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Looking back on 2020

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What will you be taking out of 2020?

Perhaps you’re looking at a move into 2021 complete with a whole new working wardrobe of pyjamas and slippers, and a few extra “comfort food” pounds. Maybe you’re one of those committed individuals we saw on TV segments and on the news, getting up and about for early morning and lunchtime workouts.

For us, it’s not so much about what we will be taking into 2021, but more about what we hope to leave behind in 2020 – that is, our frazzled holiday-free lives and that vastly overused word “unprecedented”.

So, as we say goodbye to the UNPRECEDENTED year we have had, what exactly can we learn from 2020 in the world of work and recruitment?

Mental wellness

Mental wellbeing has been one of the more controversial topics of conversation this year, with everyone offering their own opinions and thoughts on how people should be coping and responding to the global pandemic. The fact is that we are all so different – one need only look at the array of home décor decisions going on in the background of full-team Zoom calls to see just how different we all are – and so there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to mental wellbeing during something as difficult to understand as a pandemic.

One of the best things that anyone can do at the end of this year, is look back on the various things that happened to them personally and try to understand how they dealt with it at the time, how it made them feel, and what they might change if it were to happen again. A great example of this is the way you responded to working from home – did you embrace the opportunity to spend more time at home, or did the concept of being stuck at home all day fill you with panic?

The working from home concept is something that has long been explored by different industries, with some companies offering colleagues a chance to work from home once or twice a week; and as we move into 2021, it seems as though business models may be starting to change and embrace more of a balance between office and home working.

Work-Life Balance

This is all about being flexible, and if there’s one thing 2020 has taught us it’s that flexibility and versatility is key in the world of business – no matter what industry you operate in.

Around 27% of Australians said that their biggest concern with working from home was being isolated from their colleagues, while over half said that working from home was one of the toughest challenges that they faced in 2020. Whether this challenge was really about the work, or more to do with the idea of working while trying to home school children, we can never really know. But the main thing to take from this stat is that while some revelled in the idea of working at home, others found it an unnecessary challenge and strain – and something they wouldn’t choose to repeat or carry forward. Of course, in 2020 we have had little choice in the matter, but it begs the question: what is the best way to move forward as we enter 2021?

For us, the main thing to do is to exercise the right to a more fluid working balance – giving employees a chance to assign their working style more freely depending on their role and the kind of communication they need to have with colleagues on a daily basis. If working from home a couple of times a week suits the employee’s personal commitments to their family and doesn’t affect their quality of work for the employer, it makes sense that this more fluid approach will lead to a more satisfied employee who is productive in their work life and their personal life.

As a recruiter, the main learning is that companies who continue to be flexible in their approach to existing and new employees, will find themselves supported by a happy and satisfied workforce who are keen to continue working with and for them as an employer.

The way we work together

Most of all, 2020 has seen the kind of community spirit both within and outside of industries, that hasn’t really been seen before. Large companies have done their bit to support small and local businesses; eateries and restaurants have changed the way they serve customers, and customers have adhered to various distancing rules in order to be able to still support their favourite businesses; even neighbours have come together to bring help, food and company to their elderly and isolated neighbours.

Has 2020 made us a better society? The real test will be seen when life starts to return to some semblance of normality. But as we look back on 2020 – on the Zoom calls that have filled our homes – with poor signal interrupting important announcements and the question “Can you hear me?” starting and ending every call; on the virtual drinks and online quizzes we all supported wholeheartedly earlier in the year and which soon became dull as we realised this pandemic might last longer than we thought; all the way through to the outpouring of love and support seen across online and physical communities as we thanked key workers and friends – it seems that the one thing we will all take away from this year is a newfound appreciation for the industries that kept us afloat and which adapted themselves in order to continue to serve their customer and consumer base. (Plus, of course, the new pandemic dictionary and its headline word: ‘unprecedented’…)

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