The top 5 lessons learned from 2021 and how you can apply them

  • Date posted

    Nov 28, 2021

There’s a reason we were taught history in school. And no, it wasn't to just fill an hour of our time with dusty textbooks and pop quizzes. It’s because we can't know where we’re going until we know where we've been.

So, that’s why we’re looking back—back at what made 2021 a historic year in terms of change and transition. And as we enter 2022, we wonder: Have you embraced this new reality, or are you still struggling to adjust?

Either way, you’re in good company. And whether you’re sad it’s almost over or you're ready to toss 2021 into the past, there’s no doubt that these takeaways will help you—and your entire team—as you gear up for what’s next.

Is hybrid healthy? Sort of...

This year, remote and hybrid work options took off—and for good reason. They offer employees more safety during the pandemic, greater flexibility, and help companies access a larger talent pool when hiring—which can also support diversity and collaboration efforts. However, it’s important to remember that a hybrid workforce isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution.


of remote employees are working more hours now than when they were in the office.


of remote workers now find it more difficult to “unplug” from work during off-hours.

And remote employees aren’t the only ones struggling. Even on-site employees find it difficult to completely leave the office behind once they get home. The reason? Thanks to email, cellphones, and video calls, we’re more accessible than ever before.


of on-site workers find it difficult to “unplug” from work during off-hours.


of all workers say they check emails outside of regular work hours every day.

This is a recipe for burnout—but that doesn’t mean we should ditch a hybrid model completely. While 2021 has shown that remote and hybrid layouts aren't perfect, they’re not going away anytime soon. Studies show that most employees (54%) would still prefer to work from home at least part of the time even after the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.

So, how do you build a healthy hybrid workforce? It starts by creating a people-first culture based on empathy, understanding, and meaningful wellbeing solutions—so you can support your employees in a way that makes the most impact for them.

Retention became a top priority as people left their companies in droves

We all felt it. The pandemic changed so much—including the way we work. In 2021, the entire world looked around, and many asked a simple question: Am I happy at my job? If the answer was no, more often than not, people left. It was as simple as that.

In a society that was constantly squeezing life in around work—many are now focused on doing the opposite and squeezing in work around their lives. So, what can employers do to keep their best talent? Show your people you care.

They called it The Great Resignation. And (for companies that were paying attention) it changed the game. Businesses started asking important questions about how they could use impactful wellbeing benefits to support their people, and many HR professionals became even more involved in C-suite conversations and new business initiatives.

We've worked with companies over the past decade to help more than 1 million people grow healthier and happier—which makes us pretty happy too. Navigate was built to offer a suite of opportunities that can support your employees’ personal needs and help them thrive.


of employees (at a company that supports wellbeing) are likely to recommend their organization as a good place to work.


Highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability.

As demonstrated in 2021, this topic will only become more important. Employees will continue to ask themselves if they enjoy their job and feel appreciated by their employer. It’s our goal to make sure that our client’s employees respond to that question with an enthusiastic, “yes!”

Mental health is no longer something to stigmatize

Let’s be honest, 2020 and 2021 were … difficult.

Many struggled with their mental health to the point that it was impossible for employers to ignore. The result? Something that was once completely private, personal, and maybe even hidden was moved into center stage.


of workers say the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.


say that newfound work-related stress is affecting their home lives.

Talks about mental health even went as far as the Tokyo Olympics. During the games, Olympic gold mentalist and American gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from multiple events—citing her mental health as the reason. This difficult decision was praised around the world, with Biles representing a much-needed culture shift that prioritizes mental and emotional wellbeing over additional success.

And it was more than just a fleeting trend. Conversations around mental health stayed relevant all year long. Employers in 2021 were expected to go beyond traditional benefits to support the mental and emotional needs of their employees.


of employees indicate that companies should be doing more to protect workers’ mental health.

At Navigate, we began a weekly mental health hours policy in response to this newfound need. This allows our employees to take three hours off work each week to take care of their mental health—no questions asked. We also teamed up with partners (like Total Brain and BurnAlong) to help our clients strengthen their employees’ wellbeing with thoughtful and impactful self-care solutions.

The moral of the story? If you want to do good things for your team, keep your best talent, and attract more amazing people to your company, then you need to have conversations (and offer tangible benefits) supporting employee mental health.

An increased focus on the business case for DEI

Discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion sparked in 2020 and (rightfully so) continued throughout the year. These conversations proved essential not only to the health and happiness of employees but to the overall health and longevity of businesses as a whole.

The reason? Teams made up of people from unique and diverse backgrounds (who are allowed to authentically express themselves) are more innovative, more engaged, and more financially successful compared to less diverse teams.


of candidates seek companies that emphasize diversity and inclusion in their culture.


Inclusive companies are almost twice as innovative compared to those that are not.

On top of that, 83% of millennials are more engaged when working for companies with an inclusive culture. These same millennials will make up a whopping 75% of the workforce by 2025. And, according to the 2020 US Census, people who identify as belonging to two or more races more than tripled in 2020. This number is projected to rise and will represent both future clients and employees.

Simply put, companies can't afford to ignore the rising impact of an inclusive culture, because they would be missing out on a key demographic as the US population continues to become more diverse.

Do more with insightful HR data

You don’t seem like the type to leave things to chance. Neither are we! 2021 was filled with changes that required HR professionals to adjust and adapt quickly. For those who used it, data made those adjustments easier by helping them measure and understand their company’s culture, the efficacy of their efforts, and the impact they brought to their employees and clients.

Tools like the analytics feature on our Navigate Platform are the perfect way to gather a variety of information, so you can evolve and adapt your employee experience based on the unique information you gather.

HR teams can use data to make better decisions, better understand and evaluate the business' impact on people, improve leadership’s decision-making in people-related matters, make HR processes and operations more efficient and effective, and improve the overall wellbeing and effectiveness of the company’s employees.

Industry trends are a great starting point, but nothing beats analyzing the needs of your people—instead of someone else's. At Navigate, we use Pulse Surveys to help our clients gather personalized data on their employee population. This allows our customers to create a unique, relevant, and engaging wellbeing program that can positively impact their organization’s bottom line.


Employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work

For example, one of our clients used Pulse Surveys to create a give-back program that would truly resonate with their people. They quickly discovered that an overwhelming number of their employees (80%) supported the local Animal Rescue League. After that, their next steps were clear.

Understanding what’s important to your employees is essential for boosting engagement and encouraging retention. From supporting local charities to taking on unique benefits like student loan support or pet insurance, a personalized wellbeing program can help you promote all the awesome things you’re doing for your people.

Are you ready to do more good things for your people? Check out the benefits you can create with an impactful, holistic wellbeing platform on your side.

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