A year that defied comprehension

A year that defied comprehension

Here are some of the key career trends we observed during 2021. Istock image

The famous Chinese benediction, “May you live in interesting times” was certainly true in 2021. Covid variants made headlines, caused civil unrest and panic in different parts of the world in different ways. On an individual level, Covid continued to disrupt lives and careers through the year. Here are some of the key career trends we observed during the year.

WFH: The acronym WFH (Work from Home) has become part of our lexicon. Major companies delayed their plans to bring employees back to the office. Curiously, contrary to expectations, productivity did not decline. 

In contrast, workers have been ever more productive. On the positive side, saving travel time and stress has been very beneficial.

However, work has expanded well into the night. The lack of boundaries between work and life has been extremely stressful. Women in particular were overburdened by juggling work duties with childcare and online education. There seems to be no clear solution to this prolonged challenge especially for working moms.  

'The Great Resignation': Many employees are reassessing priorities and choosing to walk away from current jobs. This movement is unprecedented, particularly given high inflation and the uncertain job search environment. However, lack of boundaries between work and life, a sense that better opportunities exist and long-simmering frustrations boiling over, have all contributed to this movement. 

Zoom fatigue: Meetings, conferences and 1:1s with managers have moved exclusively online. Collaboration tools like Zoom, Teams, Skype and Slack are essential. Funnily enough, the most used business phrase of 2021 was “I think you are on mute”!

What will 2022 bring?

In short – more uncertainty. As Covid variants keep popping up, companies are having to adjust. While a hybrid work setup is certain, the details are quite hazy. Companies have moved away from firm dates to vague guidelines. In this scenario, what skills do you need to thrive in this new normal?

Understand your companies’ key priorities: In the absence of in-person all hands meetings and other forums, it is up to the individual to understand the key priorities of senior leadership. Consume every piece of information that your company releases – annual reports, press releases, website and intranet documents.

If the opportunity exists, speak with your managers about key priorities. To the extent possible try to get on projects that are aligned with the key priorities of your company.

Communicate well and often: People with good communication skills are always in demand. WFH and online meetings have amped up the need for good communication. A few key tips include:

Be clear and concise in communications (long and meandering emails are easy to ignore). Remember BLUF (bottom line up-front).

Assume positive intent: Lack of non-verbal cues make it tricky to understand context in emails and texts. Reach out to colleagues to clarify requests or feedback. Likewise provide context for your comments and requests.

Live up to your commitments and timelines: Take commitments very seriously and communicate any anticipated delays. When flagging issues and problems try and also identify alternate solutions so that you are seen as a problem-solver.

How do you become a good communicator — practice, practice, practice. Try to hone your writing and seek feedback on your online presentations. 

Foster team cohesion: Take the time to get to know your teammates — their priorities and concerns. Remember to give before you get. 

Promotions: While it is true that proximity to managers can lead to improved chances for promotion, a remote working environment means that everyone is on the same level. Make sure that you are well prepared for your 1:1 with your manager. Be professional, cooperative and reliable.

Another significant development that we foresee is the opening up of unprecedented opportunities for knowledge workers. Since most people are working remotely, geography is no longer destiny. You can potentially seek out your dream job on a global level. In order to succeed on this front, you will need to develop rare and valuable skills that the marketplace prizes.

Times of churn are difficult; but can sometimes throw up a new way of working and living. Previous cataclysmic global events have led to great changes in social and economic spheres. It is our hope that the “interesting times” of 2022 will be positive and beneficial to you. 

(Venkatesh Raghavendra is a global social entrepreneur. Sonali Shetty is a Tech entrepreneur and an adjunct faculty for Innovation.)

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