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Types of pandemic productivity

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“You better learn the ways of spending your time productively from your uncle’s son!” I heard my mom bellow at my brother from the other end of the house as I sat down to write my piece on

TYPES OF PEOPLE IN QUARANTINE

Months and months of isolation with no specific time frame has impacted individuals in one way or the other. While some might find it exceptionally strenuous to deal with the grief or fear of losing a loved one, others may as well feel disgruntled trying to cope up with uninvited mood swings and dilemmas. However, after spending a prolonged amount of time under lockdown, it is possible to categorize the valuable in-house residents of this overwhelming pandemic market into a few distinct niches, as outlined below. 

The hopeful(s)


The true optimists, the ones who believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel and this too, shall pass. The hopeful(s) will usually be found comforting others and providing them with shoulders to rant on. We can surely rely on them for a heartwarming conversation or some jokes to hold onto our peace of mind in such trying times. 

 

The contemplators 


The contemplators are quite an intriguing group of individuals. We will usually find them gazing dreamily into space, foreseeing what the virus has in store for us. They are well aware of the economic, financial, and social consequences of a post-pandemic world and are always available to provide worthwhile insights and advice on such matters.

The all-nighters 


The all-nighters have skilfully transformed themselves into nocturnal species over the last few months. Going to sleep at 4 am, being fully energized after a web series spree, and waking up gloomily twelve hours later is the new normal for them. For a quick fun trick, we can try abruptly asking them to identify the day and date and enjoy staring at their confused faces! 

 

The nonchalant crew 


Calm, composed, and unconcerned about the pandemic, the world, and all that it contains. They are generally a pleasure to watch munching on snacks, reading a novel, or dwelling on satisfying memories instead of tracking disturbing news. They live by the motto ‘whatever is ought to happen, shall happen’ and there are no added benefits stressing over it. 

The achievers


The achievers have already mesmerized us by their involvement in a plethora of activities. Be it showcasing their hidden cooking skills, to the completion of numerous online courses, or their noble initiatives undertaken to help those in need. They have really made the best use of extra time and energy.  

Generally speaking, the current pattern indicates that one will fall under any one or two of the categories or make transitions between all of them depending on their mood, personality preference, or day-wise schedules. However, it is vital to remember that all versions of you existing in the pandemic are equally important and special. It is completely acceptable to not be able to gather the will to wake up from bed one morning and feel jaunty enough to outgrow everyone else on another. As vital as it is to accept reality, it is as well significant enough to welcome and support our inner urges and complexes. As long as we decide to hold our beliefs, values, and spirits strong in addition to keeping our sanities checked, everything else shall fall into place in no time.

Maa, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, not a productivity contest!” I squealed back as I typed the final words for my piece and ran off to give her a hug and clear her views on certain lockdown stigmas.

Online education: the new norm

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In today’s fast paced world where everyone is constantly striving to improve themselves in one way or another, online education has opened up a plethora of opportunities. It has become even more relevant at present, when most of us are quarantined within the four walls of our homes and the only access we have to the rest of the world is through the internet. Apart from offering an inclusive learning path, online education has broken all the rules of conventional classroom learning. The wide array of courses available online provides useful benefits for students on a global scale:

Accessibility 
Whether you are a professional looking to brush up on a skill you already have, a college graduate on your way to a masters degree, or a job-holder looking to resume your education, the world of virtual learning has something for everyone. While conventional classroom learning can often feel like a rat race, online learning allows you to progress at your own pace, making it exceedingly inclusive and accessible. You have constant access to go through all learning materials, review lectures easily, and go back to them as many times as you need.

Multiple modes of communication
The flexibility that comes with online learning as opposed to traditional learning, allows you to communicate with your instructor or professor a lot more vigorously, thereby enhancing your overall learning experience. It may not always be possible to ask your teacher to stay back after every class so that you may ask your questions or schedule an appointment during office hours in a traditional setting. However, between emails, phone calls, text messages, and discussion forums, your teacher can be more involved in guiding you through the course and efficiently addressing your questions.

Cost-efficient
This applies for both parties. While you are saving on transport and other incidental expenses, your instructor and the institutions at large are saving on overhead expenses, such as classroom space, supplies, and maintenance. Seemingly, this appears to be a small fraction of capital saved, but in the bigger picture it accumulates to a large amount of money and resources that is being saved.

Customized learning environment
Learners who are introverts or of similar nature might find it difficult and therefore take time to adapt to a new learning environment in the traditional setting of a classroom. Online learning allows them-and generally most learners at large-the opportunity to learn in an environment of their own choice and comfort, be it one’s study room or a cafe. You do not have to feel pressured to cope with a new environment or mingle with a new group of people every semester. Even if the need for such an endeavor arises, one can do so at his or her own pace.

A more global experience
Studying in a college in your city or your neighborhood may restrict you to meet people who only live in your city or country. While the similarity in social and cultural backgrounds may be comforting, it does take away from the possibility of meeting people from different countries and cultures. This is made possible through online learning, which allows you to closely and regularly interact with people from all over the world, widening your professional network while opening up your mind to efficient cross-cultural communication.

Instant feedback
In a traditional setting, receiving feedback on an assignment that was turned in before the first midterm, right before the finals, may not be surprising. Having been a teacher myself, I can safely say that amidst preparing lesson plans, quizzes, assignments, while finishing numerous other house-keeping chores, it becomes increasingly difficult to meet deadlines. However, in an online learning setting, it is possible to provide instant feedback on both objective and subjective questions. The advantage of such a facility is two-fold: it saves time and it helps the learner be motivated to stay on track.

