Thinkers360 2021 Predictions are member-sourced from our opt-in B2B thought leader and influencer community with 25M+ followers on social media combined. The 2021 Predictions for Future of Work are part of a series to provide actionable insights for business and technology executives.
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As a follow-on to our earlier article on COVID-19 Business and Technology Implications and Recommendations, we asked a selection of our Thinkers360 global thought leaders and influencers about their predictions for the future of work in 2021. Here’s what they told us…
What are your predictions for the future of work in 2021?
A More Conscious Future of Work
In a time of isolation, humanity got closer in 2020. Digital technologies made it possible. Seeing into our colleagues’ homes and sharing challenges around childcare, health, or loneliness brought greater empathy to our work lives. I expect this trend to continue in 2021. Work will shift to a hybrid model, with few of us returning to the office every day. And the best collaboration platforms will support a deeper level of interaction, inclusion, and work/life flexibility, from any corner of the world, securely, and through any crisis. In 2021, emerging technologies like AI will continue to enhance collaboration tools, further freeing us for what’s most important: creativity and human connection.
– Kevin Delaney, Writer/editor/podcast producer at Cisco
COVID-19 expedited the future of work: this is how we work now. We experienced a digital transformation on steroids, enabling us to work from anywhere. The next question is: are people working in sustainable ways? Sustainable productivity focuses on performance ánd recovery, on balancing results with personal wellbeing. This requires leaders with a focus on empathy and compassion, who are skilled to bring out the best in people, achieve results and can do so remotely. Selecting and enabling those leaders is key to success and the challenge of 2021.
– Anita Lettink, Strategist at HRTechRadar
2021 will determine whether we have the courage to address the most wicked future of work issues that arose from the flames of the 2020 global dumpster fire. The top three:
1. Will we finally acknowledge and address that we’re leaving far too many people behind?
2. Will the workforce finally step up and demand more control of their lives (as 2020 decimated so many must-be-in-the-office/must-be-tightly-managed practices)?
3. Will companies finally step up to people development and empowerment needs that are decades old and were forced on them by COVID-19?
– Bill Jensen, CEO at The Jensen Group
Adaptability is Everyone’s Job!
Whether we’re working from home, in an office, or some hybrid environment, it’s a given: the journey to the Next Normal will be profoundly different than the normal we abruptly left behind. Everyone will need to become adept at adapting.
– Ira Wolfe, President at Success Performance Solutions
Of course we are going to be concerned with remote work, and managers will become increasingly anxious about the commitment of employees, but the big change will come about because traditional work cannot be replicated when people work from home. I expect that to lead to a new breakdown in corporate task flows. These will be executed by much smaller units, almost like bubbles of people who can congregate and work in a hybrid virtual/real setting with real entrepreneurial responsibility. In turn this means companies learning how to break work down by value (Flow) rather than by sequence (project management) so that new value tasks can be allocated to teams on a regular basis and so that non-value work is radically reduced or eliminated.
– Haydn Shaughnessy, Co-Founder at Flow Academy and Author, Transformation Sprint.
Organizations will be focusing on how to build connection and alleviate mental stress as more people work remotely for longer periods of time. Creating psychologically safe workplaces will be both more critical and more challenging as workplaces adapt. Change is hard, and only those organizations that focus specific attention on employee wellness will flourish.
– Ruth Pearce, President at ALLE LLC (Project Motivator)
Working from the World will continue to become the Norm
It is clear that Covid19 has changed working practices for the vast majority of people into digitally distributed working rather than city based centralised working. This will continue as the cost benefit ratio for being located in a city is clearly shown to be high value in face to face interactions but very low in digital interactions. No city adds value to back office, support or technical services so these activities first will become fully digital. Working from the World changes executive office, sales, marketing, service delivery, customer lifecycle management, finance, legal and HR and many already set up systems will have the wrong data configurations (in many cases that will require a new data architecture with new primary keys that support flexibility and agility). Smart City investment should stop and instead focus on regional infrastructure.
– Karl A Smith, Consulting Director Business Agility and Digital Transformation at Paradigm Interactions Inc.
