step out to go the gym, shopping, etc., but for the past 21 days, we have been completely at home. Fortunately, I have a full house right now. Apart from my wife and four kids – two of them are in university and a set of twins who turn one in a few days – my sister and brother-in-law, I also have my trainer and a friend staying with me. In addition, I have a team of 7-8 house help as well. This means there is always a buzz around the house and there are no dull moments.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have been faced while working from home?
I’m a very people’s person and I like to interact with people. I’m constantly on the move, I’m almost never in my office. I’m either in the boardroom or in people’s offices. So this phase has been very strange for me. I’m not very digitally savvy so sitting at one place at home and communicating with friends and colleagues over the digital platform is something which I’m finding very difficult. Overall, I do see a lot of benefits because I feel everyone is listening and I definitely feel that there are a lot more conclusions to meetings than when we used to do one-on-one meetings. I feel in the virtual world, decisions are being taken faster and while there are challenges, there are a lot of opportunities and new learnings.
How difficult was it to adjust to this new reality?
I hope this is not a new reality because we are humans and we definitely need to interact and socialise with people. There’s a lot of anxiety building up when you are sitting at home constantly and not going out. For a small period of time, adapting to this is not a problem. I have previously gone to health spas where we are confined between the four walls and need to interact and communicate with the same people on a daily basis and eat very little. And that experience did give me a little understanding on how to manage the current scenario. So I’m considering this quarantine as a spa time where there’s a lot of me-time, there’s a lot of time for yourself, there’s a lot of time for the family. I’m considering this as my personal time, but I’m hoping that this will not be a reality going forward.
I do ensure when I wake up I shower, dress up formally, wear shoes and sit in my designated office space and only work from that corner. I believe it is important we feel we are at work. To me that’s a big adjustment as in the past I never used to bring work home.
How are you and your family spending time? Your favourite activities that you enjoy doing together?
Apart from having lunch and dinner together, there isn’t much that we are able to do together as we follow separate routines. We do watch television and movies together in the evening but not necessarily everybody sits for it. It’s working well because while we eat together, we talk about what’s happening and keep each other updated. I do try to exercise with my son and make it a point to walk with one member of the family in the garden in the evenings. This is something new for me.
What are you and your family doing to manage the anxiety that is stemming from the pandemic?
In the initial stages, I could see that my elder two kids, who are 19 and 20, were a bit anxious because they were unable to leave the house to meet their friends, but once they understood the gravity of the situation, they have adjusted to the new reality. They are of course in constant touch with their friends digitally. I have a lot of work-related anxiety. Every time I feel a little restless, anxious or upset, I just go for a small walk in my garden, even if it’s for 10 minutes. I don’t carry my phone with me. I meditate and pray and then come back all charged up.
What are some of the things you miss from your life before Covid-19?
I don’t usually miss much other than the two activities which I regularly did in the last two years. One is to go to the gym at the end of the day and the other is enjoying shisha with friends at least four times a week. It helped me unwind after a busy day and gave me a chance to catch up with what is happening. I also used to treat myself to a cappuccino every evening from a coffee shop, I miss that too. But more than anything else, I miss my colleagues. Even though I’m in touch with them regularly, but not meeting them or not giving them a hug sometimes feels odd.
What will be the first thing you would like to do once this scare of Covid-19 is over?
I will call all my immediate family and close friends over for dinner and give them all a big hug and have a birthday celebration for my twins who will turn one soon.
What have you learnt about yourself during this trying time?
What I have really learnt in this time is that we have a lot of material things such as designer shoes, bags and accessories, which have no meaning now. For instance, I used to wear a fancy watch and jewellery earlier, but in the past 15 days, I have not. I’m getting detached to some of them and it gives a sense of relief. The small pleasures in life are becoming a lot more important. Emotionally, I think I am a lot more stronger now, I meditate a lot more. It has helped me to calm my mind. I never had time for all these things in the past. So these are the changes which I’m seeing. There’s a lot of reflection on what is right and wrong and the mistakes we have made – I’m getting a lot of time to think for myself. The evening walks are special as I tend to talk about these things to my family members.
What will be your favourite memory from this experience, something you would perhaps like to share with your grandkids one day?
I would like to save all the images, which we see on social media. The empty roads and the calm and peace whether it is Champs Elysee, Rome, Milan, Dubai or the UK. How beautiful and stunning these cities look. Mumbai in India just looks incredible. I would like to save all these pictures and keep them for my grandchildren because I’m sure they will not get to see something like this. Also, how the whole world came to a standstill and how the earth asks us to stop because it wanted to heal.
One lesson you think the world should remember from this experience.
You could have all the money in the world but health is of prime importance. No money, no status, no power, no authority can save you from a pandemic. How senseless power and money is. What I really like about this entire experience is the fact that in spite of all the ugliness, humanity has been at the forefront across the world. I’m happy to see that world is not as ugly as I anticipated.