During this past year, we have seen shifts in global business trends that impact the way we interact in both our professional and personal lives. Whether you’re trying to balance the roles of employee/ teacher/ babysitter or you’re simply trying to navigate your way through a Zoom presentation while your dog barks incessantly in the background – we can all agree that this past year has its share of work remote challenges.
As we head into a more open year, we are excited for what 2021 holds as we look forward to a return to a sense of something that resembles normalcy. However, some changes appear to be here to stay. In this post, we will review the top five emerging business trends in 2021.
1. Virtual & Hybrid Work Style
As the COVID-19 protocols shift employees will slowly begin returning to the traditional office setting. However, this does not mean that virtual work will go away completely. In fact, the hybrid work style will remain intact for some. Some will still show reluctance to return due to concerns around the virus while others will be excited to have interaction with their co-workers again. A hybrid work method, which would allow for both in-person gatherings and also virtual sessions, is the most effective way to be able to cater to all employees in a healthy and safe way.
In a recent study from Stanford, they found that during the first nine months of people working from home, productivity increased by 13%. Most of this can be attributed to fewer distractions, less office socializing and more time spent working instead of commuting. They also found that short breaks throughout the day enhanced productivity and helped to avoid burnout. Another industry that had to learn to pivot during this pandemic was the TV industry. News interviews and talk shows which once took days to produce are now being shot from the comfort of the host’s home with little more than a smartphone and/or a computer. Although we will begin to see more of this hybrid work style going into 2021, this user-generated, organic video content and virtual meeting style are sure to continue well into 2021 and beyond.
2. Clubhouse – the anti-video platform versus Podcasts
Clubhouse, better known as the audio-only platform, began taking off at the end of 2020. When the pandemic started people typically used video communication, with Facetime and Zoom gatherings being the main method of communicating. Now we have officially come full circle and back to this audio-only, podcast-like platform. The social media craze over this new platform is due in part to the apps ‘invite only’ exclusiveness. The platform allows people from all over the world to join in audio chat rooms where they can discuss, learn, and collaborate with one another.
Podcasts have also gained more popularity in the last few years, The only difference is that while clubhouse offers live audio collaboration amongst others, podcasts are pre-recorded. Meaning that they are able to live on for years even decades after they are created, and can be listened to at any time. Not only have podcasts been a great educational tool for many people over the last year, but they have also become a great way for businesses to showcase themselves as industry experts, organizations to recruit new advocates and generate awareness, and to collaborate with other professionals.
Some of the benefits to creating podcasts include the low barrier to entry, increase in website traffic, increased brand awareness, and most importantly the relationships that businesses are able to form. During the spike of the pandemic, many businesses struggled with how to maintain their relationships with clients when they were forced to pivot from in-person to a virtual style of work. That is why podcasts became a popular platform for businesses to continue these relationships in a more humanized setting while still being socially distanced. It is also a great alternative for the in-person events that were canceled in 2020 because podcasts, similar to webinars, allow for people to gain insightful information and stay up to date on the latest trends of your business.
We have already seen many organizations capitalize on each of these as a way to get informed on certain topics, network with other public affairs and industry professionals, as well as recruit new advocates for their grassroots communities. We can see this becoming a very popular platform in the coming months for other organizations and businesses to learn, share ideas, and build brand awareness.
3. Live video trumps produced video (Snapchat, IG Reels, and Tik Tok)
We have all learned in this past year, more than ever before, how much we crave human interaction and relationships. Not being able to gather with friends and family leads some to turn to social media for socializing. Snapchat stories, IG Reels, and Tik Tok being the largest platforms to enable people to maintain these interactions, even from a distance. In short, the live content these platforms offer adds a sense of human connection and relatability making them extremely engaging.
As live video continues to be the preferred type of video content, we have also seen how beneficial it is for grassroots advocacy. Users are able to educate and generate awareness around certain issues in a matter of minutes. We have already seen plenty of companies utilize social media to spread awareness, one of the most memorable being the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. They used social media to advocate for the ALS community by having people record themselves dumping a bucket of ice-cold water on their heads to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis- and it worked! Over 17 million people around the world took part!
Another more recent example is from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Kiss Cancer Goodbye Challenge. This challenge, which kicked off in 2019, quickly gained popularity on social media. Users would post a creative photo or video showing how they ‘kiss cancer goodbye’ with the hashtag #KissBloodCancerGoodbye. The trend prompted you to tag three friends to do the same or donate to the cause. This quickly spread into a viral trend sparking the interest of famous actors and actresses who all joined in to “Kiss Cancer Goodbye”.
The use of these social media trending platforms makes it easy for brands to share their cause and story in a more humanized way – in some cases even leading into worldwide viral trends. The increases and preference of user-generated content will easily continue as a major business trend in 2021 and we would recommend other businesses begin to test these platforms as well.
4. Social media helps enhance advocacy
Social media has become the platform for people to share their ideas, stories, and life updates. In a matter of a few seconds, you can be sharing with all of your followers and hundreds if not thousands of others, your opinions on an issue. It is a powerful platform, and in recent months has proven its power. Through the use of simple hashtags, IG stories, and tags, your content is there for the world to see in a matter of seconds. With that being said, the world is very quick to construct groups of people who advocate for the same issues but also can be very quick to oppose if they disagree. A message is extremely powerful but is even more powerful when it starts a dialogue.
Social media has also been a place for people to share their personal stories and beliefs on health, social, and political issues – becoming the hub for influencer advocates. Since social media is a place for personal interactions, it builds connections and relationships – even through a phone screen. I myself can attest to living vicariously through influencers on social media and can feel a connection to them without ever meeting in person. It is a great way for people to advocate about certain issues and have their voices heard – and in some instances for significant social and personal changes to be made. It gives people a voice.
5. Office Technology will change to accommodate hybrid style work
Heading into 2021 as businesses begin to reimagine what their office space will look like, we will begin to see a shift in the way that they accommodate their employees. Instead of spending money on office accommodations, businesses will start to budget for things such as laptops for both in-office and at-home use, monitors and other at-home office supplies for hybrid work, more communal spaces in the office versus assigned office desks, and even shifts in the types of office equipment.
Office spaces will need to take into consideration people working in a hybrid style and should consider budgeting accordingly. For instance, cameras and screens will need to be in office conference rooms to accommodate those who are in person, as well as those who are working remotely. Companies will also need to take into consideration IT protocols to make sure that the virtual environments are running smoothly and securely. We can also predict that there will be more onboarding virtual training as well to help employees navigate this hybrid work style. In short, there will be a lot of changes that come with this hybrid style in 2021, but the biggest shifts will be in providing employees with the proper tools, adapting office spaces to accommodate for in-person and virtual work, and ensuring the safety and security of your employees at all times.
In Australia, they have already begun to return to their office workplaces, and are even in the final stages of being fully reopened. In this article by the Wall Street Journal, they break down exactly what that process looks like and the protocols set in place for a safe return. Making sure there is a constant supply of hand sanitizer available, using signs to tag when spaces have been cleaned, and nearly tripling the fresh air intake for office air-handling units to allow for better ventilation, are just a few of the ways they have accommodated this return.
As we head into 2021, we can expect to see these business trends regularly as it most likely becomes the ‘new normal’ for our everyday work style. Although navigating through these changes and keeping up with the trends may be difficult, there are resources and digital marketing and communications agencies that can help your business successfully pivot!