2021: Year in Review

Ange Connor

2021 will stick in my mind as the year that took us by surprise. Little did we know as we returned to work after the January summer holiday period of 2021 feeling pumped up and positive that the worst of COVID-19 was behind us that we were in for another roller coaster of a year. From my perspective and from what I’ve seen and heard from a variety of businesses, 2021 has been a much more challenging year. While 2020 was full of fear and the unknown, 2021 was full of navigating changing COVID-19 workplace requirements, often at the drop of a hat, all while having no precedent to follow and at times very little detail on the how to implement and maintain. COVID fatigue set in and everyone’s resilience was certainly waning.

If 2020 was about pivoting, 2021 will be remembered for the pressure put on workplaces. Here’s my walk down memory lane of the pressures workplaces faced this year:

  • Lockdowns continued and while regionally in Ballarat we were fortunate in comparison to Melbourne, the announcements of lockdowns and the timeframes got shorter and shorter, making it harder and harder for businesses
  • QR Code check ins became mandatory and businesses were charged with the responsibility of checking their customers had signed in; this required additional resources for many businesses, new systems and processes that had to be quickly implemented and what followed for some was the wrath of customers who were not happy about it and took it out on our frontline team members
  • Masks became the norm and with constant changes in the latter part of this year, keeping up with where you do and don’t need to wear a mask is a challenge within itself.
  • Work Permits were implemented pretty much overnight sending workplaces into a spin to get them issued to allow our people to come to work in essential businesses, another example of an incredibly tight timeline to adapt to
  • Vaccination mandates and the requirement to be vaccinated to be able to come to work and how employers managed their non-vaccinated workforce and recorded vaccination information was the biggest nightmare of all. If most businesses weren’t struggling enough to find talent, losing people who didn’t want to get vaccinated added another layer of pressure not to mention navigating the legal ramifications of dealing with highly sensitive medical information. Everyone had their own beliefs on this topic and sadly, it’s divided workplaces, families and friends.

As businesses struggled to keep up with the changing landscape we quickly learnt to adapt and we saw new initiatives implemented in workplaces:

  • The Hybrid Work Model – As workplaces opened back up and some employees were reluctant to return to the office, the hybrid model emerged; a split of work from home and work from the office. It seems many businesses are navigating and trialling this model as many employees have relished working from home
  • Leave to encourage team members to get vaccinated; we saw workplaces encouraging and supporting their team members to get vaccinated by allowing them paid leave to get attend vaccination appointments and deal with any side affects. This leave wasn’t taken from their annual or personal leave accruals.
  • Recruiting and onboarding employees during lockdowns became the norm rather than the exception as many businesses forged ahead, not so fearful during lockdowns, and needed to increase their headcount. Imparting the company culture and ‘how we do things at ……’ is still a challenge for many businesses as we learn and adapt to the remote working model.
  • Additional closed periods and additional leave. COVID fatigue set in this year and after now two years of team members not being able to take real leave and have a real holiday the fatigue seems to have set in as it feels like we are crawling to the Christmas break. I’m seeing many businesses offering additional leave, gifted leave and additional shut down days to give their employees a well-deserved break to recharge their batteries and for their mental health and well-being.

On a lighter note, 2021 will be remembered in our Inspire HQ office for:

  • Being the year for online shopping and the Australia Post delays; it’s perplexing that a package coming from overseas can be delivered quicker than a package coming from a warehouse in Melbourne and from normally having a package arrive in 4 days, 4 weeks became the norm. Never has there been so many packages delivered to 7 Lyons Street North – our team has certainly helped get the economy back on its feet!
  • The Earthquake; our desks shook, doors banged closed and zoom interviews wobbled as Victoria experienced a 5.9 magnitude earthquake. It was the highlight and topic of conversation because it gave us something else to talk about other than COVID.
  • Apparently, Brittany Spears ended her conservatorship; which everyone in our office seemed to be across except me. This led to my EA offering me a lesson in pop culture. Looks like I have been living under the COVID workplace rock for 2021!
  • The AFL Grand final was hosted in Perth for the first time and Melbourne broke their premiership drought of 57 years. With our Marketing Coordinator being a die-hard Melbourne fan and also taking out our footy tipping competition it was a week of celebrations in our office.

What I’ve learnt over the last two years of navigating COVID, is that these incidental moments that bring our team together to share a laugh, bond and connect are more important than ever. They are the moments that just aren’t quite the same over zoom. They are the moments that become more important and we need to actively foster and encourage as we look to re-engage our people and re-build or refine our workplace culture after two years of disjointedness as a result of remote working, reducing social interactions and isolation.

What will 2022 bring?

The hot topic of conversation in workplaces is definitely the candidate short market and the looming Great Resignation that is apparently hitting Australia early in the new year. My opinion is that there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet for candidate shortages and with many businesses on the rebuild and hiring confidence being at an all time high, recruiting, engaging and retaining our people will be a big challenge across all industries in 2022. While hopefully the worst of COVID is behind us, 2022 will still be all about pivoting. What has worked for your business in the past to hire and keep your team members will highly unlikely get you results going forward. It’s time to pivot again and think outside the square about hiring, engaging and retaining our employees. Your employer brand will become more important than ever. One thing’s for sure, there is never a dull moment when it comes to our greatest assets; our people.

The Inspire HQ team will be taking a break from blogging over the Christmas and January period and will be back in touch in 2022 to keep sharing with you our thoughts, ideas, market and industry knowledge on all things recruitment, human resources and careers.

We wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year. A very big thank you to our clients, candidates, suppliers, supporters and advocates, family and friends for your support throughout 2021



Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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