The persisting uncertainty about when life will go back to normal again has not been able to take away the ambition and spirit of many indomitable, young individuals who are consistently focused on achieving their self development goals through virtual education. For now, online learning is here to stay.

Start-ups: cash flow management during COVID-19

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Typically, nine out of ten startups fail within the first few years. Although the reasons are not always the same, there are some key problems which can be identified across the board. These challenges have been greatly magnified by the unprecedented effects of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown. The whole entrepreneurial ecosystem has been transformed and it is getting increasingly difficult for small businesses, start-ups, and budding entrepreneurs to flourish.

One of the fundamental problems affecting startups right now is cash-crunch or negative cash-flow. Some of the main causes of negative cash flow are:

  1. During the early days of a start-up, the expenses are almost always going to be higher than the revenue generated, often causing a cash-crunch and liquidity issues.
  2. Supply chains are often inefficiently designed, causing cash-flow issues.
  3. Marketing expenditures can often initially be unnecessarily excessive, causing a hit to cash-flow. 

In order to forge ahead with their businesses, many entrepreneurs endorse considerable Research and Development (R&D) and increase their marketing efforts to substantiate their customer base and product reach. On most occasions, the only viable option for start-ups is to spend more than their revenues can offset, to reach their primary goals and objectives.

It is therefore vital for entrepreneurs to have a viable, ambitious, yet realistic plan that enables them to push forward and accelerate growth, minimizing the effect on cash reserves. The following strategies can help new businesses overcome these issues:

  • Management of fixed vs. variable expenses

Fixed expenses are those which are incurred regardless of whether the start-up generates a single unit of sales, i.e. rent, salary, equipment costs, etc. Variable expenses are those which are related to transactional volume, i.e. expenses like direct materials, production supplies, shipping expenses, etc. These can be scaled up and down according to the activities and the overall strategy of the organization.

It is vital for successful start-ups to convert more of their fixed expenses to variable expenses to ensure that it makes the most of the time value of money. Utilizing the time value of money is key to start-ups, as money that it has now is always worth more than the identical sum in the future due to its potential earning capacity. This enables them to maximize liquidity whilst at the same time extending the runway.

An example of converting fixed expenses into variable expenses is promoting employees to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) instead of purchasing devices/laptops with full payments by the organization.

  • Minimizing non-essential expenses
    It is key for any budding business to properly utilize its cash. Many organizations make the mistake of taking on too many non-revenue generating expenses at its early stages, such as splurging on non-targeted advertisements and running inefficient campaigns which do not gain sufficient traction. Another way to cut down on non-essential expenses would be to manage and complete tasks in-house without excessive outsourcing. This will also enable efficient and maximum utilization of in-house resources.
  • Efficient fund management and reducing cash conversion cycles 6
    Start-ups must negotiate with both their customers and suppliers at the same time, during this crisis, to improve its Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC). The CCC can be improved by converting inventory and other resources into cash sales. Maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with its customers to recover receivables within a shorter cycle could make or break the future of the company. On the other hand, entrepreneurs should also try to introduce Just In Time (JIT) inventory management systems and convince their current suppliers to extend their payment schedule. This allows the company to effectively maximize its cash reserves.

  • Increasing productivity and ensuring optimum usage of its human resources
    Start-ups must make sure that their human resources are optimally used. They must ensure that staff within the organization carry out tasks which they are best suited for, whilst inter-departmental cooperation is seamless. Making sure that each staff is working to the best of their abilities and in the right role shall ensure companies can maximize productivity. This downtime could also be used for capacity building of staff; an easy and good way could be through the many online trainings that some of the major online platforms, such as Coursera, Udemy, and BYLCx, are offering for free or at reduced prices. This enables companies to make the most of existing resources, rather than spending more on additional staff.

Without adapting to the current scenario and bringing about these changes, start-ups across the landscape are destined to fail more often than not. In the current COVID-19 ecosystem, it is key to increase organizational efficiency and utilization of existing resources, and to make the most of the assets the business owns or rents. This will enable start-ups to maximize their cash reserves and increase their runway. 

স্বাধীনতা: দুর্বার তারুণ্যের উচ্ছ্বাস

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শত আশার শততম টেস্ট ম্যাচ। টিভি পর্দার সামনে উদ্বেগ, উৎকন্ঠা আর টানটান উত্তেজনায় কোটি তরুণ। আর ওদিকে লংকান মাটিতে লড়ছে ওরা ক’জন – সাকিব, তামিম আর মুশফিক বাহিনী। অবশেষে এল বহুল প্রত্যাশিত সেই বিজয়। সিংহের ডেরায় গ্ল্যাডিয়েটরদের হারিয়ে লাল-সবুজের পতাকা ওড়ালো বাংলার বাঘ। বিজয় উল্লাস ছড়িয়ে পরলো এ দেশের কোটি তরুণের চোখে-মুখে ফেইসবুকের নীল-সাদা পর্দায়, অলি-গলি পেরিয়ে রাজপথে টিএসসিতে। কে বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের ছাত্র, আর কে রাস্তার পাশে রিকশা থামিয়ে বিজয় মিছিলে সামিল হওয়া ঘর্মাক্ত রিকশাওয়ালা কিংবা টং দোকানের চা বিক্রেতা – সে হিসেব নেবার কেউ নাই, এটাই তারুণ্যের শক্তি, এটাই তারুণ্যের স্বকীয়তা, এটাই তারুণ্যের সৌন্দর্য। read more

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