10 Remote Workplace Trends To Look Out For In 2021
Source: Forbes Business Council
This past year was one of monumental shifts. While every aspect of our personal lives underwent a significant change, the professional side also saw a massive shake-up. Remote work is one of those new trends. According to a recent Upwork survey, about 1 in 4 Americans (26.7%) will be working remotely in 2021. This is a significant change from 2018, when only 7% of civilian employees in the U.S. had an option to work from home.
We believe this is prepping to be the year of big remote work shifts, and work-from-home policies across companies and industries will change massively. Twitter, Shopify and Dropbox have already announced that they will be moving to permanent work-from-home setups, and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced that half of the company’s employees could work remotely for 5 to 10 years.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 remote workplace trends that I believe will take place in 2021.
1. Hybrid Models Taking Center Stage
In 2021, a combination of remote work and onsite work will start becoming the norm. Commuting is already tough on many employees, and more people will start skipping it entirely so that they can be more productive and flexible in their work patterns. At the same time, others would like to return to their workplaces, citing better peer interactions and face-to-face solves. As a result, many organizations will start adopting a hybrid model.
2. Reduced Conference Calls
Companies are now spending 20% of their meeting room budgets on collaborative conference call technologies as they expand their remote work capabilities to support global meetings. But as more people get used to working from home, the intrusive nature of video conferencing calls starts taking shape. During the course of the pandemic, I observed that many businesses realized that trying to compensate for the lack of “human interaction” with conference calls can actually reduce team productivity, especially when most people spend time only on calls. In 2021, expect more people to cut down on conference calls and focus on the work at hand.
3. Increased Reliance On Asynchronous Communication
Over the years, we’ve noticed that the companies that have dealt with remote working in the best possible manner have found out the benefits of asynchronous communication, which enables better communication for distributed organizations. Async communication allows team members to work within multiple time zones, ensuring they can better control their workflow. Better-planned communication can lead to less stress and improved time-zone equality.
4. Greater Adoption Of Cloud-Based HR Technology
Cloud-based HR technologies will see massive adoption as companies strive to provide a seamless experience for all their remote working employees, keeping them engaged and productive. Ninety percent of employees feel that working remotely adds to their morale, according to an Igital Thoughts report. It is important that HR technology catches up to their requirements. New, post-pandemic HR tools will have built-in support such as virtual hiring, employee onboarding, employee learning, etc.
5. A Growing Respect For Nonwork Times
One of the worst things to come out of the pandemic was how people lost control over their work-life balance. A recent survey by Kentik (registration required) found that 51% of employees are concerned about their work-life balance. Employers need to wake up to these facts and set clear rules and guidance about avoiding calls after work hours or requests that need an immediate response. In 2021, I expect to see app blockers and end-time emails become more common as people settle into their remote work roles.
6. Enhanced Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity will become an even greater concern for organizations. According to Cisco’s “Future of Secure Remote Work Report,” 82% of employers felt that “cybersecurity is now extremely important or more important than before COVID-19.” There are growing concerns around how data is accessed remotely and how secure it can get. Expect to see significant new investments in cybersecurity IT systems and infrastructure.
7. Reduced Office Space Leading To More Savings
The need for sprawling physical office spaces is going to become a thing of the past. Completely remote companies with no HQ or organizational office will become a reality. Many companies will plan a strategy to have specific days for meetings and collaboration and other days for remote work.
8. Changing Performance Assessments
Remote working has changed performance management drastically. Today, companies are increasingly focusing on the work completed instead of the hours worked. Today, only 24% of companies (registration required) are teaching their managers how to support remote teams, and this will grow as performance expectations change. As a result, many companies are moving to a fluid performance management model in which reviews are ongoing rather than annual.
9. More Flexible Work Times
While companies are working remotely, the work schedule has remained the same as before. This can be restrictive for the employees, as many have to juggle house-related tasks and take care of their kids. As a result, more companies will start assessing if they actually need traditional work times, and some will start providing flexibility for their employees as long as the work gets done.
10. Increased Demand For Retraining And Reskilling
Skills gaps have widened due to the pandemic, and the increase in job automation has catalyzed the demand for retraining and skill-upping. A new report by Gartner suggests that only 16% of the new people hired today possess adequate skills for the current job. I believe the most in-demand skills in 2021 will be artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, cybersecurity, healthcare IT and UX design.
Remote working reached a major inflection point in 2020 and is now the default mode across the world. With all the negativity around the pandemic, I’ve noticed this difficult switch has been received positively overall, and many companies and technologies can help businesses make this transition smoothly.