Reimagining the Workplace: Predictions for 2021 and Beyond

December 15, 2020

remote work

2020 has taught us many valuable lessons, none more important than the need to embrace and prepare for uncertainty. As we head into 2021, this lesson will carry through in health, economic viability, and also in workplace stability. Faced with multiple potential realities, companies need to prepare for continued volatility and unpredictability—from when and how to safely transition back to the office, to dealing with mixed workspaces as some employees continue to live and work remotely, permanently.  

Successfully transitioning into 2021 will require businesses to think differently, let go of legacy rules, and iterate on new workflows. There is no playbook yet. We need to reimagine it. We need to reimagine the new workplace, from how we collaborate and do business to how we recruit and engage talent. 

Our LinkedIn News team recently shared the “Big Ideas” list they heard from industry experts and business leaders about how that new workplace might take shape. Earlier today, we asked several of our LinkedIn leaders to share their own workplace predictions. As 2021 approaches, here are top five trends to watch in the year ahead—and beyond:

1.  Virtual Recruiting Is Here to Stay. 

Perhaps one of the most important shifts driven by the pandemic is the power of virtual hiring. According to our latest Future of Recruiting Report, 81% of talent professionals agree virtual recruiting will continue post-COVID and 70% say it will become the new standard. Those are big numbers that can’t (and shouldn’t) be ignored. 

Companies have dabbled with video interviewing and remote assessments in the past, but the lockdown realities of COVID-19 have sparked them to create an end-to-end virtual recruiting process. And they’re embracing the resultant cost and time savings. Based on findings from our recent Future of Recruiting Report, Mark Lobosco, VP of Talent Solutions, predicts that, much in the same way the hybrid workforce of onsite and remote employees will become the standard, a hybrid hiring process that combines virtual and in-person elements will soon become the norm.

2. Access to Talent Pools Will Expand Due to Remote Work.

It’s not just the hiring process that’s getting overhauled. Karin Kimbrough, LinkedIn Chief Economist, sees incredible opportunity for workers that simply wasn’t there pre-pandemic. As remote work becomes more mainstream, Karin predicts we will see a democratization of opportunity and spread of skills across the country. Workers who may not have had the means or desire to move to high cost-of-living areas—like the Bay Area or New York City—will have access to new jobs, and companies will have access to different skills and talent. 

3. Employee Well-Being and Learning Programs Are Critical.

Glint data showed that burnout hit an all-time high. To tackle well-being, Justin Black, Head of People Science for LinkedIn’s Glint Platform, predicts that smart leaders will continue to dismantle programs and processes that don’t add value, and reimagine the basics of work life: physical offices, standard operating hours, how meetings happen and why, and the ways technology is used. Employee well-being will be at the heart of their decisions.

But, well-being doesn’t start and stop with things like HR programs and resource groups; workers around the world are clamoring for continuing education and learning opportunities. Over the past year, we’ve seen the amount of time people spend on LinkedIn Learning triple. Erica Lockheimer, VP of Engineering, LinkedIn Learning, predicts that as hiring becomes more focused on skills-first, continuous education opportunities will also shift to open up more constructive ways for workers to grow into their next dream role—whether it’s within their current company or the next one. 

Brett Hautop, VP of Workplace, points out that, in this new hybrid work environment, the single most important challenge for every corporate culture in 2021 and beyond will be adopting workplace designs and innovations that bridge the gap between in-office and remote employee experiences. The most successful companies will have an ingrained consciousness of including people who are remote and adopt the right workplace innovations and designs that foster a greater sense of team and belonging. 

4. More Focus on Remote Work Collaboration and Security. 

Remote work isn’t going away any time soon, so organizations need to adapt accordingly. Fostering community through software, ensuring collaboration, and overall network security are challenges business leaders need to consider whether their workforce is virtual or a mixture of in-person and remote workers. Sabry Tozin, VP of Engineering, predicts companies will need to seriously rethink how to foster community in a deep and meaningful way across their whole employee base. Moving online means no more “watercooler” conversations or group lunches and therefore presents challenges in creating organic team camaraderie. While organizations employ many tools to enable collaboration when working remotely, more work needs to be done around tooling that supports community-building. 

In keeping distributed workers secure, Geoff Belknap, Chief Information Security Officer, notes many companies were hit hard by the sudden loss of the perceived cyber “safe haven” of a corporate network. He predicts many organizations will adopt a zero trust framework by the end of 2021, whether they originally planned to or not. Given the massive uptick in remote work, the investment of time and money is now 100% worth it.

5. An Opportunity To Reimagine Go-To-Market.

For years, many industries have placed enormous value on in-person or face-to-face engagements. And although some businesses started to dabble in virtual best-practices before the pandemic hit, this year accelerated their adoption of all-things virtual. Regardless of when we return to our pre-COVID ways of life, the adoption of virtual practices is here to stay. 

Penry Price, VP of Marketing Solutions, predicts industry conferences will be online-offline hybrids in 2021 and for years after, serving people who don’t want to travel away from home as well as those who wish to attend in person. 

It wasn’t that long ago when virtual selling was the outlier—some sales professionals tapped into its power, while others relied heavily on in-person meetings. This year changed the game—not for one year, but for the long-term. Jonathan Lister, VP LinkedIn Sales Solutions, predicts virtual selling is the new rule. In 2020, we saw a secular shift toward virtual selling and that will only continue. In the years ahead, virtual selling will lead sales organizations and there will be greater scrutiny on the real value of face-to-face meetings.

As we head into the coming year, we hope these predictions will help you navigate the risks and opportunities ahead. Planning for a highly uncertain 2021 while remaining agile and flexible will help you maximize your chances of success. I’m excited to reimagine what the business world can—and should—be in 2021. How are you reimagining the world of work next year and beyond?