Many people look at the New Year as an opportunity to make a fresh start in their lives with health, goals, and good intentions. However, companies can also do the same thing due to everything they have gone through in terms of adjusting to remote work in 2020. There’s a huge opportunity to make simple but significant long-lasting changes to boost their employees’ productivity, engagement, and well-being in 2021. Here are my predictions for what could – and really should – happen across workplaces in the New Year.

Prediction #1 – The New Workplace Social Life Will be Virtual, Fun, and Useful

Employee access to virtual social events that are fun and keep employees feeling connected to each other should be a priority for employers in 2021 if they want to keep employees engaged and productive.

A survey recently conducted by Ten Spot shows 52% of employees feel less connected to their colleagues since they’ve had to start working remotely.

Additionally, survey respondents said they were very productive and engaged at work, 57% say their company has been frequently or very frequently offering social opportunities virtually during COVID-19.

Finally, employees are most interested in virtual social activities that are related to mental well being (meditation, stress management, etc.), learning new skills to use at home (cooking, crafts, etc.), and fun experiences (virtual happy hours, trivia challenges, etc.)

And, if companies need to nudge employees to attend, requiring attendance at a certain percentage of events can be worked into either individual performance or bonus goals.

Prediction #2 – The Hybrid Workforce is Here to Stay

For the past decade, the idea of a hybrid workforce has been a vision for the future, but the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly accelerated the timeline. Now, the hybrid workforce is here to stay.

Ten Spot’s survey found that 75% of workers plan to either work from home full time or a few days a week after the pandemic is over. Why? The benefits that working from home has had on their day-to-day lives.

60% say the biggest benefit of working from home is they don’t have to commute, 55% enjoy being able to dress more comfortably and not have to deal with hair/makeup/shaving every day, and 50% like having more time to spend with their families. To make it work for the long haul companies will need to think differently about employee benefits, engagement, and wellness.

Prediction #3 – Employers Will Learn How to Use Virtual Moments to Build a New Foundation for Corporate Culture and Belonging

Think about all the interactions that used to take place in-person when everyone was at work together, and then ask, how can we recreate these in a virtual, remote-work environment for everyone from the CEO to a crop of new-hires? The best way for employers to put an effective plan of action in place when it comes to this is for them to address the following questions:

  • How do we help new-hires form relationships with their colleagues in the era of remote work?
  • How do we help new and existing hires have a voice in this company when they have never met co-workers, or haven’t seen co-workers in months?
  • Are we creating micro-moments of belonging?
  • Are we creating an empowering environment that allows employees to stay connected?
  • What do employees want to feel like all of the above are possible?

Prediction #4 – Checking in With Employees Will be About More than Just Work

Mental health awareness in the workplace has been on the rise since the pandemic hit, but in 2021, companies will make it a front-and-center issue. Managers should regularly check in with employees to see how they feel from both a personal and professional standpoint.

The pandemic impacts everyone differently, but our survey data found employees who feel very unproductive and unengaged share common traits. These traits are also mental wellness red flags such as not sleeping well, being concerned about their mental health, and experiencing boredom.

Prediction #5 – Companies Will Ensure Employees are Wired Up and Able to Work

The top new employee benefit in 2021 will be stipends for technology equipment and services. Ten Spot’s recent survey discovered that 43% of employees claimed they don’t have the best at-home office set up, and it’s the second biggest challenge they have that they feel impacts their productivity. Additionally, 39% said receiving company-supplied equipment or an equipment stipend would help them address this.