5 Lessons To Take Into 2022

5 Lessons To Take Into 2022

Work culture is going through a major shift with both managers and teams getting more and more comfortable with remote working, ushering in an era of flexi and gig working.


We are nearing the end of 2021 – an eventful year that is filled with lessons, resilience, and bounce-backs. Often, I think over my biggest learnings in this eventful year. Professionally, this has been a great year for me. I have had the fortune of delivering some good work and value for my organisation. As I look back at the past 11 months, I am filled with gratitude because I am acutely aware of the fact that many people lost their livelihoods during the pandemic and some are yet struggling to get their professional lives back on track.


Globally, the economic crisis caused by the pandemic has rendered millions unemployed. According to Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organisation (ILO), the economy has gone backwards big time. He says, “Working poverty is back to 2015 levels; that means that when the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was set, we’re back to the starting line.”


 In India, the unemployment rate had peaked to 20.9% in Q2 of 2020 which is more than double the rate as the year before. By December 2020, it had reduced to 10.3% and further to 6.9% in September 2021. There is clearly an upward trend in India and this is great news.


Almost 5 million lives were lost worldwide during the pandemic with almost half a million in India. New cases are reported daily although the number of casualties has reduced significantly. It is assumed that with increased vaccinations new infections will reduce bringing some stability and normalcy in our lives.


After a roller-coaster ride of sorts, with economies starting to bounce back and countries picking up the pieces, what are some of the lessons of 2021? What did 2021 teach us?


Here are my top 5 learnings:


1. Organisations have a heart


 During the pandemic, there were many organisations that did not lay off employees. Even though the business suffered and revenues were down, many companies allowed their staff to continue on their payroll. While they may have resorted to reducing salaries or held back hiring of new members, they resisted the urge to lay-off employees despite the financial pressures by bringing in efficiencies, reducing overheads and delaying increments to the year after.


That says a lot about these organisations. Almost all of them organised fully-paid vaccination drives for their staff and their family members at a time when vaccines were priced between 1500 to 1800 Rupees per shot. To me, this is a great example of empathy and compassion in a world which is often accused of being heartless and cut-throat.


2. It is possible to be productive from home


I think the biggest discovery of the pandemic has been that it is possible to be as effective and productive from home as it is from the office. Everyone discovered the art of collaborating remotely, managing teams, clients and people dynamics effectively from home. This was by far the most important lesson and change that came about during the lockdown. Working from home is no longer frowned upon, and in fact, has influenced the culture of hybrid working. Several tech companies continue to allow their employees to work from home even beyond 2021, while others are transitioning into a hybrid working environment. This is a clear indication that the work culture is going through a major shift with both managers and teams getting more and more comfortable with remote working, ushering in an era of flexi and gig working.


3. Health is wealth


Amidst the pandemic, especially during the second wave, almost everyone lost a family member or a friend to COVID-19. The vulnerability of the healthcare system and our unpreparedness was exposed with thousands of people deprived of the basic care and treatment that is expected from the authorities at a time like this. It is well known and understood that the ones who did not survive were either the elderly or people with comorbidities and in many cases, young and apparently healthy people with sedentary lifestyles and poor fitness levels.


The significance of staying healthy and fit has never been felt more acutely than now. Healthy people who know how to manage stress and stay positive have been successful in keeping the disease at bay. Organisations are doing their bit in helping employees meet their fitness goals by introducing EAP programmes, emphasising on mental health along with physical fitness. They have introduced measures such as ‘no-zoom’ Fridays, flexibility in working hours, and more.


4. Be prepared for uncertainties


Save-up! With so many people losing their livelihoods and having to dig into their savings, it shows how critical it is to ‘save up’ for unexpected events like these. In a country like India where there is no social security to fall back on, there is a strong culture of saving and investing for the future. This is not exactly the case with millennials and newer generations who believe in living in the moment and making the most of the present.


Perhaps this was a wake-up call for all those who were caught unawares and found themselves with no savings to fall back on. I am completely for ‘living the present moment fully’ but being prepared for the future is no longer an option, and is in fact, a necessity. My personal mantra is that at any point you should have at least a year’s salary as emergency funds over and above the money you set aside for investments and retirement planning.


5. Never stop learning


The slowdown in the economy led many organisations to restructure their business models and teams, leading to, in many cases, the layoff of people with skills no longer needed or relevant to the new business demands. Many found themselves not only outof-a-job but also without newage skills that were needed for futuristic organisations. The need for continuous learning and upskilling has come out very strongly, both for employees and organisations, especially in an environment where technology is developing rapidly. Skills and business models are quickly being replaced with new ones. However, the time taken for organisations to adapt is significantly slower. Many have strengthened their in-house learning systems and invested heavily in making relevant skills available to their staff internally. Digital learning has also made it easy for people to acquire new skills without having to get up from their seats. The need to stay relevant and move with times is more important now than ever. As we enter 2022, here’s hoping for a better new year full of growth, progress, stability and good health. Let us continue to be resilient and believe in the India growth story. Best wishes for the new year!

Vandana C Tilwani is currently the CHRO at Havas Group India. At the group level, her support extends to all the agencies that operate in the country. With over 20 years of experience in diverse roles and industries, Vandana has successfully led the HR function and large teams in several multinational organisations like GroupM, Hilton, Conde Nast, WNS and more in driving strategic objectives.


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