The re-emergence of self: how we have changed the world around us

16 Dec 2021

At this time last year, much was written about how life and business had been changed as a result of the pandemic.  We had hopes for a return to our pre-pandemic lives; a state of normalcy that would allow us to gather, travel, dine, and shop as we had in the past, but with brands demonstrating a new sense of awareness for consumer sentiment, values and needs.  Businesses are an incredible study in evolution; when faced with extinction, they will quickly adapt to a new environment, commonly referred to as the ‘new normal’.  Many lessons were learned in this process, from the value of corporate reputation and purpose, to the need for creativity, collaboration and authentic leadership.

But what about us?  What about the individuals who have been affected by the pandemic?  How have we adapted?  How do we live, work, love and grieve in this continuing state of flux?  How will this new way of life impact us for years, if not generations, to come?  Individual needs and desires have been thrust to the forefront and are reshaping the world around us. As they did in 2020, when the pandemic first emerged, brands and businesses are adapting once again, but this time it’s not fear that’s driving the change, it is a new sense of personal empowerment on the part of individuals and control over one’s own destiny that is altering the business world.

It’s very easy to highlight the many challenges of the past two years, but how have we taken this worldwide tragedy to improve ourselves, making our lives and our world a bit better?  Here’s a look back at some biggest shifts we’ve seen on an individual level:

 

Redefining values: For better or worse, the pandemic has given us all lots of time to reflect on what is most important in our lives.  In many cases, individuals have rediscovered their Personal Purpose—who they really are and the values that they truly stand for; their deepest aspirations and ambitions. Some have placed a renewed emphasis on the importance of family in their lives, while others used their time away from the workplace to pursue hidden talents or completely change the direction of their lives.  Many chose to shift the focus of their life from ‘me’ to ‘we’, seeking to make the world around us all a better place, even if only in small ways. Of course, the politics of the pandemic has also had a very polarising effect on society, but many would argue that a greater sense of human kindness has grown during this difficult time.

Reconnecting with others: Redefined values are altering our tribes and whom we choose to spend valuable time with. Deeper and more meaningful friendships are sought after, both in real life and online. According to research conducted in 2020 by Dr. Marlee Bower at University of Sydney and Dr. Roger Patulny at University of Wollongong, many Australians intentionally shrank their social networks, choosing to focus on very particular sub-groups like old friends from home towns, those with shared interests and very close local friends. According to Dr. Bower, ‘When social interactions moved online, only certain kinds of relationships seemed to survive’. Time will tell if social relationship behaviours revert back to larger groups, but for now, quality takes priority over quantity.

Re-evaluating our career ambitions: As the pandemic brought with it a wave of introspection, many employees chose to pursue Personal Purpose over profit. This, as well as other factors, such as job dissatisfaction and the contraction of the manufacturing, travel and hospitality industries, led to ‘The Great Resignation’. According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, more than 40% of the global workforce considered quitting their job in 2021. For some, the reason was to regain a ‘family first’ lifestyle, whilst others changed sectors altogether, hoping to contribute to society and a greater good. Regardless of personal motivations, the impact on the working culture has been sweeping, with many companies re-evaluating how they engage and retain employees in reaction to this new landscape.

Redesigning the workplace: Remote working, hot desks, flexible hours and job-sharing are now the norm. Many workers have found new ways to balance family and work, and they don’t want to give this up as economies continue to reopen around the world. Instead, these individuals demonstrated that increased workplace flexibility can often lead not only to greater employee satisfaction and retention, but also to improved productivity and profitability (and what employer doesn’t want these?). We now know that traditional office settings have less of an impact on the output of teams, but that a nurturing and adaptable culture is ultimately the key to success.

Renewing our focus on wellness: Beyond the spike of Peloton and home fitness sales, many individuals also focused on the importance of mental health and wellness as a significant part of their overall wellbeing. Even in regions where mental health is rarely discussed, there seems to have been a cultural shift, bringing about new levels of concern for how we care for ourselves in a more holistic manner.   According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, General Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘It is now crystal clear that mental health needs must be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a collective responsibility of governments and civil society, with the support of the whole United Nations System. A failure to take people’s emotional well-being seriously will lead to long-term social and economic costs to society’.

So yes, the world has been dramatically altered by the pandemic, but this forced ‘reset’ of our lives and values has produced some positive impact as well.  However, many questions still remain: How long will these changes last, or will we slip back into old mind-sets and routines over time? Will corporations and brands effectively connect with these new personal attitudes, or are we evolving too quickly for them to keep up? What other changes lie ahead as the transfer of influence continues to move from the C-Suite back to individual workers? Most importantly, what changes can I personally bring to improve the world around me?

The holidays are a celebration of light in a time of darkness, so as we look ahead to 2022, let’s remain focused on how we can expand our collective growth mind-set and continue to improve the world around us in ways both big and small.

On behalf of the entire Sinclair Team across the APAC region, we wish you a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with health, happiness and prosperity.

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