by| Featured Contributor
Nobody could have predicted at the start of 2020 that a “working-from-home economy” would be become part of the next normal by the end of the year. Employees able to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic did so as states announced stay at home and safety in place orders. The transition to remote work was made virtually overnight. More than nine months later, the results from remote work remain positive. Research shows workers are more productive and tending to work that matters. They have mastered using tools like Zoom for videoconferencing together, Slack to message colleagues, and scheduling to better establish work/life balance when working at home.
Two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been authorized for use by the FDA in the United States as COVID-19 vaccinations. At the present time, these vaccinations will be used first for frontline workers and those in long-term care housing residencies. While the rest of the population awaits the vaccine rollout, there is a question percolating in the minds of employees. Will we go back to the office again? Or, since remote work has proven to be a success, do we need to go back to the office again? Let’s gaze into the crystal ball of predictions for trends we may see in the 2021 workplace.
The Office Will Stick Around
Some businesses may choose to go completely remote, particularly if they offer services that allow for fully remote operations. However, I would not consider this to be the end of the office or company HQ as we know it. This prediction is largely based on legal necessity.
In order for a business to register as an LLC, corporation, or another entity formation, the state of incorporation requires a street address where business is conducted. This is also true of businesses appointing registered agents. Designated registered agents need a street address to receive process of paperwork. A P.O. Box address, during or after a post-pandemic landscape, still does not count as an address for a registered agent or business entity.
The greatest change I can predict about the physical office will be in personal protective equipment (PPE) that helps everyone feel safe. There will likely be a greater emphasis on keeping the space clean and providing the necessary tools, like hand sanitizer and soap, to encourage good hygiene practices. Certain safety measures employed during the pandemic, like taking a temperature check prior to working, will likely continue as a safety precaution. There may also be fewer individuals present in the office, especially if offices decide to recreate the typical workweek.
Employee Mental Health Will Become Priority Number One
Collectively, we have not fully done a deep dive into the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. This trauma is unique to every individual. Some employees may have loved ones that passed away due to the coronavirus. Others may have experienced difficulties at home, such as a spouse losing their job or struggling to work and take care of the household. Each individual’s circumstance is different and requires prioritizing their mental health.
In the coming years, I predict that businesses — big and small — will put employee mental health first. There will be an emphasis on happiness at work. However, this type of happiness will not be a one-size-fits-all situation. It will be tailored to the needs of each employee. This will require employee feedback to build the best possible mental healthcare program for each individual. Businesses should be ready to listen and adapt to meet said needs accordingly, as well as check in routinely to see how employees are doing and ask if they are okay.
Work Weeks Will Evolve
Ashley Whillans, a professor at Harvard Business School, would like businesses to consider the idea of a 3-2-2 work week. This is a schedule where employees come into the office for three days each week. They work an additional two days at home and then have two days off from work.
As far as workplace predictions go for 2021, the traditional work week has been long overdue for evolution. The 3-2-2 work week, and similar counterparts like the four-day work week, emphasize a greater ability to establish flexible work/life balance. Remote work during the pandemic has shown that employees are well-equipped to work from home a few days each week.
My prediction is that rotating work week schedules will be created based on the needs of each individual employee. They get to choose the working arrangement that best meets their needs. In return, they will feel comfortable and empowered to continue doing great work.