Workforce Trends of 2021 and Beyond

July 12, 2021
Young workers on their phones sitting next to one another
Work as we know it has been turned upside down since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we take a look at three new trends that we anticipate will gain steam as time goes on.

A workforce is defined as the total number of people who are employed by a particular company. But when it comes to on-the-ground operations, we all know that such a brief, simplistic definition just doesn’t cut it. No matter how good a company’s branding, marketing campaigns, and product may be, the workforce is the true heart and soul of the organization. The performance and survival of any organization hinges on its workforce.

With that in mind, we decided to look into some of the latest workforce trends. As we all know, there has been a massive evolution in how the workforce looks and interacts since the turn of the century, but what’s most surprising is its massive acceleration in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this blog post, we detail three recent workforce trends that we believe will last long after we return to the (new) normal following pandemic restrictions. 

#1 Employers will invest more into the personal lives of employees

Let’s be honest. The pandemic sidelined our weekly routines and relegated many of us from office prestige to working from home in sweatpants. The line between our personal and work lives has become so blurred that sometimes we can’t even tell the difference between the two. Zoom meetings and their tendency to bring our home lives to center stage are a perfect example. To quantify its significance, Zoom has experienced so much growth that they’ve generated a 317% revenue increase in 2020. But that’s besides the point.

With the remote/hybrid model now going mainstream, employers have gained a view into the personal lives of their workforce in a way they never would have before. This has led companies and team leaders to take a serious look in the mirror, realizing they need to prioritize workforce satisfaction not only in the office, but in their personal lives as well.

Prioritizing employee personal wellbeing has obvious benefits. For example, a 2020 Gartner survey found that “employers that support employees with their life experience see a tangible increase (more than 20%) in the number of employees reporting better mental and physical health.” With improved mental and physical health comes added productivity and creativity.

The benefits are obvious. Will employers heed the call and implement new and creative "wellbeing measures" into their systems post-pandemic?

#2 When employers can turn work over to gig-workers, they will…

The gig-economy’s relevance has vastly grown over the past few decades across both the blue and white-collar sectors. As a result, we’ve seen that, when given the opportunity, employers are enthusiastically turning to the gig-economy when they can. In the white-collar world, that can apply when a tech company needs to fulfill a handful of sporadic graphic design projects in a given quarter, but don’t want to invest in a salaried employee with benefits. In the blue-collar world, we’ve seen it manifest in several ways. Amongst the most noteworthy has been in the aftermath of the passing of California’s Prop 22, in which the large supermarket chain Albertsons let go of unionized, full-time drivers in favor of DoorDash’s independent contractors.

We don’t see this trend changing any time soon, as the pluses for the employers and employees are too good to ignore. Employees get the independence and scheduling flexibility they can’t experience within the framework of traditional 9-5 workplaces. Employers benefit from a large talent pool of freelancers to work with them on a per-project basis, using their services as needed without the commitment of bringing on new full time employees.       

#3 Employees will be less anchored to locations

A lot of employees are still dependent on location in order to retain their jobs. For most of us, that’s the only work model we know. You live near your work, and oftentimes people will move across the country (or even to a new country altogether) for the right job opportunity.

Given the aforementioned welcoming large companies are showing towards remote and hybrid work models, employees in the white-collar sector are less likely to stick around their company hubs in favor of a more spacious, lower cost-of-living environment. By the same token, blue-collar employees have more freedom of movement because they know that they can find similar work by utilizing the onslaught of gig-based apps now available to them. This is a win-win proposition between employers and employees. Both benefit from added flexibility.

Looking Ahead…

As we bear witness to the technological revolution, workers and employers see that the landscape of legacy employment models was bound to be shattered. The three new normals we outlined above were waiting to happen; the COVID-19 pandemic simply put them into hyperdrive. First, we anticipate that employer investment into the personal wellbeing of workers will become a major pitch for attracting talent. Second, employers will likely turn to the large talent pool of freelance workers given the growth spurt of the gig-economy, both in the white and blue-collar sectors. Last but not least, we believe that employees will be less obligated to be in a specific location in order to get their work done. The first two points feed perfectly into this notion. For one, employers that value the personal lives of their workers are more likely to oblige by adding provisions towards work flexibility, whether that be when and where employees can complete their work. Also, employers are already moving towards using freelance, gig-economy workers as it is. It only makes sense that employees will experience a greater freedom of movement than their predecessors.

The best thing employers can do now is embrace the wave of change.

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