Jennifer Duff, President and Co-Founder,  TotemJennifer Duff, President and Co-Founder, Totem
This past year introduced much unpredictability and stress in organizations, teams and leaders. This unprecedented time has challenged organizations to redefine how they deliver services, engage employees and achieve growth targets. Gone are the days of doing what we’ve always done; 2020 has taught us to push the boundaries of what is possible, rethink how we do our work and recognize the importance of connecting in new and different ways. At Totem, we believe there is more disruption to come in 2021 which will require organizations to remain flexible, push teams to be agile and innovative, and position employees to create the work environment that reflects their need for balance, authenticity and belonging. Totem believes to thrive through these unprecedented challenges organizations must manage the impact of the change to people rather than the change itself.

In 2021, remote work will continue to be our normal way of working, as organizations stive to bring back staff in small spurts in a ‘tight knit community-like’ environment. Organizations must continue to create connectedness among teams, leaders and staff across the enterprise, regardless of work location and in-person/remote working. To effectively foster the desired culture, leaders should find ways to mix and match teams or create work pods to build relationships and support problem solving. Leaders can also establish remote buddies or special project

teams to encourage individuals to work with new faces outside of their immediate teams.

The push in 2021 to get back to the office will introduce more stress and create workforce fatigue in a different way. Employees will likely struggle to manage supervisors’ expectations about the return to work, their level of comfort sharing space with others and their ability to transition to the office with a new commute and daily schedule. Adapting to an in-person environment, even if it is 2-3 days a week, will create a new layer of churn in our daily lives, likely to lead to work fatigue. Setting aside time to connect with staff, taking clear breaks to think and recharge and turning off the 24-hour cycle of meetings and emails are important boundaries to establish to help manage employee stress and fatigue.

Overall, the prospect of 2021 looks dynamic, exciting and full of potential for organizations to shape their relationship with employees in a focused and meaningful way. There is a new energy for growth, change and rebuilding a new way of working. The key to success in the upcoming year is recognizing the goal isn’t “getting back to normal,” but adjusting for sustainable operations and moving away from surviving to thriving in a new year.