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One thing is for sure, we will always remember the year 2020. In January, we were excited about starting the next decade of our lives; and by April we were ready for it to be over. However, we’ve learned some very valuable lessons during this season of the pandemic, political polarization and calls for social justice by almost every corner of our nation. Now that it’s mid-December, we have a mixture of both hope and dread for 2021. Here’s our list of the top five things we’ve learned in 2020.

Working Remotely

Work From Home GIF by Robert E Blackmon

As a person of the “Gen X” age bracket, I do recall hearing about working remotely as far back as the late 80s as a “futuristic” trend much like the Jetsons calling people via a large TV screen. In the mid-90s, as the internet began to take off, it had been whispered at water coolers, and by the “dot com” boom of 1997-2001 we thought within five years everyone who worked in front of a screen (roughly 50% of the US workforce today) would be working from home.

Managers everywhere tried to delay telecommuting as long as possible because they felt workers wouldn’t actually get anything done. Boy, were they wrong!

Fast forward to March of this year. If you managed to keep your desk job, you were probably working from home for at least a month, but probably closer to three months. And the positive statistics are staggering… 77% of remote employees say they’re more productive at home, 80% experience less work-related stress, and 75% telecommuters prefer to work remotely because there are fewer distractions.

In any case, it’s looking like working remotely is a positive trend that is here to stay. 74% of companies plan to shift up to 10% of their employees to remote working permanently. So, let’s all raise a cup of coffee, wearing our pajama bottoms and sitting on the couch with our furbaby curled up next to us! We’re getting it done!

Physical & Mental Health have become Priorities

Ponder Episode 7 GIF by Portlandia

Before 2020, most of us took our physical and mental health for granted. I mean, we tried to eat healthy for the most part and get some exercise. Getting together with friends, family and worship were a given, as was sending the kids to school every weekday. In March, those lifestyles became a thing of the past. “15 Days to Flatten the Curve” turned into 30, 60, and 120 days. Eating easy comfort food, drinking alcohol, leading sedentary lifestyles indoors and being unable to get together with loved ones outside of our homes really started to take a toll on Americans’ mental state.

While Zoom and FaceTime has helped a little, one thing we’ve learned about ourselves is how much we depend on real, in-person contact. We were not born to live as hermits in our own little worlds. Depression and anxiety have spiked this year and waiting lists for mental health providers are growing.

This is where technology has, again, become instrumental in getting us through these times. Whether it’s having a Zoom session with a therapist, ordering healthy food for curbside pickup or delivery, or participating in free workouts through many internet subscription services, we’ve learned that we need to make our physical and mental health a big priority, for us and for our families.

Connection, Community & Generosity

couple love GIF

I don’t know about you, but to me, “Alone Together” is such a depressing tagline for this pandemic. Three in five of us have been feeling especially lonely this year, we don’t need a reminder that we’re alone.

Zoom and other technologies have helped here, too. But after a while, seeing the “Muppet Show” or “Brady Bunch” of faces on a screen can still leave us wanting more.

I learned this adage a long time ago: “If you’re feeling down, go do something nice for someone else, and you’ll both feel better.” This is absolutely true and there are literally thousands of stories where it  has been happening nationwide; ordinary people have really stepped up to help others with everyday tasks, wellness checks on their neighbors and, of course, loads of charitable giving.

When we’re under pressure and unhappy, many of us will even take on extra pressure to assist others.

The Myth of “Non-Essential” Workers & Businesses

season 1 diner GIF by Twin Peaks on Showtime

As lockdowns were put in place, unemployment went through the roof last March, April and May. Many businesses and employees panicked as local establishments were closed and workers laid off or furloughed. It was a long three months…

The arbitrary classifying of which businesses and workers are deemed “essential” was one of the greatest mistakes of the year.

As shown in this video, it takes a wide scope of businesses and workers to even produce something as simple as a pencil, not to mention all of the businesses that serve to support those businesses and workers, like restaurants and shoe stores.

Every single employee and small business owner’s work is essential for their livelihoods. We’ve all heard “necessity is the mother of invention.” And this pandemic sparked innovation in business that we haven’t seen in decades. We saw salon owners, fitness facilities, restaurants, grocery stores and many others successfully adjust their business models to accommodate the pandemic mandates.

Business Growth and Trends for 2021

Happy New Year GIF by Matthew Butler

In 2020, our world changed permanently. There is a “new normal” upon us, and some of it isn’t so bad.

Many businesses have thrived through the pandemic and some didn’t make it. I believe this is due to the ability (or inability) of executives and owners to create new ways of serving customers. For example, several manufacturing giants shifted gears to accommodate the healthcare industry during the peaks of the virus. Many distilleries had part of their business dedicated to producing hand sanitizer.

Here’s a few other trends coming out of 2020:

  • Working remotely is definitely here to stay and is fast becoming a perk to attract candidates.
  • AI is at the point in its development that it can automate lower-level tasks. This frees employees to focus on higher-level projects.
  • All workers are essential. Period.
  • Companies should consider having an additional purpose other than a large bottom line; shifting their focus from global to local in order to serve the immediate community nearby if need be.
  • Social media and advertising engagement to customers has more authenticity and transparency than ever.

At FirstOption, our primary Core Value has always been “Helping people build better lives, one at a time.” Whether it’s helping a candidate find their next job or a client who has an open position to fill, our “Do whatever it takes” attitude will solve your toughest hiring challenges. Contact us today to find out how we can help make your life better! 

Written by FirstOption’s Robin Finnell,
Marketing & Communications Specialist.