Five learnings from lockdown to carry into 2021

On Thursday, World Media Group members came together for our annual Think Tank, a lively event that offers members the opportunity to ask top international editors about their predictions for the year ahead. Unable to meet in our usual festive venue, the last gathering of the year predictively happened on Zoom!

The event was chaired by Dan Stewart, International Editor of TIME who was joined by Tom Standage, Deputy Editor, The Economist, Susan Goldberg, Editor in Chief, National Geographic and Katherine Dunn, Associate Editor, Fortune Magazine.

In a year like no other, we asked members to share any positive learnings from 2020 that they planned to carry with them into 2021. Five key themes emerged:

1. Work smarter

According to Daniela Stawinoga-Carrington, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, 2020 has been about “focusing on what is truly important both personally and professionally.” We were all forced to rethink our priorities, adapting to the challenges of remote working, often while juggling family responsibilities. Now that we know we can all work from home and still be as productive, we can use that flexibility to benefit our work/life balance. Samantha Adams, BBC Global News, says she’ll continue to “work smarter, with less commuting and do more checking in with my network.” Robbie McCawley, Electronic Arts, has honed his video conferencing communication skills. His key learning is to “use fewer words and more simple language to get to my point across quicker.”

2. Support mental health

2020 has opened up the conversation around mental health, allowing people the permission to talk openly about how they are feeling and to receive any support they need. Everyone agreed that mental health must remain front of mind as we head into the new year. “Talking about mental health, checking whether colleagues, friends and family are ok, and caring for each other is something we need to hold onto for 2021,” said Mark Rose, BP. His other advice for improving your mental health? Stay off Twitter!

3. Use technology for good

Although we’ve been forced to spend more time in front of our screens this year, there’s clearly an upside – from reducing our carbon footprint to re-establishing relationships with friends and colleagues. Rob Alexander, Headland Consultancy, plans to “continue to embrace meeting technology to connect with friends and clients around the world and reduce my flying carbon footprint.” Sital Banerjee agrees that he’ll continue using technology to connect with his network and peers more regularly in 2021.

The innovation and adoption of new technology has impressed Darren Plimmer, Fundamental Media: “It’s been great collaborating so easily with colleagues globally despite being stuck in the spare room at home. The Zoom pub quiz, however, can remain in 2020!”

4. Have faith in trusted media

While trust in the media has taken a downturn in past years, the Covid crisis saw consumers returning to quality media outlets for accurate information and advice. This has been reflected in an increase in subscriptions across many of the World Media Group brands Jemima Villanueva, The Atlantic, would like to see “the increase in demand for trusted quality news sources and a willingness to pay for it” continue on into 2021.

Katya Ionova, Business Insider, agrees that one of the key outtakes for her has been a notable change in “the real value of trusted news sources,” and she hopes to see this reflected in reports such as Edelman’s Trust Barometer next year.

5. Encourage community spirit

2020 has inspired empathy, a deeper sense of community and a willingness to look out for others on both a personal and profession level. “People seem to have looked outward more this year, caring more about things beyond their patch,” said Alison Harbert, Investec. “Let’s hope for more of that in 2021!

Jack Dyson, SAP, agreed: One positive outcome is a greater focus on corporate purpose and appreciation for community over individual. Not just in Covid and climate change, but also inclusion and equality, education…and being a better neighbour!”

This sense of greater purpose was reflected in the editors’ predictions for the year ahead, where a large part of the discussion centred around 2021 being the turning point in the debate and action on climate change. While there was some negativity about the effect individuals and companies could have without governments taking on the bigger emissions issues such as agriculture and steelmaking, there was a definite sense that positive momentum is growing. As Fortunes’ Katherine Dunn put it: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – just start.” Wise words for all of us as we endeavour to carry the many positive learnings from the Covid crisis into 2021.

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