iThink | Making plans amid a pandemic

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There is an old Latin maxim that goes: “Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit.”

Man proposes, but God disposes.

It’s a sobering phrase that seems terribly fitting for these times. I know of many companies that had grand visions for their 2020 plans, with many of them taking on themes of clarity, focus, and other wordplays that stem from the ideal 20/20 eyesight. It’s safe to say that most of those plans have probably been laid to rest along with people’s plans for their dream weddings, family reunions, and holidays.

As a young adult, living in the moment was my thing.  But as soon as I held my first born child in my arms, I knew change was inevitable.  When others heavily depend on you for a living, responsibility and accountability kick in.

Now, admittedly I’ve become a bit of a control-freak. I set a goal and plan ahead to make it happen. Take for example, this column or blog (depends on who’s reading) – I actually had a topic calendar for the full year back in January. Even family holidays are planned and budgeted months ahead of the actual trip, complete with a spreadsheet on daily activities.

My scheduled column/blog topics have all been rendered irrelevant by the supervening event that we all know as Covid-19. Our annual family holiday has now been cancelled indefinitely. Plans that we’ve made for our company’s 169th anniversary celebrations have been mostly scrapped or downscaled to adjust to the new reality that we’re all confronting.

Life must go on.  We need to cope and move forward.  It would be far more bearable though if there were an end in sight, but there isn’t. There’s talk of vaccines being ready by the end of the year, or the first half of 2021, but even the experts are being cautiously optimistic – we are dealing with a new virus after all, and the last thing we need is the intended cure to end up doing more harm. Lives are at stake, and it is wise to be cautious.

Many of us have had to realign our priorities and change the way we see things because of this pandemic. From ensuring efficiency in the workplace, the number one priority has now become ensuring the health of every person in the room. Health and safety of people has always been important, but admittedly we’ve taken it for granted.

Being in a team of young-ish people, we do expect people to be generally healthy. Prior to this pandemic, working through a cold, slight fever, or headache wasn’t unusual. You only take a sick leave if it’s really bad. Now, a sore throat or a temperature above 37.5 means you have to stay home for everybody’s safety.

Covid-19 has demanded that we cede control over many aspects of our lives and work to the greater forces at hand. Things develop so quickly these days that it’s starting to feel futile to even plan for the month. Or if you do, make sure you have Plans B, C, D, and E in case A turns out to be not feasible the next day.

The ability to pivot quickly and smoothly is proving to be the determining factor on how well one copes with the situation – whether you’re an individual or a business.

Companies that have digital infrastructures in place have been able to thrive in this environment. Shops and restaurants that have online ordering and delivery systems have become a lifeline for people who find themselves locked down in their homes. Online and mobile banking, combined with social media and messaging platforms, have enabled hyperlocal markets around the city to bloom, creating a new breed of microentrepreneurs.

Living in the time of Covid-19 has forced us all to be crisis managers. It requires us all to be prepared for the unexpected, to be able to quickly take stock of the situation, and have the agility and adaptability to meet every new challenge as they arise.

Today is a very different reality from the yesterday we once lived, and tomorrow is filled with challenges and uncertainties.

There is very little we can take control of at this point, but we can control how we react to the situation.

Let’s choose to be smart.

Let’s choose to be agile.

Let’s choose to be kind.

Let’s choose to keep faith.

Stay safe, everyone.

The author is the vice president and head of corporate affairs & communications of BPI and is concurrently the executive director of BPI Foundation

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