This article which includes the opinion of Dr. N. Ajith Kumar, Director of CSES was published in Times of India on 25th March 2021
Post – Covid period paved the way for major lifestyle changes with most companies encouraged work – from home. A society where people cherished social interactions has changed with even weekend outings becoming a rarity. It has also cast a shadow on Malayali’s Gulf dream. People have begun to adapt and a new way of living has emerged
Companies have now allowed staff to return to office, but on a rotation basis. Social distancing, staggered work shifts, temperature checks are the new realities. Many still encourage work-from-home. On the plus side, people spend time with family and save commute time. But, the arrangement everyone loved initially is now leading to anxiety and loneliness as professionals miss their ‘me space’ at work. The initial thrill of interaction over internet and social media is also losing charm as the desire for live interaction grows.
“On the positive side, people have more time now and work more effectively as they are relaxed. At the end of the day we are social creatures who want to meet our colleagues offline,” said managing director of Wonderla Holidays Arun Chittilappilly.
Experts said changes have brought opportunities too. “Flexible timings ensured that more women returned to the workforce and this is the most positive shift in Covid times. There is also an increase in productivity,” said director of Centre for Socio-economic and Environmental Studies N Ajith Kumar.
As office spaces contracted, some of the hotels started offering office space to companies. “Initially, it was a welcome change, now in the long-run it is not popular. People who come on a long vacation to Kerala prefer such a working space but not those in Kerala,” said Jose Pradeep, treasurer, Association of Approved and Classified Hotels, Kerala.
From Dining out to Home Kitchen
From grabbing a coffee on your way to work, we made our home a small café as we experimented with dishes during lockdown. From Dalgona coffee to pizzas, pasta, cakes and ice creams, every family has experimented in the kitchen and posted photos of their dishes online. Though restaurants reopened, people are still hesitant and prefer outdoor locations or online food delivery systems.
“Many of these habits won’t change immediately. Home delivery has adversely affected small and medium restuarants as clientele dipped, leading to closure,” said Ajith Kumar.
“Demand for online food delivery has grown during the lockdown. Even now there is a huge market as more and more people continue to avail the service. Weekends mean more orders,” said an employee with an online food delivery service.
NRKs Reinventing Themselves
As COVID grew globally, many Malayalis in the Gulf lost their jobs and came home and the state government decided to implement a special project to rehabilitate them. Meanwhile, many who retained by their firms had to take massive salary cuts,
forcing many to relocate their family and get their children admitted to schools in Kerala. A few who lost their job are now returning abroad to a new workplace. But the movement is slow.
“NRK remittance has fallen by 5 – 10%. During the global crisis period, the decline was 2 – 3%. But that has not changed Malayalis’ love to work in the Gulf. They have adjusted to the new normal and the desire to stay in the Gulf or return to the Gulf for work remains,” said S Irudaya Rajan, chair professor, ministry of overseas Indian affairs research unit on international migration at CDS, Thiruvananthapuram.
But COVID has taught Malayalis an important lesson. Rather than concentrating on Gulf countries, they need to spread across the globe as job opportunities will open up worldwide in post-COVID times,” he added.
WEEKENDS HAVE CHANGED
In pre-COVID times, everyone waited for weekends to go for a drive with family or watch a movie. Some loved the extra sleep or just chilling at home or a restaurant. Weekends were meant for rejuvenation and socializing. Now, weekends are about household chores: sweeping, dusting and cleaning the house as many avoid hiring a domestic help.
Families are now watching films on OTT platform at home. Even the way people socialize has changed. People spend more time with loved ones and are exploring dormant hobbies and interests like gardening, painting and dancing.
“Weekends are hectic as we are focused on finishing all domestic chores. Many even cook snacks for the week as children are at home. We go for a drive but avoid crowds. Initially,all this was okay but children are restless and crave life in pre-COVID times. It’s a difficult demand,” said Anish Panthalani, secretary, Progressive Techies, Infopark, Kochi.