8 Future Workplace Trends for 2021 and Beyond

Home » Resources » Workplace TrendsUpdated: September 15, 2021

You found our list of new workplace trends.

Workplace trends are business changes expected to continue to grow within coming years. Examples include hybrid work, employee wellness, and ongoing education. The purpose of pointing out trends is to alert employers to industry shifts and help companies build more progressive workplaces.

Adapting to trends helps employers improve company culture, boost employee retention and defeat workplace complacency.

This post includes:

  • remote work trends
  • workplace wellness trends
  • workplace flexibility trends
  • workplace learning trends

Here we go!

List of workplace trends

From flexible working hours to employee safety, here is a list of employment trends shaping the future of work.

1. Remote and hybrid work

Globalization and advances in technology led to a rise in remote work within the past decades. Pandemic shutdowns in 2020 sped up this growth.

Remote work offers employees benefits like flexible working hours and no commutes. Employers often see higher rates of productivity from staff, and can also cut overhead expenses via office rental costs. Plus, remote work allows recruiters to pull from a wider and more diverse candidate pool.

Organizations initially hesitant to allow employees to work from home now have evidence that virtual offices are practical and sustainable. Also, as more companies offer remote work options, professionals who want to work from home have more choices. Inflexible employers are likely to see higher turnover rates from aspiring telecommuters.

An analysis from McKinsey predicts that in the coming years, three to four times as many professionals will work remotely at least part of the week. The hybrid work model has gained significant popularity, and experts expect that many companies will shift to hybrid offices where employees work on-site at least once or twice a week.

Smart organizations will spend energy designing guidelines for telecommuting rather than wasting effort trying to force staff to revert to more traditional work structures.

Here is a guide to writing work from home policies to help shape remote and hybrid offices.

2. Virtual team building

During the pandemic, many managers used Zoom for team building when coworkers could not meet in person. However, with more offices going fully or partially remote, there is a growing need for online team building. Virtual team building is one of the most quickly growing remote work trends. Companies increasingly turn to activities like online murder mysteries, Zoom happy hours, and virtual trivia to engage remote employees.

Remote team building also has utility beyond virtual offices. Even in more traditional workplaces, many professionals travel or have busy schedules. Coordinating team outings can be tricky, and often several team members miss the gatherings. Virtual team events accommodate wider audiences. Zoom events do not need travel time or parking hassles, participants can wear comfortable clothes and call from the couch, and there is a likely chance of spotting a pet or two. Plus, these gatherings are ideal for introverts with easily-drained social batteries, or parents who are wary of leaving kids for too long.

Online team building activities can supplement in-person outings. The team can still gather for restaurant outings or retreats when possible, and Zoom game nights, remote dinners, and team Slack threads can fill in the gaps between physical gatherings.

Check out more remote team building activities.

3. Employee wellness

The hectic pace of modern life has contributed to a rise in anxiety and depression. Calls for self-care and employee health have increased as awareness of mental illness and work stress has grown. The global pandemic crisis magnified the need for employee wellness initiatives. Many folks struggle to set boundaries and avoid burnout, especially when working from home, juggling multiple responsibilities, and facing down outside adversity.

Workplace wellness trends are more essential than ever. In the coming years, employees are more likely to prioritize self-care, and employers are more likely to invest in programs that spotlight health and wellness. For example, massages, meditation classes, and stress management life-coaching sessions. Also, services like therapy, and financial literacy workshops.

As work shifts towards hybrid and remote models, the nature of these wellness programs will also change. In lieu of office workout rooms and catered healthy lunches, companies may instead provide more credits towards gym memberships and home equipment or healthy food prep services. There will also be more telehealth visits and online consultations with specialists. Also, staff may spend more time taking care of social needs to fight off the isolation of remote work. For example, forming clubs with coworkers and planning more outside-of-work team outings.

For more tips, check out this list of employee wellness program ideas.

4. Flexible Working Hours

A sudden mass shift to remote work permitted many employees the freedom to choose a working schedule. Since workers were not limited to regular office hours, they could carve out routines that better suited work styles. Night owls or early-morning risers could work during hours they could focus most, with fewer distractions. This liberty permitted professionals to tend to other responsibilities, such as doctors appointments, childcare, online schooling, or errands.

Variable working hours is one of the most obvious workplace flexibility trends. While some jobs ask for overlap in schedules, there is often little reason for the entire staff to work identical hours. This fact seems obvious when you consider that global teams spread across different continents and timezones have worked together for years.

The 9 to 5 is quickly becoming a relic of the past. A better solution is to make certain blocks of time mandatory to be on-site or on-line, and allow staff to structure the other hours as they please.

This perk costs the organization next to nothing. In fact, the company will likely save money in the form of long term productivity.

Check out other possible employee perks and benefits.

5. Multi-functional workspaces

Industry standards may seem like age-old institutions, however the current workplace is a fairly modern invention. White-collar office work only rose to prominence in the past 150 years or so. Even within that time, workplaces shifted from private offices and cubicles to open floor plans. As the workforce moves towards more hybrid and remote work, office design will evolve again.

