Trends that will shape work in 2021

2020 was year that changed many organisations and their business models, upending priorities and plans as business leaders scrambled to navigate a rapidly changing environment. For many businesses this included responding to shifting to a full time remote staff, determining how best to support employees’ wellbeing and managing a hybrid workforce.

It would be great to believe that 2021 will be about stability and getting back to normal; however, this year is likely to be another full of major transitions. Here are, what I believe, will be four additional forces that will shape businesses in 2021:

Employers will shift from managing the employee experience to managing the life experience of their employees

The pandemic has given business leaders increased visibility into the personal lives of their employees, who have faced major personal and professional struggles over the last year.

It’s become clear that supporting employees in their personal lives more effectively enables employees to not only have better lives, but also to perform at a higher level. According to Gartners recent employee survey, employers that support employees with their life experience see a 23% increase in the number of employees reporting better mental health. There is also a real benefit to employers, who see a 21% increase in the number of high performers compared to businesses that don’t provide the same degree of support to their employees.

It’s because of this, 2021 will be the year where employer support for mental health, financial health, and even things that were previously seen as out of bounds, like sleep, will become the core benefits offered to employees.

Flexibility will shift from location to time

While enabling employees to work remotely became commonplace across 2020, the next wave of flexibility will be around when employees are expected to work.

Recent research revealed that only 36% of employees were high performers in businesses with a standard 40-hour work week. Businesses that offer employees flexibility over when, where and how much they work, see 55% of their work force as high performers. In 2021 there will be a rise of new jobs where employees will be measured by their output, as opposed to delivering set of hours.

Mental health support is the new normal

Over the last several years, employers have offered new benefits to support their employees, for instance, expanded parental leave. The pandemic has brought wellbeing to the forefront as employers are more aware than ever how of the impact of mental health on employees and by association, the workplace.

This year, employers will go even further by working to de-stigmatise mental health by expanding mental health benefits, creating days where they shut the entire company down for a day to offer “a collective mental health day” to build awareness across the workforce about this key issue.

Employers will look to ‘rent’ talent to fill the skills gap

The number of skills employers are looking for has risen dramatically. Ultimately, businesses simply can’t reskill the capabilities of their existing workforce fast enough to meet their changing needs.

In 2021, some companies will shift from trying to build skills for an uncertain future internally and instead just rent or contract hire, paying a premium for those skills, when the need arises.


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