Five Workplace Shifts That Emerged In 2021 And How Leaders Need To Adapt To Them

2021 was an inflection point that enabled businesses to pivot, redesign their approach and fashion a new way forward

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The dynamic world of work experienced several shifts over the past year, culminating in changes across workflow, team structure, operations and more. These new and evolved workspaces have become the incubation grounds for ideas that transformed the definition of work from its initial connotation to a more flexible structure that is still taking shape today. 2021 was an inflection point that enabled businesses to pivot, redesign their approach and fashion a new way forward. This led to the emergence of shifts across the workplace that categorised the new normal of work.

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Five significant workplace shifts of 2021 that leaders need to be cognizant of and adapt include: 

Physical workspaces are bound to stay: Now that organizations have experienced the incumbencies of a completely remote work model, their leaders have been equivocal about the need to work out of the physical workspace too. A combination of both is certainly the model for the near future, evolving as we progress. An important insight garnered through our experience though – the office cannot be replaced, it will be a part of our routines as always. The nuances of a hybrid work model contribute to a larger goal of wellbeing and productivity. Neither of which must be compromised, these are the criteria that take precedence.

Mental Well-Being as an Indispensable Prerogative: Over the past few years, the importance of mental wellbeing has come to the fore. With the upheaval brought about by the pandemic, mental health and wellbeing has increasingly become a priority that corporates at large are working towards and realizing. The HR and L&D functions are working in tandem with larger business units to initiate a productive dialogue about mental health, dissociating it with the discrimination and stigma that it has been long attached to. Mental wellbeing is undoubtedly one of the most crucial aspects that needs to not only be considered but advocated and firmly upheld. Workplaces of the future will be ones that create safe, inclusive and conducive spaces, and that empower employees to prioritize and champion their wellbeing.

Autonomous, tech-enabled workspaces: Technology is powering new and more effective work models that are revolutionizing workplaces around the globe. Smart, intelligent and intuitive technological solutions help in creating productive business relationships that in turn reap immense benefits. The advent of virtual work created a premise for organizations to accelerate their digital journey and harness the power of new and emerging technologies. Innovation is augmenting businesses to create immersive, interactive and engaging spaces. Businesses are utilizing the potential of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, analytics and big data to create tech-enabled workspaces. The future of work will encompass businesses growing at scale with digital at their core.

Experience-driven and not just goal-driven: The pandemic has changed not only where we work, but also how we work. Organizations are driving a culture of innovation and learning by practicing open-ended and transparent policies. Curiosity and inquisitiveness are being looked upon as capabilities that employees need to integrate into their work. Employees are finding purpose in their work, which energises and drives their behaviour, motivation and goals. While the goal-driven approach was once practiced and reiterated, organizations are moving towards creating experience driven spaces that are holistic and derive greater value and potential for individuals.

Propelling a passion economy: The beginning of the gig economy was touted as the new future of work, where individuals focused on their skills and capabilities to undertake and complete projects. This segment is experiencing a transition as organizations are moving towards its new phase, the introduction of a passion economy. The ethos of the passion economy have permeated into the existing structures across organizations, therefore enabling employees to hone their talents further and work towards monetizing their special skillsets, talents and capabilities. While this model is gaining momentum across the world, it is yet to be seen how it will fare in an increasingly virtual landscape driven by multiple variables.

This ever-evolving work landscape necessitates that leaders tailor their efforts to meet the needs of different business segments, as opposed to taking a one-size-fits-all approach. The inherent need to enrich the employee experience requires strategic intervention, taking several aspects into consideration. Enabling employees to disconnect and recharge at the organizational level, equipping them with the mental, emotional and social skills that they need to not only cope with adversity – but also to adapt and thrive, giving them a platform to honour and recognise their work, and empowering them to lead from the forefront builds future-proof teams and workplaces.

As we foray into 2022, a year that reflects the vigour and passion to push boundaries and excel, define new possibilities, and immerse ourselves in the fulfilment of goals, it is imperative to take a step back and introspect. The past two years presented themselves as a litmus test that accelerated our growth and created a new learning curve for us to learn, un-learn and re-learn at every juncture. Change is the only constant and the true disruptive force that catalysed plans and thoughts into action, and action into success. The onus is upon us to imbue fortitude and resilience, and remain undeterred as we continue learning, growing and leading in this change.