Ah, 2020. The year that will forever live in infamy, when the entire world pressed paused and braced for the unknown.

A global pandemic, racial and social justice disturbances, and a tumultuous presidential election were only a few of the challenges that were faced in a broader sense this year. Add in individual job losses, personal health crises, juggling remote work and eLearning responsibilities for those who are parents, and a shortage of toilet paper and it seemed like this year would never end. But here we are at the end of the year–and looking back, there were so many lessons learned, as there often are during times of hardship. Let’s take a look at some of the many lessons learned this year, and how they will shape the way we live and work forever.

1. Employees can work remote.

While remote work options were steadily on the rise for many organizations prior to the pandemic, there seemed to be a reluctance to adopt it. A fear of the unknown is always scary, right? When forced into quarantine, nearly overnight, many organizations quickly pivoted to fully remote workplaces and learned that with the right people in your workforce, employees can (and will!) accomplish their daily tasks and so much more. In fact, according to a study we conducted this summer, 39% of employers said their workplace productivity was positively impacted by forced work-from-home arrangements.1 Of course, this option isn’t available for every industry or career type–we also learned that we are forever thankful for workers in healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, retail and more! These essential workers kept the country moving and were the true unsung heroes of the pandemic.

2. Employee mental well-being deserves your attention.

Fear and uncertainty have been aplenty this year and mental well-being has definitely been on the decline, as a result. Unfortunately, many workers have suffered in silence. A recent study found that more than half of employees are afraid to discuss their mental health with their boss2 and with employees unwilling to speak up, it has become the manager’s responsibility to check in and rally the troops–even more so with a remote workforce. Asking your employees if they need anything, encouraging the use of vacation days, and offering mental health benefits and employee assistance programs (EAPs) are all crucial in ensuring not only a productive employee, but a happy and healthy individual.

3. Recruitment looks a little different now.

“Remote work” had a whole new connotation for recruiters whose solely in-person responsibilities were forced virtual early this spring. Sourcing and recruitment turned to online career fairs, interviewing required new virtual platforms to learn, and the business handshake became extinct. But, just as with everything else this year, we learned to adapt and overcome our challenges, and possibly even discovered a new and improved way to build our workforce.

4. OFCCP compliance doesn’t stop during a pandemic.

Despite layoffs, furloughs and overall operational uncertainty, federal contractors learned that it was business as usual for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Not surprisingly (albeit distressingly), federal regulations still apply as they always have, give or take a few concessions, deadline extensions and newly added resources to make things easier–and through it all, DirectEmployers OFCCP compliance solutions were here to help, even adding in scalable job packages along the way!

5. Employee engagement can still be achieved.

Employee engagement is often baked right into company culture, but when entire offices were forced to work from home, managers were tasked with figuring out how to engage with staff from afar. Enter the Zoom Happy Hour, photo contests, online trivia, and all the virtual fun your creative mind could muster! At a time when everything seemed so serious, these became bright spots in the long weeks that all seemed to run together. Eventually, we all learned that engagement is still possible, it just might look a little different.

6. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) are essential.

If it wasn’t already, DE&I quickly moved to the top of the priority list for many organizations. In our study earlier this year, we found that while 94% of employers believe that merely complying with affirmative action regulations is not sufficient in building a diverse workforce, only 67% have dedicated D&I programs.1 Emphasis on not only diversity hiring but also employee resource groups (ERGs) and diversity leadership training programs will be key in the new year. (Want a full look of the additional findings, snag a copy of our 2020 State of the Industry white paper.)

7. We are resilient.

This year we learned a lot. We struggled, we worried, we feared, but we also learned a lot about ourselves and our strength as individuals, and as a society. We spent more time with our families, focused on self-care, and maybe even learned to live with less. We learned that we are resilient and that we can, and will, bounce back from our setbacks and move forward to greater beginnings.

We made it, but we also remember those who did not. Ours hearts go out to those who lost loved ones this year, regardless of cause. There’s a quote going around on social media right now that says, “While I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted, I have found it to be the year I’ve learned to appreciate everything I already have,” and we couldn’t agree more.

So, cheers to 2020–the year we lost, learned, and will never forget.


[1] “2020 HR State of the Industry”. https://directemployers.org/2020-hr-state-of-the-industry/. DirectEmployers Association. Accessed 2020 December 14. 

[2] “More Than Half of Employees Are Afraid to Discuss Their Mental Health With Their Boss, New Data Shows”. https://www.forbes.com/sites/markmurphy/2020/08/07/more-than-half-of-employees-are-afraid-to-discuss-their-mental-health-with-their-boss-new-data-shows/. Forbes. Accessed 2020 December 14. 

Kacie Clark
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