2020 has been a year like no other. While many things have changed about our lives, one big difference is where and how we work. ‘Normal’ life may soon begin to return but the necessary changes we made in 2020 will permanently shape the future of work. As we prepare for the new year, we’ve been reflecting on what we’ve learnt from this year’s experience.

#1 The Rise of the Online Workplace

Furniture matching office colours

At the start of the pandemic, many of us had to work from home which caused the online workplace to rise in importance. Without a shared office space, how we communicated at work changed completely. We could no longer hold spontaneous brainstorming sessions or pop by a colleague’s desk. As in-person meetings and conversations were replaced by Slack messages and online meetings, the office became an online workplace and communication tools such as Slack, Google Meet and Zoom became essential parts of our working day.

#2 The World Is Your Office

Remote working is here to stay and companies will need to adapt for this. Before the pandemic, working from home was already a trend that was growing in popularity; public health advice to stay home just accelerated it. Once restrictions are lifted many people may choose to continue working remotely in some capacity. Certainly, a survey conducted by Gensler in 2020 found that 67% people said that they would like to follow a hybrid model where they can work from home and in the office. Some companies will even start reducing their office space in response. There is also the question of whose responsibility it is for setting up home offices with desks and chairs. If a business decides to allow their employees to be flexible with their location, then they must also consider how they will maintain a company culture, encourage engagement and settle in new employees who may rarely meet colleagues in person or go into the office.

Acoustic screens in the office

#3 Flexible Working Hours

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2020 also saw a renewed focus on the typical 9-5 office day as people balanced home and work life.  Some employees may have created their own work schedule and there has been interest, even before the pandemic, on the benefits of a 4-day work week. For individuals a flexible work schedule may work well but companies may not get the same levels of productivity that they would in a traditional office. It will certainly affect teamwork and communication moving forward. This trend is here to stay though with younger workforces having a growing desire to choose their own work day.

#4 A Focus on Wellbeing

Working from home resulted in reduced social interactions and a time-consuming transition phase online where businesses had to quickly change how they communicated. As a result, many people felt their wellbeing was affected. In a study conducted by Oracle, 76% of people said “companies should be doing more to support the mental health of their workforce” while 85% said work stress was affecting their personal life. There were many claims that people were working more than ever and there was an increase in the conversation on work-life balances. To counter this, companies could hold virtual activities that focus on mental health such as online meditations, personal development seminars or social activities like a virtual game night. This doesn’t just benefit the workforce, studies have suggested that happy employees lead to a stronger business.

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#5 Employee Development

Acoustic Screens in Office

The news and social media were dominated with amusing mishaps from inexperienced Zoom users at the start of working from home. While it was entertaining, it also demonstrated that there are still people who are not confident with technology. This will have to change as companies start implementing remote working as an option. As a consequence, we will all need to be able to use basic platforms such as Zoom or Skype as well as more advanced tools. For companies that want to attract and retain a young and talented workforce, they will also need to recognise the growing need for personal and professional development. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be difficult as there are plenty of affordable or free opportunities online where new skills can be learnt.

The changes we saw in 2020 are going to affect the workplace in 2021.There is no doubt that how we used to work in the pre-covid era is in the past. For some, change can be stressful and time consuming, but it can also be exciting and an opportunity for growth. This blog has, hopefully, equipped you with some ideas of trends in the future of work so you can best think, prepare, and adapt.