News and public communication in March 2020 witnessed a rush of novelty in global news, colloquial language, social media and even in the names of babies! A new-born in Tripura was named ‘Lockdown’ by his ‘migrant’ parents while another couple named their newborn ‘Sanitiser’ in Saharanpur. It can't get weirder than this!
The onset of COVID-19 gave way to the usage of several words and phrases that were rapidly caught on by young and old, rural and urban, literate and the unschooled. Healthcare vocabulary took a 180-degree turn with everyone using medical phrases, beginning with the outbreak termed as a ‘pandemic’ and not an epidemic.
Most of us didn’t know that an outbreak is called a ‘pandemic’ when it affects a nation or the world itself. The word ‘quarantine’ has been understood as a period of isolation, commonly 14-days for Covid-19 patients, but it is derived from ‘quaranta giorni’ which means 40 days of isolation for coastal areas to prevent the spread of plague epidemics.
Trending Words in the first phase of lockdown
In the first phase of the lockdown, the awareness communication by the government and the various media included terms like ‘social distancing’, ‘asymptomatic’, ‘co-morbidities’, ‘containment zone’. ‘surgical mask’ and PPE (personal protective equipment). Although sanitisers and masks have been around for a while, used only by some people, the messaging on TVCs started the trend of using hand sanitizers and hand wash regularly and wearing masks.
It also became a CSR activity for many corporations and brands. This scenario changed once the 1st wave was over and businesses began opening up. The communication was about co-working offices, restaurants, malls and retail outlets taking safe measures to sanitize and make covid free spaces.
WFH and webinars, were touted to be the ‘new normal’ in the current times as many companies extended this facility even post lockdown globally. The pandemic prompted the IRDAI to direct all health insurance companies in India to include medical cover for COVID-19 regardless of the policy and permitted all insurers to announce Corona Kavach and Corona Rakshak short-term COVID specific policies.
The government drew attention to the importance of ‘vocal for local’ to encourage local markets, local manufacturing and local supply chains, mainly to become self-sufficient to meet our supply demands in times of a crisis like COVID.
Phase 2 Trending words
Post, post Pandemic (or at least year 2021) the buzz has been around people going back to office and adapting various models to work. Now the discussions are around forever policy on WFH, Work from anywhere; even companies are talking about adapting Hybrid models wherein employees can work on select days and yet work from home.
While people and employees were positive about the 'Work from Home' policy, there is also a section that is now tired of working from home and has started to feel burnout. Lot of companies started working on PR around their burnout leave policies, appreciation leaves and long weekend offs to make employees feel good.
While work pressure has increased due to the uncertainty of businesses, many good things have happened too. Teams are getting ‘workations’ for a much informal way of working in a safe and secluded place. Companies are investing in good quality PCs, desktops for employees and options to work as per their comfort and safety factors. Other interesting activities to motivate the employees which are mostly in trend are work from home gifts, Netflix subscription packages, stress free kits (mostly meditation books, audio subscription) and gift vouchers.
During the post-pandemic times, concerns and discussions around 'Mental Health' started creating a lot of buzz. #mentalheathawareness #mentalhealth #shiftyourmindset and it's still making noise. In fact, it is dominated by conversations on Twitter as per its report on India-specific trends.
The report highlighted that within the well-being umbrella, self-care witnessed over 88% growth in conversations, followed by health and fitness (1035, and mental health matters (150%). For many people, it changed their perspective around fitness and inspired them to workout no matter whatever their situations were and 'workout-at-home' became a pandemic fitness trend. Many influencers started offering tips on 'no-equipment workout'. This trend still prevails and many virtual workout sessions are available for people to follow on social media and online platforms.
Finance and technology came even closer with ‘fin-tech’ as we adopted digital payment apps for ‘contactless’ transactions. Education also undertook preventive measures to function uninterruptedly in the new normal introducing children to an online learning system. Schools have adopted software for parents and students to fill in their homework, online exam question papers and to submit their assignments in a common drive.
People have started talking about makeup and wardrobe styling classes and grooming on Zoom. Pyjamas, home wear, minimal and no-makeup became common as did Google meet and Zoom parties wherein people dressed up in a theme in their respective homes and celebrated virtually.
Amazon Fashion rolled out a comprehensive marketing campaign during various stages of the lockdown with the theme ‘Stay fit at home’ where they highlighted the importance of exercise and fitness for consumers. The fashion segment of the brand witnessed a spike in demand for athleisure and comfort-wear.
While the COVID virus has been a ‘carrier’ of these ubiquitous words that have rapidly redefined our businesses, jobs, health, lifestyle and communication, we, the public at large, have actually been ‘super-spreaders’ of these words.
Neena Biswal is head of South India, CommsCredible