The future of work: 4 workplace trends to watch

Monday July 5th, 2021

Author: Staples Professional Inc.

The Future of Work

From video calls, to virtual events and instant messaging, the way many of us work has undoubtedly evolved over the past year. According to Statistics Canada, 40 percent of workers shifted to remote work as a result of pandemic lockdowns. With that many people WFA – working from anywhere – cubicles, water cooler chats and board rooms start to seem like relics.

While it’s hard to predict whether the future of work will remain WFA, a hybrid, or if we’ll ever see the full return of in-person office work, there’s one thing that has become clear: in order for companies and their employees to thrive in the face of adversity, the ability – and desire – to pivot must be there.

So, what’s next? Here are some ways experts are predicting the workplace will change in the years to come.

Investing in your team and levelling up

Employees are the backbone of any company, and moving forward, providing opportunities to upskill and invest in personal growth will become key. A survey conducted by PWC found that two-thirds of Canadian employees who reported being provided with upskilling opportunities showed increased confidence in their organization’s leadership and increased productivity versus those who didn’t receive training. Michael Diettrich-Chastain, CEO of Arc Integrated, an organizational consulting firm in Asheville, N.C., says that we’ll also start to see more companies invest in soft skills training for their employees. “Our ability to relate to one another, lead, engage, improve people’s motivations… the research shows that all of these things predict performance and success,” he says.

Increased virtual employee engagement

While remote workers have experienced an overall boost in productivity, the PWC survey also revealed that employers have encountered challenges maintaining morale and company culture and connectivity in a virtual work environment. Diettrich-Chastain says that companies experiencing this most likely don’t have a culture that is being defined and operationalized, meaning values aren’t being brought forward on a regular basis. “It’s important that these values are living and breathing through the employees,” he says.

For employees to feel more engaged, we’ll see increased time spent to share ideas, work through conflicts and getting to know each other. Some employees find that connecting through a webcam or in-machine camera can create that intimate interaction (add in big monitor and you’re set!), while others may better engage with some movement facilitated by using a wireless headset.

For leadership, this will mean learning more about the employees they support. “The art of asking questions will continue to emerge as a valuable skillset,” says Diettrich-Chastain.

More wellness at work


In a year of unprecedented changes, the ways in which Canadians have had to adapt in their personal and professional lives – whether it’s the decrease in social activities, or balancing work and homeschooling – have contributed to their overall wellbeing. In a report from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) titled  Yesterdays Gone: Exploring possible futures of Canadas labour market in a post-COVID world, researchers explore the trends that Canada’s labour market will see within the coming decade. As part of the trend of putting workers first, the report predicts that by 2030, prioritizing wellbeing in the workplace could lead to more benefits for employees in physical and mental health. “When our physical experience is optimized and our stress is low, our performance is best,” says Diettrich-Chastain.

Virtual events are here to stay


In the early days of the pandemic, making the leap to hosting events virtually was mainly out of necessity and many realized that with a reliable Wifi router, laptop stand, keyboard and mouse anything is possible. Fast-forward to now and we have virtual events leveraging tech like holographs, VR and livestreaming. And many events that ramped up in those early days, like Staples’ Spotlight virtual series, are still going strong today. According to the BII+E report, virtual events, like digital conferences, aren’t going anywhere. Organizations have come to realize that taking things online can not only expand their reach, but can also be cost-effective.  Moving forward, Diettrich-Chastain believes we’ll start to see hybrid events, where attendees take part in an online component before or after an in-person event. What’s more, we’ll also start to see events become more interactive with breakout groups and participation from attendees. “Creating this dialogue during events is so crucial and is what differentiates a successful conference, whether it’s digital or in person,” he says. “It allows people to not only walk away with exponential learnings, but connectivity with one another.”

And regardless of how we got here, the future does indeed look bright.

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