Work from Wherever? What Will the New Normal Look Like in 2021

January 19, 2021

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2021 is here, and with it comes the hope of normalcy. As we’ve all learned, normal was a relative term, so now, we’re all saying the new normal. In the new year, there are many possibilities about what the workplace will look like, or if there will even be traditional workplaces anymore.

What 2020 taught the business world is that you have to be resourceful, creative, and agile to survive. SMBs in many industries are still thriving because of this. That success comes in part from their ability to make remote work simple, easy, secure, and collaborative. Executives learned that it is feasible for employees to be at home and still do their jobs well. Some may be doing it even better. The next era could very well be the work from wherever age.

Remote Work Doesn’t Mean Company Culture Fades Away

Some of the most successful companies in the world are well-known for their cultures. Culture has become synonymous with the brand itself. Google, Southwest, Costco, and many lesser-known businesses crafted cultures that empower employees and support them.

In a time when company culture isn’t stuck between two walls, it has to permeate virtually. The new normal of 2021 will be about businesses adapting and finding ways to provide their workforce with the right environment, even if they go to work every day in their home office.

Enhancing the Work from Wherever Model

Many companies were unprepared for a full-scale remote employee base. Telecommuting certainly was part of the story before the pandemic, but it was an outlier, not the rule. When they needed to quickly move people home to keep them safe while still maintaining productivity, many businesses made hasty decisions.

When urgency is a factor in decision-making, it’s easier to make a misstep. If you need something quick, you can’t practice proper due diligence. So, you stick with what you know, like using Google Drive as a file share system or using free video conferencing tools without thinking through the limitations.

Leaders now have a moment to pause and reflect on how they can improve technology tools and move to an integrated platform that they control. Companies will be rethinking their remote work strategy in terms of tools and structure.

There are many options for what their new model will look like. You could reopen your office once it’s safe and the vaccine is widely available but still provide people the flexibility to work from home. Or you could move forward with a remote-first model.

If moving forward with remote-first, companies also have the ability to expand their talent pool. Another potential consequence is that companies can retain employees who want to move outside of urban areas where the cost of living keeps them from homeownership or financial security. There has been no dramatic migration in the U.S. during the pandemic, but it has made people rethink their priorities. Keeping a job they like and moving to a more affordable community is a win-win for employees and employers.

Businesses That Adapted Will Keep Doing So

There has been no shortage of innovation in 2020 from businesses of all sizes. The ability to pivot is critical in surviving any kind of disruption to society and the economy. Some of the most important shifts aren’t going to make the headlines, but they show that SMBs, which are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, aren’t afraid of change or taking a leap.

These adaptations are happening in every facet of the company. These businesses recognized both needs and opportunities. Most were able to do this with a remote workforce. They were still able to serve their customers by transitioning to a remote contact center, hosting virtual events in lieu of in-person ones, and leveraging technology to stay connected.

Virtual Hiring and Onboarding

Another part of the 2021 new normal will be hiring and onboarding virtually. As the economy continues to rebound, hiring will pick up. Candidates can expect their interviews to be via video call. Once hired, they’ll likely do all their onboarding virtually as well. There will certainly be concerns about a new hire acclimating if they aren’t in an office. However, motivated workers will take it in stride.

To ensure this rolls out well in 2021 and beyond, businesses should define their new onboarding process and work to improve it. Much of this comes down to company culture, which will play a role in how well these new workers perform. Additionally, they’ll need simple technology that allows them to communicate and collaborate easily. It shouldn’t take days to get people up to speed on your stack. If it does, that’s a disconnect to rethink.

Looking Forward: One Thing Is Certain

The business world is doing a lot of looking ahead right now. It’s extremely hard to have any assurances about 2021. The only certainty is that work from anywhere will be a permanent part of the new normal.

Kirsten Barta

Kirsten Barta is Sr Marketing Communications Manager at Intermedia

January 19, 2021

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