Each year poses new challenges, and 2020 took that to a whole new level. Businesses had to adapt, change their perspectives and rethink daily routines with each curve ball 2020 threw. But with all the adversity this year brought, many businesses had the chance to learn, grow and uncover new opportunities that came with the constant pivoting. Here are a few important things that 2020 taught us as we look ahead and leap into 2021.
1. Video Communication Isn’t Successfully Replacing In-Person Communication
My team recently went back into the office to send out our client gifts for the year, and it was amazing how instantly reconnected we felt. Technically, I “see” them Monday–Friday using Microsoft Teams, but I really didn’t feel the significance of that distance until I got to see them in person. It was refreshing and made me realize that a completely remote setup might not be the best option for me permanently. You need more than virtual meetings or happy hours to maintain company culture. Let’s be honest, virtual happy hours can be…awkward. I look forward to the days where we can celebrate our successes in person, at least a few times a year. It strengthens comradery in a way that I haven’t found possible in the virtual space.
2. Different Employees Thrive in Different Environments
Work from home is something that almost everyone tried this year. Many employees thrive in remote environments and appreciate the autonomy that comes with it. Other employees absolutely hate it and aren’t as productive at home as they need to be. The challenge we’re faced with is–there doesn’t seem to be one solution that works for everyone. The future for many businesses might be hybrid or distributed workforces.
3. Most People Weren’t Using Available Technology to the Fullest
Raise your hand if you had Office 365 before the pandemic and realized you were not utilizing everything it had to offer until you were forced to…yeah me too. My OneDrive replaced my on-prem backup solution, I had to clean up a very disorganized SharePoint situation and Microsoft Planner replaced my Kanban–all before the end of March. Fully investing in this Microsoft solution has been pertinent to my remote productivity and success.
4. The Importance of a Work-Life Balance–Mental Health Enters the Chat
With many employees working from home, it’s hard not to feel like you’re living at the office. How do you focus your attention to needs at home, when it feels like your unfinished work is haunting you from the other room? How do you focus on work when many parents are also assisting their children with remote learning? 2020 reminded us how difficult juggling those daily responsibilities can be and tested mental toughness for everyone. Our cherished routines went out the window in March and mental health has suffered since. Setting boundaries on both sides is something that will continue to be important in 2021.
5. Employee and Company Success Starts with Good Leadership
We’ve been swimming in uncertainties this year and, through the panic, humans naturally look to leadership. One of my favorite things our COO, Andrew Moore, told us in March was that we “had to burn the boats” and move forward with the mindset that we might not go back to the office. Removing the sense that this all would be very temporary became exceedingly helpful, in terms of mental health. We also started weekly company-wide meetings. Ensuring your team is doing well and keeping everyone on the same page helps employees to “just keep swimming” through the never-ending unknowns this year presented.
6. Not “Bringing Politics into Work” Has Prevented Conversations That Promote Inclusion and Understanding
Discussing politics at work has never been a good idea, right? Many even consider it unprofessional. The recent Black Lives Matter Movement demolished these old ideals. Throughout the year, America was in quarantine and consumed with the atrocious murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the protests that followed. 2020 taught us that racial injustice and human rights are much more than just a political matter. How do you sit there and pretend like none of this is happening for 8+ hours Monday–Friday? How do you check on someone without engrossing them in trauma in the middle of their workday? How do you let them know that you’re an ally, without making it about yourself? While I won’t pretend to have perfect answers, it starts with asking uncomfortable questions and continuing to offer support. There is no end date on allyship and it’s an exceedingly important concept for 2021 and beyond.
7. Pandemic Prevention Has Set New Standards for Health, Safety and Hygiene
Covid-19 brought out the inner germaphobe in many of us. Why weren’t certain things cleaned before…or ever? Many businesses recognize that a new standard will prevail even when things start to go back to normal. Whether washing your hands for the full 20 seconds or ensuring that remote employees maintain secure digital hygiene practices, good safety measures are essential for all.
I can’t say that we’ve got it all figured out, by any means. These are simply lessons that I’ve learned and feel are important for our growth as an organization. Consider all the lessons learned this year and leap into a new year with a fresh mindset, improved business practices and a healthy company culture. 2021 here we come!