When we chose to take over Nowshenzhen late last year, we knew we had our work cut out for us. It’s been well over two years of struggle against this virus. At this point we can hardly remember the ‘normal’ of years past. The ‘new normal,' and the constant struggle to define, adapt, and discern just how long it will last for has been our sole focus here at Nowshenzhen.
Shenzhen, the city we love and live in, has collectively been going through its own intense transition in response to Covid-19. This latest round of lockdowns gave us some time to reflect on the situation and on feedback we’ve been receiving from our community over the past several months. We felt a collective desire to connect and share within our ranks. That need, and our belief that our platform would enable us to satisfy it, is what inspired this initiative.
What follows are a collection of voices in our community discussing how they and their businesses have reacted and adjusted during these turbulent times. None of us are alone in this. On the contrary, we here at NowShenzhen firmly believe that together we will overcome these trials and ultimately grow more resilient as a result of them. We hope you’ll find these contributions informative, useful, cathartic, and dare we say comforting.
Our deepest thanks for the candid disclosure of our contributors.
Thank you and enjoy.
-David, Mike, and the NowShenzhen Team
Straight From The Experts’ Minds
With COVID holding Shenzhen in its unrelenting grip, wide parts of the city have been ordered to lockdown and close non-essential facilities and businesses. In addition for community safety, schools are holding classes online for the time being.
QSI Shenzhen has heard the call and followed suit, with director John Shirley asking all staff members to stay at home as much as possible to help protect the community, and lead to a quicker relief of lockdown measures.
QSI is staying on course
Despite the difficult circumstances, QSI is dedicated to its mission of providing high-quality international education to all its students. Teachers have adapted their lesson plans to suit online class needs and make sure students continue to progress. Students are provided materials on multiple interactive platforms that allow them to attend their classes and expand their skills online.
Whenever possible, we are sending the students physical supplies to help with their work as well. This way, our students thrive even in difficult times and have created great work such as little habitats (see below). Through all age groups, we are maintaining age-appropriate learning climates and make sure that the students are guided to success. From the preschoolers, learning shapes and colors to our IB/AP students wrapping up their school career and preparing for greater things to come soon.
Braving the Storm
Since staying at home constantly is a challenge for everyone, staff and students alike, QSI also makes a big effort to alleviate the stress and break through the monotony. The school is providing online counseling and individual support for teachers and students. Our counselors also share methods with parents to keep themselves and the children in a balanced and healthy mood. Students and staff are given breathing room where needed, so that everybody can be happy and motivated.
Since QSI is a tight-knit community, we are also continuing our special days and events online. Our Parent University, where we inform and advise parents about important decisions they have to take when it comes to choosing courses or how to apply to universities, was a great success. And take a look at our birthday celebrations, dance contests and assemblies; we are always up for some fun and share happiness where we can. Some students even wrote letters to say ‘thank you’ to the community workers for their tireless effort at the testing stations. Times may be tough, but there is no community more committed than QSI Shenzhen. Go Dragons!
After returning from the Chinese New Year Holiday, we were advised to go straight to online learning instead of returning to Campus. We had mixed feelings as we were all looking forward to going back to school. Usually late February and March are event heavy months. We have our Global English week, French Culture Week, Hour of Code, Science Week, as well as Visual Art Exhibitions, all planned to happen during those months. However, we had to change our approach and postpone some of them.
Our dedicated teaching staff switched to online mode straight away. However, it created a lot more work for them. Massive screen time was a challenge for both staff and students. The transition was critical.
One of our Keys to successfully navigating these changes and reacting well, is planning ahead. Everyone in our community plays a key role. As we value our partnership with our parents by listening, communicating, and continually improving, we could adapt and react to the situation really quickly.
On the first day of online learning, we planned a temporary schedule for the day and had all day meetings with parents of all students - from kindergarten to high school. We discussed the best way to set our online learning schedule and collected feedback from our parents. Then every week, we have been sending out surveys for continual improvement. The strong relationship we have with our parents forms the success of teaching and learning at ISNS. Especially, when our students are learning at home during this special time.
Based on feedback, reflection and a continuous improvement mindset, we have adapted more technology, changed our weekly schedule to meet the best needs - especially for our Kindergarten families. When issues are happening, our supporting teams can react really fast. We have Technology integration, Counseling, English as Additional Language, Student Support, as well as our teaching teams all working together to ensure our students continue to thrive and make great learning progress.
For me personally, there are 3 things I found myself adjusting to accommodate Covid-19.
First is to be patient and calm. It can be overwhelming sometimes when you spend your whole day on your laptop working and dealing with two kids under 10 year old. I felt the calmer I am, the better I can cope with the situation. It is always in your mind.
This is a time when we need a very high level of self-awareness and self-management. Please find healthy ways to let out your frustrations. Try to find the positive and focus on that. There are many things that may be out of our control, but our emotions are the one thing that belongs solely to us.
Second is to find myself a habit to do. Since 2019, I started learning piano with my son. Covid gives me enough reasons to continue. I do find peace when I am practicing. It is one thing I enjoy learning.
