3 Things I Learned in 2021 That Will Change the Way I Work Forever

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Eva Steortz864
Disney Executive Turned Executive Coach
June 21, 2024 at 2:23AM UTC

Welcome to 2022 and a whole new year of possibilities. Thank goodness for the new year — in so many ways, 2021 was even more challenging than 2020. 

We were supposed to have hope for a return to “normal.” While we were able to gather for outside meals and kids returned to school, very few of us returned to typical work life. Zoom fatigue was real. Work-life balance seemed an impossible feat when work and life all happened in the same space.

As 2022 is also starting shaky, it seems wise to pause and reflect on lessons learned. 

Here are the top three game-changing things I learned last year that will alter how I work forever.

1. It’s okay not to be okay.

"I am fine." Isn't that what we’re supposed to say? As a positivity advocate, it's been a big awakening to learn that sometimes positivity can be toxic. I have learned to allow myself and others space to express all feelings transparently and unedited.

The Robert Frost quote, “The best way out is always through,” rings true. I have learned we must feel the feelings and keep going through them to get to the other side. It’s important that where we work is a safe space to state challenges and frustrations. We are all experiencing the same discontented thoughts, so bonding over them is healing.

I have learned that these are very unusual times and it’s okay not to always be okay. We can find the solutions together, but only after feeling safe to express ourselves freely.

2. Deep thinking doesn’t have regular office hours.

A Brene Brown podcast featuring Charles Duhigg discussing habits and productivity was a real game-changer for me. Charles concluded that  “deep thinking” is the real secret to productivity. We push ourselves and others to go non-stop, yet the right answer is to slow down and just allow ourselves time to think.

A relaxed mind is the reason we have our best ideas in the shower. I also do my best strategic thinking in the morning while walking my dogs. A truly innovative idea may also emerge while folding towels or swiffering my floor. 

We should not feel guilty about exercising and taking care of our daily obligations as our minds are always on. Some of our best "work" happens outside of the time spent at our desk. The whole idea of required office hours is truly outdated.

There are lots of opinions about hybrid business hours and how best to drive individual and team productivity, but I think we have all discovered there is no benefit to going back to “normal."  The way it was with daily commutes and rigid hours is inefficient and limits real productivity.

I have learned that "work" can happen anywhere and everywhere. There is no going back to the notion of having to sit at a desk alone or in meetings together for the magic to happen. Give yourself and others permission to get up and move, breathe, think and let the creative side of the brain take the wheel.

3. Connection does not require physical proximity.

Remember when we thought we had to be in person for every meeting? During the old days of 2019, I thought nothing of driving one hour for a one-hour meeting and then driving one hour back. How ridiculous does that sound now?

Between Zoom, texts, calls, email, slack and social media, have you communicated more with people than before the pandemic? Maybe because we couldn't gather, we made more effort. Because we missed each other, our intentions were to be present and engaged. 

I feel closer to many work associates, friends and family members than before the pandemic. Do you?

I have learned while meeting in person will always have benefits, it is not always necessary for successful connection. Establishing strong relationships takes effort and heartfelt intention, not physical proximity.

In Summary

As hard as 2021 was, there are many lessons learned that will positively impact the way I communicate and collaborate forever.

By feeling safe to express even our most frustrating feelings, having the freedom to work the way we work best, and by staying connected even when apart, we can get through anything together. 

2022 presents a new opportunity to create the career and life we want to live. There is no going back to “normal.” I don’t even want to, do you?

What’s the no. 1 thing you learned in 2021 that will change how you work this year? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article was written by a Fairygodboss contributor.  

Eva is a Disney executive turned Executive Coach. She collaborates with ambitious professionals who want to maximize their career potential while having fun and enjoying a happy balanced life.

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