Workplace trends for 2021

Lauren Gordon reveals the top five workplace trends to follow this year, alongside tips on how to make these trends work for your team’s wellbeing.

2020 was the year we all experienced unprecedented change in our working lives, with many of us turning to Google to seek advice and support to cope with the changes we faced. Those changes aren’t likely to slow up any time soon but what certainties can we face in 2021 and how do we use them to improve team wellbeing?

Remote working is here to stay

With the announcement of the UK entering a third national lockdown many of us will be continuing to work from home with no idea when we may return to the office.

In 2020, searches on Google for ‘working from home set up’ and ‘working from home mental health’ increased dramatically, in comparison to previous years. If – like many of us – you’re working remotely, there are lots of small steps you can take to look after yourself and your team.

It is important you create the right working environment while working from home. Aim to work from a desk or table and remember to keep your shoulders relaxed, elbows at 90 degrees to the table and your feet on the floor.

Setting up a specific workstation can help to create a boundary between your workspace and personal space. As soon as you finish your working day, encourage your team to close their laptops or move work related items to another area out of sight. This can help to wind down and switch off from work, as it signals that the working day is over

Increased use of technology

Businesses have heavily relied upon technology over the past few months, moving day-to-day communications and processes online. Whether technology is used for business collaboration or keeping in touch with employees, technology has helped many businesses remain resilient during uncertain times.

Creating post-work plans such as calling a friend or joining an online gym class can help to manage your workload and means you commit to finishing work at a certain time

However, embracing technology may come with many of us spending more time working in front of a screen than ever before. It is important to take regular breaks during your working day, as these will help to reduce any aches, pains and eye strain you may experience. Regular breaks can also help to reduce your stress levels; why not try going for a walk on your lunch break? This is also a great way to keep active.

Prevent presenteeism and burnout

The pandemic has been hard for us all in different ways, which is taking its toll. Some are struggling to work from home effectively whilst balancing home schooling while others miss the buzz of the office environment. Presenteeism is when an employee continues to work although they may be ill, in pain or suffering from an injury and can often be caused by stress or burnout. Since the start of the pandemic 60% of adults in the UK reported their overall mental health had worsened.

Similarly, during 2020 searches on Google for working from home and mental health increased. It is more important than ever for employers and managers to recognise the health of their team and offer support. There’s a few ways to support your team, so find what’s available for your business, for example an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).  Another way is to check in with your team members regularly and be available for a chat.

If you begin to feel burnout or stressed, it is important to stay connected, as speaking to someone can help – whether that’s a work colleague, friend or family member or seeking professional advice, but if they can’t change what you’re going through, chances are they are likely experiencing similar feelings to you and it can help to talk openly

Taking care of your physical health by eating well and keeping active can also help prevent the effects of burnout. Getting active can be as simple as doing some stretches from your desk, and can help you to feel refreshed.

Strike a greater work balance

While working from home, it can be tempting to work longer hours and take fewer breaks. Since March 2020, it has been reported 30% of adults in the UK have been working longer hours than before due to remote working. If you’ve found yourself working more, it’s important to evaluate your work-life balance.

Allowing yourself time to switch off after work is a great way to look after your mental health. If you or your team are struggling with workload, it’s important to talk to your manager. Taking time to plan your working week and creating post-work plans such as, calling a friend or joining an online gym class can help to manage your workload and means you commit to finishing work at a certain time, allowing for time to unwind in the evenings, too.

Spending time with your loved ones or doing something you enjoy can help you to switch off from work. This could be an evening run, cooking, listening to music or reading a book. It is important to find what helps you to relax – this is different for all of us.

Employer wellbeing responsibility

Since the pandemic and adjustment to remote working there has been an increase in work related mental health conditions such as, stress, anxiety and burnout. However, the majority of UK workers have said they felt as though their managers have been supportive, with a greater focus being placed on employee wellbeing.

Whether employees are working remotely or in the office it is important managers support their wellbeing. A happy workforce is a more productive and effective one.

As we continue into 2021, it is important to support the promotion of mental wellbeing in the workplace. If you are struggling, try talking to your manager about how you are feeling and find out what support is available to you.


About the author

Lauren Gordon is a behavioural insights adviser at Bupa UK


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