Onward to 2021: How We’re Adapting and Moving Forward

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion and much more, 2020 changed nearly everything. The year may have been tough, but it also showed us just how much opportunity we have as an agency to evolve and grow.

Perhaps no other Friend at GS&F was impacted more by 2020’s barrage of changes than Adam Winstead, our fearless Vice President of Human Resources & Operations. We caught up with him for some insight on what he’s taking from 2020 as we get a new year underway.

1. Adaptability is the name of the game.

“Unprecedented” was the word of the year for 2020, but now disruption and change are the new reality. What, then, is 2021 all about?

“If I had to choose a new word for 2021, it would be adaptability,” says Winstead. To be successful in this new environment, he says, “the skillset of adjusting our expectations and definitions of success while making plans to make progress will be critical.”

Culturally, we can also work to be adaptable by letting go of fear and replacing worries about change with preparedness. Add becoming more adept at contingency planning and our culture will adapt to the changes 2020 brought, poised for success in 2021.

2. Mental health is the priority of self-care.

“Programs that support mental health, mindfulness and calm will be a huge need of our teams, even if they aren’t able to express that need,” says Winstead. “It’s up to us as leaders to be sensitive to what our teams may require in order to manage the day-to-day stresses of life.”

That’s why GS&F sponsored Headspace, an app that provides an easy way to find mindfulness, better heath and less stress, for every team member—and so many found success using it to help center their days, get quality rest, and cope with a difficult year.

“Emotions play more of a role in our shared day-to-day experience than our Western culture might suggest,” Winstead adds. As our team dealt with a common experience, discussing what we were feeling and how we were coping became commonplace.

Even seemingly small things—such as keeping our holiday traditions alive—helped us keep our mental health in better shape. Though it was virtual this year, our legendary holiday party—complete with superlatives, games and more—helped us break through the dreary end to 2020 and celebrate the simple fact that we made it through. And our Friday morning meetings changed the game from the start of the pandemic. Though we can’t pack into the lobby of our office each week, coming together continues to be the lift we all desperately need each week, showing that connection is the cornerstone of mental health.

3. Where we work will change.

Having been a largely distributed workforce since March 2020, we are no strangers to the fact that 2020 will forever change the locations, methods and times in which we work. We are continuing to evolve toward a better understanding and trust that we can, indeed, work from anywhere.

Though not without its challenges, working remotely offers flexibility we didn’t previously tap into. “It allows people to work from other states, and if there’s a family need that draws an employee back to their hometown, for example, they can work from there,” Winstead explains.

4. How we hire will continue to evolve.

“Our new reality forces us to evolve our hiring practices and recruiting,” Winstead adds. As it became a must this year to interview virtually, he noticed that “candidates are everywhere now.” Winstead ensured he was as responsive as possible during the hiring process, since many candidates had lost roles to the pandemic and were eager to start work again. The intensity of recruiting ramped up significantly, and Winstead saw candidates asking tough questions from the start.

“Candidates want to know what we’re doing from a diversity, equity and inclusion standpoint as well as what we’re doing about COVID-19,” Winstead says. “This builds trust and helps us see the areas in which we still need to get better.”

5. We’ll see our coworkers differently.

We’ve always known that work and personal lives are inherently intertwined at GS&F and that all areas of life impact the others, from relationships and career to spirituality, hobbies and more. After all, we are all complex human beings. And working remotely in 2020 gave us the unique gift of getting to see and experience people’s whole lives more frequently.

“Connecting virtually, we can look into people’s homes, see kiddos and spouses, see guitars on walls or golf clubs in the background,” Winstead points out. “Ironically, this makes connection richer and is, though a lesser substitute for seeing people in person, an opportunity to relate to our coworkers in new ways.” This allowed us to build increasingly authentic relationships with each other and with our clients as we got to know each other beyond a desk at the office or a meeting. This is a meaningful silver lining to 2020.

“We can bring our whole selves to work,” Winstead continues, which allows us to be more integrated as Friends—and as human beings. We can offer more space to each other for all aspects of life.

Here’s to a new year, a new start—and a new outlook on our work together as Friends!

 Adam Winstead, VP, Human Resources & Operations, contributed to this blog post.

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