As we progress through 2021 with vigor and a fresh list of objectives, it is an ideal moment to pause and reflect on the year gone by.
The year 2020 will live long in the memory, for its ups and downs, the many challenges faced, and the things we achieved collectively despite being apart.
Like many others, this was a year where I learned to truly appreciate the value of the smaller things, the things which we all too often took for granted. Be it meeting with friends or going to the movie theater with our children, to simple embraces with loved ones, or the freedom to travel, 2020 was a year where we had to quickly learn to live differently.
In the business world, technology has been critical to our ability to navigate these unchartered waters. Video calls allowed us to remain in contact with teammates, partners, and customers right across the country, and other digital tools enabled us to continue the best possible service to our end-users despite the huge disruption across the industry.
Moreover, the pandemic underlined the importance of being technologically equipped for the digital age. It will not only prove its worth in terms of ensuring short-term competitiveness, it will also play a fundamental role in future-proofing organizations.
Despite the power and potential of technology, we learned that nothing beats human interaction, physical proximity, and live experiences. While remote working has many benefits, I missed not being able to catch up with friends and colleagues over a cup of coffee as well as the collective energy that comes from everyone being together.
While it was difficult to be away from colleagues, the guys in our team have shown admirable flexibility and professionalism throughout this time. I look forward to working side by side with the best in the business once again in the months to come.
From every challenge or crisis, however, comes lessons to be learned – the COVID-19 pandemic has been no different. Out of sheer necessity, we became more adaptable and flexible. We learned how to become leaner and more efficient in our work, and how to communicate more succinctly.
It has since become apparent that it is no longer necessary to spend so many hours in airports and hotels, especially when it comes to shorter, more routine meetings. Looking ahead, we will aim to limit travel to those meetings which require a physical presence. This frees up valuable time, while also helping reduce carbon emissions.
We were forced to devise a remote working strategy in the blink of an eye. Despite the inevitable challenges and frustrations, we learned that it’s possible to be as, if not more, productive while working from the comfort of our homes. As Winter turned to Spring it was also evident that this way of working would present difficulties of its own. In one form or another, we all struggled to disconnect and separate professional and personal lives; many people felt isolated during this time, while others had to juggle their work with home-schooling and childcare – a very different type of disruption than what we were used to!
Many of our people were anxious and worried; from the very beginning we set about to show complete transparency. Instead of sugar-coating the situation, we chose to communicate the truth openly and regularly with staff to avoid creating any sort of false hope.
Leaders across all industries have been tasked with making difficult decisions; those who did so with transparency will find that their credibility among their workforce has been boosted. From the feedback I have received, it appears that our people also appreciated this approach.
As mentioned in a previous article, uncertainty is one of the few things we can be certain about when looking ahead. Therefore, we must strive to become even more robust and more agile.
Doing so will require a further shift towards hybrid workflows, a combination of physical and digital processes that will allow us to work across various platforms and locations while adding our unique human value along the way.
The increased number of remote devices connecting to shared networks has drastically increased cybersecurity risks. We can no longer depend solely on our IT department to ensure our data is safe and, considering that remote working is here to stay, a more proactive and holistic approach to security across all departments is required.
The transition to a fluid hybrid working model will present unique challenges in terms of getting the on-site/remote working balance right while maintaining a strong team spirit and culture. It is essential to avoid a situation whereby we have separate teams based on location with separate cultures and dynamics. To become a stronger organization, we need to be in this together – every single one of us. To this end, the lessons learned throughout 2020 will serve us well.
While COVID-19 dominated the headlines throughout most of the year, we also saw deeply distressing stories of pain and suffering due to inequality. This is an issue that should stay right at the top of our agenda and it is our responsibility to continue striving for equal treatment and opportunities for all.
2021 provides us with a clean slate. We continue to battle our way through difficulties, but I firmly believe that we are now much better equipped to deal with uncertainty and disruption because of the lessons we have learned over the past 12 months. The knowledge, resilience, and unity developed during this time are key reasons to be hopeful of a bright and prosperous future.
We struggled through a complicated year together. Now it’s time to come back even stronger and become even better at what we do – together.
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