2021 Future of Work Predictions

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2020 has been the year of change. We’ve changed how we work, where we work, when we work, even to some extent why we work. This has given rise to the ‘distributed anywhere’ workforce, with early signs from organisations globally that there could be a permanency with it.

I recently spoke to Dr Carl Benedikt Frey, Director, Future of Work program at the University of Oxford, about the biggest workforce trends to look out for in 2021. Here are some of our observations:

Prediction #1: Employee productivity measurement will shift from inputs to outputs

According to Dr Frey, “There’ll be no more brownie points for just showing up to the office and putting in the hours. We’re going to see less focus on input, more focus on output. In 2021 we’re going to see this change in mindset accelerating. Innovative, competitive organisations are going to move to a measure of outputs and deliverables, rather than mere presenteeism”.

In 2021 we expect we will see a significant move towards assessing performance not based on what an employee is seen to be doing but establishing an environment of mutual trust where employees are assessed on their achievements.

Prediction #2: The battle for talent will continue to heat up

“Businesses are always in competition. Not just in the product market but also in the labour market. When location is less of a constraint, the talent pool grows and employers have the potential to recruit from anywhere with an internet connection” adds Dr Frey.

When organisations have a distributed workforce, geography is no longer limiting. Instead businesses hire based on skill set and attributes. That’s something we found when surveying EMEA business leaders, with 82% stating that remote work has helped recruit candidates living outside of major economic hubs.

In the global war for talent, being able to offer a truly digital-first employee experience – giving access to the devices and applications they need – will be stressed with equal, if not more, importance as more traditional factors like salary and benefits.

Prediction #3: Bringing valuable interactions to the distributed workforce

“From Renaissance Florence to Silicon Valley, innovation has always benefitted from proximity and random interactions. We’ll likely see a new wave collaboration tools that will attempt to bring this element of serendipity into our working lives.” says Dr Frey
Our research found that 76% of employees reported feeling greater personal connections with colleagues as a result of remote working.

It will be vital for businesses leaders to capitalise on this to recreate those ‘water cooler’ moments that spark new ideas and drive innovation.

Striking the right balance between remote work and productivity gains, and the valuable interactions that drive innovation and business performance in the long run, will be a focus for many organisations in 2021.

The future is here

In this ‘anywhere’ working world, no longer restricted by geography or location, successful teams will be distinguished by how they foster productivity, employee experience and creativity. For organisations to truly succeed in this new world, they’ll need to ask themselves whether they are embracing these new attitudes.

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