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To say this year has been a crazy one is an understatement. Each and every person has had a different experience of the year 2020, some good, some bad. On reflection, what has this year meant for flexible working, and what does the future hold?

We take a look into our crystal ball and made some predictions for 2021.

Flexibility will become the new normal and businesses will rethink the conventional 9-5 working routine

This year has forced many businesses to put a remote option in place for employees, and it’s had to happen fast. Over the year though, being able to finetune and improve this setting has been a priority, to keep employees happy, healthy, and productive. 

It has seen an investment in better equipment, communication strategies, and innovation, helping take companies forward in an otherwise challenging and critical time.

This flexibility has been welcomed by many workers, with people answering our poll last month saying that they preferred working from home, or flexible office spaces. The traditional office setting is in disfavour. 

It has been shown this year that flexibility is essential to survive the pandemic, and businesses that have embraced it have thrived. And will continue to do so into 2021.

There will be more of a focus on support for upskilling employees and developing their personal growth

Not only are employers having to take the time to check in on employees and see how they’re getting on at home, seeing if they have everything they need and if they’re feeling positive with their new set up… it’s become easier to see where skill shortages are, and where there are areas for improvement. 

This is particularly important in the younger workforce, who require further help with communication skills and developing the ability to manage their own time as well as prioritise their work stack. For higher age brackets, this might require technical training with software, introducing how to use video conferencing, and more to make sure every single member of staff has what they need to work remotely. 

Freelancers will find more work coming their way

It’s possibly a very good time to be a freelancer – or to be branching out as one. Many businesses have recognised the value of hiring freelancers this year, being able to respond to the growth and fluctuation of their business in this tumultuous time with flexible contracts and filling skill gaps. 

Hiring freelancers has not only helped many businesses through 2020 but will continue to help them improve over the next few years.

Mental health and well-being will be front of mind

You can’t ignore the topic of mental health in 2020, and 2021 will see it being a topic that dominates the headlines as we all approach a year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new style of working will have its pros and cons, and its impact on mental health has been assessed.

Checking in with employees, making sure they have the support they require, and making sure they know where to go if they are struggling is integral for HR departments for 2021. The work/life balance may be improving, however, the decrease of human interaction can take its toll and it’s important that this is replaced – whether it is virtually or by introducing a flexible working system in the office.

At The Workstation, we already knew that this would be the case which is why we offer the best of both worlds. Employees can work from home, or use a flexible working space with the reassurance of having an assigned desk with all of the equipment they could need. A rise in hubs such as our Workstation locations is going to happen in 2021, with the traditional office space in decline. Flexible working spaces save money, improve efficiency, and improve morale.

Employers will take a look at their retention strategies

2021 will bring about a reevaluation of a business’s operations, culture, and future. This will include the retention strategy in terms of keeping employees happy, fulfilled, and progressing. Remote working may well assist in employee retention naturally – with staff being able to work from wherever they feel most comfortable. But to keep this in place, there needs to be thought put into the retention strategy and a remote work plan for 2021 and beyond needs to be well thought through.

Businesses that invest in the correct technologies and keep connected will be those that are most likely successful and retaining staff. With an increase in a balanced work/life routine, employees will expect more and so they should.

“According to a study conducted by Citrix and OnePoll, 70 percent of 10,000 employees across six countries feel they are as or more productive working remotely. And 83 percent feel they have a better work-life balance when working outside the office.”

Overall, 2021 looks to be a positive year for flexible working. Different flexible work arrangements can be adapted to suit, and we predict that businesses will look at these models and look at implementing them long-term for the future success of the company.

Types of flexible work solutions:

A shorter working week – This approach allows employees to work a shorter week but by working the same amount of hours. 

Flexible working – Giving employees the freedom to structure their workdays, including where they work, and for how long.

Remote working – Allowing employees to work from a location of their choice, and working their hours around their preferred routine.

We look forward to seeing if our 2021 predictions come true!