By Joanne Lockwood


It’s fair to say that 2020 didn’t go to plan. We all had our 20:20 visions lined up ready to go, then the brakes were firmly applied on the 23rd of March.

The entire population was affected in one foul swoop. It’s been said “we have all been in the same storm, but in different boats”. That’s true enough: the impact of Covid, lockdowns, and the disruption to business has disproportionately affect some more than others.

There have been rises in domestic violence and the widening of disadvantages experienced by working women who have traditionally been employed in lower-paid roles, such as hospitality, and who have also taken on a bigger share of home education and family caring commitments.

Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement came to the forefront after the shocking death of George Floyd on May 25, with a surge in feelings around racial prejudice and discrimination coupled with the injustices of Windrush and the continuing legacy of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

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Businesses became hyper-aware of the need to focus on their people. We saw a rush of hiring in the diversity and inclusion space, and an uptake of initiatives over the summer.

Where are many of these initiatives now?

Were businesses just carrying out the bare minimum for compliance, without “unpacking the storeroom” to find the source of the nasty smell? Many organisations put out anti-racism statements without truly getting their house in order, and they were caught out.

Throughout the pandemic we have come to understand the need to reach out to each of our employees, at all levels, to check in and make sure they’re OK. We recognised that our people’s mental health could be affected by the extreme pressures of furlough, job losses, and business performance downturn.

I sincerely hope these lessons have been well and truly been learnt, and that businesses continue their commitment to their people, because it’s not over yet.

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Even with the greatest of optimism, the impact of the pandemic will last for many more months, and will have a legacy lasting years. How can we keep supporting our teams, stay focused on individuals and recognise the challenges unique to each person’s circumstances?

When we return to our offices, we know it won’t be the same. Will we take what we have learnt, or will we be intent on trying to put things back as they were?

I hope we take the best of before and blend it with the lessons of 2020 to enter next year with authentic optimism, ensuring we put the needs of our people centre in our thoughts, and continuing to foster a culture of inclusion for all.

Joanne Lockwood is an inclusion and belonging specialist with SEE Change Happen