After a year in which the coronavirus pandemic upended the very concept of the workplace—one in which millions of white-collar workers traded office attire, business travel and lengthy commutes for comfy pants, webcams and virtual school with their kids—predicting 2021 office trends might be a perilous exercise.
But with vaccines beginning to be distributed across the country, many companies have started to imagine some return to office life this year. At the same time, remote work isn’t going anywhere. And neither—despite our fatigue with it—is Zoom.
To get a sense of what 2021 might hold—The Washington Post asked human resources advisers, workplace designers, employment lawyers and compensation analysts to share predictions for a year that could bring back some normalcy while returning people to workplaces that may never be the same.
Here are some predictions for what to expect at work in 2021:
1. As recruiting and remote work go national, some salary ranges will too. Catherine Hartmann, WTW’s North America rewards practice leader, says she is seeing companies take a nuanced view of salary ranges, especially when considering workers being remote or working from other markets.
2. Video chats will get smarter—and, potentially, creepier—thanks to artificial intelligence. If 2020 was the year video conferencing truly went mainstream, 2021 could be the year it gets smarter. Some of the largest platforms will begin using artificial intelligence to recognize and track certain gestures participants make, automate to-do items, and help manage the challenges of workers split between work and home.
3. The new “hybrid” workplace will have more time constraints than you think. As more offices reopen in 2021, businesses are preparing for a hybrid workplace, with some employees returning to the office and others working from home. Hybrid workplaces will take massive coordination, experts say. Someone going to the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example, will want to make the most of their time and ensure their teammates will also be there, says Liz Burow, a consultant and former vice president of workplace strategy at WeWork.
4. The social bubble will come to the office. Now that millions of people have spent months working from home, architects and designers say, the open-office layout may not be dead, but the pendulum is swinging toward more privacy. Read the full story.