Within the next few years, companies will minimize office space and make the remaining places of work more flexible and multi-functional. For example, introducing hot-desking, where employees do not have an assigned seat but rather claim a different open workspace every day. Also, a rise in rearrangeable work furniture, such as easily-movable tables and chairs. Not to mention, offices are likely to adopt technology like projectors, screens, and electronic whiteboards, and possibly even VR to better accommodate hybrid workforces.

Smaller and more-spread out companies may also turn to coworking, and choose to rent office space a few times a month instead of paying rent on a building that sits empty most of the time.

Learn more about coworking best practices.

6. Diversity and Inclusion

As awareness of injustices spread, so does society’s call for fair and safe workplaces and practices. The public increasingly holds companies accountable for building diverse, inclusive organizations.

In recent years, society has increased demands for companies to appoint more women and people of color to positions of leadership, greater awareness of mental health in the workplace, a growing number of brands and organizations outwardly supporting the LGBTQ+ rights movement, and more accommodations for professionals with disabilities. Despite considerable progress, further improvements are necessary.

As society grows more connected through technology, it is becoming harder to hide professional injustices. The internet gives people the power to share experience and like minded peers. The more stories come out, the greater the calls for tolerance and inclusion. Younger generations tend to be more empathetic towards the struggles of minority groups, young leaders included. Gen Z and millennials tend to be driving these changes, however other generations also play a part. The public is pushing to see more equitable practices across all facets of life, including work.

Diversity and inclusion are a rising trend, and should not be a passing trend. Every employee deserves a safe and supportive work environment. The movement has been growing steadily over the past decades and has recently received significant boosts and breakthroughs. Whether these leaps in progress lead to paradigm shifts, or are just part of the current zeitgeist depends on actions moving forward.

With the rise of employee resource groups, experimentation with fairer hiring practices, and appointment of diversity officers in organizations, the work world seems to be making progress on making industry more inclusive.

Check out this reading list of books on diversity and inclusion for more tips on creating fair and welcoming workplaces.

7. Ongoing learning

Experts predict that within coming decades, the higher education system may shift towards long-term learning models. Instead of obtaining terminal degrees, future professionals may revisit college years after graduation to learn the latest skills and information. Workplace learning trends are bound to follow suit.

Professional development is already experiencing a similar transformation. Gone are the days when folks spent their whole life in a single company, or even a single industry. A competitive job market means that professionals need to stay informed to stay employed and advance their careers. Workers are calling for their employers to provide that education. A 2019 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of employees would stay at a job longer if employers provided training and development opportunities.

According to the 2021 LinkedIn Learning Report, learning and development professionals have taken on a more prominent role in organizations by helping employees adapt to the seismic changes in the work world. Re-skilling and up-skilling have been some of the top priorities in workforce development.

As remote work increases, so does virtual learning. Remote learning is convenient for employers and employees alike. Online modules and training videos ensure a consistent level of training for employees, and these self-guided courses allow staff to learn on their own schedules and paces. Digital courses are an easy way to bring continual education to the workforce.

8. Worker safety

Workplace safety standards have long been a hot topic in industry. The work world has come a long way from widespread child labor and dangerous factory conditions, however there is still a long way to go.

After the mass-health scare that was COVID-19, there is likely to be more emphasis on safety in many workplaces, including white-collar jobs. There is likely to be a change of attitude in using sick days. In a post-pandemic world, coming to work while sick is more likely to be seen as a liability than a mark of commitment. Workspaces would do well to keep some of the increased safety precautions in place, such as better air filtration systems, plastic dividers, and easy-access sanitizing stations.

After the pandemic caught so many organizations off-guard, more companies are likely to invest in disaster-preparedness, and prepare plans to protect workers and the company in case of large-scale emergencies.

Final Thoughts

The work world changes constantly, and savvy employers keep an eye on the trends. Embracing workplace trends gives companies the opportunity to build more innovative and progressive organizations, and attract talent and media attention in the process. Some trends turn into business standards, while others merely provide a break in routine. Either way, new concepts are worth checking out and trying, because novel ideas just may revolutionize your operation.

Next, check out this list of team building statistics.

FAQ: Workplace trends

Here are answers to common questions about workplace trends.

What are current workplace trends?

Current workplace trends are movements in the work world, such as remote and hybrid work, employee wellness, and diversity and inclusion initiatives. These increasingly common conditions seem to indicate newly-emerging workplace standards, and note the direction the business world is heading.

Why are workplace trends important?

Workplace trends are important because these patterns become new norms in the workplace. By adopting in a timely manner, companies can stay competitive within industry and remain relevant in the wider world. Also, workplace trends are often drivers of social change, like better physical working conditions, a greater focus on health and wellbeing, and fairer treatment for professionals of different identities.

What employment trends are occurring in the workplace today?

The employment trends occurring in the workplace today include shift to remote work, employee wellness, emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and ongoing learning.

What are the biggest drivers of workplace trends?

The biggest drivers of workplace trends include advances in technology, social changes, and current events. On a macro level, factors like globalization, a shift to remote work, and an increase in education drive large-scale trends. On a micro level, different industries can experience specific trends, for example, the rise of gig-work in the transportation industry.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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