Nothing brings out concern for the health of your start-up like a crisis does.
Over the last few weeks, many people have reached out to ask, what does Covid-19 mean for co-living? Many of them are well wishers checking in to inquire about the health of our business, the wellbeing of our residents and team and a handful (true friends) – my state of mental health through this pandemic. Then there are others who have read alarmist articles with headlines like “Co-living Occupancy Drops by Half” often written by ill-informed journalists who appear to be going down an imaginary list, calling time on industries, like a soon-to-be-married couple indiscriminately culling through a wedding guest list. It’s not unusual to see headlines that read some variation of “Hotels to Suffer as Tourism May Never Recover” or “Mall Rents to Fall 70%”. Once in a while I need to pause to check whether I am inadvertently reading the obituary page of the newspaper instead of the business section – so rampant is the doom and gloom.
However, it is interesting to see an understandable pattern emerge from both the reporting and line of concern shown by people. This pandemic is scaring everyone and sparing no one, none of us have the answer to “what next?” (this however doesn’t stop many pretend-to-be pundits from offering vague “How This Ends” scenarios), many are rightly concerned about their own livelihoods and jobs (unemployment will grow rapidly and globally – that’s for another blog, I’m sure to be written by someone significantly more qualified than me). But this is not an economic report card by any means and I’m going to avoid making any predictions on how this ends, frankly, I have no idea. I’m also not going to provide a “Toolkit to Prevent Covid”, I don’t have one, except washing hands vigorously with soap, maybe. What I will do on the other hand is share my views on why the “co” in co-living is going to be more important than it has ever been. “Co” – for community, for connection and collaboration, for compassion, for collective will, for constant evolution, and most importantly for consciousness.
The global nature of the unexpected and sudden disruption this spread has caused to movements of goods and people is at an unprecedented scale. While everyone focuses on the economy, global trade and stock market levels, I wonder how many people have paused to think about how this pandemic is causing unimaginable pain to people due to social isolation, social distancing, not being able to meet friends across town for a drink or a meal, let alone being able to visit family and loved ones across continents. We live in a highly globalised world, one where we are truly interconnected with one another. But where does this pandemic leave us?
My 75 year old mum lives in India, a mere 4.5 hour flight away from Hong Kong, but while I now have all the time to visit her (apparently business is slow you see), I can’t – no flights, no chance. Of course, I can FaceTime her or even try Zoom (keep your pants close by), but she can’t give me a hug and I can’t tell her how much I love her. There is no substitute for a loved ones embrace.
I have a friend who’s grandmother turned 90 in March. She lives in a small town in Italy and every year for the last 25 years her entire extended family has spent her birthday with her, complete with a typical Italian family feast with copious amounts of red wine from a nearby Tuscan winery. This year it was different. She spent her birthday by herself. No one could visit, a few remembered to call.
We have a resident, who’s family member works on the medical front line in the UK, she worries for her brother everyday but what keeps her smiling is not news of GDP growth, but her community of friends at Weave. That brief chat in the shared kitchen over a cup of tea is like an antidote to the mental toll these times are taking on many of us.
One of my colleagues sadly lost a friend to the pandemic, he is shaken up, but he chooses to come to work everyday, making sure we keep our residents safe, our spaces clean and keep smiles on their faces. It’s his way of honouring the memory of his friend, by spreading positivity to others.
These are just some anecdotes and personal experiences, and I am sure there are many many more. The emotional impact of what is unfolding around us is yet unknown and certainly undocumented. As the global effort shifts from one of near term medical emergency management to one of long term post-event mental health impact assessment, let’s not forget what makes us feel human today is the thought of coffee with a friend, or a game of tennis or being able to hug a dear one, not the stock price of some non-descript company or the volume of global trade.
So what do I say to well wishers who reach out inquiring about the future of co-living, the health of my business, our residents and team…and myself?
Our team is doing their best (going above and beyond the call of duty) to keep our residents safe and well taken care of, and by extension, they are keeping the business in good health. Thank you team.
Co-living is many things, and it will, like everything else need to evolve and adapt to what’s happening around us. But the basic premise of co-living is to bring people together, creating shared memories and enriching lives through collective experiences and consciousness. Co-living is here to stay and if there is only one prediction I will dare to make is that when the dust settles on this pandemic, eventually, as a human race, we will rediscover the joy of connection, collaboration, collective consciousness and community. All that the “co” in co-living stands for will emerge even stronger.
…and me? I’m doing great, I’m doing my daily 40 minute YouTube HIIT routines, making sure I spend time with family and reach out to loved ones on FaceTime and colleagues on Zoom. And goes without saying, I am eagerly awaiting our caffeine filled catch-ups when we come out the other side.
Sachin Doshi – Founder & CEO, Weave Living