Workplace Trends — Beyond the Return to Work — We’re Watching, and You Should Too

By Amanda Munroe, SVP, Technology

Go to any news or broadcast outlet and you’ll see the headlines discussing (and debating) the most popular workplace trend of recent times: Mayor Ends Remote Work for 80,000 in Signal to Rest of New York City, Microsoft to Reopen its Headquarters to More Employees on March 29, A CEO’s Guide to Planning a Return to the Office, Can Employers Legally Mandate The COVID Vaccine To Return To Work?.

During 2020 and Q1 2021, reporters wrote tens of thousands of articles and blogs about COVID-19 and its impact on remote work and the return to the physical office. To say the topic has saturated the news cycle is an understatement. There’s no sign that its popularity will decline any time soon. With vaccine distribution increasing and more businesses signaling that their employees should return to the office (or remain remote indefinitely), we can expect more headlines on COVID-19 and the workplace throughout the rest of the year.

It’s a valuable discussion. The fact of the matter is that COVID-19 has changed perspectives on work, where it’s done, who it’s done by, how we do it safely and the differences between employer and employee expectations in ways that no other recent event has.

But, it’s not the only trend impacting workplace and HR technology. In fact, there are other workplace trends that need continued discussion for the sake of innovation, progress and quality of life. The ones that we’re watching closely are:

Workplace Trend 1: Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)

Following the death of George Floyd, many businesses started more serious discussions about increasing diversity, equity and inclusion. And while some may have started to make progress, the sad truth is that few have. In fact, people have recently sued Cisco, Oracle, The Gap, Qualcomm and others for not meeting diversity goals. This year’s Fortune 500 will include diversity rankings, and it will be interesting to see how companies stack up. Whether it’s the role of AI and unconscious bias, recruiting for a diverse workforce, or closing pay gaps with the use of technology, DE&I topics will provide workplace technology companies with important discussion platforms throughout 2021.

Work Trend 2: Reskilling and upskilling

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the topic of the skills gap was trending up. However, with high unemployment numbers resulting from COVID-19 and the disproportionate impact of joblessness on the BIPOC community, women and certain regions in the U.S., we can expect the conversation will increase. The use of technology to retrain and connect people with open jobs will also look different. Workplace technology companies have the opportunity to drive conversations on how this will impact different industries — particularly manufacturing, grocery and healthcare. As well as the role that minimum wage, remote work technology and other issues will play.

Workplace Trend 3: Connected Worker

Connected worker technology, including platforms and applications, have been part of digital transformation and the move toward a smarter, more productive workforce prior to 2020. This is particularly true in industries like manufacturing, oil and gas, and supply chain logistics.

However, we are seeing the rise of a new ecosystem of technology and services created to help businesses keep employees safe when returning to the office. This includes social distancing protocols, temperature checks, COVID-19 contact tracing and more. Whether it’s specific to the coronavirus or a company’s move to make employees safer and more productive, we expect this topic — and those related, including privacy, work/life balance and collaboration — to remain top of mind.

Globally, HR technology represents a $148 billion opportunity . A recent PwC survey found that 74% of companies in 2020 planned to increase spending on HR technology to address talent needs. The way we work is changing, no doubt. Workplace technology companies play an important role in fueling discussions that create a work environment that is accessible and beneficial to all. Over the next nine months, we’ll be watching how conversations and progress on these workplace trends will shape the future of work.   

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