As we come to the end of 2020 it is a time to reflect on what has certainly been a challenging year. The impact of Covid on our health, finances, workplaces, and social interactions has been undoubtedly huge. For many, it has negatively influenced their mental health but it has also been a time of renewal, a refocusing on the essence of life and work- what is important. Therefore I want to focus on what we have learned this year, how we can pause and reflect, and embrace change in 2021.
The workplace for many this year has changed out of all recognition and although this has led to many challenges, on a positive note the authenticity we are now seeing in the workplace is the beginning of real culture change. Colleagues, managers, and leaders are being seen as also human beings with a life outside work, impossible not to see this with children, pets, and IT glitches being a daily Zoom or teams occurrence. Alongside this the collective challenge of the pandemic has seen many more companies discussing the impact on our mental health, how they can support employee wellbeing and importantly leaders showing their vulnerability. This is just the start but from my conversations with employers, there is a desire to engage in mental health conversations and think outside the box to support wellbeing and change outdated working practices.
Flexibility within the workplace with continued working from home especially for those with children or caring responsibilities can be a double-edged sword. The concern is the erosion of downtime, the ability to say no to last minute deadlines, and blurring of work/home boundaries. Individuals and organisations both have a role to play here in designing new ways of working that allow trust and autonomy whilst ensuring a workload that does not encroach on an individual's home life. Our brains and bodies need time to process, relax and recover if we are to avoid long term impacts of stress, and living in a 24-hour work society is not always conducive to this, therefore clear boundaries are essential. It will be interesting to see next year the innovative ways companies adapt to the changing workplace, and how they ensure wellbeing is at the heart of these changes.
Outside of the workplace, I have been heartened to see the increase in awareness of the importance of nature for our mental health. We have seen research developing regarding the positive impact of spending time outside each day and some GP’s using social prescribing to prescribe nature groups such as walking, mindfulness, gardening to support mental and physical health conditions. As little as 15 minutes per day outside in green space can have an impact on depression and anxiety. I hope 2021 will see more funding for projects that utilise nature for wellbeing and a redoubling of efforts to protect our parks and green spaces.
The end of any year but especially the year we have all experienced is a perfect opportunity to reflect. I guess for many of us things we had planned professionally or personally, didn’t happen this year but what did you learn about how you responded to these challenges. We learn most about ourselves in difficult situations and it is through this we can change and grow, but only if we allow ourselves time to process and reflect. I like to spend some quiet time journalling, looking at both the positives and the challenges of the year, this helps me see where I have grown and where I can continue to grow. It also helps me to see where I may need support, stronger boundaries, or more self-compassion, for all of us this is a constant journey of self discovery.
It also important to find positives and this year there have been many including not taking our lives for granted, stepping out of autopilot, finding the value in the small things, and connecting more with those who are important in our lives all be it in maybe different ways. Learning through all of this that we have the strength and adaptability to cope.
I hope you find some time over the next few weeks to pause, allow yourself to reflect, and find gratitude. Next year is a new chapter.