What’s in store for the workplace in 2021? | Inquirer Business

What’s in store for the workplace in 2021?

COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the nature of work
/ 04:02 AM February 01, 2021

Yu Ming Chin

Last year was full of lessons learned and introspection. 2021, meanwhile, is a time of integration, optimization and greater reset: taking action from what we’ve learned from the crisis and rebuilding the landscape for the new reality.

Given we’re still in the midst of a crisis, what does this mean for the future of work? Where is the human resource (HR) industry going next? As HR practitioners, we take responsibility for spearheading the recovery phase of our organizations and ensuring our business is resilient enough to help us confront the next disruption. Beyond recruitment and hiring, we unleash our strategic ability to pivot and lead the organization towards the new normal.


HR’s role has greatly transformed from prepandemic times and digitalization is a huge part of this shift. So now we ask ourselves, how can we advance the future that is more practical, pragmatic and efficient?

Referencing from my talk in our learning webinar last year, I highlighted key forces and trends that have impacted and will continue to shape the future of work. For 2021, here are some of what I believe will remain relevant in the HR front—what you should start doing to prepare your organization for what’s next or continue pursuing to keep up with the current demand.


Remote working as the new normal

In a 2020 HR survey by Gartner, 88 percent of organizations around the globe encouraged or required employees to work from home due to the virus. By the end of 2021, Global Workplace Analytics predicts that 25- 30 percent of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week. Remote working is one of the major outcomes from the crisis, and without a doubt, it will be here to stay in the months and years to come.

What you should do: Most talents would start looking for organizations who are amenable to remote work and this is something that you take advantage of in your hiring strategy. It can provide flexibility while maintaining productivity and yield cost savings for both the talent and the employer.

Managing a complex, hybrid workforce and workplace

The adoption of the work from home setup has become the norm, even the businesses who have never offered this type of arrangement began to embrace it. This has provided beneficial results including increased productivity, improved employee satisfaction, lowered business costs and reduced carbon footprint. Moving forward, a hybrid approach will emerge where some employees come to work onsite and the rest will be working remotely.

What you should do: While not all industries can employ a fully remote setup, a hybrid approach might work for you. Evaluate which roles are appropriate for either of the arrangements. A hybrid setup can help employees gain a sense of normalcy by being in the office on some days and work at their own productive pace if working at home.

Continuous growth of the gig economy

Some workers who were displaced in the earlier stage of the pandemic might still struggle in looking for their next job. While full-time roles might be slim, others resort to offering their services on a freelance, flexible or part-time basis. The crisis has triggered a great shift towards the gig economy as both workers and employers greatly benefit from this model. For the workers, they have jobs that they can do anywhere at their own time. For the employers, hiring gig workers can help scale up operations exponentially while optimizing operational costs.

What you should do: If you need talent for short-term or project-based contracts, tapping gig workers might be a viable option so you can tremendously save time, energy and resources.

Acceleration of digital transformation in the workplace

Digitalization and automation will be the way to go—where organizations will further leverage new technologies in every part of the business process. Technology will still have stronger ownership especially in the recruitment process. As Josh Bersin puts it, HR leaders are adopting digital tools faster and are creating technology “mashups” from recruiting to onboarding, communications and performance management, training and development. With technology at our disposal, it can bring a positive impact to people and operations.


What you should do: Prioritizing the use of artificial intelligence and automation in your process can make the work of managers more efficient and empower the employees at the same time. An array of tools, platforms and solutions are available that can help you kickstart your HR digital transformation.

Demand for reskilling, upskilling and career development support. One of the consequences of the pandemic is the widening of the skills gaps. With the environment shift, this created new jobs or roles which require new skills as well. The need for reskilling, retraining and upskilling talents then becomes the most important agenda across the organization. When you give emphasis on the development of your talents, you help them seamlessly navigate the changing landscape armed with the most critical skills for them to thrive.What you should do: A robust and sustainable L&D strategy will be essential to support your employees acquire the skills they need for now and the future.

Employer support for employees’ overall well-being

Employers play a key role in promoting and improving the overall well-being of employees. The significance of this role further increased at the onset of the pandemic, where employers make more effort to support their employees’ financial, physical and mental well-being. If employers give importance to employee well-being, it will become an essential driver to ensure productivity and stability within the organization.

What you should do: Show empathy and take time to talk to your employees in a personal capacity—ask them how they’re doing, what they’re feeling and extend any support they need. A good way to boost employee well-being is by creating initiatives that matter; may it be adjusted work hours, enhanced sick leave or sending care packages that can uplift their spirits.

Emphasizing diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is more than just a hot topic, it is a concept that must be practiced across organizations. Aside from building a balanced and diverse workforce, it is crucial to create a culture of inclusiveness—recognizing your employees as people and not just workers, establishing a sense of belongingness across the organization, and celebrating their differences for them to become more engaged and productive.

What you should do: Improve employee engagement and trust by integrating diversity and inclusion into your current strategy. Having an inclusive workplace can positively help employees become more engaged in their work leading to high morale and retention. Moreover, this can help instill greater trust between the employees and leaders.—CONTRIBUTED INQ

The author is founder of Viventis, a talent consulting company.

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