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Employee Experience Predictions for 2021 (and beyond)

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2021 has just begun and we can already see that it’s not going to be as shimmering as most of us were hoping. Amidst new lockdowns and old restrictions, there is but one thing we know for sure: after 2020, employee experience will be changed forever.

It seems painfully obvious that this remote work situation is set to continue for at least the next 5/6 months – but what about the second half of the year? What can we expect for the second half of 2021, and what will happen to employee experience post-Covid?

Let’s have fun speculating for a bit.

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This beautiful artwork is by illustrator Alexis Marcou

7 employee experience predictions that you should know about in 2021

Clearly, welcoming our coworkers and managers in our own living rooms will have changed one thing or two when it comes to employee experience. People are now closer than ever and we can expect this trend to continue and be sustained even after the pandemic is over, possibly leading to a fragmentation of the office workforce and more people working from home.

Here are some of the top employee experience predictions for 2021 and beyond.

Different world, different Intranet

Long gone may be the days of tedious office meetings and procrastinating coffee breaks, but it doesn’t mean we won’t have the same degree of needs – they will probably just be focused somewhere else. With most of the workforce from remote and 1 in 2 people enjoying it too, employers will have to invest in platforms that are user-friendly, AI-powered and able to support employees even outside the office.

We can expect a number of tasks to be automated, joint efforts to transfer HR into the intranet, and a data-led experience for the employee of the future. Long story short, you are probably better off befriending the IT guy as soon as you can.

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Image credit: Christopher Doyle

Shift in Company Culture

Employers should have realised by now that their workers can be just as productive from home as they were in the office. Employees have been able to show the same degree of diligence in the past year and, if anything, some have even been more productive than ever. This will lead to a considerable shift in company culture, meaning there will be more trust on behalf of the employer and more autonomy on the employee’s end.

And with the workforce becoming more disperse, internal social tools will have to keep up the pace. Employers may come up with different initiatives to support employees and give them some down time during the week, even transferring some of the office experience into a digital form. After all, game nights were all but abolished during lockdown, and we can expect employers to go at great lengths to ensure their employees are happy. The reason? Well…

Greater focus on mental health

Working from home and in almost total solitude can take its toll on the employees’ mental health. We have already seen a number of agencies in the industry take active steps to help their teams during this time, with both leaders and team members actually supporting each other in some cases. 

Relationships between employers and workforce will be more relaxed, but this doesn’t protect either of the two parts from mental health issues. Employees will have to be checked on more than just performance and on a more human level, while managers are expected to invest more time and resources in employee wellness and rewards, de facto becoming mental health managers as well. And although all this may sound a bit scary, it may also teach us all what it means to be more human, empathic and just a bit more loveable.

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Image credit: Jim Cascarina

Diverse and Globalised Talent

With offices not being a necessity for many roles anymore, employers will have the chance to tap into a global market and take advantage from a globalised workforce. This opens a new global perspective for organisations, which will be able to attract more high-quality employees regardless of their location. Which means, yes: you may be able to work for an employer in the city centre, even if you live just outside of town.

Some predict that this may lead to all aspects of an organisation moving entirely online, from onboarding to performance and rewards, down to the very productivity and efficiency of the employee. I personally see this as quite a long stretch, as it would entail an idealistic infrastructure that is likely to be many years ahead of us. But it can happen, and in fact, Covid has already forced in so many technological advancements that it wouldn’t be so unimaginable to think about such solutions. One thing is almost certainly granted though: even extending your talent reach as far as your own continent will have the chance to crush countless cultural barriers, paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive workforce in the process.

Revisioned Human Resources

It is increasingly clear that employers will soon require a number of different policies depending on their personal situation – meaning that standardised, universal HR policies may not apply so well anymore. Some employees will have to be examined on a case-by-case basis, possibly leading to some á la carte policies that are purposely made for that specific employee.

This simply means that HR may have to adjust its ways to adhere to new ways of working, catering for an increasingly diverse workforce. There will be new policies to support employees, new regulations for remote work/flexible working and in general an overall shift towards a new reality, the true extent of which we are still trying to understand nearly a year later.

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Image credit: Samuel Carrillo

Flexible and Hybrid Working

But before you buy that gorgeous villa in London’s Zone 4, you may want to think about it for a second. Clearly remote work is here to stay, with a good portion of the workforce still perfectly comfortable working from home and still just as productive as when lockdown started – if not more. But whereas some love the new home office environment, others not so much. Be it due to homeschooling, lack of comfort or simply psychological pressure, some employees are literally looking forward to going back in the office. The solution is simple: hybrid working.

We can expect the workforce to split almost evenly, with some choosing to work from home, others to remain in the office. We may see shifts in office days, or even a blend between a few days in the office and a few working from home. Surely flexible working is on the rise and employers are expected to offer more flexibility in new roles, balancing the office with the newly found remote working needs of their workforce.

Freelance workforce?

There is an interesting side to this story that will be interesting to observe as we move along. With all the redundancies and furloughs of 2020, a lot of creatives have chosen to go freelance and they are absolutely loving the freelance life. So much that they may never come back to an office for the rest of their career.

Surely not everybody was made to enjoy the freedom and pressure of a freelance business, but those who are will probably be taking the chance as soon as they can, perhaps in a few years, when their work-from-home patterns will have become even more established than now. The industry is already hugely made up of freelancers, and this Covid crisis may throw even more into the mix, leading to a workforce more autonomous and independent than ever before.

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Image credit: Panagiotis Pagonis

It is hard to predict exactly what the future has in store for the average creative pro out there. The workplace is changing drastically, with many of the predictions from the past 10 years suddenly coming true in less than 10 months. 2021 will be full of surprises, but so will the next decade. And we can’t wait to see how the industry develops because of those.


Header image: Alexis Marcou
 

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