Future of work in some cases is already here. Two powerful forces will shape 2021 i.e. artificial intelligence and on-and off-balance-sheet talent. The role of emerging technology in organisational delivery across the workplace is key in 2021. Organizations needs to focus on seizing the unrivalled opportunity of AI, whether through the effect of big data in driving efficiency, or exploring ethical AI in a world of automation. Work from home will continue in most part of 2021 if not throughout the year. Google and Facebook said in 2021, they would welcome staff back and reopen their offices to employees who have been working remotely. So, the remote workers ought to keep working from home until 2021. Amazon said that employees working at its headquarters would keep working from home until October, which is the minimum period according to Amazon. In the case of Microsoft, the company said it would allow some of its staff to return to offices while the rest may keep working from home till October this year. Microsoft President, Brad Smith, said it can help the economy with remote work more than being in a designated office. Twitter, on the other hand, said its employees could go on working from home for as long as they want, but there will probably be options to also resume work in offices for employees who prefer that.
– Amir A. Hamid, Consulting Director HR at Aljomaih Bottling Plants (PepsiCo)
As we move further in the digital workplace, employees or associates will require more time, space and transparency from the employing companies, while the society needs will be much more served by the businesses. The possibilities of an optimal remote or hybrid-remote workplace are rapidly evolving, with the help of technology. The new working conditions in combination with the pressing needs for the individuals’ well-being, community welfare and social justice, will all together enable new organizational designs and work models. This in turn will also require new skills and behaviors, demanding a huge effort for upskilling and re-skilling.
– Anna Mamalaki, Organizational Development for Employee Engagement- Director Consultant at Business the Human Aspect LLC
The hybrid workplace
The workplace has slowly changed over the past decades. From offices with many small rooms, through large floors with publics, through open space for everybody to more diverse offices, with spaces appropriate for different use (report writing, meeting, calling, brainstorming, one-one meetings, coffee drinking etc). Now, accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, we are moving into the next phase: the hybrid workplace. With the hybrid workplace we are able to personalise the workplace, taking several aspects into account. 1. The nature of the work. 2. The task at hand. 3. The personality of the worker. 4. The home situation of the worker. The multi-use offices are still available, and other solutions are added in order to be able to personalise better. Like co-working spaces closer to where people live. Like hotel rooms. Of course the importance of the home office has become more important. Home office design will need to get a lot of attention.
– Tom Haak, Keynote speaker | Inspirator | Challenger at HR Trend Institute
Rise of the Remote Worker
COVID-19, while a devastating disease, has pushed businesses to reconsider work options, including remote workers. As a result, many businesses have come to realize that this is a viable option, productivity in some cases has increased, and operating costs could be lowered by adopting remote work as a permanent practice. I see this as a trend that will hold for many businesses realizing the success of remote workers during the COVID era, and they will adopt this as a common practice to reduce operating costs of maintaining a physical building, the utilities associated with it, and the stress commuting places on employees. I see the future of work being one of work-at-home using social technologies to interact, collaborate, and conduct normal business activities.
– Robert Larrivee, President/Founder at Bob Larrivee Consultancy
Throw the Playbook Out the Window, Work Priorities Shift After Covid-19
Disruption can come in many forms, but none of us even considered a global pandemic to change the way we work, think, collaborate, sell, and market. We are now entering into an era where instead of looking to mobile, digital, and virtual as additions to our core strategy, they become the core foundation of our strategy moving forward. We look to applications, software, virtualization, and digital experiences to transact, interact, attract customers, and engage while providing unique customer experiences. Many will remain working from home, so collaboration tools and equipment is vital to enhancing the work experience in a home environment. Small businesses will experience the most disruption, as many have closed or had to think of brand new ways to serve their customers or change their business models to stay in business. Touchless and contactless become extremely valuable and accepted across many customer experiences. Get ready for the ride and take advantage of this new way of work!
– Stephanie Atkinson, CEO and Founder at Compass Intelligence, LLC
Toxic Positivity and Empathy
Leadership is not about numbers, quotas, goals and management per se. Leadership is about people, allowing them to reach their full potential and, as a side effect, obtaining the desired results. But being about people involves emotions and empathy. Not sympathy, empathy. Working for sympathy only rejects our emotions and understanding. When that happens, toxic positivity thrives. Being a leader means understanding people’s emotions and also understanding that we are not 100% happy 100% of the time. There are many emotions between happiness, fulfillment, sadness and even anger. A conscious emotional intelligence leader knows that these emotions are part of the day, including our personal and professional lives. In fact, when empathy and emotional awareness increase and make room for transparency, people will no longer have the need to create professional personas. They will feel free to be themselves and the segregation of personal / professional life disappears. Now I leave you with a question: Is that what we really want as leaders? Swapping the potential of a toxic environment full of personas for a healthy ecosystem, where results are achieved through a common vision and purpose, rather than quarterly quota requirements only?
– Romulo Cholewa, Writer / Author at Book Author (O Guia Tardio)
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