4 Workforce Trends in 2021

4 Workplace Trends We’re Seeing in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted most aspects of daily life, including where we spend much of our time: our jobs. Workplaces were transformed as office workers hunkered down at home. On-demand industries became more in-demand. Employees juggling work with issues like tutoring kids at home re-prioritized what was important to them and what they wanted from employers.

As we look to a post-pandemic work landscape, we expect changes brought on by the pandemic to endure and have a lasting impact on employers and their workers. Here are four predictions we have for the state of work in 2021 and beyond.

1. Employers Will Make Work-Life Balance a Bigger Priority

The pandemic placed new burdens on individuals, couples and families, which trickled into the workplace. The need for positive work-life balance is here to stay, which is good news for employers, too.

According to Gartner’s “2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey,” employers that support work-life balance for employees see a 17% increase in the number of workers reporting better physical health and a 23% increase in the number of workers reporting better mental health. Employers that provide a high amount of support to employees see a 21% increase in the number of high performers.

Part of work-life balance support will include providing employees with mental and emotional well-being programs. The June 2020 11th annual Health and Well-Being Survey from Fidelity Investments and Business Group on Health found:

  • 95% of businesses around the world include mental and emotional health offerings in their corporate well-being programs.
  • 69% of employers offer teletherapy services.
  • 50% of employers offer stress management programs.
  • 33% of employers offer programs to help improve sleep, an increase from 25% in 2019.

The average budget for well-being programs increased to $4.9 million in 2020, which was a 36% increase from 2019. Expect other flexible support, like employers offering all-personal days rather than a number of “sick” days, so employees can take time off to support their mental health when they need to.

2. Companies Will Become More Mission-Based

In addition to the pandemic, 2020 saw a rise in social justice issues coming to the forefront. Black Lives Matter protests took place throughout the country, while issues like voting rights, climate change, gun violence, immigration and healthcare also rose to prominence.

More of today’s employees want to work for employers that have a stake in social justice issues like these. Back in 2019, Glassdoor’s Mission & Culture Survey found more than 77% of adults would evaluate a company’s culture before applying for a position there, and 79% would evaluate a company’s purpose and mission before applying. More than half said company culture is more important than salary regarding job satisfaction. Expect mission-driven company cultures to become more common.

Employers will also become more vocal about social justice and mission-driven business because it’s important to consumers, too. According to the 2020 Consumer Culture Report by 5W Public Relations, 71% of Millennials will pay more for a product if some of the proceeds to back to charity. As businesses become more socially minded, values and mission will also influence companies’ ability to attract talent.

3. Remote Work Capabilities Will Continue to Be Available

Companies that could enable remote work did so during the pandemic. In 2021 and beyond, expect companies to re-evaluate their need for in-office workers. According to an August 2020 survey by McKinsey & Company, executives planned to reduce office space by 30%.

A December 2020 report by FlexJobs found 41.8% of the American workforce was working remotely. An estimated 26.7% are expected to continue working from home through 2021. By 2025, 22% of the American workforce is expected to be working remotely, an 87% increase from the number of remote workers pre-pandemic.

In addition to remote working capabilities, work hours will transform in 2021. The increase of remote work during the pandemic enabled professionals to complete work tasks whenever was most convenient to them, a trend that may carry over as more employers offer remote work at least some of the time.

An article on The Muse, titled “The Death of the 9-to-5: Why We’ll All Work Flex Schedules Soon,” points out reasons why flex schedules will continue to become more available.

  • Workers Millennial-age and younger are demanding them.
  • Flex schedules support work-life balance.
  • Employers that support continuing skills education will need to offer flexible work schedules to accommodate skills training.
  • Flex schedules actually make employees more productive. According to a 2020 survey by Airtasker, remote workers averaged 1.4 more monthly days of work productivity compared to office workers.

Plus, employers can reap business savings by offering remote work and flex schedules. Businesses can eliminate workstations and decrease office space while getting more production out of employees.

4. Contract Hiring Will Increase

Freelancing continues to become more common in the U.S. A 2020 study by Upwork found the share of independent professionals earning a living freelancing full-time increased to 36% in 2019, an 8% increase. The pandemic is encouraging interest in freelancing, with 58% of non-freelancers considering freelancing in the future due to their exposure to remote work.

That means an increase in contract positions, as employers want to fill skills gaps without having to hire on full-time employees. Companies with hiring freezes can still source the talent they need, which provides opportunities to both full-time freelancers and full-time employees who want to earn extra money via the gig economy.

More business benefits to hiring contract employees include:

  • No office space required
  • No health insurance payments or 401(k) matching
  • On-demand services, which can result in quicker deadlines

Employees who work in freelancing and contract roles will need to account for costs like healthcare and retirement planning. The benefits to employees who take on gigs is their ability to say yes to projects they’re passionate about and the opportunity to work with a variety of clients.

Need Help Navigating the New Normal in Work?

Workplace disruption brings many exciting, and sometimes trepidatious, changes to what employees have been used to in the past. Evolving technology, remote capabilities and on-demand services are all transforming the workforce. That means new opportunities and the need for upskilling to keep up.

You might consider working with a career coach to stay relevant and engaged in your industry. Contact HiConsulting Services for a free consultation for career coach services if you’re interested in help for navigating your career path.