When the clock struck midnight on 31st December 2019, and we welcomed in the new decade, whoever thought 2020 would turn out the way that did?
No matter where we turn, COVID19 has impacted our lives and will continue to do so for some time to come.
It has brought about tears of sadness but also tears of joy, moments of despair and in them the shining light of collaboration and innovation. I have never in my life, known a year of so many lows, but also so many highs. So as we head out of 2020 and into 2021, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on what we have learned from this challenging year, and what we can take forward into next year as we approach it with cautious optimism.
COVID19 almost brought the country to a standstill; shops closed, bars and restaurants shut up, and the streets became eerily quiet. (I still remember that fabulous film of an early morning look around Oxford, so still and silent, bathed in spring sunshine). Businesses moved online where they could, and virtual meetings and coffee breaks became our friends.
Personally, whilst I love meeting people face to face, I have found some of the zoom coffee networking meetings a great idea and have thoroughly enjoyed participating in them.
“Zoom” became a household name as did “zoom fatigue” where the lines of working from home and homelife became blurred. A commute to work for many stopped being 60 minutes in heavy traffic and became the time taken from bedroom to home office, via the kitchen whilst settling children in for a day of homeschooling.
Whilst we stood on our doorsteps and clapped for the NHS and key workers who continued in the face of the pandemic, for many of us, remote working became and continues to be, the “new normal”.
Working within the Pharma, Life Sciences, and Biotech sector, has been incredible this year. I never imagined that we would see the levels of collaboration and innovation to develop and deliver a vaccine for COVID in the way that we have.
Those involved must be applauded for their tireless efforts through rounds of research and development to search for the solution that has ultimately delivered a vaccine, which, in less than 12 months has gone from development through to clinical trials and has culminated in a vaccination programme in December.
I am so incredibly proud of the teams from Oxford University and the Jenner Institute and their collaboration with Astra Zeneca which we have all watched patiently as they moved through every trial to bring a vaccine to approval.
Leadership in 2020
This year has seen some incredible examples of leadership (both good and bad). Leaders have had to be resilient, become more emotionally intelligent and empathetic and make some incredibly difficult decisions.
Leaders have had to guide remote teams of people still working as well as looking after the health and wellbeing of those people on furlough. Leading teams remotely will be here for some time to come, I am sure, and you need to be both self-motivated and a great motivator to get the best out of people who are no longer office-bound.
Female political leaders have received many plaudits for the way that they have handled the COVID pandemic – Jacinta Ardern, the NZ Prime Minister, took some difficult decisions to close her nation’s borders and impose stringent lockdown measures. Her leadership through the pandemic has been highlighted as an exceptional example of cool-headed, emotionally intelligent inspirational leadership, and she is a role model for political and business leaders.
What for 2021?
We are not out of the woods yet, even as I write this, there is a more virulent strain of COVID19 spreading, and there is talk of more lockdowns for 2021, but what we have done this year, is we have come together, albeit virtually, and learned how to live with COVID, how to help prevent the spread and keep working, driving our businesses for results and innovating in a new normal business world.
Yes, it has been hard at times, but we are collectively moving forwards into a brave new 2021.
I would like to wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
Sue Rees is an expert C-Suite executive search specialist with over 25 years of experience in Pharma, Biotech, Lifesciences etc.