I think it is fair to say that 2020 did not go to plan. We all had our 20:20 visions lined up ready to go until the brakes were firmly applied on the 23rd of March.
The entire population of the country affected in one foul swoop. It has been said that “we have all been in the same storm, but in different boats”. That has been true enough, the impact of COVID-19, the lockdown, the disruption to business has disproportionately affect some more than others.
We have seen rises in domestic violence, there is widening of disadvantage experienced by working women, both from being traditionally being employed in the lower paid roles, such as hospitality, most affected but also as having to take on home education and additional caring roles for family members.
We saw the Black Lives Matter movement come to the front following the shocking death of George Floyd on 25th May and the huge uprising in feelings surrounding racial prejudice and discrimination coupled with the injustices of Windrush and the continued legacy of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.
Businesses became hyperaware of the need to focus on their people. We saw a rush of hiring going on in the Diversity and Inclusion space, and an uptake of initiatives over the summer.
Where are many of these initiatives now?
Were businesses just being performative, carrying out the bare minimum for hygiene and compliance without “unpacking the storeroom” looking for the nasty smell still emanating from there. We saw many organisations putting out anti-racism statements without truly putting their house in order and they were caught out.
We learnt about the importance of being authentic, and to be able to demonstrate through actions beyond the words.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have come to understand the need to be person centric, to reach out to each of our employees, at all levels, to check in and make sure they are ok.
We recognised that our people’s mental health could be affected by the extreme pressures and anxieties of furlough, job losses, and business performance turndown
I sincerely hope that these lessons have well and truly been learnt. That business continue their commitment to their people, because it’s not over yet.
Even with the greatest level of optimism, the impact of the pandemic will last for many more months, and will have a legacy lasting years. How can we continue to support our teams, keep focused on individuals and recognise the challenges people have is often unique to their own circumstances?
When we come out of lockdown, return to our offices we know it will not be the same. Will we take what we have learnt, or will we be intent on trying to put things back as they were.
I for one hope, that we take the best of before and blend it with the lessons of 2020 to enter into 2021 with authentic optimism and to ensure that we put the needs of our people dead centre in our thoughts and continue to foster a culture of inclusion and belonging for all.
Joanne Lockwood, SEE Change Happen
Originally published in the Herald, Scotland