It’s difficult to argue with the notion that 2020 unleashed a torrent of disruptive forces upon the work world. We’re all aware of the big variables that were at play as the tumultuous year unfolded—everything from a volatile economy rocked by a global pandemic to a relentless wave of technological innovation left employers and employees alike scrambling in an effort to keep afloat and stay viable in a time of extreme uncertainty.
We’ve made it through, though many of us are a bit shaken up by the events of what felt like a year without precedent. But, as 2021 unfolds, we push forward, hopefully, armed with new wisdom from lessons learned. Although a key takeaway from 2020 is that it’s impossible to predict the future and how it will ultimately impact our grand plans, we can use what we’ve learned to look ahead and make informed predictions about what we can expect in the months to come—particularly in the world of work. Expect the following trends to help shape and define the workplace in 2021 and beyond.
Remote technology is here to stay
Last year saw the most abrupt workplace transition in recent memory. Practically overnight, employees in companies across industries and sectors went from working in offices to working from their homes and beyond as the pandemic roared through society and took hold.
In a year full of uncertainty and dark metaphorical clouds, one bright and shining takeaway was how capably and effectively companies and their teams were able to quickly pivot and continue getting work done in the most tumultuous of times, thanks in part to the power of technology to meet the needs of businesses and workers wherever they are around the globe. Yes, this migration has been happening for years, but the acceleration of the remote working trend exploded in 2020, and it certainly won’t taper off in 2021. Tech companies from lean startups to industry behemoths are continually advancing new innovations in the work from home space, and businesses are reaping the benefits as they get more done while keeping infrastructure costs low. Count on this trend to continue.
Lean is king
Embracing new technology has been an absolute game changer for companies to maximize profits and efficiency while outperforming the competition. In addition, it has allowed businesses to embrace a lean mindset without fear of understaffing and not having sufficient resources to meet their needs. Technology is making it possible for companies to automate key aspects of their productivity pipelines in ways that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago, and this trend is only accelerating, with new and innovative ways for businesses to do more with less being developed at breakneck speeds.
What does this mean for workers? Simply put, the average employee should expect to be tasked with wearing more work hats than ever before, and at this point it shouldn’t be surprising to see their number of colleagues dwindle over time as technology replaces human power across core business functions and things get leaner. It also places additional pressure on workers to keep their productivity levels high and their skills razor sharp when it comes to new industry-standard technology and process rollouts. As businesses continue to evaluate their operations through a lean mindset, they’ll be paying careful attention to who’s keeping up and who’s falling behind when it comes time to find new areas of potential excess to trim.
Focus on diversity is mandatory
Globalization may have gotten the ball rolling when it comes to businesses seeking to diversify their teams with a broader range of employees worldwide (full-time, part-time, and contract-based), but the focus on diversity has gone far beyond the desire for businesses to cut costs and maximize profits. Companies have increasingly come to realize that having a diverse spectrum of employees empowers them with a more comprehensive and multi-faceted array of perspectives and voices to leverage, in addition to allowing them to source the best and brightest talent from a larger and richer applicant pool. The positive contributions that diversity makes to their productivity, corporate and brand cultures and bottom lines are undeniable and will continue to fuel this long-overdue workplace trend through 2021 and beyond.