The Future of Work: Five Emerging Post-Covid Trends

After more than a year of remote work, many workplaces are making plans to bring employees back to the office. This much-anticipated milestone, though, is provoking mixed feelings. Why? It’s part of a larger shift in where, how, and when we work—and it’s worth taking a closer look. DallasHR dove into some of the latest research to understand five key emerging trends.

Remote work is here to stay

More than a year later, it is clear the pandemic accelerated the overall shift to remote work. Back in March 2020, a Gartner survey found 74 percent of companies planned to shift a greater proportion of their workforce to the remote model. In a February 2021 report, McKinsey noted remote work may be as much as four times more prevalent today than pre-pandemic. Remote work and virtual meetings are predicted to continue in our next normal, though in-person and on-site work is also having a comeback. While some businesses are resuming travel, it is likely future business travel will be less intense than pre-2020, now that so many workers are comfortable with videoconferencing. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, business travel may remain 70 percent or more below pre-pandemic levels in 2021. 

Hybrid schedules will become routine

Even companies bringing workers back to the office are recognizing hybrid schedules are the new normal. New research from Littler reveals more than half of employers will offer hybrid schedules going forward, while 28 percent will require a full in-person return to work. Yet employees aren’t on the same page, with the vast majority (96 percent) opposed to returning to full in-person schedules.

Amid this shift, some companies are planning to move to flexible workspaces, reducing the overall office footprint. This will have knock-on effects in the real estate, restaurant, retail, and transportation sectors, especially for urban areas.

Back-to-work anxiety is real

For many workers, the return to the office is causing stress. Research released in May revealed nearly two-thirds of workers are experiencing return-to-work anxiety. Perhaps not surprisingly, return-to-work anxiety is highest for working women, as working mothers juggle changes to now-established family and childcare schedules.

On a broader level, the prevalence of chronic stress, workplace burnout, and challenges to mental health during this unprecedented period has increased awareness of the importance of workplace mental health. Mental health matters, and so does employer empathy.

Working women faced a major setback

The pandemic has been disproportionately difficult for women. As many as one in four women is considering leaving the workforce or taking a step back, according to McKinsey. Working mothers, women in senior management positions, and black women have faced the most difficulty. While disparities existed before the crisis, the events and change in responsibilities over the last year have exacerbated them. Now, employers should be attuned to this reality to preserve their female talent.

The “Big Shift” is coming

As offices reopen, employees are considering their options. In what some thought leaders are beginning to call “The Great Resignation” or the “Big Shift,” workers are considering quitting or changing jobs in record numbers. It could be during uncertainty, the constant of the “job you know” seemed reassuring. In a post-pandemic world, though, a reset is appealing for many. Mid-career workers appear to be resigning at the highest rates, though workers at all levels are reconsidering purpose, culture, fit, and other aspects of their careers.

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