Blog: 2021: The 'Next Normal' in workplaces

Life @ Work

2021: The 'Next Normal' in workplaces

Let’s take a look at how the future is poised to develop in 2021 and beyond.
2021: The 'Next Normal' in workplaces

Perhaps, 2020 will be remembered most for the multiple learnings and human resilience spawned from the coronavirus pandemic. This rollercoaster forced economies, businesses and lifestyles to explore unchartered waters, work-from-home, unlearn and upskill amid career and survival uncertainties. This era of social distancing and safety concerns have changed the course of future and today, the big question is—What’s the Next Normal? 

Right now, a realisation that not having a normal is the new normal. Constant change will define the workspace. People will seek more purpose in what they are doing. It’s not about espousing a large social cause but trying to find a personal purpose in the career that you are pursing. The pandemic has given everyone an opportunity to reflect on where they stand in the grander scheme of things and that has resulted in several new thoughts emerging. We can easily expect mid career changes and many professionals looking at how they can convert their passion into profession.

We’re looking at a future where machines drive learning in the physical and virtual realms@workplaces. Online classes and studios, webinars and e-meets are the flavor of 2021 alongside conventional training scenarios. We will also witness more emphasis on soft skills which will be as coveted as degrees.

Let’s take a look at how the future is poised to develop in 2021 and beyond:

Workplaces, Skills & Leadership@2021

  • Fusing technology and well-being: This year was a wake-up call for organizations and leadership globally on recognizing the value of workforce well-being. With WFH leading to adaptability and blurring boundaries, mental wellness Already, big data and analytics are gradually taking over employee wellness with strategies and cognitive technologies designed to combat work stress, reduce pressure and even provide healthcare when needed. These changes were precipitated by technology which unified mankind in an age of social distancing and lockdowns leading many to re-evaluate the importance of human relationships and community building. 
  • Redefining careers: Pink slips, sliding businesses and ravaged economies put many on a backfoot. This led to restructuring of organization and roles while many other highly skilled workers jumped on the gig economy bandwagon with short term contracts and freelance assignments carving a niche for themselves, in the corporate segment. Certain studies estimate a 115 percent spike in WFH gig jobs during the lockdown, in India.
  • Top Workplace Skills: Soft skills like resilience, empathy, collaboration, humor, risk management emerged as the new heroes@workplace with adaptability & agility as the top work skills that are expected to shine further in the upcoming year and beyond. The future is a fusion of technical, soft and life skills which represent a holistic professional and human being.
  • Talent Acquisition and Retention: Going ahead, how organizations and businesses respond to a world of unforeseen challenges will be critical. It means rejigging of process—like performance metrics, aligning goals to meet new challenges, developing future competencies with frequent training and upskilling. This will also provide valuable insights into new attitudes and working styles in organizations.
  • Piqued interest of workforce in remote working: While many employees may miss the camaraderie and fun of a physical workplace, a sizable chunk may prefer working remotely. Here are some top reasons why: Flexible hours, avoiding commute hassles and traffic snarls, freedom from office politics among others. This is also likely to create different dynamics on engaging people , teamwork and establishing connections in the organization. The solution is unlikely to be a straightforward one.

The road ahead 

The road ahead is full of curves and challenges. As the world recovers from the after effect of the biggest threat it has ever seen it's not going to be the same as before.  The entire world took a pause, reflected and perhaps changed direction. Where ? What ? How ? continue to be a question mark and will so for the foreseeable future.

On the employment front, a policy supporting gig economy could certainly smoothen some dents created by the pandemic. Its time to invest more in skills than just roles, have realistic expectations and goals, invest and incentivise in remote working capabilities. Instead of focusing on layoffs, organizations need to explore ways to reabsorb existing workforce in varied ways and also turn the spotlight on keeping the workforce engaged, safe and healthy. An increased focus on diversity and inclusion is another area that will define organizational culture and bring people closer to each other for every success scored and challenge surmounted. 

Listening to their people, understanding their needs and meeting expectations too will be a crucial indicator of the kind of future we would be looking at. In my opinion, year 2021 could be the turning point for us as a planet as we move towards being more humane, responsible and innovative in the face of any challenge.

Seeking the next normal is a utopian mirage. The endeavour should be to develop the capability to deal with diverse and conflicting situations as the norm. World has changed, it is time we did too.


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Topics: Life @ Work, #Outlook2021, #GuestArticle, #Trends

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