What will the future of work be like in 2021 and beyond?

Whether we like it or not, 2020 has changed the world’s working culture – and probably, for the longrun. The old reality of office cubicles, meeting rooms, and coffee breaks with colleagues suddenly transformed into a work-from-home set-up, including wearing sweatpants, distracting family members, and extra spending for snacks, coffee, and toilet paper.

As the new year gears up, we have been wondering what the future of work looks like. We’ve gathered together the opinions of different experts in the field and together outlined several prominent trends. Let’s dive in!

Will video calls and online interaction still be a thing?

This year alone, hundreds of thousands of small business owners – yoga and piano instructors, therapists, accountants, and others – maintained and even grew businesses using video to connect with customers. We believe that model will be a large part of our future.

Undoubtedly, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have been among the most widely used software for teams’ video conferences. However, there also popped up European alternatives to Zoom with additional features, like no time limits, collaboration tools, or avatars. For example, Cosmos Video, a virtual venues platform that allows people to work, hang out, and socialize together, raised around €2.2 million in seed funding from Europe’s leading seed investors. Another example is Supernormal, a new video collaboration tool to create higher engaging videos for internal and external audiences, which nabbed €1.6 million in December 2020.

What will offices and coworking spaces look like?

First and foremost, after the pandemic, it’s unlikely that office work will go back to the pre-COVID situation without any changes. The last ten months have already changed the way we collaborate, communicate, solve work tasks.

From coworking networks to business magazines, this topic has been discussed widely in the past few months. Davide Dattoli, co-founder and CEO of European coworking networking Talent Garden commented on what he sees for the future: “The coronavirus has accelerated trends that were already underway. Some companies have announced that workers can continue to work from home permanently. This is particularly the case in the tech world. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that as many as 50% of its employees could be working remotely within the next five to 10 years. This month, Twitter said some employees can work from home “forever” if they want to. The question to ask when we all work at home: what is the added value of the office? What function can the office have today?”

Similarly, FastCompany, predict that “offices will still exist in the near future, but they will serve a new purpose. Instead of being taken for granted as a place where employees automatically report every day, offices will become corporate centers specifically meant to spur innovation and connection”. Furthermore, according to Fortune, “post-pandemic offices will focus more singularly on creating and representing a company’s culture. The reasons for the teams to gather will get limited to ‘onboarding, training, meetings, team-building, and collaboration.”

A hybrid working model?

It is possible that future of work will take on a mix of office work and working from home – a so-called ‘hybrid’ way of working. A hybrid model is created to balance the efficiencies gained by remote work with the benefits of social interactions, creativity and innovation generated by working in person with others. We have already seen a number of organizations like Salesforce adopt a hybrid-work model, with certain days in the office and others remote, aligning employees’ in-office and remote schedules for balance.

According to the Future Forum research, out of 4,700 knowledge workers, the majority never want to go back to the old working way, with 72% wanting a hybrid remote-office model moving forward.

On the other side of the coin, a number of companies have recently announced fully remote environments, such as Facebook and Microsoft. Both models are predicted to enjoy increased productivity and deeper collaboration, and the ability to attract a more diverse workforce.

Paul Bennett, co-founder of Perchbeek predicted: “Not only will we see more employees seeking to work from anywhere, but we’ll also see more big corporates adapting their real estate footprint to accommodate more flexible remote work policies as they see the combination of cost savings and an improved culture that a successful hybrid model can produce.”

Madeleine Gummer v Mohl, the founder and CEO of coworking network Betahaus, commented: “We’d like to think that this crisis could lead to the beginning of a new era, one that starts with the collective shock of a global pandemic but ends up unlocking the new potential to rethink how we engage one another, what we value, and how we want to live and work.”

Joe Thornton, General Partner at Playfair Capital, explained his perspective as a VC“Remote work undoubtedly represents the future of the modern workforce. The sooner companies adapt, the sooner they will reap the massive competitive advantage associated with a globally distributed workforce, including increased workforce productivity and satisfaction and a larger and more diverse pool of talent from which to recruit workers.”

Relocation as the norm?

The workforce’s liberation has also allowed traditional salaried workers to work from anywhere and sparked an upturn in interest in month-by-month rentals. People look to beat lockdown boredom and work from different properties at home and abroad.

Dave Williams, the founder of Lisbon-based NomadX, an affordable digital nomad housing marketplace, has seen increased interest the past few months. To prepare for an uptake in business, NomadX has just joined forces with Brno-based Flatio, a mid-term rental platform aimed at professionals and students. Dave Williams commented: “When markets start re-opening, especially with all the newly minted remote workers, we’re expecting to see a huge influx in bookings on our platform (NomadX is an affordable digital nomad housing marketplace).”

Conclusions

Overall, it seems evident that neither our personal lives nor our work lives will ever be the same. Companies are forced to rethink their employees’ work infrastructure and find the best suitable solution for this new reality. The possibilities are multiple, and they won’t all suit each company and employee. The good news is that the pandemic has shown that workers don’t need constant surveillance and can perform well from their homes. Hopefully, the future will turn the office into a much better version of what it was before the pandemic.