2021 Year in Review: The 3 big ones

2021 was a year unlike any other. For one, it felt a lot like 2020: it began with hope of the economy returning to pre-pandemic times with vaccinations and travel; ended with yet another variant dampening spirits. January began with GameStop stealing headlines. News then moved to cryptocurrency with Elon Musk’s tweets and El Salvador accepting Bitcoin as legal tender, NFTs taking over and ended with Facebook renaming itself as Meta. It was also the year of shortages: ranging from semiconductor chips, construction materials, foam, pet food, cream cheese, and even individual Heinz Ketchup packets. It was the year of us discovering the true meaning of the word languishing, witnessing Basecamp make newsworthy changes, watching companies battle burnout by giving employees an extra week of leave and reading multiple return to work announcements being rolled back.

For a year like 2021, any recap attempt would fall short. However, here are three big themes that summarize the year for me and are likely to make their way into 2022.

Remote/hybrid work: I’d be a fool to leave this out. We have been talking about little else for the past two years. The conversation that began in 2020 only got more confusing in 2021. Announcements kept pouring in and return to work dates kept moving as one variant emerged after another. Apple announced they’ll return to work 3 days a week and quickly faced major pushback via an open letter to Tim Cook. Google launched it’s Work Location Tool and PwC decided to go remote first in what was maybe a game changing announcement in the tax, audit and consulting sector. No matter who, where and when, the conversation on return to work stayed top of mind with many organizations still trying to figure the right way to do it.

Needless to say, I don’t think we’ll have it figured in 2022 either. Hybrid and remote are here to stay. The challenge remains in figuring out how this will work. So far, we have taken everything we did in a physical workspace and tried transporting it to the virtual world. We’ve learnt that while it works as a stop gap solution, the long-term consequences can be rather dire. 2022 is likely the year of true realization and working to rectify. Especially, as the word ‘trauma-informed’ workplace begins to trend.

The Great Resignation: 2021 was a big ‘me’ year. Self-care became front and center. People were spending more time and money on staycations, skin care and everything related to focusing on the self. This included demanding that organizations transform work to suit the employee vs employees transforming to fit the role/organization. When that didn’t happen, people either chose a job that was better suited or began independent ventures. One impact was the tremendous rise in content creation. Mediocre workplaces just weren’t enough anymore.

Anyone who could afford to, was attempting to put themselves first – a trend that I do not see vanishing in 2022. Organizations realized that ‘the great resignation’ might be just the opportunity to be ‘the great attraction’. Salaries rose to an all-time high in select sectors as the battle for top talent became fiercer than ever. Remember how we scoffed about the term ‘war for talent’. Well, giddy up because this is just the beginning.

Metaverse/Web3: No blog about 2021 would be complete without some mention of one of the most searched word on the internet in. While every website attempted to emerge with its own list of top searched words; per Collin’s dictionary, NFT, crypto and metaverse featured in the top 10 words of the year 2021. Metaverse may not be the most searched word of the year but it dominated all searches post Zuckerberg’s announcement changing the company’s name to Meta. Web3 is another sphere that dominated considerable airwaves. Collectively, web3 includes a mix of technology, open standards, cryptocurrency, blockchain, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), Decentralized Finance (DeFi) communities, and a new creator economy. With cryptocurrency being offered as part of wages in organizations like AirBnB, Uber and Facebook (now Meta), HR will very much need to stay informed of these trends to be able to stay ahead in the game.  

While neither the metaverse nor Web3 may have immediate impact in 2022, it will be the year that we learn more about both. Yes, maybe everyone would rather live in the real world than in the virtual and there is a raging debate on how integrated the two worlds should be, but we’ve never been great at predicting the future, have we?

I have no doubt that this year will be as eventful as the last if not more. Trends and hypes will emerge stronger than they have in the last decade and while I gear up to watch with bated breath, I am also just as excited to jump straight into the madness.

P.S: This blog has been quieter than it has ever been in 2021 but it’s time for that to change. Tell me, what are you most looking forward to this year?

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