Encouraging and practising flexible work, investing in online wellness resources, rethinking the conventional ways, a shift away from the office mentality, and more; here's what the first in a series of five articles on learnings from 2020 uncovered.

2020 has been an unprecedented year. The COVID-19 pandemic caused global lockdowns, forcing us to reinvent the way we approach business and work, accelerating digital transformations, and pushing health, wellbeing, and safety to the foreground.

As we enter 2021, to help set the tone moving forward, the team at HRO wanted to put together the key people-related learnings HR and business leaders have gained from their experiences during those unprecedented times.

In line with that, we reached out to about 20 leaders across Asia Pacific to find out the three to four things they've learnt from 2020. The learnings will be featured in a series of five articles over the next two weeks, marked as 2020 recap.

Sarah Gatehouse, Head of People and Culture, Fujitsu General Australia

Rather than three top learnings, I'm glad Fujitsu General was already good at the following:

  1. Encouraging and practising flexible work and a supportive environment with high communication levels
  2. Conducting communication, resilience, well being, and change management training
  3. Keeping our talent; you need them as things change quickly. Engage and retain to avoid post-COVID-19 recruitment shifts
  4. Having a strong emergency or leadership team to navigate the journey.

June Chui, HR Director, Asia Pacific & Japan, Pure Storage

Mental well-being becomes even more critical: While Pure was already investing in online wellness resources even prior to the pandemic, these became critical tools for many of our colleagues once remote working and lockdowns started kicking in. Everyone’s challenges and coping mechanisms are unique, and in a year where many new and unforeseen difficulties have emerged, access to learning and activities, both professional and recreational have been an effective support system.

The value of differentiation for a diverse workforce: Differentiation is set to be a key trend for employee engagement as wellness takes on different meanings for different people. Not everyone has taken to remote working the same way, with some lacking a conducive work-from-home environment while others have experienced fatigue around online meetings. Moving into 2021, an extremely broad approach to designing work experiences is needed to support the diversity in our workforce while keeping everyone safe.

Judit Hordai, Head of Human Resources, foodpanda Singapore

Being a huge star wars fan, I will have to cite a quote from Yoda to summarise what this 2020's guiding principle has been for the people team at foodpanda Singapore: “you must unlearn what you have learnt”.

When the pandemic hit, we had to make major, transformative decisions, and make them fast, so that our pandas could transition to remote working with the least disruptions. As a team, we also needed to rethink the conventional ways of managing employees.

Creativity became a useful trait to have as we conceptualised strategies and ideas to ensure that employees remain healthy, engaged, and motivated even as we were working from home. To foster team bonding, for example, we came up with various virtual social activities such as Pictionary, quizzes, and even a murder mystery escape room game that people could solve as a group, without being physically together!

Fun activations aside, the pandemic has also reminded us of a fundamental must-have in people management, and that is compassion. The crisis has taught us that compassion has to come above cost, and is what we truly need to tide us over this unprecedented time.

We are happy to know that our pandas have felt taken care of during this time of uncertainty, as shown by our recent certification of being a “Great Place to Work”. 2021 will no doubt bring its own set of challenges, but definitely an exciting year as we ascertain what the new normal of work entails.

Darren Murph, Head of Remote, GitLab

In 2020, tens of millions of people globally experienced a seismic shift in work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many companies emerging as hybrid-remote companies.

We expect remote work to continue democratising the conversation on workplace flexibility, benefiting those who need it most and would be least comfortable asking for it.

In 2021, we will see greater momentum from the significant shift away from the office mentality. Remote will no longer be considered the future of work - it’s the future of living.

The average digital worker will reconsider where they want to live and how to optimise their work-life integration due to greater autonomy and flexibility. Remote will become the new Tier-1 job filter. The best talent won't apply if workplace flexibility is not supported up-front and companies slow to adapt will miss out on talent they see as “job hoppers.”

Second and third-order effects will begin to take shape as cities become more liveable due to reduced strain, highway traffic diminishes, and rural depopulation begins to slowly reverse.

Photo / 123RF

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