4 Trends Shaping the Future of Work

At the start of the pandemic last year, we shared 5 key ways to adapt the workforce to “the new normal” quickly that included adopting agile, rethinking how you measure productivity, un-syncing communication through asynchronous tools, virtualizing the workplace, and centralizing information on the cloud.

Although a lot has changed since March 2020, many of these strategies have proven to be effective and productive over a year later. Here’s a breakdown of 4 workforce trends we’re continuing to see in 2021.

The future of work is remote (or at least hybrid).

A few months ago, Microsoft published a survey showing that 73% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time, 67% are craving more in-person time with their teams. How companies give workers the best of both worlds will look different per business model and even industry, but enabling flexible work will impact everything from company culture to innovation to how organizations hire talent.

1. The concept of productivity continues to shift in the workplace.

We can thank Henry Ford for making the 9-5 workday mainstream, but times have changed since the 1920s and 30s. Employees don’t need to pad out 8-hour days and look busy at the office anymore. The pandemic has disrupted the future of work and, as this Forbes article elaborates, has accelerated three trends: much greater reliance on remote work, higher use of e-commerce and greater adoption of automation. This has mandated employees and leadership alike to have a proactive approach, continuously reskill and upskill, and an attitude to adapt and relearn as the need arises. Companies who used the absolute measure of ‘time at the office’ as a key KPI for judging performance will need to reevaluate, and become more holistic and multidimensional when it comes to measuring productivity.

2. More companies are finding other ways to fill the skills gap.

According to the Harvard Business Review, organizations can’t reskill the capabilities of their existing workforce fast enough to meet their changing needs. Companies are, therefore, shifting from building skills in-house to filling the skills gap when the need arises in these uncertain times. We’re seeing and will continue to see a surge in “skill renting” or staff augmentation to reduce costs, accelerate deployments, and stay ahead of emerging technologies. Now, more than ever, companies are also willing to outsource many functions – be it stateside, nearshore or offshore. Choosing the right outsourcing strategy that aligns with the culture and business goals is essential for a business to thrive. 

There is a collective focus on employee experience and values.

While technology greatly impacted organizations’ abilities to function remotely during the pandemic, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the biggest shift in the future of work lies in its people.

Organizations and workers are putting more stake in leading with a human-first approach, and as a result, we’re seeing a collective refocus on what really matters at an individual, team, and organizational level.

3. More diverse and inclusive teams are emerging quickly.

The pandemic flooded the market with talent, and remote work opened businesses up to a broader, more diverse workforce. Companies who embrace the opportunity have a first-mover advantage to attract great talent globally; those that don’t will lose their best people to their biggest competitors.

Additionally, for many, the protests of summer 2020 highlighted many of the gender and racial disparities in our society and brought forth a need for businesses to reassess their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Consumers and workers alike are paying attention and holding companies accountable, which means businesses must authentically transform or face the consequences.

As people continue to demand higher transparency from corporations regarding DEI, we’ll see businesses of all sizes prioritize not just combatting bias and discrimination in the workplace, but integrating diversity and inclusion into their business models.

4. Workers are re-prioritizing what is essential to them.

The COVID crisis cast a new light on the importance of physical, emotional, and mental wellness. While at first worklife and homelife became confusingly blended last year, workers found time to organize their day differently than they could when working at the office. Things like afternoon runs, morning meditation, and a surge in hobbies became increasingly normal. And now people are organizing work around their lives and well-being instead of the other way around.

Businesses will hear more and more calls to make room for time with families, prioritize mental health, and reevaluate which traditional ways of working need to be phased out. With 92% of HR leaders agreeing that employee experience is a top priority in 2021, we can expect sweeping changes on this front.

These workforce trends are only the beginning.

The past year showed us that putting people at the heart of business decisions can help us stay ahead of disruption. To create an organization that can flourish in uncertain times involves thinking about work and the workforce in terms of purpose, potential, and perspective.

Leaders should and can trust people to work in ways that provide personal fulfillment, offering employees the opportunity to align their passions with organizational needs. That is the future of work.

To learn more about how you can transform your workforce, and how technology can facilitate that crucial change, reach out to us. We’re here to help.