It’s fair to say that 2020 is a bit of a blur for those in the HR industry.
The past twelve months have been incredibly challenging on several fronts: going fully remote, dealing with a virtual workforce, onboarding and offboarding employees online, all while making sure company culture didn’t suffer in the process.
While we realize this is no laughing matter, we wanted to lighten the mood and bring you a bit of festive fun: a timeline of COVID-19 developments with a twist. Yes, you’ve guessed it: here’s your HR year in music.
– FATBOY SLIM – RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW
Remember January? Well, that’s when the first confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of China were reported. Back then, most of us were still blissfully unaware of how this new virus would affect our lives and work. Coronavirus seemed like a distant problem and for the most part, many were focused on the “Here” and “Now.”
UNLEASH was ramping up to its Spring 2020 event in London and looking forward to welcoming our HR friends and family who would wow us with their amazing projects and insightful predictions for the future.
– THE POLICE – DON’T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME
In February, the situation was still unfolding but world experts began to set priorities for COVID-19 research during a two-day forum in Geneva, Switzerland.
– BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD – FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
Things escalated quickly in March. Italy, at the time one of the worst hit countries in Europe, became the first nation to implement a nationwide lockdown on March 10.
The following day, on March 11th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
As the month went on, countries continued to report an increase in daily cases and companies, sometimes following government advice, began to ask people to work from home.
– JAMIROQUAI – VIRTUAL INSANITY
By April, the vast majority of the international workforce was working remotely, and the economic toll of the pandemic was beginning to show.
In early April, 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims in just one week.
HR leaders were now dealing with a virtual workforce; applying for government financial support; furloughing staff, or, in the worst cases, laying people off in a matter of just days and weeks.
– USHER – I CRY
On 25th May, the video of George Floyd’s arrest and murder ignited widespread international protests.
As a result of this truly tragic event, the HR community was forced into self-reflection, and many acknowledged the need to transform organizations from the inside out. Companies published ‘Black Lives Matter’ statements and HR teams expressed their commitment to improving diversity and inclusion quotas.
At the same time, HR teams were also dealing with a new challenge: employees suffering from extended isolation from the workplace and the subsequent impact on mental wellbeing.
Fortunately, though, diversity and inclusion and mental health continued to be an HR priority for the rest of the year.
– STEALERS WHEEL – STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU
Three months after most companies went fully remote, HR began planning for the future.
For the most part, remote and flexible working environments became the ‘norm’ and HR leads started to plan strategically to remain agile and adaptable.
HR leaders began to look at more long-term strategies like upskilling, reskilling, mentorship programs, and remote learning opportunities — as well as figuring out what a safe return to the workplace would potentially look like.
– FRANZ FERDINAND – TAKE ME OUT
The “it will be over by summer” rhetoric was quickly dissipating, and the realization we were in this for the long-haul became apparent.
Importantly, the 30% Club expanded its diversity targets for FTSE 350.
– QUEEN – SHOW MUST GO ON
More bad news in August as the UK officially went into recession.
August is prime vacation season in Europe and as employees considered the possibility of a Summer holiday, HR was once again forced to find viable solutions. This time with regards to sick pay and quarantine requirements.
On another note, data revealed how the pandemic was impacting the younger generation by slowing career progression as a result of significant redundancies and unemployment.
By the end of the month, the US had surpassed six million COVID-19 cases.
– ROBYN – DANCING ON MY OWN
After some relaxation of lockdown restrictions during the Summer, many nations see an spike in cases.
HR also started appreciating the extended impact the pandemic will have on the economy and businesses.
For example, 8 out of 10 charities believed that the coronavirus pandemic would negatively impact their ability to deliver on planned objectives over the next twelve months, and we looked at the challenges for nonprofit HR departments.
– WEEZER – SAY IT AIN’T SO
Study results highlight that the resultant impact of the Coronavirus pandemic could be as much as two million women leaving the workforce.
It’s at this point that HR realizes that people may not be able to return to the office as soon as expected. Decision-makers grappled with issues ranging from workplace community and culture, through to information security and workers’ desire to continue working remotely long-term.
– PIXIES – WHERE IS MY MIND
The US Presidential election comes to a close and Joe Biden is the new President-elect.
News about a potential COVID-19 vaccine are coming thick and fast — and the UK sees a rise in the real living wage. The industry begins to think about what 2021 will look like in terms of work.
– BEATLES – HERE COMES THE SUN
COVID-19 inoculation begins around the world. Joe Biden, the US President-elect and his wife Jill, get vaccinated on live TV.
Here’s to hoping that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and that 2021 will bring a much happier soundtrack!
Yessi Bello Perez is a contributor at UNLEASH. The former editor of UNLEASH, Yessi is a seasoned technology and business journalist passionate about technology, people, and the future of work. She is a regular contributor to Times Radio in the UK. She also co-hosted a podcast for fDi Intelligence (Financial Times) and wrote a column about rising startup ecosystems. Yessi’s work has featured in several other leading publications including the Evening Standard, The Next Web (TNW), and UKTN. She is a sought-after panelist, event host, speaker, and moderator at technology events.