What started as a normal year abruptly became our most unusual one yet, with an industry-wide pivot to remote work. We worked from home, balancing surreal news updates, homeschool duties, the weight of a pandemic, and—remarkably—a standard workload. (Seriously. Our recent Uplevel report showed that engineers kept the same level of output despite these challenging working conditions.)
As 2021 kicks off, we’re all in need of a fresh start. How can you embrace the new year? These seven thought-starters will get your team aligned and inspire some personal growth, too.
Reflect on 2020.
We know that looking back on that tumultuous year is hard. If you’re ready to toss 2020 and never return, we understand—but you’d be missing a valuable opportunity to learn about your strengths, accomplishments deserving of celebration, and areas that could use some love. This is the time to reflect on the past year and use your learnings to set yourself up for success in the year ahead.
Set goals with your team.
In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, bring your team together for a discussion about intentions for 2021. Are there goals you want to set around working hours or screen time as we enter another year of remote work? What about reducing bug load? Can you streamline workload to reduce context switching? We recommend identifying team priorities, as well as encouraging individuals to set their own personal goals.
Prioritize burnout prevention.
Despite the ever-present challenges of the past year, engineering teams accomplished a great amount of work. This raises the importance of preventing burnout. Whether you’re empowering your team with flexible hours or enhancing Slack etiquette to reduce notification fatigue, any form of professional self-care is worth discussing. All years need seasons of action and seasons of rest.
Gather around the virtual “water cooler.”
In “normal” times, the week after the holidays has zero deadlines and many casual chats over homemade coffee cake. Without a quiet office to prompt this socialization, consider setting up a virtual chat for the whole team and simply catch up on the Netflix holiday movie line-up, the best gifts you gave your pets, or what people are looking forward to this year.
Learn something new.
Dedicate your first 1:1 of the year with an aspirational conversation around a new skill you want to add to your expertise. Learn a new coding language, develop a leadership skill, or find balance with a meditation practice. Then, develop an action plan and identify any relevant metrics that can help track your progress.
Refresh your working space.
Even if you finally moved from the kitchen table to a homemade “office,” your workspace could likely use a makeover. If possible, encourage employees to upgrade their setup by providing a small stipend for home equipment or share links of desk hacks you find on Reddit. Craving more significant change? Try a virtual workspace like Sococo, which simulates an office environment to create a sense of togetherness. Your avatar can hang out with coworkers and bring back the feel of the “shoulder tap” by walking to others’ virtual desks for quick conversations.
Spark new relationships.
The distance of remote work can make it hard for people to develop meaningful connections with new hires. Consider pairing up employees to engage in activities or tasks unrelated to work, like hosting a themed Zoom party for the rest of the team, playing video games together, or having daily coffee chats for a week.
Ultimately, the most impactful lesson we learned in 2020 was that of empathy. This year, give your team the gift of a much-deserved reset. These group and individual goals can help support your engineers in finding renewed focus, health, and success.
Wishing you well, from our team to yours. Happy 2021.