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2020: A year in review

2020: A year in review

As we look back on 2020, the ravaging impact of COVID-19 has left an indelible mark on our family dynamics, workplace arrangements, and our social life. Perhaps most obviously, workplace transformations have been at the forefront of our new normal. This is especially so since most individuals in the workforce spend approximately 50% of their waking hours at work.1 In this article, some of our readers weigh in on the three key changes in the workplace this year.

Figure 1: Responses from a poll conducted by Intellect on “One word to describe your 2020”

Adopting remote work

As the COVID-19 virus gained traction in the first quarter of 2020, many companies around the world began adopting remote working arrangements. This was largely motivated by the need to adhere to social distancing regulations and to ensure employees’ health and safety.2 Throughout the year, many have debated the pros and cons of remote work. Common downsides include the blurring of the line between work and private life, especially for those who do not have access to alternative working environment.3

For parents with young children or individuals with caregiving duties, the additional domestic demands have also increased the stress and workload for these employees.3 Upsides to remote work include time saved on the commute and, consequently, increased productivity.4 Certainly, the benefits of remote working differ from context to context. Despite that, findings from a poll of some of our readers suggest that many presently enjoy working from home.

Figure 2. Responses from a poll conducted by Intellect on "How much do you enjoy working from home?"

It appears that, for now, this is potentially reflective of market sentiment as more companies offer flexible working hours.5 Employees have reported that flexible working hours have allowed them to better juggle between work and domestic demands, which encouraged better work-life balance and increased productivity.6

Accelerated digital transformation

The move to remote working en masse was sudden, and the digital transformation of workplaces was forced to accelerate.7 Gone are the days of face-to-face meetings and official documents requiring physical copies and signatures, and instead, companies adopted video conferencing technology and authorise official documents electronically. These technological advancements have allowed savings on employees’ time and money spent on transportation, as well as organisational running costs.6

Increased importance placed on workplace mental health

Multiple studies have suggested that the severity of the virus and its consequent uncertainties, has left many experiencing psychological distress, anxiety, and depression.8 Coupled with stress stemming from having to adjust to new norms in the workplace, this has accounted for increased risks to employees’ mental health and wellbeing.3

In response, organisational leaders have begun paying closer attention to employees’ wellbeing – whether employees feel supported, both mentally and physically – as well as an increased focus on building empathy and effective communication within the organisation.9 In a quick poll of some of our readers, we found that 75% of them observed an increase in the importance their organisation placed on employees’ mental wellbeing, citing virtual mental wellness talks and courses and dedicated mental health hotlines as common initiatives.

2020 has been an eventful year for the world. Life as we know it to be changed at an unprecedented rate and the transition was undoubtedly a challenge for many. If anything, we should take the workplace challenges that we have overcome, and the resilience we have demonstrated as a badge of honor for making it through 2020.

By Pei Qi