Most business organizations had their plans and priorities turned upside down in 2020. Their leaders scrambled to respond to Covid-19, the social justice movement, employees working remotely, and keeping their business functioning as the economy suffered from the pandemic. 

While it would be nice to believe 2021 will be about returning to normalcy and a more stable business environment, but it may well be a year of transition. Many businesses will discover their workers can continue working remotely rather than returning to the office. Other factors will shape the business environment as well this year.


One of those factors is flexibility regarding working location. While working remotely became common in 2020 and is expected to continue throughout 2021, employers are beginning to look at the productivity of those working remotely. A recent survey published in the Harvard Business Review found that a little more than one in three employees were considered “high performers” at organizations with a standard 40-hour workweek. The trend in 2021 may well be measuring employees more by their productivity rather than the number of hours they work.


Along those lines, employers this year will be more involved in helping manage employees’ life experiences. The Covid-19 pandemic gave business owners and managers greater insight into the personal lives of employees. Many of their workers struggled to balance personal, medical, health, and work issues. Smart business leaders learned that supporting their employees in their personal lives helped relieve some of those employees’ stress. Their improved mental health helped increase job effectiveness and productivity.


Speaking of mental health support, you can expect that to increase this year. We have seen in businesses offering new employee benefits, such as expanded parental leave. Last year’s Covid-19 pandemic brought employee well-being to the forefront as employers dealt with their employees’ physical and mental health and its impact on business. In 2021, you can expect employers to go even further by expanding mental health benefits and, in some cases, shutting company’s down for an entire day as a “collective mental health day.”


Regarding Covid-19 vaccinations, some major companies will provide the Covid vaccine for employees. In contrast, others will face lawsuits over their Covid vaccine requirements. Employers providing the Covid vaccine to their workforce will use that action as a key benefit to attract and retain talent. On the flip side, some employers who offer the vaccine will be sued for requiring their employees to have proof of vaccination before allowing them to return to the workplace. That litigation will slow some return-to-workplace efforts even as more people are vaccinated.


Finally, with businesses slowly returning to normal, employers will look for temporary help to fill some skill positions. The number of skills employers are looking for rose as much as 33% on job ads in 2020 than in 2017. Some organizations are finding they can’t retrain employees fast enough to meet their changing needs, especially after all the workplace changes in 2020.


Some companies will shift their focus from building skills for an unknown future to hiring the talent they need through staffing agencies as the need arises. Other companies will strengthen their relationships with staffing agencies by hiring employees on a trial basis. Their goal will be to turn those temporary hires into the skilled, permanent employees they need to move forward in 2021 and beyond.