Features, Insight, Opinion

Barco VP selects his 5 key workplace predictions for 2021

Erdem Soyal, Vice President Middle East & Africa at Barco, has highlighted five workplace predictions that he expects to see come to fruition in 2021, such as the demand for a hybrid working environment in an exclusive op-ed for February’s edition of CNME.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused perhaps the biggest and fastest shift in working practices that we’ve ever seen.

Many companies are reviewing their office space requirements in light of the pandemic, and some have even made the move to full remote working indefinitely. But the vast majority of businesses – and more importantly, their employees – are desperate to return to the office, albeit with more freedom to work remotely or from home when needed.

This hybrid workplace model was growing in popularity even before the pandemic – Covid-19 has simply acted as a powerful accelerant to an already burgeoning trend.

Organisations have now seen that a blend of office and home-based work can be achieved to great effect. Once the pandemic has finally been defeated, they know they need to embrace this hybrid approach. With vaccines now rolling out and the end in sight, the big question for 2021 is what companies need to do now to get ahead of the curve.

Here are Barco’s top trends to watch for in 2021 as we begin the era of hybrid working.

Employees will demand a hybrid working approach

As restrictions have eased up, there is now a huge desire from employees to get back to the office while having more freedom to work remotely when needed. In our recent global workplace study, Finding a New Balance, employees in the UAE stated that they ideally want to work from home  one or two days a week and in the office for three. Whilst some companies have recognised this desire within their workforces and made efforts to embrace hybrid working, many remain underprepared.

As the UAE government’s vaccination campaign is in full swing, companies must invest in hybrid working technology now to meet the expectations of their employees and maintain productivity and engagement.

Now is the time for careful and strategic planning, supported by the right technology, to ensure adoption of new ways of working is as smooth as possible.

The desire for creativity will reshape our offices

Pre-pandemic, the desire for more traditional meeting rooms was slowly fading away – neglected in favour of more modern huddle spaces and smaller breakout rooms. However, the rise of social distancing requirements mandating rooms large enough to keep the 2-metre rule has changed things significantly.

What’s more, this is a trend that looks likely to stay even after we’ve returned to the office. Our global study found that 50% of employees now prefer formal meeting rooms over huddle spaces and 1 in 3 employees use a standard meeting room or boardroom on a daily basis.

Part of the reason for this is the serious creativity and collaboration deficit that we’ve felt in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst productivity and efficiency have survived and even thrived, the lack of human connection has been stark, and creativity has taken a nosedive. As we return to physical workspaces, employees desperately want to connect with each other and collaborate in larger groups, making up for the lost time spent working alone during the pandemic.

People will catch up with technology

Being thrust into the world of remote working with virtually no warning came with its fair share of challenges. Many workers struggled to get to grips with often completely foreign technology and do so alone at home without the face-to-face support of IT teams.

In fact, 2020 may have seen one of the steepest technology learning curves we’ve ever experienced in the history of working life. In our study, 19% of respondents reported having difficulties setting up impromptu remote meetings, and nearly half said they felt that video conferencing didn’t come naturally to them.

Now, after nearly 10 months of remote working for some, we expect employees to finally start making the most of the technology available to them.  2021 will be the year people embrace and understand virtual collaboration technologies and will find it all second nature. Better quality collaboration will take place as a result.

Generation Next

In 2020 Gen Z burst into the workplace and changed its culture forever. Unlike any before them, this group largely experienced a remote start to employment, perhaps appropriate for the most digitally native generation to date.

Surprisingly however, Gen Z employees place great importance on face-to-face connection: a recent survey found that 83% of Gen Z employees prefer to communicate with their managers in person. This affinity for in-person collaboration coupled with Gen Z’s strong desire for freedom and individuality in the workplace must trigger greater investment into hybrid working models to satisfy these needs.

As the workplace Gen Z population grows, the challenge for businesses in 2021 will be in offering the freedom of remote working without sacrificing the human connection this generation values. We predict an increase in flexible working policies underpinned by advancing collaboration technology for a generation that wants the best of both.

Engagement will become the new productivity

In 2021, engagement will become the biggest tool in maintaining productivity.

Whilst so many things about the year ahead remain uncertain, one thing we can be sure of is the continued evolution of the workplace. After a year which saw our working habits change irretrievably, 2021 will be all about catching our breath and investing in the technology to not only catch up to those changes, but to establish a workplace that will be fit for the long-term.

Employee expectations have changed: people have realised the benefits of a more flexible and autonomous working life, and businesses need to act fast to satisfy these needs.

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