Four Digital Workplace Trends for 2021

These 4 Digital Workplace Trends for 2021 indicate a path forward for business leaders.
As a year for tremendous change and chaos, 2020 will be hard to beat. While 2021 may not be the same brutal rollercoaster, it will continue to be a crucial moment for employee experience and productivity. We’ve identified these four Digital Workplace trends for 2021 that will shape how organizations will use Digital Workplace tools to gain business advantages in what will likely be another tumultuous year.

Digital workplace trend #1: Massive onboarding

As the world begins to open up again, we see businesses looking to their HR departments to refill depleted ranks and bring in new talent. One of the advantages that remote and hybrid businesses will enjoy is that they can now hire from across the country; geography is no longer a barrier for many jobs. The larger talent pool will mean finding the right candidate faster, driving faster recruitment and onboarding.

An optimized digital workplace enables hybrid and remote work at full speed ahead.This oncoming season of job changes and new hires will place some stresses on HR and IT departments. Just the sheer challenge of getting new folks signed on and logged in to the right places and accessing the right documents will be a lot for companies to take on. Look for templatized approaches like Powell Software’s Employee Onboarding or RFP templates, which diminish the need to create everything from scratch while still providing a personalized approach.

Digital workplace trend #2: Some return to the office.

Yes Virginia, there may be a time in 2021 when employees begin coming back into the office—some people, some of the time. What does that mean for your Digital Workplace? Which activities will come back to the office and which will either stay in the Digital Workplace or migrate there?

While many of us crave casual conversations around the coffee pot and checking in face to face with our colleagues (think the first day of school after summer break), status meetings, project management, document collaboration, and corporate communications should stay in the Digital Workplace. With the massive adoption of Teams (now at 115 million daily active users), some organizations are now struggling with what conversations and information sharing happen in Teams and what is posted to the intranet. My colleague Erick Straghalis laid out his vision of the New Digital Workplace model here.

When the pandemic forced the massive work-from-home movement, people did an admirable job of adjusting. IT departments worked long hours to ensure that employees had the hardware, software, and know-how to work effectively from home. HR departments supported employees in figuring out what it all meant. And workers across the spectrum adopted new ways of working. It was frankly impressive.

However, many of the systems and procedures put into place in the initial panic are now beginning to show cracks. One of the biggest cracks we are starting to see is in information architecture. Without a strong governance policy and the tools to manage it, the document library that was clear and uncluttered in April is beginning to look like a weed patch.

Another example is that employees may now belong to many different teams in Microsoft Teams. Some of those teams may have multiple channels with some duplications or unnecessary channels. Early 2021 may be the perfect time to review the organization of people, files, permissions, and applications. Businesses that take the time doing this now will benefit from increased efficiency and decreased frustration as the economy heats up again.

Digital workplace trend #3: The tools just keep getting better.

  • I could make a joke about what happens if you keep a bunch of developers locked in their houses for a few months, but the reality is that Digital Workplace tools kept getting better and better each month in 2020, and that progress isn’t going to let up in 2021. For example:
    Microsoft Teams has added features like events, breakout rooms, better stream recording functionality, etc. (We’ve covered a lot of these developments here)
    Intranet vendors like Powell Software have been rolling out new features like Flex Desk, gamification, and new templates like crazy.

    Powell Flex Desk allows leaders to manage hybrid work logistics on a dime.

    Manage the ins and outs of hybrid work with Powell Flex Desk.

We don’t anticipate the rate of development to slow down—just check out the MS Teams Roadmap. Smart companies are continuing to invest in the features and functionalities that will make remote work easier and more effective. Frontrunners like Microsoft and Powell are not going to relinquish their advantages easily.

Digital workplace trend #4: Budgets are still going to be tight.

While there is much to look forward to, 2021 is still going to be a tough year, particularly in the first half. Investments in digital infrastructure need be strategic, targeted, and sure-fire. 2021 will not be the year for experimentation.

Organizations will look for ways to get the most from their bucks, rolling out smaller projects quickly and looking to build momentum. They will also be looking for ways to create templatized approaches to new digital spaces like sites, pages, and teams that reduce the need for costly, time-consuming custom development.

For example, Powell Software’s Powell Manager creates quick deployments that help organizations get their corporate intranet up and running without a massive custom development project. Businesses of all sizes can pilot a new intranet with a home page and a few targeted departments without a deep investment.

A really happy new year

As 2020 shrinks in the rearview mirror, there is a lot to look forward to in the Digital Workplace. With more flexibility and a greater emphasis on employee experience, Digital Workplaces are poised to take 2020’s challenges and turn them into business advantages.

Understand the trends, then make your Digital Workplace plan. Download our guide: “Re-Defining the Digital Workplace.”

(Questions? Contact our Digital Workplace team here or click the orange chat button at the bottom right.)