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  • Writer's pictureRobin Rosenberg

It’s a New Year: Thinking about 2022

It’s a new year. An opportunity for reflection ( looking back) and for planning (looking ahead). But if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, we've learned that plans are, to some extent, hopes for the future - which is the best we can do during extended crises.

Reflections: Learnings From 2021

We’ve learned several powerful points about employees, employers, and work itself in the past year.

Many Aspects of Work Can be Done Remotely

In the switch to remote work, we learned that for many employees, in fact, in-person contact wasn’t necessary to get the work done. For many employees and organizations, productivity didn’t suffer, and even increased in some cases. Yes, for some types of collaboration, remote work was less than optimal, but collaborations continued nonetheless.

There Are Costs to Running a Marathon at a Sprint Pace

In the initial phases of the pandemic, employees rose to the myriad challenges wrought by the pandemic, quarantines, online schooling, health challenges, and remote working. We worked valiantly at our jobs, juggling competing needs as best we could. But at some point, existing in crisis mode for an extended period of time takes a toll, both physically and mentally. The mental health crisis is evidence of that, as is the feeling of burnout with work.

Employees Look for Meaning and/or Purpose in Their Work

Many of us spend the bulk of our waking hours involved in our work in some way. One of the things the pandemic has done is highlight the question—what’s it all for? Is it for a paycheck? The connection to colleagues? Is it a means to an end—personally, professionally, societally?

Increasingly, we are asking these types of questions and digging deep to find the answers. The Great Resignation, in part, is about employees’ search for meaning or purpose in their work (as well as increased compensation and new professional development opportunities, of course.)

A Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Means More Than a Workshop

To really transform culture within a company, we’ve learned that it takes leaders, managers, and individual contributors. All of these parties must be on the same page, understanding what those terms mean, what specific behaviors they translate into, and how to help employees with those behaviors.

Planning: Looking at 2022

Although it may be unclear at this moment in time what remote, hybrid, and in-person work will actually look like in 2022, there are certain learnings we can apply as we plan for the year.

Adaptability and Resilience Will Continue to be Important

Leaders, managers, and individual contributors (in other words, all of us) will continue to need to be adaptable - adaptable about where we work, how we work, and who we work with. We can make plans, but those plans might need to change as work, nation, region, organization, family, and personal events change.

Self-Care—and Organizational Support For it—Will be Vital

We can only go at a sprint pace for so long before we are unable to continue running. As employees and organizations are discovering, each of us needs to tend to our emotional and physical well-being, and we want the organization to support us in this endeavor. It's increasingly important to know when we need to say “no” - not necessarily, “no, I can’t,” but “no, I shouldn’t.” For some organizations, it may mean a reversal of a trend towards asking employees to do more with less.

However We Work, it Will Have DEIB Implications

In addition to all the known DEIB issues that arise when we are co-located, there are additional DEIB issues when we work remotely. We’ve seen this during the pandemic with issues such as:

  • equity of each person’s work environment,

  • access to leadership,

  • feeling connected to colleagues and the organization as a whole, and

  • helping new hires feel acculturated.

In addition, a hybrid working group has additional challenges in helping the remote and in-person employees maintain as much of an equivalent footing as possible.

Fairness Will Continue to be on Employees’ Minds

Some employees want to be fully remote, some want to go to the office, some want a mix on their terms. But, they will compare themselves to their colleagues, as humans do.

We want to work for organizations that are fair. Organizational transparency helps us determine fairness. In turn, employees in transparent and fair organizations tend to have higher levels of belonging and engagement, and lower levels of turnover. Over the course of the pandemic, we learned how important transparency is.

Follow Social Onboarding With Active Efforts at Acculturation

When hiring new employees, it’s not enough to onboard them and assume they’ll become part of the team and culture automatically - particularly if anyone is working remote. Organizations, and managers in particular, will likely want to take steps to ensure that new hires feel included, that they are able to break in to existing relationships, and that they don't feel excluded.


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