2020 The Year in Review: A Planning Manager's Perspective

On February 3, 2021, APA kicked off its first Career Center Learning Circle, a place for APA members to virtually discuss challenges and successes. The first discussion centered around "What the Heck" just happened to all of us as planning supervisors and directors in 2020. Let's face it, no one trained us for what we were faced with and are still navigating. There is no playbook, guide, or examples to follow on how to manage during a pandemic; all we have is each other to learn from and share the good and the bad.

Many of those in attendance shared stories and innovative ideas for continuing full steam ahead. No one had the luxury of time or any certainty of an end in sight, and so many are busier now with added pressure.

Prior to the event, attendees sent topics and questions to help shape the conversation. What we learned from the survey is that managers needed to know they are not alone in figuring out how to continue required work in addition to personal and professional constraints. A major theme of the conversation centered on self-care: how do we manage our expectations and how do we take care of our staff considering reduced resources and heightened demand?

A question that remains is what will the office environment look like for the long haul. As supervisors, I think we need to remain open-minded and flexible to the possibility that remote working could be here to stay. We will return to in-person meetings, community events, and team-building workshops. However, remote working can be beneficial to all when conflicts arise. We now know that we can provide quality services to residents, business owners, and the community from home. Keep your options flexible, engage your team, and continue open discussions to create the best work environment opportunities for you and the team you lead.

Here are some key takeaways and ideas you can implement into your workday from the discussion.

  • Take time for yourself. We can't take care of our staff if we aren't taking care of ourselves.
  • Schedule mid-week check-ins with your team.
  • Take some time from your staff meetings to talk about anything other than work! Ask your staff to talk about what's going on in their lives. Create a time to listen, get creative, and take a deep breath — literally!
  • Try a virtual game such as bingo or trivia. Create a weekly challenge to your staff for a creative Zoom or Teams background for the next meeting — an attendee had their staff choose their favorite Disney character for their Teams background.

We hope everyone who attended learned a few tips that will help make their work and life a little easier. We appreciate all who participated and all you do for your communities. Please keep the ideas coming: CareerServices@planning.org.

Top image: Getty Images illustration.

March 4, 2021

By Aimee Nassif, AICP