Work-Life Lessons Learned in 2020


17th December 2020


Leigh-Ann Hewer

Reading time

6 minutes

2020 image

I’m not one to say everything happens for a reason and I don’t think absolutely every difficulty in life has to be a lesson, but 2020 sure taught me a lot in all aspects of my life and so I thought I would share some of my work takeaways here with you.

2020 was a difficult year for everyone (and of course even still some more than others). We were all forced to adapt to very unfamiliar and complex circumstances and business had to pivot.

I started the year 2020 as a PR intern and I’m ending it as an Account Executive. I’m very proud and grateful for this development and I’d be lying if I said some of the challenges brought by 2020 didn’t aid me in developing the skills necessary for that shift.

Some of what I want to mention today might seem obvious, and some perhaps less so. But I believe that if there’s one thing 2020 showed us is that no one wants to feel alone. I hope you relate to some of the lessons I’ve learnt the hard way this year, or that perhaps this helps you reflect a little bit on your working life this year and how you’d like it to look moving into 2021.

Working from home is great…but it can also be really hard

2020 saw the rise of remote working as we were all told to work from home where possible. I was very fortunate in that I’d been working from home one day a week well before we were told we had to.

I feel very positively about flexible and remote working but to paraphrase the fantastic Jessica Heagren what we’ve been experiencing has not been flexible working, it’s been trying to work from home in the middle of a pandemic.

Moving forward I would never want to stop working from home entirely, but I’ve realised that going into the office and being surrounded by my colleagues actually does me a world of good and is a big part of what helps me to succeed at my job. I find it incredibly motivating and it improves my ability to focus.

Connections can be built in a multitude of ways

Where would we be without Zoom, Google Hangout or teams? This year has been all about video calls and email chains.

Having started working with a number of new clients at the beginning of the year and through-out the first UK lockdown, I was in the interesting position of having never met a number of the people I work with on a day-to-day basis in person. Following this year, I don’t think that will be considered strange at all.

It’s been a pleasure getting to know a number of new clients and other business contacts this year via video chat. We might all be used to meeting up for coffees and board meetings, but as it turns out connections can be made in other ways.

This leads on to the next lesson…

We’re all human. Even at work

This might sound obvious, but I don’t think it really sank in for me until this year. As someone who joined the PR and business world as a fresh-faced graduate, I was always a little intimidated by the CEOs, Managing Directors and extremely busy publication Editors. Now, while I have a huge respect for what they do, their skills and their talents, I’ve learnt enough about them to know that they’re just as human as I am. They make mistakes and have bad days too.

All the Zoom meetings in living-rooms and walk-in-wardrobes meant I got to see a bit more of the perfectly imperfect worlds of businesspeople I greatly respect and admire. We were all irrupted at one point or another by a partner or a child or pet of some kind during a very important meeting.  We all got overwhelmed and frustrated by the lack of space in the ‘home office’ or the terrible WiFi connection. We all shared in our frustrations.

Seeing the human side of my colleagues and clients allowed me to understand them better and I’d argue therefore allowed me to work with them more effectively.

Navigating creativity during hard times

A large part of being a PR requires creativity; creative thinking, creative writing, creative problem solving. Creativity, as it turns out, is rather difficult during a pandemic.

We’ve all taken a hit to the mental health. Anxiety is at an all-time high, there are a million things whirling through our minds and focusing is difficult.

At the beginning of the first lockdown there was a crazy trend for picking up a new hobby or getting fit in the ‘free time’ but we quickly learnt that this ‘free time’ was non-existent. Any time not spent working was spent worrying or preparing or parenting or supporting.

I had to learn to forgive myself for my scattered brain and less productive days. I learnt that your best at work one day may be different from your best at work another, but if you’re giving your best on any given day you can’t go far wrong.

The mood of the nation

It’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot this year (along with ‘unprecedented times’). 2020 brought about huge collective struggles and it’s fair to say that the mood of the nation was pretty low for a large proportion of the year.

This was something I was very aware of in my role of PR. We spend a lot of time consuming the media. We have to make sure we understand the tone and mood of it at any given time. That was a journey this year, for sure.

We worked hard to share positive news, but I also learnt a huge amount about ‘reading the room’ and knowing when is a good time to share what.

I think we also learned as a collective that we were undeniably in it together.

So, there you have it, some of my biggest takeaways and lessons from 2020. There were plenty of them to be learnt. There were quite a few lows but there were also some fantastic highs. We secured some amazing coverage and worked with some absolutely brilliant clients. The Carnsight team grew and developed.

I can’t wait to see what 2021 brings.