Is it ok to fondly farewell 2020? Why I have learned more this year than any other.
I’ve never wished a year to end like I have for 2020, but for all the loss, the separation from each other and the challenges, I can’t suppress a certain buoyancy.
This year, rather than drag myself and my business over the line in the last weeks before our Christmas shutdown, I have felt pangs of gratitude that we are completing the year intact – as individuals, who have surprised ourselves by our own resilience; as a family, which has laughed, cried, cheered and argued its’ way through multiple milestones; and as a business.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The adversity and millions of tragedies that have occurred in 2020 are unequivocally terrible. My heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones, who have been ill, and others who have lost jobs, families and been pushed to the edge of their sanity with lockdowns and loss.
In Australia, we have suffered a lot less than the rest of the world, but the scale of the epidemic has given me pause to take an extra minute to sanitise my hands, to work from home if I feel sick to protect my colleagues and to value most days a little more.
There are many things that many of us will have learned. Missing family and friends more deeply when we can’t give them a hug. Becoming adept at Zoom through repeated use, but hating it at the same time. How to put a face mask on with one hand, while simultaneously sanitising a trolley using only the one wipe allowed, making a mental list of what I need for dinner and corralling two toddlers all at once when I get to the supermarket.
But there are a few other lessons that I haven’t heard much noise about, so I’ll jot them down for both our sakes, in the hope that I’ll remember them when the office amps up again in January.
Job vacancies may be down overall, but there is a big surge in demand for Indigenous staff. No marketing puff here. We have had to double the size of our staff in the past three months to keep up with demand, and the new Indigenous jobs board on our website is blossoming with work opportunities across the country. If you are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and want to move into your next job in 2021, there are more jobs and a wider range of job opportunities than we have seen in many years.
Adapting your business to changes in the market isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s critical to thriving. Pruning away those services that are wonderful but not in demand, and recruiting staff to enable you to deliver services that businesses want has been critical for us this year. There is no doubt that we had sleepless nights, wondering how we could ensure our business would survive, like the rest of Australia – but being forced to adapt and then successfully making that leap has increased our confidence and also our capabilities.
The economic wasteland of 2020 wasn’t about tightening our belts a notch; it was about throwing all the ballast out of the hot air balloon so that we could stay in the air. Late nights staring at the balance sheet are never fun, but the upside of the financial trauma we went through is that I know that literally every dollar we now spend is for the good of the business. We are in a lot healthier position as a result.
It’s no longer cool to soldier on by coming to the office when you’re sick. The losses and restrictions of 2020 have made me reflect on the people I most miss and how I will make sure I spend more time with them in 2021. Working longer hours and travelling more miles was never going to help during 2020 – it was all about working smarter and monitoring my own mental and physical wellbeing so that I could keep giving what I could to my family, my community and my business. I want to work out how to keep hold of that in 2021, not just for myself, but for my business.
Hopefully we all can share our lessons as the holidays approach, to prepare ourselves for a stronger and smarter 2021.
Wishing you and your families a safe, rejuvenating and joy-filled Christmas and New Year.