When the lockdown hit, back in March this year, millions of us started to work from home. In just the space of a few months, the working landscape was turned on its head, perhaps forever. Companies were forced to shift working practices and employees were faced with new opportunities. As we look to life after this second lockdown, we’re wondering what the world of work will look like.
So here are our top five predictions for 2021:
1. Flexible working will become the new ‘normal’
In line with Boris’ advice to ‘work from home’ back in March 2020, employees at all levels carried on their jobs at home during the month of April. However, even before lockdown, the trends were pointing towards more of us wishing to work more flexibly. In 2019, around 1.7 million people were reported as working mainly from home. Slack’s Future Forum research found that of those they surveyed, only 12% wanted to go back to full-time office work and 72% wished to find a hybrid remote-office model going forwards. It’s becoming clear that many office workers will not be intending to go back to 9-5 office life for five days a week and will be keen to find a flexible working balance instead.
2. Successful companies will adapt swiftly to new consumer behaviours
There’s no denying, consumer behaviour has dramatically changed, forcing many companies to radically adapt to keep up. Take, for example, the accelerated transition to cashless reported by NatWest, with many UK SMEs moving to take card and cash payments for the first time. As well as being a ‘safer’ and more hygienic way of working, in light of the pandemic, it also offers businesses increased flexibility in terms of how they can take payments, whether this be contactless, by telephone or online.
We’ve also seen commuter life dramatically change. Many seasoned train travellers have welcomed the break from their daily journeys, knowing that they can be just as productive from home, not to mention the expense. With traditional office jobs moving online and millions working remotely, some businesses have chosen to use the pandemic as a springboard to update and rework existing business models. Perhaps old systems and technologies have been made unsustainable with colleagues dotted all over the place? The transport industry for one will be looking to bring forward some long-overdue system improvements to get things up and running again. Hiring forward-thinking company leaders and managers who recognise the unique challenges of the pandemic and aren’t afraid to make radical changes their business models will be key to successfully turning challenges into opportunities over the coming months.
3. Work spaces will never be the same
When lockdown eased the first time around, we happily visited shops and restaurants, but were much more wary about going back to the office – with many of us opting to stay at home full-time. The trend could well continue. Although some big corporations, such as Facebook, have continued to sign new leases on office space and others offering incentives to get staff back, it will certainly be a challenge.
Some workspaces may find themselves incompatible with changing rules and regulations. Many are committed to making themselves safe in the short term – installing hand-sanitising stations and plastic barriers between desks – but longer-term, we will certainly be rethinking the use of office space. We’re sure to see new work spaces emerge, to fill the gap between home and work – possibly in the form of shared Covid-friendly remote ‘meeting hubs’ on a more local level, versus a traditional larger city-based head office.
4. Omni-channel comms will no longer be just for big corporates
No doubt the huge investment in communications will continue into 2021. And not just by larger corporations – smaller companies will also need to improve their offerings (be it online, telephone or otherwise) – to stay competitive. With telecoms and tech at our fingertips it’s never been easier to set up a real-time office experience with a dispersed team. Verbatim’s virtual receptionist service can continue to answer your calls, in your company’s usual way. According to Google Trends, the number of searches for web chat software has also quadrupled in 2020. Video-conferencing software solutions such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams enabling work meetings, conferences and even networking events to carry on as ‘normal’. Shared drives and tools on, for example, Google Office can create a seamless workspace between workplaces. We’re better connected than ever before but many businesses are yet to embrace the whole range of communications systems available to them. We will certainly see continued investment and uptake of new and innovative technologies as we head into 2021.
5. Decentralised business will be the norm
In terms of connectivity, we’re not just finding new and better ways to stay in touch between workplaces in the UK, but all over the world. Multinational businesses can no longer rely on sending staff to offices across the ocean. Business travel may become an outdated way of working, as companies realise that there are more cost-effective ways to meet up.
Big towns and cities will also continue to see change – we’ve already witnessed a rise in the number of people moving out to more remote and less congested areas. Back in June, the careers advisory service Escape to the City reported that the number of jobseekers looking for jobs outside of London had doubled compared to 2019. As offices begin to close in bigger cities, workplaces become more localised and meeting places more radical, we will be sure to see a very different working landscape emerging.
How is your business adapting to the changing landscape? Talk to us about how our flexible call handling and virtual receptionist services can help your business adapt.