HR Trends for the New Normal in 2021   

13 July 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has been one of the greatest accelerators of workplace change in a lifetime. Under emergency measures, office-based workforces around the world transitioned to working remotely from home. Change that without the pandemic would have taken years, if not decades, took place in a matter of weeks. 


Despite the pre-covid concerns of some organisations around the risks of flexible working, the shift in working arrangements appears to have been largely successful. A survey from US based Enterprise Technology Research showed that productivity increased during enforced work from home orders to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 


This does not mean the last year has not been without challenge. Working from home during a pandemic is a very different experience. Isolation, lack of childcare, illness and bereavement were just some of the difficulties experienced by people around the world. 


Despite increases in productivity, more employees than ever are feeling stressed and close to burn out. Research by Oracle showed over 90% of employees are feeling stressed and over 70% feel the pandemic has adversely impacted their mental health.  


This period of accelerated change has highlighted the importance of HR departments. Employers are likely to lean on HR expertise to help employees adjust to the new work environment.  As we approach the mid-point of 2021, we wanted to highlight some of the HR trends in 2021: 

Focusing on the holistic area of employee wellbeing is becoming intrinsic to an organisations success. Quarterly communication about an employee assistance programme and an annual bring your dog to work day will no longer cut it. 

The most successful companies are moving away from managing employees while at work towards a focus on how they can support the life experience of their employees. This may include finding the right work/life balance, help build additional skills and develop relationships to make a meaningful impact on their world, inside and outside of work.   

It is safe to say that many employees are unlikely to return to the workplace on a full time basis. Most employment experts agree the future of work is a hybrid of office and remote work so that people  can choose where to work based on what they need to get done. Many workers may choose to stay at home for focused work but go to the office to collaborate with others or to meet with their team. 


For Human Resource departments this means playing a part in developing in office and remote company cultures. Remote work requires more employee engagement. In a setting where communication is via email and other digital tools it is more difficult to highlight the professional achievement that in the office can lead to advancement. By providing employees with virtual events to participate in, encouraging regular online meetings and activities to boost enthusiasm HR professionals will be able to enable employees to stand out.     

In parallel with the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 will be remembered as a year that shone a light on the very real inequalities that still exist for minorities around the world. Many businesses are speaking out against racism and discrimination in all its forms. 


Not only is this right thing to do, but the business case for diversity at work could not be stronger. Research by McKinsey shows companies that are more diverse outperform their homogenous peers on profitability. In 2021 the natural progression is a concerted effort amongst the business community to level the playing field. This is more than mandatory diversity and inclusion training. 


Although the conversations around the need for diversity in the workplace have been taking place across many decades, in many industries it has only been backed by measurable action relatively recently. 

As the focus moves to life experience, HR need to be able to personalise every individual's experience. Many HR departments are going to rely on customisable software to do this at scale. HR functions lean on HR tech to deliver some of the more time-consuming elements of the role for example mapping out training requirements for employees based on their role. This frees up HR specialists time to achieve HR goals in a way that simplifies the process for employees.   

The vast changes that are occurring in the workplace are going to impact the Human Resource industry in the coming years. Harvard business review anticipates a corresponding change in HR roles. During a nine-month study with their network of business and HR leaders they conceptualised over 60 potential new roles. Some of the first new HR roles they anticipated will be added to manage the ‘new normal’ of hybrid working include: 

  • Head of business behaviour
  • Work from home facilitator
  • HR data detective
  • Strategic HR Business Continuity Director

During this time of flux, you can rely on international health insurance from Allianz Care to provide your expatriate employees with access to healthcare while overseas.