Perhaps there has never been a year in recent history that Americans have shown a keener interest in the future of work.
It’s safe to say that 2020 was not the sort of year any of us were expecting. Nevertheless, it’s the year we got. With the pandemic and the shutdowns and the unrest and the political turmoil, it was hard to know at times which end was up. All of this, of course, impacted the markets, which in turn impacted the workforce.
As we stand on the cusp of 2021, we must acknowledge that while some changes we’ve endured this year may be temporary, others might be here for the long haul. As we sort out which is which, the coming year will pose new challenges for employers and job seekers alike.
COVID-19 and the American Workplace
As a result of the coronavirus, we learned how to adapt our private and professional lives.
- Working from home
- Meeting in Zoom
- Ordering in
- Baking bread
- Cutting our own hair
- Exercising in the backyard
The new way of life we’ve experienced during the pandemic won’t just impact our present: it also affects the future of work in America. The specific ways in which 2020’s COVID-19 adaptations will affect the future of work are still unsure as of this moment, but if we know anything about how major events such as pandemics shape history, we can rest assured that some things will never be the same.
If you’re trying to understand what this could mean for work trends in the United States during 2021, these predictions will get you started. While nothing is ever certain, knowing the transformations already in progress will keep you updated and help you better prepare for work in the future.
Work Trends for 2021
We cannot afford to ignore trends related to the future of work. And we’re not just talking about job-seekers. Employers must likewise keep abreast of trends, looking for the best ways to pivot and adapt to newly emerging realities.
Trend 1: WFH Is Here to Stay
In the spring, when the pandemic first reached American shores and cases were on the rise, many businesses that could do so shut down their in-person operations and allowed their employees to work from home (WFH). While there are naturally some drawbacks to the WFH trend, it does seem it’s here to stay.
Remote work models have quite a few benefits:
- Lower company overhead
- Greater flexibility in work hours
- Less time spent commuting (and fewer resources used as a result)
- Potential for reduced greenhouse gas emissions
In addition, as opportunities increase for employees to work remotely, more and more people can choose to live in places that make them happy rather than simply choosing places near their work out of necessity. Employees who are happier in their lives are typically able to be happier in their jobs as well, meaning everyone benefits from this arrangement.
Of course, not all jobs can be done remotely. And even those that can require an employee to come in for on-the-job training from time to time physically. Still, the WFH trend seems here to stay; and in many ways, that could be an excellent thing.
Trend 2: Bots on the Rise
Though social media bots get a bad rap (with good reason!), advanced bots are also being programmed for good.
Bots are already taking over some of the more tedious workplace tasks such as:
- Facilitating sales
- Improving customer communication
- Managing questions and complaints
Does that mean you need to worry about a bot taking over your job opportunities in 2021?
As we slowly add bots to our tool belt, some occupations will inevitably disappear. Unlike other professions, however, there will be a lot of new jobs and opportunities created by bots in the marketing industry. (State of Digital)
As long as you keep gaining experience and adding skills to your CV, you won’t need to worry about losing a potential job to a bot.
Trend 3: Re-training and Re-skilling Employees
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, dramatic changes in customer behaviors left many companies in a crisis. Of necessity, many had to lay off or furlough a portion of their employees. Others, like Verizon, decided on an alternative.
Rather than laying off some of their 135,000 employees, Verizon decided instead to re-train 20,000 of them to meet the new market demands. This move on their part is part of a long-range plan. Dubbed Citizen Verizon, “the plan includes a pledge to prepare 500,000 mostly lower-wage people for jobs of the future by 2030 through skills training and job advancement tools.”
As the global markets continue to shift due to the ongoing pandemic, an increasing number of large corporations will follow this trend.
Trend 4: Focus on Employee Safety and Well-Being
The pandemic has revealed fundamental deficiencies in how companies approach the safety and well-being of their employees. Consumers were paying attention. They care about how employers treat their workers, and companies that didn’t take heed felt their disapproval.
As a result of this dynamic, there has been an increased focus on employees’ physical, mental, and emotional health–one that we have every confidence will continue through 2021 and well into the future.
Trend 5: Business Travel Is on the Wane
While no one is quite sure yet exactly what business travel will look like in a post-COVID world, it does not seem likely that it will ever again rise to the same dizzying, pre-pandemic heights.
For one thing, executives have become increasingly comfortable holding deal-making meetings through screens. Since they were forced to adapt to a fully-digital environment during the pandemic, some will never go back. For another, given the financial realities of keeping a business afloat during the pandemic economy, many will choose to invest their money in other ways.
Whatever the future holds in 2021, we’ll all need to be ready to adapt!
We Can Help
Looking to stay relevant and find jobs that suit your skills in an ever-shifting workforce? Visit Lensa’s job search and discover what we have to offer.