2021 – The year that changes everything?

January 7, 2021

By Liza Robbins.

We’ve got used to thinking of 2020 as ‘the year that changed everything’.

I think that may be wrong…

…And that it will probably be 2021 that changes the world.

I’ll explain why in a minute. But first, let’s take a step back.

One of the most interesting things about heading an organisation like Kreston is that you get a truly global perspective.

Here in the UK, our Coronavirus crisis is deeper than ever. The country is under strict lockdown. Schools are largely closed. Hospitals are reaching capacity and both infection rate and deaths are going up, up, up.

It’s a similarly alarming situation in most European countries and parts of North America.

But that’s not the situation everywhere.

I interact every day with colleagues in China, Australia and elsewhere, whose situation is far better. In some cases they’re leading almost ‘normal’ lives.

They are bemused when I say we’re still working from home or unable to go to a restaurant. For them, in many cases, that’s a thing of the past.

I love those conversations. They give me hope that this virus can be defeated and that it is only a matter of time before lockdowns come to an end – everywhere.

Wherever you are in the world, it’s vital that we enter 2021 with that sense of optimism.

It’s true that in many places, things might get worse before they get better. Infections and hospitalisations may still rise for several months. And the economy is rocky almost everywhere.

But the vaccine is already being rolled out, and there are now examples of countries where COVID seems to be under control. Better times lie ahead.

My hope is that we’ll come out of this crisis stronger – as individuals, as firms and as a network.

But we cannot take that for granted.

You see, we face a choice.

As we emerge from the Coronavirus crisis, we can slide back into “normality” – reverting back to all the same old habits and ways of living and working, without much thought.

It’s a very tempting option! I know many people who can’t wait to pick up exactly where they left off 10 months ago.

Or we can exit this crisis more thoughtfully, rethinking our lives, values and priorities after this enormous upheaval.

So, for example, this is a good opportunity to confirm that our firms have a clear purpose, and that we’re doing work which is meaningful.

After so many difficult months, we need to ensure our working life brings us joy.

We can make sure that we’re operating as efficiently as possible, carefully considering our organisational structures and systems as we return to the office. We’ve learned to keep leaner organisations – can we take this any further?

And we can keep the best of what we’ve implemented during Coronavirus, for example conducting more meetings over Teams or Zoom rather than flying frequently, or giving staff more flexible working options.

The key is that “pivoting” isn’t just for the Coronavirus era.

There’s no time to relax as the virus recedes. To continue moving forward, we need to continue evolving ourselves and our businesses even when the crisis is over.

In many ways it’s the ideal time to do it, because we’ll have more time to think about our futures without the pressure of a global healthcare crisis.

That’s why I consider 2021 more definitive for our futures, in some ways, than 2020.

It’s the year when we’ll see whether our ability to “think outside the box” and “be agile” have become a permanent part of our makeup – or whether it was just a temporary response to an emergency.

It’s the year when we’ll see whether any lessons of the Coronavirus era actually stick.

In short, we can all be hopeful that 2021 will be a vast improvement on 2020.

But that’s a pretty low bar to cross…

And it’s in our power to make it far more than that – a year that really does change everything.

Let’s do it!