Figuring out work trends for the coming year is not an easy task. Like during any macro change, there are immediate triggers (a global health crisis), recent causes (the disruptive digital transformation), complex global movements (organizational concern for sustainability and interculturality) and longer-term causes (diversity in teams) occurring.
The job of the experts is to establish a thread from the origin to the consequences. Can we determine the most immediate implications? By 2021, they are likely to be the following.
The pandemic, the great uncertainty
In the face of a pandemic, two decisions have been taken: social distancing —leading even to isolation— affecting office attendance, and the search for a vaccine. The second seems to put an end to the first once and for all… but will we see it in 2021?
If the experts agree on anything, it’s that the implementation of the vaccine is not instantaneous, since we’ve tested its effectiveness, but not its protection span over a long period of time. At least for the first half of 2021, we must remain cautious, encouraging diverse prevention measures in physical work spaces.
The global economic recession, a trigger for new labour trends
Is the economy a cause of the upcoming changes in the workplace? One effect of the pandemic is global recession, which began by affecting some sectors directly (commerce or the hospitality industry), and, in a domino effect, gradually involving the rest of the industries.
Not everything is negative. It seems that this is the opportunity to grow again, but this time doing things a little better. The “green recovery“, an objective set by the European agenda for post-pandemic reconstruction, faces sustainable development as the only way out. The role of business and its organisational culture will be crucial in pursuing this objective.
The transformation of office space
Teleworking, flexible schedules (and spaces) and collaborative technology are three tools that have allowed professionals to continue performing their usual work tasks. There are advocates and detractors, but, in general, people have taken up remote working as an advantage.
Facing the return to physical work spaces is, and will be, carried out from two perspectives: the human one (more connection with colleagues, more development not only professionally but also personally) and the logistic one (comprehensive security measures, open spaces with sufficient distance). How will presentiality change in organisations? Time will put it in its place.
Updated distance learning
The digital academic model has had its drawbacks since its implementation. As there was no “educational disruption”, it was limited to moving everything from paper to digital. It is difficult to fix such a large leak with patches. The education that professionals, recent graduates or trainees receive must be confronted with:
- The digital divide. Not only the lack of devices to connect, but also the disconnection with teachers who have been trained in a physical environment.
- Interactivity. The paper-based learning method has been characterised by development of linguistic and mathematical intelligence, but the internet offers more ways of applying multiple intelligences to training.
- Human relations. The most important lesson of all is that we learn best if we are with more people who encourage diversity “in the classroom”.
Leadership at the service of workers
Companies that want their workers to make an extra effort should put their shoulders to the wheel and do it with them. If before they were looking for strategic leaders, with an eye for attracting talent, now emotional intelligence is added as a “must” to the list.
A leader will be a leader in 2021 if he cares not only about the work of his team, but also about their concerns, their personal situations and their growth opportunities. He will also make sure that jobs are secure and, when they are not, offer viable alternatives. In short, he must show empathy and handle things carefully, yet firmly.
The rise of millennials and the centennial take-off
The business world is preparing for the leadership of the millennial generation. Those born between 1981 and 1996 will replace Generation X in senior management, increasing their income and influence. In short, the professional world must prepare for changes regarding:
- Sustainability. Again, either a company builds its way through sustainable development or it will not succeed.
- Digital transformation. Until now the technological evolution of companies has been occurring at a slow but constant pace. The first connected generation will accelerate its quality and quantity.
- Diverse teams. One of the characteristics of millennials is that, despite seeking individual recognition, they like teamwork. Even more so if those groups are enriched by the different skills and attitudes of their members.
Following this generation come the digital natives. The Zs are already entering highly-digitalised intermediate positions, and promise a greater take-off than past generations. 2021 may not be their year, but it is the beginning of their era.
Working trends in summary
Wisdom, courage and temperance. Plato divided the virtues of the soul, society and the world of work into three. 2,500 years later, we can relate them to current working trends.
Greater control and security (temperance), a transformation of spaces and characters (courage) and a new understanding of the professional and his times (wisdom). Plato was not so far off track: for something to work, such as change in work processes, the three virtues of the soul must be adjusted. 2021 is the year of challenges, but also of opportunities.