Health and safety

A Journal of the Plague Year: Reflecting on a Year of COVID-19

April 13, 2021

The way Canadian businesses operate has changed a lot since March 2020, when governments across the country instituted the first lockdowns in response to the developing COVID-19 pandemic. Reflecting on the past year, it now seems incredible that we have come so far from the first lockdown that we thought would last for just two weeks. We are in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the forecast says there are still many months to go. Based on the past year, what can Canadian employers and HR professionals expect?

The pandemic’s never-ending uncertainty

The past year has been a rollercoaster ride, only not as fun or exciting. The early misconception of just a two-week lockdown was quickly dispelled, and we all braced for the rapid changes to every aspect of our lives, settling in for months of lockdowns and other restrictions. The only thing that remained constant over the year was the uncertainty of what the new normal would be.

While businesses and workplaces navigated the new challenges, there was always an uncertainty of going back in the stages. The fluctuating number of COVID-19 cases triggers more government restrictions making it difficult for businesses to plan for the future. More recently, since the roll-out of vaccines started, there has been a hope of returning to normal. However, the complete roll-out could still take many months, and business are still feeling uncertain about vaccines, wondering whether employers can require vaccination.

The pandemic routine: Living the new normal

Nobody can maintain that fever pitch of uncertainty and fear we felt in those early weeks for an entire year, so despite the continued danger the pandemic poses, most of us have relegated it to something like background music while we live this new normal. The pandemic has unexpectedly become routine.

Routine is comforting, but comfort can make us complacent, which presents a twofold danger regarding the pandemic. On the one hand, complacency could make us neglectful or careless about health and safety. Having the vaccine available, finally seeing an end to this long, long year—people are ready to relax, but it is still too soon for that. The other danger of complacency is that we stop recognizing the pandemic's crisis for what it is and ignore what we can learn from our collective responses to this year of trials.

Future of workplaces after COVID-19 pandemic

First, it is commendable that employers and employees have done such a great job tackling this unique situation that has now lasted over a year. Because of their collective efforts, companies can function with more creativity and with a problem-solving intent. According to the company needs, workplaces are now entirely or partially remote-based or are functioning on-site with strict screening and preventive measures.

The pandemic is still soaring, and it tells us that we can’t just wait for it to get over. Businesses and workplaces have resorted to their contingency plans and are trying to manage this crisis. However, the fact remains that employers need to plan for the future now. The first step could be building a hybrid workplace model for employees and staff. Ensuring employees have all the resources and the flexibility of working from home can set up an organization for success even after the pandemic. A BBC survey suggests that the remote workforce is equally productive, if not more!

The year 2020 has taught us to be more resilient and patient. The past trends show us that uncertainty will remain a part of the pandemic, and we need to take it into account while planning for the future, so let’s take a moment to think about the past year and plan for the one ahead, and explore some resources to help you prepare. Download our FREE Guide for Preparing for the Future after COVID-19.

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