Five emerging and future workplace trends

Lockdown has turbo-charged many workplace trends that have been gathering pace over recent years and created new opportunities as well as several uncertainties about the workplace of the future.  The continued demise of the 9 to 5 office job and commuting to work among the principal trends emerging as we move through 2020. 

#1 Increase in remote working

Through lockdown this was an essential imposition but for many jobs and organisations it has proved to be a pleasant experience, and a full-scale return to office-based working is no longer envisaged by a broad range of organisations. A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic.[1]

Here at Pitman Training, our own experience of supporting students through remote coaching has opened up new support channels that will stay with us long after our training centres reopen, offering greater flexibility of working arrangements for our coaching teams. 

#2 Increased employee monitoring

Big brother is watching you. Or rather they may be if your employer is so inclined. Many of the office technologies and tools we take for granted can provide employers with unprecedented surveillance over employee activity levels and behaviours.

The question of trust, and the value of measuring inputs rather than outputs, is a live debate and one that will continue to inform employer and employee behaviour. 

#3 Growth in contingent workforce

As organisations seek to build resilience, greater emphasis is being placed on building workforce flexibility. This has the benefit for organisations of reducing fixed cost but also of being able to quickly acquire additional skills as demand changes.

Researchers at Gartner have found nearly one third of employers are replacing full-time workers with contingent replacements as a cost saving measure.[2]

Allied to this shift to a larger contingent workforce has been a growth in part-time and flexible working options where organisations are realising there is a reduced need for full-time roles. This trend combines closely with the increase in remote working and the death of commuting. 

#4 Expanded role for employers as a social safety net

The emotional and mental health strains of lockdown and workforce furlough schemes mean that employers are having to pay greater attention to the wellbeing of their teams.

Most employers have had to support workers who are seeking to combine their employment responsibilities with home-schooling their children throughout the first half of 2020 and having to make previously unimaged compromises to support working parents to remain effective.

Organisations that are responding well to the challenge are finding themselves destinations of choice for job searching employees, while those with less supportive cultures face a talent drain.

At a wider stakeholder level, organisations are finding themselves called upon to demonstrate responsible corporate citizenship and actively support their communities.

Whether this is seen in the repurposing of engineering businesses to develop solutions for the health sector or simpler initiatives like priority access to supermarkets for the elderly and healthcare workers, the need for business to be playing its part is becoming an essential component of corporate citizenship.

Deloitte have termed this phenomenon, “The Social Enterprise”, underpinned by a “new social contract” with a more human-centred rewiring of the relationships between the individual and the organisation, and the organisation and society.[3] 

#5 Moving beyond human resources

Employees are demanding a more inclusive, supporting and trusting relationship with their employers where skilled individuals have the freedom to act in the best interests of the organisation and its customers.

For many businesses this is necessitating a cultural shift away from the efficiency narrative of human resources to a more resilient web of connected people and skills.

The downside of efficiency has been seen by a lack of resilience in the face of COVID-19 and many organisations ill equipped to respond to this or other black swan events that may occur in the future.

Organisations with the most engaged employees have proven themselves significantly more above to adapt and respond.

[1] 9 Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19, Gartner. June 2020

[2] 9 Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19, Gartner. June 2020

[3] The Social Enterprise at Work. Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2020.