Small businessmen in the time of Covid-19
In a work-oriented society, we wondered what the consequences of coronavirus had on workers, in particular, on small business owners. This category was the most affected, both economically and psychologically.
In general, from the first results of the study conducted by the Universities of L’Aquila and Rome Tor Vergata and from the Open Territories project, it emerged that the containment measures, the economic impact and the pandemic itself are having an important impact on the levels of depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress symptoms (R.Rossi, V. Socci, D. Taveli et al., 2020).
But how did all the small entrepreneurs who saw their businesses shut down without receiving economic income? What coping strategies have they put in place?
We asked some Italian entrepreneurs such questions in order to get a general idea of the psychological impact that the pandemic had. Questions were asked to a small number of people; ours is not intended to be research, but to highlight the emotional experiences and adaptation strategies of a specific job category.
To date, catering is one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic situation, together with the sector of hairdressers / beauticians and freelancers. We have therefore investigated the emotional experiences of these job categories.
Oscar (27 years old), owner and cook of a takeaway in Milan that opened just before the lockdown period started, found himself with many accumulated expenses and a significant waste of resources and raw materials. In describing his emotional experiences regarding the whole situation, Oscar says he felt “downcast in spirit” and he and his partner found themselves “cornered”. The emotions he experienced were mainly: anxiety about the future, fear of finding himself overwhelmed by debts, agitation for the virus and for the activity, abandonment. Yes, abandonment is a recurring theme in the words of the young entrepreneur, he claims to have experienced an “inner chaos” and a feeling of abandonment by a country that has granted little economic aid and no psychological support for his job category. Despite this, he feels lucky because he manages to resist and not give up, especially when looking around, many historic Milanese activities have been forced to close. However, the time of quarantine has allowed to implement strategies, such as investing in more advertising, understanding market demands and when Oscar looks to the future, he feels “uncertainty, fear and a lot of hope of making it”.
Elisa (26 years old), however, arrived in Milan with the desire to make a career in the field of make-up. It was also difficult for her, as her type of work did not allow the reorganization from home. Elisa claims to have “felt very down” because just when new roads began to open, the lockdown blocked everything. The most experienced internal states were: a sense of powerlessness for the fear of “being unable to do anything to change the state of things”, alternating with positive moments in which “strength was made” and it was repeated that “everything would pass”. During the quarantine, she reinvented herself by publicizing herself a lot on social networks, presenting extroverted make-up on herself. If you look towards the future,
Gianni (56 years), hairdresser and barber for 40 years, says he felt lost because he found himself at home, still and this led to “great suffering and not a few difficulties”. Even for Luigi it was hard, he found himself with more and more taxes accumulating, while the shutter of his shop was lowered. However, he tried to spend the days of quarantine in the best possible way, dedicating himself to the passions he had put aside for some time. The resumption of work was tiring, also because he spends his working hours with mask and visor, he continuously disinfects the whole shop, with the constant fear of contracting the virus and infecting his family. All this, however, has also led to positive aspects: with the new restrictions,
Finally Sonia, a creator of handmade bijoux, found herself with the production blocked and consequently blocked economically. Sonia reports that she “saw black” and that she felt a lot of fear, especially for the future. After the fear, however, she began to reinvent herself and she dedicated herself to online marketing. For Sonia, a completely new and unknown world, but this has not stopped her, on the contrary, it has given her the necessary push to promote her business through social networks. Her work has totally changed: before the virus, she delivered her jewels to stores, now social networks have become her showcase and she intends to continue on this path.
From the words that emerged from all the interviewees, despite different ages and work sectors, it is clear that adaptation is the key word of this strange period, which has affected all of us. Each of them has adopted different coping strategies, benefiting from the change.
We can put it all in one word: resilience.
The people interviewed showed that they have a strong resilience, that is, being able to positively reorganize their lives following a stressful or traumatic event.
From scientific literature it is clear that resilience is an “ordinary phenomenon of the human being and not extra-ordinary”. Therefore, people prove resilient and in most cases they manage to adapt positively to the adversities of life (Fiore F., 2016).
In conclusion, we can say that the people interviewed managed to overcome a critical period, leveraging exclusively on their internal resources. Despite the feeling of abandonment experienced, they rolled up their sleeves and found ways to adapt to the situation, discovering new sides of their way of being and working.