This year has been one for the books. The COVID-19 pandemic has flipped the script on everyday life, turned kitchen tables into offices, and living rooms into daycares. It’s also forced businesses to change their ways, abandon age-old tactics, and evolve to meet the modern workplace’s needs. It’s up to forward-thinking companies to sift through endless streams of data and information and pinpoint—exactly—what’s changing in the workplace and what they’ll need to do to thrive for years to come. Here are several workplace trends that we expect to play a pivotal role in the business world in 2021 and beyond:
Remote Becomes the Norm
This one goes without saying, but it’s still worth noting: Remote work is the new normal, and in 2021 and beyond, We fully expect many businesses will shift to a remote-first workforce over time. The number of employees permanently working remotely globally is set to double in 2021. As the efficacy of a remote workforce becomes more apparent, this number will continue to increase.
Even More Technology Takes Over the Workplace
With remote working the norm, it’s becoming common for businesses to have employees scattered across the globe. As a result, businesses will have to invest in technology to support this. Many forward-thinking ones are already doing this. In fact, two studies by McKinsey and KPMG found that at least 80 percent of leaders accelerated technology implementation due to Covid-19, including technologies to help with contact tracing and collaboration. AI-driven software to support employees and aid in decision making, increase productivity, and allow for flexibility and safety will also play a key role moving forward.
Employees Demand Better Mental Health and Wellness Benefits
Prior to 2020, the world was already in the midst of a mental health crisis—the pandemic only perpetuated it. According to the American Psychology Association, the average reported stress level for U.S. adults related to the pandemic their stress level, in general, was higher than the average and marked the first significant increase in average reported stress since the survey began in 2007. Businesses must respond and introduce new ways for their employees to stay in the right headspace. Some companies, like Google and LinkedIn, have already bought corporate licenses for their employees to use apps like Calm and Headspace to help them meditate, stay fit, and maintain a healthy diet. Others will have to follow suit.
Health & Safety Protocols Stick Around
A survey in 2017 found that the work environment’s safety was among the top criteria employees consider when evaluating a new job offer, even ranking ahead of factors such as the quality of potential coworkers and opportunities for professional growth. That was three years ago. Moving forward, employees will require that their employers keep their facilities clean, communicate regularly, and maintain safe working conditions. Companies that ensure they’re adhering to ever-changing national and localized guidelines will come out ahead, especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
With 70 percent of job seekers valuing a company’s commitment to diversity, it makes sense that more and more companies are appointing a “Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.” After 2020, it’s a foregone conclusion that that number will rise. Therefore, there will continue to be a seismic shift surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as employers work to create meaningful change despite the history of injustice that has marginalized underrepresented groups within the workplace.
Ongoing Training & Education Becomes a Necessity
As businesses shift to meet the new world’s needs, so too will the skills required to do the new jobs it’s spawned. The most in-demand skills heading into 2021 will be those centered around technology, including artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and IT. Retraining and upskilling new or current employees will be paramount to the survival of any company.
The past year has changed the business world in many ways. Some of those changes will fade, but some are here to stay, including, but not limited to workplace trends, like remote working, increased levels of technology, better mental health care, enhanced safety measures, a firm commitment to DEI, and continuing education. As a result, businesses will have to evolve and adapt in order to become compliant with the way the new world works.