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What we’ve learned: Reflections on one year of living and working in a pandemic

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Looking back, living and working during a pandemic was certainly not something we expected we’d have to adapt to in 2020. As we hit the one-year mark of being sent home from our jobs and living the “new normal” of a work-from-home routine, we can’t deny all the valuable lessons and growing pains we endured as we embrace a new outlook in 2021.

The shift to remote work for so many employees had a huge impact on our lives:

  • Ninety-four percent of 800 employers surveyed by Mercer, an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm, said that productivity was the same or higher than it was before the pandemic, even with their employees working remotely.
  • In 2020, PwC conducted a survey of 1,200 U.S. office workers and 120 executives and concluded that 73% of those executives surveyed found that working remotely has been a success.
  • According to a survey conducted by getAbstract43% of U.S. full-time workers in the U.S. would like to work remotely more often after COVID-19, citing the absence of a commute, added flexibility, and productivity gains as the main motivators.

Let’s reflect on a few things we’ve learned about work and life in the past year, and how we have managed the change.

Working from home

Balancing personal and professional lives: Many of us have had to take on so much more responsibility over the past year. We’ve learned how to juggle taking care of children and working from home, all while striving to take care of ourselves during lockdown. Additionally, when working from home, it’s easy to feel connected to our work 24/7. Setting boundaries and managing our time has been a challenging task to overcome – but we found ways to make it happen!

Remote work is doable:  Maintaining productivity at home has proven to be successful across the board. Many are able to focus better in a remote environment without the usual office distractions. As an added bonus, we are seeing people being able to spend more time with family thanks to eliminating a long commute to and from work.

Avoiding burnout at home and setting boundaries: One of the hardest aspects of working from home is knowing when to switch off. While it may have taken us time to figure this one out, we have learned the importance of setting boundaries, managing our time, keeping “work hours,” and switching off to unwind after a long day.

Staying professional and motivated at home: It’s easy to start getting comfortable when we know our office is about five feet away from the bedroom. Little things like dressing up every day and looking sharp during our video meetings are important to keep up the professionalism and maintain focus during the work week.

Increased engagement within colleagues: We have learned so much about the importance of staying connected with our work teams even when we aren’t physically together. By keeping communication lines open, people have even started to feel more connected to their coworkers as we all share the struggles faced in this challenging year.

Remote Working/Working in a Pandemic

Embracing the ‘new normal’ of interacting virtually with our colleagues: We went from seeing our colleagues every day in the office to seeing them over video chats for just a few minutes of the day. The good news is that through technology we can still stay connected. Virtual hang-outs and happy hours have helped keep the camaraderie going, as well as daily check-ins to stay in the loop during the week.

Going high-tech: While some embrace the virtual world more enthusiastically than others, we have all learned the importance of keeping up with the latest technology to ensure productivity. Whether it’s learning the latest video conference bells and whistles or simply having a reliable internet connection, keeping up with this digital transformation is key to ensuring employees are able to deliver their best.

Employee mental and physical wellbeing: It is important to note that many companies have also expanded benefits to include stipends for virtual workouts, mental health apps, and other services to support employee well-being. This is a great way to show employees that the company not only cares about the work they do but also that they care about them on a personal level.

Alleviating burnout: With so many video chats on our schedules, some of us have started to experience what is known as “Zoom Fatigue.” While remote work might be here to stay, we can combat Zoom Fatigue by attempting to balance your schedule with meetings and time to concentrate on work; and taking breaks in between calls – a quick walk around the block can give you a much-needed mental and physical refresh.

General Life Lessons

Be prepared for the unexpected: The pandemic and its many consequences happened suddenly. A big lesson for everyone is to learn from this experience and be prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes events beyond our control impact our lives and we have no choice but to adapt – and even embrace change as it happens.

Giving back to the community is a priority: With so many people negatively impacted by the pandemic, it is critical to realize how important it is to help our community and give back when we can.

Slowing down: After being sent home from work last year and isolating in our homes, we were forced to reflect and take a break from a busy lifestyle. This opportunity to reflect caused many people to re-focus on how they will approach different aspects of their lives moving forward.

As we embrace 2021 with open arms, we can choose to grow and learn from the lessons learned in the past extraordinary year. We were pulled into a crisis that caused suffering and hardship for so many. There were silver linings, though, and we can focus on these fresh perspectives and new opportunities as we move forward.