What started as a temporary lockdown has turned into the new normal, obligating us to follow social distancing protocols and minimize exposure to public spaces. As of November 2020, more than 300 million Americans are advised to ‘stay at home’ by the authorities.
As the New Year approaches, organizations and employees are anticipating how to prepare for 2021. With the development and gradual distribution of a vaccine still some time away, it is clear that things will take some time to normalize.
As we see new technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and cloud computing, the workplace trends for 2021 could provide a prelude for how our future office life can be like.
3 Workplace Trends For 2021
Are we ready to transition back to the office? Is remote working here to stay? The speed and magnitude of change have left employees asking a lot of questions.
To get a better picture of how the workplace will shape up to be, here are the top HR trends for 2021.
Remote Working Is Here To Stay – Not Dominate
When organizations allowed their employees to work remotely for the first time in March 2020, it looked like they would be back by April. Fast forward to December, and some of us may not even want to go back.
While not exactly novel, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated remote working adaption by several years. This has led to the widespread realization of the benefits provided by this work method.
There are obvious safety hazards. With public vaccination still some time away, any exposure to a possibly contaminated environment or equipment poses a grave threat to your health. However, there are other reasons for that, as well.
For organizations, remote working can translate to reduced rent expenses, employee benefits, and overall expenses.
With 63% of employees worldwide feeling more productive working from home, many organizations have gone ahead to establish permanent remote working positions.
Notable examples of this include corporations like Google and Uber, offering remote working options well into 2021.
However, if you think the future is entirely remote – you may be wrong. A vibrant organizational culture is the product of a dynamic workplace environment. With approximately 60% of employees feeling less connected since starting working remotely, an office still serves as the nucleus of a healthy workplace.
Technological breakthroughs, strict schedules, and other responsibilities – such as children – have left employees wanting a more flexible schedule. One that allows them to leverage remote working convenience while enabling them to benefit from their colleagues’ presence when required.
And that is what your workforce wants as well.
Glassdoor survey reveals that the overwhelming majority of employees (70%) consider a hybrid environment the ideal working arrangement.
In fact, tech giants such as Microsoft will allow people to work remotely with manager approval. Same with Google. When in control of their routine, employees can maximize their productivity and create a better, more engaged workplace.
Increased Focus On Employee Mental Wellbeing
Not only has the pandemic upended the organizational ecosystem, but it has also adversely affected the morale and wellbeing of employees worldwide. With the lines between work and home blurring due to remote working policies, employees face greater exhaustion and stress.
Industry research reveals that half of all employees state that they are overworked and experiencing burnout. In fact, employees are already working the equivalent of four extra working days in overtime since the first lockdown in March 2020.
The mental and emotional toll of a health crisis affecting their loved ones, coupled with maintaining increased productivity in an unfamiliar, remote environment, has dampened employee morale worldwide.
With 41% of employees in more than six developed countries noticing a decline in their mental health since the COVID-19 outbreak, things are already critical.
Going into 2021, ensuring the upkeep and mental wellbeing of your employees should headline every organizational agenda. While conventional employee wellness programs focused more on physical elements (injuries, illnesses, etc.), the current scenario requires rethinking how to approach employee wellbeing.
Companies must invest in their employee’ mental health and introduce innovative initiatives that can help them overcome their issues. Take Starbucks, for instance. The coffee chain started offering its employees and their family members free access to mental health sessions in April.
As the lifeblood of your organization, your employee wellbeing directly affects your productivity. While mental wellbeing initiatives can cost a bit, employers should view them as important investments that would ultimately positively impact your bottom-line.
And we have the stats to prove it!
A PwC study in Australia learned that companies receive twice as much ($2.30) for every dollar invested in effective mental health initiatives.
If the prospect of a healthier workforce couldn’t convince you of investing in employee mental health, the enhanced ROI sure will! Starting from seminars and counseling sessions, organizations can show sincere efforts by buying subscriptions for such apps and offering resources outside the company.
Extensive Workforce Reskilling To Bridge Technological Gaps
One of the most underrated impacts of the pandemic has been the rapid digitalization of the economy. While unemployment spiked and millions of employees were laid off, businesses unsystematically adapted to the digital economy.
This has led to the creation of new roles that were previously not required in organizations worldwide. With small chains exploring the ecommerce front to manufacturing businesses integrating with workplace application suites, a wide digital gap needs to be filled.
The solution? Employee reskilling. With their current positions increasingly left outdated by the wave of digitization, employees need to be reskilled in order to adapt to the new requirements at work.
According to Gartner, barely 16% of fresh hires have the skills required for their future roles.
What’s more – a Deloitte study revealed that half of the business leaders state that their workforce requires a complete skill overhaul in less than three years.
With technological progress occurring at a breakthrough speed, organizations need to equip their workforce with the skills to help them stay relevant in the future. Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and machine learning are garnering widespread adoption in the digital economy – and without reskilling your workforce, you will lose out to your competitors.
Take Royal Dutch Shell, for example. When companies were grappling with the pandemic, the oil giant exercised incredible foresight and arranged for AI training for their workforce. It would require them to undergo steep learning curves for the workers and learn how to do things in the new normal.
With a cure on the horizon, 2021 might finally be the year we transition back to office life. However, remote working has become a widespread phenomenon and will continue to headline workplace trends for the upcoming year.
With employees recovering from the pandemic aftermath, there will be a renewed emphasis on workforce mental health initiatives.
Lastly, as technology continues to become an indispensable part of our workplace, employees would require major reskilling to be able to keep up with both; technological prowess and their employment requirements.