by Ashley Blas
On December 31, 2019 at 11:59 p.m., my friends and I stood in front of Seattle’s Space Needle and started counting down the seconds leading into the new year. We were all waiting to enjoy the spectacular fireworks show at midnight but were seriously disappointed when it was cancelled due to unsafe wind speeds. In retrospect, I think that was the first bad omen foreseeing the year to come.
Nobody could have predicted all that happened in 2020. Sometimes I can't even believe it myself. Luckily for us, the year is has come to a close, and while there are plenty of things we will be leaving behind in 2020, here are four things that we should bring forward into 2021 and beyond.
1. Embracing the virtual work environment
Earlier this year, businesses were forced to quickly adapt to an all-virtual workplace. Many of us were tasked with creating makeshift offices in our bedrooms, living rooms and even garages. Here I am at my first job in a public relations firm and I too am working 3,000 miles away – remotely. But by this time next year, we will all be on our long commutes back to the physical office…or will we? My hope for 2021 and beyond is that businesses will be more flexible with allowing their employees to work virtually or with a hybrid workweek. For many people, including myself, working virtually has been more beneficial and more productive than working in a physical office. After this year, businesses will already have the technological infrastructure to support a virtual workplace and it would be a shame to let this opportunity go to waste. Allowing workers to choose a virtual or in-office workplace takes into consideration employees' personal situations, creates more worker autonomy, encourages a safer work environment and, in turn, produces a higher level of productivity.
2. Thanking essential workers
From managing crowds of pandemic shoppers to dealing with people refusing to wear masks, essential workers have risked their health and the health and safety of their families in order to keep shelves stocked, people fed and society running. When a COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed and we try our best to put this year behind us, we shouldn't forget everything essential workers have done and will continue to do keep our society functioning.
3. Embracing online interactive campaigns
Thanks to streaming platforms like IG Live, Facebook Live and Twitch, businesses are more connected to consumers than ever before. Online interactive campaigns are an effortless way for businesses to connect with an audience real-time and encourage two-way communication while promoting their brand’s products or messaging. For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently held a live Twitch stream while playing the popular game “Among Us” to encourage more young people to vote. These types of campaigns were already gaining popularity among public relations and marketing firms in an effort to attract younger audiences, but soon became the “go-to solution” once in-person events were cancelled due to COVID-19. In the future, I hope businesses will continue to use online interactive platforms in their campaign plans because they not only promote open communication between a brand and its consumers, but also encourage transparency and accountability within the company.
4. Higher standard of cleanliness
With plastic shields and hand sanitizer at every cash register in every store, public health and safety has never been taken more seriously. My fourth hope for 2021 and beyond the pandemic is that individuals will continue to wear masks if they are sick or have been exposed to someone who is sick. We've all gotten that nervous feeling when we hear coughing in the store and that feeling won't go away just because COVID-19 is gone. We also shouldn’t forget the flu, for example, that comes and goes every fall and winter. As a society, we should continue to practice healthy habits that reduce the exposure of sickness to ourselves and others.
2020 will undoubtedly be a long and complex chapter in the history books. But as the year comes to a close, now is the time to look back at what we did (or didn't do), how we reacted and how we are going to change for the better.