We have found ourselves in the middle of a global transformation like never before. Things are changing rapidly and it’s getting harder to imagine what the world will look like in one year, let alone in five years. As we are approaching the first anniversary of the beginning of the biggest office transformation in history, vaccines are starting to roll out in record time. And the future suddenly looks much brighter than it did six months ago. This all shows that if humans come together, they can achieve the seemingly impossible. From the teams of nurses taking care of the sickest ones, to scientists dedicating their lives to finding a vaccine, and people in New Zealand, Australia and Asian countries who, thanks to their collective effort, were able to bring the spread of the virus to an absolute minimum.
People have an amazing ability to adapt. And today, it’s easier than ever thanks to the innovations and digital technologies that have given us the tools to continue to work under new conditions. Now, almost one year into the pandemic, it’s a good time to reflect and try to prepare for what’s ahead. We looked at the recent trends and current outlooks and we are bringing you five predictions for the future of work.
1. Health comes first
The mental and physical health of employees plays a key role in their performance. More importantly, lack of stress and a healthy lifestyle ensure the proper function of immunity, which can stand between life and death when it comes to diseases like COVID-19. Companies are beginning to realize this. Therefore, in 2021 and beyond, we will see more investments in tools to help employees maintain healthy habits, such as standing desks, which have been shown to have a positive effect on employee well-being.
In this study at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, 47% of participants using standing desks reported a decrease in upper body pain, 65% reported an increase in productivity, and 65% reported positive impact outside of the workplace.
2. Workplace reimagined
People have been working from home for years. But the last few months have accelerated this trend and we have suddenly realized that employees can be at least as productive from home as in the office. In addition, we save hours per day commuting. Not to mention the reduced burden on the environment in terms of lower emissions. While we enjoy all these benefits, human contact is irreplaceable. Emotions help us to communicate and it’s harder to fully express ourselves or understand others while on camera. We will therefore see an office comeback.
The office will remain a hub for collaboration and sharing ideas. But not quite in the same form. Companies will reimagine their large headquarters filled with separated workstations. The focus will be on efficient, modest buildings that will invite employees to share their ideas and collaborate in an open and healthy environment. Collaborative hubs will begin to appear, not only in big cities but also in suburbs, following the workers moving out of cities.
3. Flexible hours becoming the norm
Given the uprise of remote work, companies will realize that instead of focusing their recruitment efforts exclusively in their location, they can expand their options and access a pool of talents from around the world. It will be a hit to the “nine to five work schedule” having team members working in different time zones. Flexible hours will allow employees to better balance their work and personal lives and will give them more space and initiative to achieve their goals. And we know that more freedom encourages creativity.
4. Digital accelaration
Digital technology has already helped us connect from different places and collaborate. It will become even easier and we will be able to achieve more while working remotely or on the go. Thanks to new technology, acceleration in VR or software and services like Microsoft Viva, which bridges the distance between the home and office. Imagine walking through the warehouse, or prototyping a product having all the related data always visible and at the same time broadcasting it to a colleague in the office. Despite some fears, AI will not replace our jobs. Instead, it will help us accomplish more and focus on what’s really important while taking care of stressful, repetitive basic tasks that were consuming our time.
5. Sustainability and environment at the forefront
Environmental topics begin to interest more people. And innovative, future-oriented companies are starting to drive the change. Technology conglomerate company Siemens cut its emissions by 54% in 2020 and is aiming to achieve carbon dioxide neutrality by 2030. As sustainability comes to the forefront of our doing, we will see more greenery in the workplace. And it’s not a mystery that being surrounded by nature is good for our health. The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace study found that people who worked in spaces with natural features reported 15% higher levels of overall wellbeing. Furthermore, the respondents expressed feeling 6% more productive and 15% more creative.
We are entering a truly exciting period.