The coronavirus has triggered the start of a new era in the workplace. The pandemic has forced the type of workplace experimentation that would have taken years, if not decades, to happen.

Here are five HR trends you should jump on to ensure your workplace is well-equipped to handle the new needs of the 2021 pandemic.

#1. Make Employee Wellbeing a Top Business Mandate

78% of participants in an American Psychological Association survey of 3,409 adults said the pandemic was a significant source of stress. Workers are feeling burned out and cite multiple stressors, including the lack of separation between work and home, unmanageable workloads, and worries over job security.

David Rodriquez, EVP and Chief Human Resource Officer of Marriott, reminds us that “choosing an employer is a lifestyle choice, just like where you live; your employer should add to the quality of your personal and professional life; and employers need to design well-being into the work itself.”

#2. Use the Coronavirus Pandemic to Accelerate Your Workplace Transformation

HR leaders in multinational companies are developing strategies for returning to the office, responding to employee needs and using the pandemic to accelerate workplace transformation.

Ingredion SVP and CHRO Elizabeth Adefioye says, “I saw the need early on to begin partnering with our key executives from the technology, finance, communications, and real estate departments to develop a phased, safe global approach to returning to the workplace.”

A growing number of Future Workplace member companies have also started to train and certify their entire global learning team on how to design and facilitate virtual training sessions.

This is much needed as SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management Research) finds 34% of organizations did not have an emergency cross-functional preparedness plan prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

#3. Invest in Mental Health as a Must Have Rather Than a Nice-to-Have Benefit

In addition to Future Workplace’s research, Conference Board of Canada research found that 4 out of 10 respondents reported more mental health problems in their organizations since the coronavirus.

Many large companies, such as Marriott, have a robust integrated employee well-being platform like TakeCare.

Mid-size organizations, such as Uipath, are funding a range of apps employees can use to enhance their wellbeing. In fact, Uipath has committed to investing up to 1% of all employee salaries in employee wellbeing.

We are already seeing some companies hiring for the Director of Wellbeing role, and expect to see more within the next few years as the future of work will increasingly be focused on the future of worker wellbeing.

#4. Re-engineer and Transform Corporate Learning, The Time is Now

The next normal of work will accelerate new ways to learn online. Research and Markets has forecast the e-learning market to triple by 2025 to reach $325 billion. And that was before the pandemic!

This estimate will only increase as companies see transforming corporate learning as a requirement to operate in the new normal of work.

In an online survey of 300 learning leaders in the US, conducted by Future Workplace and Mursion, 72% report they will use virtual reality simulations for training by 2022 to help employees navigate challenging customer service experiences, resolve peer conflicts, and develop soft skills.

#5. Prepare for the Hybrid Office of the Future

The coronavirus will not kill the physical office, but the office and its footprint will be changed forever. What is emerging is the hybrid office, one that combines a corporate headquarters with home and satellite offices so workers can decide where to work based on the activity they are doing.

Julie Whelan, Global Head of Occupier Thought Leadership at CBRE, sees the “hybrid office” evolving over time with the exact balance of corporate headquarters space, satellite space, and team hub rooms depending on the industry and city.

Over the next five years, there is no doubt the office will be transformed, and the amount of physical space will likely decrease. What remains to be seen is how many more companies will be like Pinterest, which canceled plans for a 490,000-square-foot office space in August 2020 after an increase in remote working.

The larger question is how quickly HR, IT, and Real Estate will collaborate to reimagine the office and create flexible hybrid office solutions.


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