Last year, when I wrote our firm’s New Year’s Day blog, there were 20 million cases of Covid-19 and 350,000 deaths in the US. Companies resumed hiring as they settled into a new remote working and hiring environment. Vaccines were in limited supply and a struggle to get, but many of us saw them as a magic bullet for returning to our pre-Covid lives. We had elected a new president who was soon to take office in a bitterly divided country.
Fast forward to today: as I write this on January 1, 2022, anyone who wants a vaccine can get one for free, and for a brief period last year, infection rates declined. Companies had given the OK for employees to return to the office, and some actually had, if only for a few days a week.
The stock market and economy are booming. Because of Covid-19, and reliance on offshore manufacturing, and just-in-time inventory management, there are still supply chain problems and a shortage of many manufactured items, although thankfully, those no longer include toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Today it is do-it-yourself Covid-19 test kits.
Employee and leadership turnover is rampant. There is a huge demand for talent at all levels. We jokingly say that if someone has a bad Monday, they can be working somewhere else by Friday. Many people have left their employers because of mental health issues—stress, depression, and burnout being the most frequently mentioned. As a result, corporate America is developing programs to support the mental health of its employees. While we are looking for the gifts of 2021, let’s not overlook the call for diversity that is increasingly coupled with actions that will hopefully have a long-term impact.
Yet despite our hopes, Covid-19 and its mutating variants are still raging, with Omicron, today’s variant, being more infectious, evading some vaccines, and resisting most monoclonal antibody treatments. Today, total cases in the United States number 53 million, with 820,000 deaths.
It feels like the world is about to hit the proverbial pause button once again.
And Here We Go —2022
Now what? We have some incredibly wise and thoughtful clients, so we asked them. We found a few at their desks this holiday week who offered their thoughts and advice for the coming year.
1. Returning to normalcy is a long-term and possibly unrealistic goal. One thing 2021 taught us is that this pandemic is unpredictable, and no one knows when or if life will return to what it once was. Many years ago, some of us (who are older) expected a day where we would no longer have to go through x-ray detectors at airports. Obviously, that did not happen. We simply do not know what post-Covid normal will look like, and we will have to adapt to more uncertainty than we have ever experienced in our lifetime.
2. Assess. There is no better time than the New Year to evaluate, reflect and assess your career and life. What is working in your life, personally and professionally? Are you still learning and growing? Does your work give you joy, positive relationships and allow you to have an impact? What goals do you have, and are you closer to them than last year?
3. Seize the Day. We have seen how fragile life is and how it can change in an instant. After assessing your life personally and professionally, ask yourself what you would do if there was no pandemic? Would you make a job change? Take a bucket list vacation? We hear many people say, “When the pandemic is over, I will . . .” Many of our clients advise to not wait for the pandemic to be over but instead see what choices we can make safely today, tomorrow, this year to meet your goals and increase contentment, joy, and happiness.
My husband and I did this last year. We love to travel and promised ourselves the minute Europe opened its doors, we would be there. And we were. We were careful (vaccinated and boosted), and while visiting the Dolomites in Italy was not risk-free, we felt reasonably safe and are so grateful that we went.
4. Flexibility is an important trait to nurture and develop. If we had polled clients five years ago to name the traits most important for an executive, flexibility would not have been at the top of the list. Today, executives who cannot adapt rapidly to unexpected or changing circumstances are at a distinct disadvantage. Many of the searches we have conducted in the past year specifically call for leaders who can make decisions decisively in periods of rapid change.
5. Give. Each year we write about the joy of giving. It is more than just giving to a charity, although that is, of course, important. This year, for our firm’s holiday card, we donated to each of our employee’s favorite charities and asked our employees to film their designation for our holiday card. It was great fun to share our pet (pun intended) charities with each other and laugh about our attempts to film with kids and pets.
One client talked about giving attention and time to friends, family, and the people who work to make our lives better. Another client agreed and said he has become increasingly conscious of the healthcare, retail, and restaurant workers who work—often anonymously—to take care of our health, bag our groceries, and prepare and deliver our food. “Looking them in the eye and saying, ‘thank you’ brightens my day and makes me feel grateful.”
6. Gratitude. And speaking of gratitude, I believe that gratitude is an emotional muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Undoubtedly, it is much harder to feel gratitude when you are worried about your job, health, family, or amid a crisis. Some days it is hard to feel gratitude, but for many, it has been a lifeboat in a sea of uncertainty. So, look at a majestic sunset, the special people in your life, your pet, and be grateful.