It’s December. In a normal year, we would be speeding through a jam-packed holiday season. Parties, family traditions, shopping, and celebrating would consume our days and nights. We’d carve out a bit of time to reflect on the lessons learned in the past 11 months and we’d be looking forward to what the new year might bring. But it’s 2020, the year we’d all like to forget. While I eagerly look forward to shutting the door on 2020, I’m beginning to understand this year has offered key lessons that are worth remembering.
Hello Home Office
Like the rest of the world, EVG went from sharing congenial office space to remote work in the space of one day. While our company has offered us the option of working from home two days a week for several years now, I chose to stay in the office. When our leadership made the call to decamp from our office, I didn’t look forward to establishing a new routine. Let’s face it, old dogs don’t like learning new tricks, but given enough incentive, we will. Because we all had the tools required to do our jobs on our laptops, we didn’t miss a step in serving our clients. And I must admit, the commute time and flexibility of working from my living room has become an absolute blessing!
One of the reasons this has worked is the care and attention we intentionally pay to one another thanks to our digital tools. This is a strategy modeled and embraced by our senior leadership team. We may no longer run out for a fancy coffee or hit the local taco restaurant for lunch, but we’re messaging one another daily to share silly jokes, check in on one another, and give a heads up when we’re going offline for a mental health break.
The Digital Divide
Shopping for holiday gifts and necessities for a new home has been a personal challenge for me during the pandemic. It’s brought home a pivotal lesson small businesses can’t ignore: relying solely on a brick-and-mortar strategy in 2021 is a foolish strategy. In September, Yelp estimated 163,735 U.S. businesses had closed, and of those, Yelp estimated 97,966 of those would not reopen. This pandemic has highlighted the necessity of having a viable digital strategy for every type of business, no matter what type it is.
A regional arts and crafts gallery I like has an excellent Instagram account. High-quality photography, on-point commentary about the works, and smart hashtag use has helped this shop grow its audience. But the business doesn’t have an e-commerce site, and the shop owner chooses not to list the price for the showcased works of art. If you want to buy what you see, you must physically visit the store, a motif she repeats regularly in her posts. Instead, I have sought out and chosen to shop online from businesses that understand the necessity of even a simple e-Commerce site.
Reimagining the Possible
This year has imposed new ways of seeing and doing on everyone, but it’s most apparent if you’re the parent of a school-age child or interested in the arts. Thousands of schools, museums, theatres, and other institutions have been forced to close and shift to the digital realm in order to engage with their audience. Inventive artists have transformed how they present their work by choosing living room concerts, outdoor performances, and 3D video. Teachers have adapted to new methodologies and technology in order to teach students in and out of the classroom, often simultaneously. Crash courses in how to effectively use technology were only part of the solution. Educators from elementary schools to colleges have worked with their leadership to find solutions that work. Adapting, adopting, and innovating has become the norm; while we might mourn for the shared experience of being in a theater, attending an exhibit, or going to class, we’ve also benefited from new ways of seeing and doing.
Shared Experiences = Common Bonds
As a Baby Boomer intent on working well past the age of retirement, I’ve found the ability to work from home invigorating. It’s also given me a common bond with the work-from-anywhere generation of Millennials. As they begin to impact the workplace and set the policies for the future, I’m more confident there will be a place for me. I’m thankful for that because 2020 has led to a greater divide in our society. Our time spent at home has isolated us and fueled the “us vs. them” mentality. 2020 has shone a spotlight on what separates us. Finding even a little common ground gives me hope we can come together to tackle bigger and more difficult questions ahead.
So while this year hasn’t been an easy one, it has had its moments. I’ll be happy to raise a toast to its departure as I welcome 2021. I hope you’ll find a reason to celebrate what you’ve learned, and what you have to look forward to in the New Year. Maybe we’ll have the opportunity to work together!
Kathleen Gossman – Senior Account Manager