The Brave New World of Work: 5 Workplace Trends for 2021

Miriam Dushane Managing Partner, Alaant Workforce SolutionsMiriam Dushane Managing Partner, Alaant Workforce Solutions
By nearly any measure, the workplace was transformed in 2020. From the rise in remote work and deployment of the technology driving it, to the surging numbers of people joining the fast-growing gig economy, to the unprecedented emphasis on employee health and safety, the “9-to-5, in-the-office” workday quickly became the exception, rather than the rule.

Employers that consider this transition merely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are making a serious mistake. While the pandemic accelerated the shift, it was well underway long before COVID. Recognizing that reality is critical to ensuring that organizations are properly prepared to navigate a rapidly changing tide, which is unfolding and evolving in real time. Savvy employers must be aware of the trends shaping today’s workplace, and be ready to move quickly to address them. Here are 5 that will have a significant impact in 2021.

Safeguarding workplace health, safety and security

This remains top of mind for employees and the top priority for employers. Employees that aren’t working remotely must know their health is being protected by their employer. It’s not only a safety issue, but also an indication of whether an employer truly values its workers. Expect no letup in safety and security protocols in the new year – and employers that fail to heed that call can expect a decline in productivity, an exodus of good employees, or both.

Investing in employee wellbeing

This has become paramount amid the pandemic, particularly as employees juggle multiple stresses, from working remotely to home schooling children to isolation from their colleagues, friends and favorite activities.
Employers should be offering programs, services and support for both physical and mental health, including fitness options, nutrition and diet information, and access to meditation, virtual therapy, and mindfulness apps such as Calm, Headspace and Talkspace.

Supporting remote and flexible work

Both employers and employees have learned the workplace can and should be productive in a remote environment; in fact, many are finding it’s actually generating improved output. Consequently, employees now expect more flexibility in how, where and when they work. Employers that understand and support that will have more success hiring and retaining the best workers. At the same time, they must also invest in the technology their workforce needs to get the job done.

Upskilling employees

As companies integrate new technologies in a remote or hybrid work environment, it’s vital to ensure employees know how to use them. That means providing training on the latest software and virtual tools. By the way, this action has a dual benefit: it supports employee growth and development, which is beneficial in retaining top performers.

Tapping into the gig economy

Whether by choice or the result of a pandemic-induced job loss or lifestyle change, a growing number of individuals are making the transition to gig work. Employers that embrace the availability of gig workers will come out ahead in the long run. Gig workers offer businesses a wide range of expertise; technology makes it easy to connect and collaborate; and the growth of the remote workplace makes the timing perfect. Not to mention, hiring gig workers can result in significant cost savings over hiring full-time employees.

Bottom line: the workplace you see today is here to stay. Employers that accept it, adjust to it, and advance with it will reap long-term dividends.

Miriam Dushane has more than 20 years of experience in human resources, specializing in recruitment, employee relations, and training and development, and serving industries that range from IT and manufacturing to finance and health care. She has built an operation recognized by Forbes as one of America’s Best Recruiting Firms for four consecutive years (2017 through 2020), and been named by HR Tech Outlook as one of the nation’s Top 10 Employer Branding Consulting/Services Companies. For more information, visit
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