Since 2021 is reaching its glorious end in a couple of days, now it’s the perfect time for a wrap-up. Almost two years in, COVID-19 continues to affect how we work, live, and play. Lots of people around the globe are following strict social distancing rules or even are under lockdown, while many are still experiencing pandemic fatigue. As a society, we continue to challenge the modern workplace and come together to create healthier and safer social environments.
Highlights of (yet another) wonder year
Despite the prolonged prevalence of COVID-19, there were many other highlights of 2021. The key trends below that shaped this past year will continue to have a great impact as we step into 2022. While you keep reading my wrap-up of this wonder year, please take the time to reflect on your own experiences to see how they compare.
The pandemic continued in waves
Twelve months ago, many people entered the new year ready to put the pandemic behind them, but COVID-19 had different plans. Despite the availability of vaccines, the virus continued to spread, especially as the delta variant took hold. And now, just before the winter holidays, the omicron variant hit hard again.
Meanwhile, everyone around the world has been trying to figure out how to get back to a somewhat normal life—both at work and at home. Because as we all know, the pandemic continued to change how we do business, as well. From the conferences we attend (or not) to the marketing channels we choose, it’s turned the business world on its head.
By now, it has become crystal clear even for the most optimist of us that the pandemic will continue well into 2022 and maybe even beyond. How it will shape our lives going further is still uncertain. However, if there’s anything we learned in 2021, it’s that adapting as we go is the only option sometimes.
Many people are experiencing mental health challenges
The pandemic significantly impacted the mental health of countless people around the world. It increased anxiety or depression in some people while introducing others to new feelings of stress and loneliness. Even as we speak, many still feel the effects of the pandemic on their psyche.
“The pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges, even for people who were on solid footing before,” says Michelle Tenzyk, founder and CEO of East Tenth Group. To combat this issue, Tenzyk encourages executives to talk about their own mental health challenges in order to show employees that it’s normal to have the experiences and seek help because of them.
In 2021, we learned that fighting the stigma of mental health is one the most important aspects of this issue. Thus, business owners and leaders need to create opportunities for employees to get the mental health support they need. As Harvard Business Review put it, this is the new era for mental health at work.
Some companies, like our 4PSA team, have always encouraged people to exercise and keep a healthy life style. Others began this year to include mental health services in their healthcare packages. These are active steps managers can take to fight the other pandemic—the mental health pandemic—that’s creating high levels of burnout and anxiety among teams.
We still want an office, but it needs to change
The novelty of working from home during the pandemic has worn off. Many workers have reached a general consensus that there are benefits and drawbacks to both remote work and the office environment. According to a survey by PwC, 87 percent of employees believe the office is important for collaborating with team members and building relationships. As a result, more companies are working to create hybrid work environments where employees come to the office on some days and work remotely on others.
Yet, more needs to change. The modern office as we know it is about to experience a major shift as leaders focus on what employees actually need to succeed during these unprecedented times. Unprecedented for the past (almost) two years 😉
Human voice is (still) powerful
In a world of endless text messages and chat lines, it’s easy to forget the intangible benefits of hearing another human’s voice. This year, we looked into the missing key of communication and how making voice calls can bring people together.
According to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, most people say they prefer to communicate over text or email. However, they also reported higher levels of connection and engagement when talking over the phone as opposed to speaking via text. The explanation is simple—the human voice is medicine 🙂
The engagement and connection conveyed by voice communication can have a significant impact in the workplace, particularly when experiencing conflict. When disagreeing with a coworker, it’s often tempting to fire off a heated message in a few seconds—an action that escalates the conflict, rather than resolving it. It’s harder to share those same harsh words over the phone when two people have more control over their tone and can approach a problem with the goal of finding common ground.
Having rediscovered the power of the phone call this year, I believe we’ll continue to see more companies communicating this way to form stronger bonds and better resolve problems.
Get ready for change in 2022
The past two years have created more changes than most people would have expected or even wanted. Yet, if you go beyond the reasons that provoked it, change as a whole is good. Simply remember to embrace it in small, consistent steps.
Moreover, out of the ashes of the pandemic comes growth—from changes to the workplace to an increased emphasis on mental health. Look ahead to 2022 knowing that you can embrace change for the better to create a more sustainable and successful work environment.
I will conclude my wrap-up of this year by wishing you a much better, safer, and more prosperous 2022, on behalf of our entire 4PSA team.