A woman working from home

What we must remember when we talk about work in 2020

Are you struggling to stay positive about what you’ve achieved at work this year? Careers experts and authors Elizabeth Uviebinené and Fiona Thomas are here to help.

If there’s one thing we can say with absolute certainty, it’s that 2020 has been an emotional rollercoaster for all of us.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold of Europe in March and the UK entered its first national lockdown, the routines, cultures and expectations we relied upon were quickly thrown out of the window. Suddenly, working from home, Zoom calls and lockdown baking became the norm – without warning, our lives had been transformed.

Against this backdrop of chaos, however, we still tried our hardest to continue as normal. Despite all we were dealing with, the expectation to be productive, stay positive and achieve was stronger than ever – instead of taking the time we needed to recuperate, regroup and reflect on the changes going on both in the wider world and in our personal lives, we made a collective effort to “keep on going”. 

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Flash forward to November, some seven months later, and although things have changed since those early days of the pandemic, the idea that we need to “make the most” of 2020 is one which continues to influence the way we live and work, often without us realising it. 

And as many of us come to terms with the fact that working from home will remain our reality for the foreseeable future, one of the most important things we can do to look after our mental health is remind ourselves that it’s OK to not be super productive right now.

That was the message shared by Fiona Thomas, a freelance writer and author of Out Of Office: Ditch the 9-5 and Be Your Own Boss, during her appearance at Stylist Live @ Home on Saturday. 

Joined by Elizabeth Uviebinené – the multi-award-winning co-author of Slay In Your Lane and author of the upcoming book The Reset: Ideas To Change How We Work and Live – the pair spoke about how we can all adapt and thrive in the working world of 2020. And for Thomas, that starts with forgiving ourselves. 

“I think the advice I’ve been giving to people – and which seems to apply to a lot of us at the moment – is just to forgive yourself,” she explained. 

“Forgive yourself this year for not being as motivated or as busy and on it as you were this time last year and be a bit more realistic about what you can achieve in a day. These aren’t normal times, so you doing your best is going to look a lot different to what was you doing your best 12 months ago.”

Elizabeth Uviebinené & Fiona Thomas
Elizabeth Uviebinené & Fiona Thomas

Reflecting on how her working day has changed to reflect her needs during the pandemic, Thomas stressed the importance of being aware of the amount of pressure and stress we’re all currently dealing with. 

“Forgive yourself for not feeling motivated this year, because you’re under so much stress and pressure,” she said. “Even if you feel like you’re not that bothered or you feel OK, there are things going on in your mind underneath the surface – for example, we’re physically affected by being isolated from people and socialising less.

“There are lots of things going on underneath the surface – please don’t put pressure on yourself to squeeze the last bit of juice out of this year. It’s OK if you’re just surviving.”

Alongside forgiving ourselves and taking the pressure off, it’s also important to celebrate the work we’ve done this year and reflect upon the skills we’ve learnt going forward. For Uviebinené , one of – if not the – most important things we should take from this year is our newfound ability to adapt.

“People have their own ways of adapting to this ‘new normal’,” she explained. “I think that being able to adapt is probably one of the most underrated things you can do for your career, because you may have a purpose and say ‘this is what I want from my career and this is what I want from work,’ but if you don’t have the ability to adapt to changing work styles and industries then you can find yourself being left behind.”

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Reflecting on her own experiences, she explained that this ability will become even more important as we continue to move into the ‘new working world’ which is emerging because of the pandemic – and urged viewers to develop their adaptability skills over the coming months.

“I think [the importance of being able to adapt] is one thing I’ve learnt during my transition from a corporate career and a 9-5, traditional marketing job, to one where I can spend one day doing podcasting, the next events, and you just really learn to be a chameleon.

“I think that’s just the way the new working world is, and you really have to acclimatise to that sooner rather than later.”

Elizabeth Uviebinené and Fiona Thomas appeared at Stylist Live @ Home this weekend to talk us through their top tips and tricks for adapting and thriving in a working world which has been turned upside down.

Stylist Live @ Home is underway and tickets are just £15 and give you full access to the weekend’s events. You’ll have two weeks to watch the sessions on catch up so don’t worry if you can’t fit it all in. Stylist Live @ Home guests will also get first access to discounts across our curated shopping collections courtesy of The Drop. All tickets include a £1 donation to Women for Women International.

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