As we discussed last time, most business organizations had their plans and priorities turned upside down in 2020 as managers and owners responded to Covid-19 and its impact on the economy.

Now that we are well into the second quarter of 2021, life is slowly returning to normal, or perhaps a “new” normal. One of those changes is that many businesses have discovered that their employees can continue working remotely rather than returning to the office. In addition to working remotely, business experts expect some other changes as we move through 2021:

Social Involvement: More companies are expected to adopt stances on political and social issues. We have already seen this happen with Coca-Cola, Delta, and Major League Baseball regarding the Georgia voting bill. A recent Gartner survey found that three out of four employees expect companies to become more actively involved in cultural debates over social issues and take stances that align with their own values. Company CEOs and managers may be forced to do so if they want to attract and retain top talent.

The Gender-Wage Gap Increases: Recent surveys indicate that men are more likely to return to the workplace than women, with women more likely to continue working from home. This is especially true where children are not returning to their schools and are continuing to learn remotely. According to the same Gartner survey, 64% of managers believe those working remotely are less productive than those working at an office. Therefore, they are likely to pay those in-office workers more than those who work from home. If men are more likely to return to the office, and managers remain biased toward in-office workers, this could contribute toward a gender-wage gap issue as male employees are rewarded financially at the expense of their female counterparts.

Employee Monitoring: During the Covid pandemic, more than 25% of companies purchased new technology to passively track and monitor employees. However, many of these companies have not figured out how to balance employee privacy with the new technologies, leading to employee frustration. Recent research found that less than half of all employees trust their organization with their data. At the same time, four in ten don’t get any information from their companies about the data collected. You can expect a variety of new regulations this year at both the state and local level putting limits on what employers can track about their employees.

Competition to Attract Talent: Rather than relocating, more companies this year will compete to attract the individual talent they need. Historically, states and cities have offered incentives and tax breaks to woo companies to relocate, believing that companies who do so will bring jobs with them. However, in the post-Covid world of remote and hybrid work, where the employee lives will be less tied to where their company is located. As a result, cities and states will create tax benefits and incentives for individuals to relocate, rather than targeting entire companies. This is already happening in Topeka, Kansa and Tulsa, Oklahoma. These innovative cities are offering remote employees up to $15,000 to move there.

Last year was one of the most volatile years for business in history, and it would be naïve to think that the disruption is ending. As we move further into 2021, the disruption will continue as businesses return to normal, or for some, the “new normal. How is your business coping?