These 3 trends will rule the future of work for years to come

No one could have predicted that the coronavirus pandemic was going to derailed any semblance of normalcy last March. What many expected to be a three-week flyover bug turned into a global crisis, one that has changed forever the way we go about our lives and especially how we work.

Workers once clamored for a better work-life balance, a hybrid workplace that allowed workers to log in hours from home remotely here and there; workers got that.

What was once deemed as a dealbreaker for some employees, the remote work lifestyle has likely become tiring for those who miss their commutes and office life.

The need to stay sheltered during the winter months as the second wave of the virus makes its way through the country has in many ways made home feel like work.

For those living with roommates or in smaller quarters, the tranquility that home once offered is now muddled with sifting through morning emails on your couch, eating lunch in the kitchen, and hopping on Zoom calls in bedrooms-turned-offices.

As vaccines start to rollout, the uncertainty on how distribution will work for the general public creates an uneasy feeling in predicting what the next year will look like in the office. Even with vaccinations, how will companies move forward? Will office space ever rebound? Is remote working here to stay?

What exactly will work look like in the coming years? The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published a story last month looking into the top trends taking place in the coming years due to the shift in remote work from the ongoing pandemic.

In the report, SHRM cites a study where 82% of company leaders said they intend to permit remote work at least some of the time once the pandemic is over, but more surprisingly, nearly half of companies (47%) said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time.

Working remotely … for good?

The same study, headed by research and advisory firm Gartner Inc., found 36% of companies said they will hire workers to be remote indefinitely, while giving them the ability to live anywhere in the US or internationally. It’s a drastic change from pre-pandemic thinking when just 12% of companies embraced that idea, according to the report.

“The role of the office has changed,” Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader, people and organization, at PwC told the outlet. “People aren’t going to go back to five days a week. Offices are going to be hubs of innovation and social interaction.”

With 65% of workers claiming it’s difficult to maintain morale during the pandemic (and a third saying the productivity is difficult), SHRM predicted that the work-from-home model will be a mainstay or at least some form of it. One of the interesting nuggets from the report is companies adopting “hoteling,” a style that is more agile and keeps the workplace safe for all:

Design experts predict that more companies will adopt what is known as “hoteling.” That means employees no longer have assigned seating but locate where there’s space available for the type of tasks they’re working on. Some areas will be earmarked for quiet work while others will be designated for group discussions, for example.

Call for health and diversity at the office

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s to wash our hands as often as possible. That’s something that can be forgotten during a daily slog, but it’s never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic, as has mask wearing, sanitizing surfaces, and social distancing.

These measures will likely spark change in the workplace, according to SHRM.

“Those measures are likely to transform into workplace testing protocols, state-of-the-art ventilation systems, and high-tech detection and disinfectant tools,” the report said.

As for diversity, the death of George Floyd and the summer’s Black Lives Matter movement sparked change inside the office, calling for companies to diversify and even encourage employees to speak more freely on systematic issues on discrimination:

Some companies are opting to initiate conversations that encourage their employees to talk openly about issues such as racism, sexism, bias and prejudice. Yeloushan says hiring more remote workers will allow GM to tap into a much wider talent pool that will help diversity the workforce.

Entrepreneurs on the rise

McKinsey laid out it’s trends forecast for 2021 and beyond where it keenly pointed out how the COVID-19 pandemic has created growth in digitalization, which means if you’ve been pondering taking a side hustle to the next level, now is the time.

Citing numbers comparing 2020 to the 2008-09 financial crisis, McKinsey found that while small business operations declined during the Great Recession, more than 1.5 million new business applications were launched in the US in quarter three alone in 2020, which is nearly double compared quarter three in 2019.

“Disruption creates space for entrepreneurs—and that’s what is happening in the United States, in particular, but also in other major economies. We admit that we didn’t see this coming,” McKinsey said.