What will 2021 hold for the future of work?


This year, businesses across the globe went from talking about remote working plans to rapidly putting them into action. As a result of the pandemic, millions of people – including many who had never regularly worked remotely – were suddenly forced into their home offices.

To put it simply, this year has been a rollercoaster for businesses, with many entirely changing how they work for the foreseeable future. While 2020 was full of HR teams, managers, and leaders trying to replicate the office environment virtually, we are now at a turning point where we must use the character traits, we’ve developed this year to move forward into our “next normal”. Our 2020 learnings have been extremely valuable, and the agility and adaptability many of us have embraced will be prove vital in future endeavours. But how do we harness everything we learned and build on it next year?


Companies will be hiring a Head of Remote


The future of work has arrived and there is no turning back. In fact, almost 60% of remote workers have expressed the desire to continue to work remotely after COVID-19 subsides. But as companies embrace this change and shift to a remote-centric workforce, there are many factors to consider in order to do it well. Technology and tools are essential to enabling productive, secure collaboration but if you want to ensure that teams can thrive, that culture remains strong and that employees who may be relocating or traveling around to work from anywhere don’t fall afoul of state-by-state labour and tax laws, it is important to treat this shift as you would any strategic initiative.


A single owner, or a dedicated team of cross functional experts, will be important in ensuring thorough planning, effective communications, change management and attention to all the small yet complex details (compensation, benefits, taxes, ergonomics, remote working laws and employee experience to name just a few) that go into creating a great remote work experience.


Physical offices will be reimagined to serve a different purpose


Moving forward people want to be less tethered to their office, work more flexible hours and spend fewer hours commuting, changing the role physical office spaces have in shaping the employee experience. No longer will people drive in and out of work during rush hour, 5 days a week. People may go in for half days or just one day a week, avoiding long commutes.

This time in the office likely won’t be to sit at an assigned workspace, but instead for meetings, collaboration and connections. Solo work can be done at home or wherever the office is that day. Where unique offices with lots of benefits were once a major draw, they now will play a different role and serve a new purpose, with space being redesigned for more social and group human connection versus individual workstations.


Employee migration will change the talent landscape


Working remotely will mean different things based on each company’s adoption of the new way of working. Some may allow anyone to work from anywhere, for others it means a 266hybrid model consisting of time in and out of the office. The opportunity to travel around throughout the year while still being able to work is appealing for those who have a passion for travel or the nomadic life. For those who want more permanent roots in a community, with good schools or nearer family members, we are already seeing a migration as families move to other states or from city centre to suburb as the burden of a long commute is removed. Through experiences managing distributed remote workforces during the pandemic, many learned that being in the same physical space doesn’t matter as much as we thought.

Smart organisations will build this into their remote workforce plan and use it as a strategic advantage, tapping into a broader, more diverse talent pool, being open minded about where you hire new roles and retaining top talent by accommodating the desire for people to live where it suits them. It will be fascinating to follow the migration patterns and compare where a company’s employee base exists now and then in 12- and 24-months’ time.


In-office budgets will reduce, with funds going towards Bringing Employees Together


Tech companies practically invented the idea of the cool office – with lavish setups, endless perks and amenities ranging from free meals to onsite gyms. In fact, these office spaces have become synonymous with tech culture. But offices today look very different now for almost all companies – whether it’s fewer employees in the workplace, smaller meeting spaces or the elimination of in-person offices entirely. That also means there’s less of a need for traditional “perks,” but don’t expect to see companies give up on culture. These funds will instead be reallocated for other programmes, not ones designed around an office space, but around a concentration of people and focused on meaningful cultural activities that bring employees together for team building, volunteering, collaboration, “offsites,” holiday gatherings and more.


The future of work


There is a unifying factor in these predictions in that the main focus for businesses is on the individual employee. What happened this year came as a surprise for everyone and organisations have had to adapt to ensure their employees receive the tools, technology and support necessary to make their lives as easy as possible.


It is clear that those who choose not to prioritise their workforce will be left behind in the new year. Simple changes to the workplace such as hiring a Head of Remote, reimagining physical offices and bringing employees together will prove vital in ensuring organisations stay on top.



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