3 Lessons from 2020 to take with Us into 2021

We can all admit 2020 was a special kind of year, one some wish we could have passed over, written off or or slept through.  With rampant pandemic cases, record-breaking unemployment and economic troubles all around but what if there was another option? 

If you want to hear some reflection and introspection on 2020, listen to The Way We Work podcast! Like, review and share!

Change is Possible

We stepped into 2020 thinking it was just going to be another year of monotonous gear grinding and day in, day out mentality. Feeling like a cog in a machine? No worries, 2020 would fix that, for the better or worst. So there’s a virus that comes up and takes over the world, basically and unless you’ve been living on a deserted island you know what I’m talking about.

The upside? If there is one. Is this- Change is possible.

Once lockdowns were put in place and things came to a standstill in this apocalyptic reality. We can all admit it was weird to see metropolises and main squares completely empty with not a soul in sight.

Eerie right?

But something else happened too. Companies, big and small, pivoted. For some it was easier than others and technology that was previously not common made all the difference. Hello- Zoom! But Work from Home became Work at Home. Industries that had previously disdained the possibility of flex schedules, remote work and needed deep separation between the personal and professional lives of their employees. Those same industries have now learned to embrace- a little, that we need more. We need more as individuals, as employees and as contributors to the economy of our respective countries.

Things that couldn’t have happened without people and companies coming together to enact change, quickly and in solidarity for the greater good:

There are companies that have weighed the benefits of full remote and have decided that’s the direction they want to go in now.

It was all hands on deck in order to create potential vaccines for covid-19, no small feat as Medical News illustrates here.

Adapting to change, while difficult, always has an opportunity for growth. Some companies even did well in 2020, and yes- it skews to tech because they were more easily able to quickly shift and adapt but they aren’t the only ones.

Here’s the list of 100 companies that prospered during the Pandemic.

Change is also possible when it comes to social justice and equity. One of the hottest jobs in 2020 seemed to be Diversity and Inclusion and yes, we know it’s not perfect. Most of the positions are performative and siloed in HR, but, they exist when they didn’t before. Companies react to what their customers and their boards want and guess what? They have spoken!

Mental Health was Demystified and De-Stigmatized

While many found themselves unemployed, dealing with the anxiety of lockdowns, and rushing to prepare for the end times, something happened for all of us. Maybe it was the relentless news or the possibility of death if you walked out your door, or the countless zoom meetings that caused burn out and created a new word, Zoom Fatigue. But while we had time to sit at home and ponder things more and more of us released we were not ok and started reaching out.

The Washington Post wrote, “nearly half of all Americans say the Coronavirus is harming their mental health…”

The truth is mental health is often deemed a luxury for a lot of people, seeing the need as something that can wait but 2020 has shown us that there are a lot of cracks in that logic, especially when health care doesn’t really seem to be able to cope with the mass amounts of people that are still drifting their way through.

I am a firm believer that the generational trauma of 2020 will continue to ripple, simply because most of us have never needed to be introspective or have difficult conversations with ourselves because we could always fill the silence. And if you’re still trying to get through the fog, maybe it’s time to learn some coping mechanisms that may work for you.

silhouette of man at daytime

My favorite are meditation and learning to have deep conversations with yourself, through writing or journaling and with others. We long for deep connections, that’s the human way.

One of the most important lessons of 2020, is that it is possible for anyone to fall into the traps of anxiety and depression- and I’m sure we all felt it in some way or another. Maybe it manifested as working for hours on end with no breaks because you didn’t know what else to do, not wanting to eat well, or binge-watching all of Netflix (that was a vice of mine).

However, it looked like for you- know that there are services, some companies extended mental health outreach and gave greater access for their employees, and I’ve found even social media has had a place in mental health de-stigmatizing. As long as you take the truths shared with a grain of salt. It’s still not complete reality.

Resilience is my New Favorite Word

Not because it means overcoming challenges, but for the other meaning: Elasticity. We were all pulled in many different directions this year, in ways we didn’t know were possible. We were asked to care for our neighbors, to care for our community and ourselves in ways we had never done before.

I lived in China for a long time, so wearing a mask for me was not a big deal, but for some it was an audacious request. Being told to stay home and spend time alone or with family and find new and interesting ways to pass the time. Some people were ingenious with their solutions. Working while balancing a toddler on one’s lap was an experience, I’m sure I’m not the only one who found myself thrust into parenthood with no reprieve. Reconnecting with old friends or reaching out to new ones while attending virtual conferences or networking was fun, although exhausting.

No matter which direction we were pulled, we learned. What works, what doesn’t. How to manage our time or how we’re really not. Tough decisions were made, ones we may still be feeling the pangs of, but there were also moments of freedom and liberation. At the end of this year, while we sit in reflection remember that we still made it.

We were pulled to our limits and beyond but humanity survived. And if we can move forward into 2021, remember that resilience, that strength that will take us forward into this new year.

We may have suffered tragedy upon tragedy but we continue, nonetheless.

We may never be able to return to the pre-covid times of our memories, and why would we? They weren’t that great to begin with, but what we can do is take the lessons learned and move in a better direction.

Are you with me?

Yours in kind,

Jessy Santana