Creating the shift from surviving in 2020 to thriving in 2021

By Sangeeta Pilger

Friday December 18, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the workplace in 2020. Lockdown created challenges with isolation and mental health. Collaboration through virtual platforms created online fatigue and employees juggled professional and personal commitments from home while addressing new challenges such as home schooling. On the flip side, benefits were also experienced. Many reported regaining time and energy through not commuting to work, enhanced productivity through fewer distractions and engaged with new hobbies or interests. The Future of Work Report from PWC reveals that the flexibility associated with working from home came at a cost, with 61% of respondents saying they spent more time in meetings than they did before the pandemic and the same amount report their workload increased. To create a shift from the challenges of 2020, a focus on wellbeing is key to thriving in 2021.

Leaders have an important role in helping employees function in an optimal way, which is not just about doing well but about feeling well. It is more than helping people to achieve stretch goals and maintain commitment, it is also about sustainability of effort and wellbeing. Below I share some quick, effective and practical strategies to enable leaders to enhance wellbeing for themselves and their teams from my co-authored book ‘In the Moment Coaching ® for Leaders’.

Strategies for thriving in 2021

Respond rather than react

What determines our own wellbeing and the well-being of those around us is how we reflect upon our triggers and learn about how we respond, so that we can make choices to respond, rather than react, and enhance wellbeing.

By reflecting on the questions below, you can improve your ability to respond effectively. Take a few minutes to capture your thoughts in writing.

  • What happens in your body and mind just before you have a strong reaction?
  • How can you be aware that this is about to happen and take preventative steps?
  • How can you pause and reset if you do have a strong reaction?
  • What can you do to avoid or minimise the impact of these triggers?
  • How can being aware of team members triggers enhance interactions?

Replenish energy

The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not. It is one of our most precious resources. The more we take responsibility for our energy levels the more empowered and productive we are. On the other hand, the more we blame others or external circumstances, the more negative and compromised our energy is likely to be.

Reflect on the following questions and capture your thoughts in writing.

  • When you think about what energises you, what would you like to do more of and why?
  • What has been missing for you at work that you would like to pay attention to?
  • What are you seeing, feeling and doing when you are doing more of what energises you?
  • What did you enjoy during lockdown that you would like to make time for in 2021?
  • What drains your energy? How will you minimise this?

Inspire positivity

Positive emotions are key to happiness and wellbeing. Research from Barbara Frederickson and Marcial Losada has identified the impact that positive emotions have in broadening people’s creativity and thinking and enhancing performance. In identifying the impact of positive emotions in organisational settings, high performance teams exhibited a positive-to-negative ratio of at least four to five positive comments to one negative comment. This is known as the Losada ratio. On the other hand negative emotions are known to reduce the brain’s ability to learn, take in new information, and engage in rational, lateral and creative thinking, and cognitive agility. 

 Reflect on the following ideas and capture your thoughts in writing about what you can do more of, or do more effectively.

  • Acknowledge and recognise what people do well
  • Catch people when they are doing something right rather than doing something wrong and recognise this
  • Bring your team members strengths to their attention with examples
  • Aim for four positive to one negative comment in your interactions. This allows you to be constructive, yet positively focused

Next steps to thriving

This starts with you and what you do now to action your intentions. Setting goals or intentions is the foundation of success and must be accompanied with action planning. Draw on your reflections from this article and identify what you will do to thrive in 2021. The following SMART framework provides guidance to help you take action.

  • Specific: articulate what you specifically want to
  • Measurable: identify how you will know you’ve achieved
  • Attractive: make it make sound energising to
  • Realistic: identify what will make it achievable.
  • Time-framed: articulate when you want to achieve it

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