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Goodbye 2020: Looking back on a tough year

Goodbye 2020: Looking back on a tough year

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Feel like 2020 has been the longest year on record? If so, you’re not alone. The past 12 months have come with challenges no one could have predicted and many people found their working lives were upended or altered entirely.

But, as we approach the end of a disruptive year, it’s worth reflecting on the impact – and the lessons to take into 2021.

What were your biggest challenges, and did you find any silver linings?

Here’s a look at how others felt about 2020, plus advice and perspectives that could help heading into the new year.

Looking back on a tough year

For many Australians, 2020 has been a difficult year. Research conducted on behalf of SEEK shows that 23% of people say nothing good has happened to them over the past 12 months.

SEEK’s Resident Psychologist, Sabina Read, says the impact of wide-scale disruption and uncertainty can’t be underestimated, but she adds that opportunities may emerge from the challenges.

“I don't like to sugar coat, but I think there has been an opportunity to reflect on what has worked,” she says. “What did we learn? What will we do differently? How did we help others? How would I like to reflect on this period in order to change direction?

“If we dig deep and reflect on those kinds of questions, I believe we could all come up with some answers that don't equate with hopelessness but rather possibility and growth.”

If you feel like you’ve learned something about the way you work best and want to make change in 2021, it’s worth considering how to tell your boss you want to work differently now. Perhaps that means asking for more flexibility.

The new year could also be a good time to think about your values to help you find the work that suits you best.

Home truths about remote working

Working from home can have its downsides: 3 in 5 Australians who were working from home say it was their toughest challenge, and 27% feel being isolated from colleagues was their biggest obstacle.

“For some people working from home, there was a perception that the quality of their relationships had decreased because they need those regular touch points to feel like they belong,” Read says.

If you’re still working from home, there are things you can do to handle feeling lonely or isolated, including seeking out or setting up opportunities to connect, and drawing on your past experiences. Looking at ways to bring the social side work to life online can also help.

Worries about work and security

For those not working from home, almost 1 in 4 say their biggest challenge was having less work, while fear of losing their job was the top concern for 1 in 5.

If you’re worried about losing your job, ways to cope with this can include setting aside time to worry, and focusing on the things you can control such as talking to your manager or assessing your transferable skills.

Looking at the silver linings

Despite the challenges, there were some positive experiences to emerge from 2020. This includes 2 in 3 Australians saying they gained a new perspective on life and 2 in 5 picking up new skills they wouldn’t have learned if it wasn’t for COVID 19.

For 1 in 5 Australians, greater work/life/family balance was part of 2020, while almost 60% say their company supported them the best they could in 2020.

At companies like Deloitte, employee support included virtual exercise and yoga classes, webinars, tools and resources on mental wellbeing and school holiday programs to help with entertaining children while parents worked from home.

Tina McCreery, Talent Partner at Deloitte, says one of the toughest challenges for its people was the dual disruption to personal and professional lives.

“In their personal lives, there were restrictions on how they interacted with their family and friends, the way they lived and how they went about their day-to-day lives,” she says.

“Professionally, their home became their workplace, they did not get to interact with their team face-to-face and, depending on their home situation, they had to navigate caring for their children, noisy flatmates or, if they lived alone, having limited face-to-face interaction for days on end.”

McCreary says the team “did a great job” in responding to the challenges. “Team members looked out for each other and took advantage of the support that the firm had put in place,” she says.

Working from home also helped many employees achieve a better balance and McCreary says the flexible option looks like it’s here to stay.

“We have always had a strong culture of flexibility, but I do think the pandemic has allowed us to reflect on how and where we work,” she says. “We definitely see this changing for the long-term.”

It’s been a difficult year on all kinds of fronts, and many of us have faced challenges we could never have expected. But Read says positive experiences may be around the corner.

“Humans are very capable of finding new ways of thinking,” she says. “This requires challenging the status quo, questioning our fixed beliefs and coming up with new ways of doing things.

“By doing this, you can reflect and grow and adapt in your personal and professional life.”

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published December 2020.

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