Of course, a good movie or some Netflix time can definitely help too. I started to enjoy comedy movies, talk shows and series. It, is the best way to relax quickly instead of a glass of wine.
The business had already been affected 2 years ago when China and the rest of the world stopped. The entire industry and we had to change both approach and strategy. Working remotely already substituted in-person meetings and a 'conventional' working environment a few months before the outbreak of Covid-19. In fact, we realized that we could still operate much more efficiently with a leaner team and better communication even working remotely. Covid-19 has given all of us the opportunity to rethink who we are and how we want to run our businesses.
For us, the past 2 years and not only 2 months have been a period of reinvention. We've had to make some hard decisions, but out of those choices have come some big learnings for us as a company and individuals.
And for many startups in the service sector, we are still facing a hard time, especially because our business is focused on foreigners, and Chinese travel policy since March 2020 is not helping us or other similar companies who always need new employees to facilitate the staff turnover above all in the teaching field.
Another interesting take away from Covid-19 has been the way we have redefined what it means to "work" and how to approach this market. We have spent and we are still investing time thinking about how our company is set up, how we run the business, and what kind of flexibility we have.
For this reason, we are thinking about new steps to help us undertake new challenges. The market will probably never be the same, even if the border and international flights situation will come back as it was in 2018. Employers have different requirements, and employees have higher expectations for salary and working conditions. Covid-19 caused a 'migration' of people from different provinces in north China or second-tier cities to look for new opportunities in places like Shenzhen or Shanghai.
We cannot predict what is happening this year or in the future, but we will try to observe the situation, and the market for a better change.
Covid-19 had a clear effect on the business and me. I have shifted from a close mentality to an open view of the environment around me. We are all living in a different day and age today than we were 2 years ago or even 2 months ago. We have rethought the way we work and we live our lives.
I think and hope I grew as a professional and as a person. I always tried to take on any opportunity and to learn from different experiences. That's the reason why I am still in China even though it hasn't been easy at all. Like many of us, I haven't had the chance to go back home and see my family and friends for more than 2 years now. But Covid-19 has changed my life in the Shenzhen community. I have started a small sports group which has weekly meetings, I meet more people, and strengthen many friendships. I can feel now I am part of this city and Shenzhen is part of me too.
And this has influenced me as a professional too. Despite the difficulties, we are working as a team and getting ready to embrace new scenarios and new plans for the upcoming months.
Dr. Sayyed Avigdor - Indianspice Management Company
Covid or any other pandemic does have adverse effects on the bottom line of business, mine is no exception. As mentioned above, this has become a periodic instance and therefore, contingency plans were always there prepared for all sorts of scenarios. In hospitality industry, especially if one is running a restaurant with expertise in niche cuisine, an even of this magnitude effects :
- Market share in short term
- Psychological well-being of all those who are involved.
With the recent lock-down of the city, amongst all the effects, those 3 stood out amongst the deck.
As mentioned in the previous answer, COVID has become a periodic occurrence. Therefore, we at our firm prepared contingency plans keeping purview of all sorts of eventualities.
With the early onset of new cases in mid-February, we paid attention to stocks of our ingredients and replenished accordingly, so as the business can be kept running till the very last moment. So, after this, there weren't any major hiccups in running the business. Starting from the first week of March, a decrease in footfall was noticed and taking that into consideration, the menu was redesigned to better reflect the changing dynamics of the restaurant industry--"Take Away." Due to this, we were able to satisfy the needs of our new and old patrons far and wide in Shenzhen who weren't able to venture out all the way to Shekou.
The menu was redesigned once again, when the community where the head chef of our restaurant is staying was put under lockdown for the period of fortnight. The restaurant went on offering take away with limited selection of dishes, and was once again supported by our patrons, who over the period of time, have become a family in this big metropolis.
When the week-long lock-down was announced, the restaurant had to pull down the shutter as all staff members were in lock-down as well. Nevertheless, this has been seen by us before and we came triumphant out of it. This time also we shall be coming out victoriously, and shall be serving with the same warmth and care with which we have been since last decade and two.
Fabiola Benitez - Global Friendship
Matthew H - Pandora Party SZ
How have I adjusted? How have I NOT adjusted? In the past, much of the income in our businesses (Global From Asia + Shadstone consulting) was generated from in-person events and in-person consulting and training. We haven’t had our annual “Cross Border Summit” event since October 2019!
So faced with the reality of unpredictable lockdowns - all our efforts has gone towards online business, and ways to generate online income. This has been via becoming an Amazon seller (again!) with Excalibur Brothers brand case study at the GFA community, and focusing more on services for sellers than the community and training side.
Even at GFA, my wife has started to create an online learning platform for our kids, and a growing network of other children under the sub-brand “GFA Kids”.
Not to mention, we joined as a new partner in this very NowShenzhen media business. This is a turnaround story where we are adapting to the “new normal” and working with businesses to help them adjust to the online transformation.