We have no idea what 2021 will bring, but here are some things I hope to happen.
1. Remote work. Working at home has been a godsend for some people; it has taken its toll on many others. My wish is that next year C-suite executives scrutinize how remote working affects organizational culture and innovation. If they decide to keep offices closed, I hope that CFOs also find a way to adapt human resources practices and policies so that employees feel less isolated and regain a sense of esprit de corps.
2. Small businesses. For the rest of this year and next, Congress and the president need to focus on saving the 30 million small businesses that are the engine of the U.S. economy. Large industries have the bankruptcy system, highly competent executives, and liquid capital markets to keep them from running aground. Small businesses, on the other hand, have fewer capital-raising options and fewer routes to debt forgiveness. They are critical to any economic revival.
3. U.S. balance sheet. Implicitly and explicitly, many politicians have embraced Modern Monetary Theory, the belief that nations that issue their own currencies can never “run out of money” the way people or businesses can. Ergo, they are proposing programs under the notion that the U.S. can spend freely to revive the economy. I hope that in 2021 policymakers get a clear picture of the real limits of the federal government’s balance sheet. They also need to show wisdom in the stimulus spending programs they prioritize and undertake.
4. The pandemic. One of my desires is for the U.S. health care system, its regulators, and related government agencies to be more imaginative next year in figuring out how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and any future outbreaks. Lockdowns are a blunt tool that has serious side effects. The constant drumbeat of fear from the media has overshadowed any balanced messaging from scientific experts and knowledgeable health care officials.
5. CFOs. Twenty-twenty has shown us, once again, how intertwined businesses are with the macroeconomy, government policymaking, and their customers and partners. I hope that in 2021 CFOs play a positive role in solving all of the problems confronting our nation. They have a responsibility to help make 2021 a year of historic recovery.
Vincent Ryan is editor-in-chief of CFO.