The Future of Work: What We Can Expect in 2021

woman wearing virtual glasses

This is a guest post for the MELD Coworking blog written by Keith Coppersmith.


While we can’t predict the future, we can analyze existing trends and make educated guesses about it. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adapt, and some of these adaptations are likely to continue throughout 2021 (because the pandemic isn’t over yet) and further (because they simply make sense).  

So, let’s see what 2020 had to teach us and how we can use that knowledge in 2021. 

Remote Work 

This is the big one. While offices aren’t going anywhere, it’s likely office work will be significantly downscaled. Having to implement and enforce health safety measures is not simple; in fact, depending on the number of employees, it might be a costly and fiendishly complex task. 

So, we can expect an increase in remote work, or possibly reduced office time, allowing for proper hygiene and distancing in the workplace. Fully or partially remote teams are also a great way for companies to cut costs, and since remote work doesn’t significantly impact productivity may actually be a net benefit for everyone involved. 

woman working from home with her dog

Upskilling 

Another shift we can expect is improving a company’s capabilities by upskilling current employees rather than hiring new ones. The focus on “leaner & meaner” teams due to reduced budgets is definitely at least partly responsible for this. 

So, HR departments will likely try to provide training for willing employees if it’s discovered the company is lacking in specific competencies or will need them for a future project. Being able to attend a graphic design course, improve one’s SEO skills or get Microsoft training and certification is also a good way to ensure employees will remain loyal. They’re unlikely to move to a different job due to fatigue if they’re offered opportunities for self-improvement or even career change in their current workplace. 

International Teams 

This ties into the remote teams we mentioned before. With most people not working in an office anymore, does it matter where they’re located? In most cases, it really doesn’t.  

Aside from time-zone concerns, there’s really no reason for businesses to limit themselves to local/regional hiring. Finding and employing competent people remains the route to long-term success. Reduced costs from not having to maintain physical office and a diverse influx of ideas will more than offset the need for better digital infrastructure and logistical issues with managing remote and international teams. 

two professionals making friends in Austin

Coworking Will Remain a Strong Trend 

You’d think that coworking spaces would be hit very hard by the pandemic. After all, social distancing and other safety precautions make it very hard to run a place where people constantly circulate and possibly even share workstations. However, with the increased need for a remote workforce, the need for flexible space-as-a-service models will increase as well. In fact, it’s likely businesses will combine remote work with coworking. After all, it’s a good way for businesses to be decentralized while offering a professional work environment to people who need it. 

One change that will likely hit coworking spaces and offices, in general, is the shift away from open-style layouts. Adequate spacing and no-touch fixtures will become the norm and, in adherence with safety regulations, workspaces will provide “old school” enclosed offices. 

man cleaning a coworking space

Workplace Health and Safety 

Safety and hygiene will be the name of the game for offices, whether they’re coworking spaces or privately owned/rented. Businesses will have to implement policies and procedures that will safeguard their workers’ health. Frequent cleaning, flexible sick time policies, and temperature checks are just some of the methods employees can be kept safe and productivity high. 

Mental health and wellness are also important aspects of the overall workplace well-being. Improved health coverage, additional time off, improved health coverage, empathetic management, and flexible schedules can all lead to increased worker retention. 

glasses on top of a calendar

Flexible Schedules 

Speaking of flexible schedules, they’re expected to increase too. While they used to be a perk, they’re becoming a default expectation. Since a large number of school-aged children are remote learning, parents need to be able to take care of their families, and their employers need to accommodate them

In addition to that, flexible schedules can increase workplace morale and improve productivity. HR managers and team leaders need to be understanding and sympathetic, as well as creative in order to maintain workplace cohesion. The environment where half the workforce works remotely, the other half makes use of flexible work hours, and a good portion of the former works in a different time zone requires a great degree of adaptability. 

Wrapping Up 

We’ve seen inklings of these trends in the previous years, and they’re finally coming into full swing. For all the harm, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have laid bare the inefficiencies in many workplaces, and addressing them has become a priority. Remote work, schedule flexibility, international teams, and upskilling aren’t new concepts, but they used to be restricted mostly to multinational companies, with few exceptions. Now they’re becoming the norm, and businesses need to adapt or become obsolete. 


About the Author 

Keith Coppersmith headshot

Keith Coppersmith is a business and marketing expert who has experienced both the rise and fall of many businesses. As a regular contributor at BizzmarkBlog, he enjoys writing and providing insight into the marketing industry based on both practice and theory.