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5 Workplace Trends That Will Impact the Shift-Based Workforce in 2021

The workplace underwent a drastic transformation over the course of 2020. Factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice movements advocating for equality were highly influential in shaping how the world functions in the workplace. These shifts will continue to influence the workplace in the new year and impact employees around the world—particularly the shift-based workforce. With a new appreciation for the hourly workforce, brought about by this year’s need for essential workers, many workplace trends in 2021 are predicted to benefit shift workers. Read more on benefits for shift workers on our Benefits page, and discover the upcoming year’s workplace trends below to learn how they will impact you. 


1. Emphasis on Employee Well-being.


The stress-inducing nature of 2020 brought workplace wellbeing into perspective for many employers. Studies found that three out of four workers found work challenging because of pandemic-related anxiety. To address this, in 2021, employers will be prioritizing work-life balance, employee wellness, and mental health initiatives in the workplace. Organizations are planning to allocate more healthcare benefits to mental health. They will also deploy strategies to facilitate employee wellness in the workplace, such as flexible hours and regular check-ins. 

It is undeniable that frontline workers suffered an immense toll on their mental health in 2020. Thus, the wellbeing of hourly workers will be addressed by employers in 2021 more than ever before. With many restaurant chains offering paid sick leave to their hourly employees throughout the pandemic, discussion surrounding healthcare benefits for the shift-based workforce will take place in order to provide adequate care to shift workers. 

Along with health, employers will also be prioritizing safety and security for their staff. Job seekers view a safe and positive work environment as the number one factor in choosing where to work, so organizations will be going the extra mile to foster this in order to recruit talent. This includes allocating funds to improve workplace safety measures such as contact tracing and sanitization services. 


2. Spotlight on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.


The new year will also see a concerted effort to address issues of diversity, equality, and systemic racism that were brought to light in 2020. The murder of George Floyd by police, and the protests that followed, shone a spotlight on the systemic racism plaguing the United States. This led the rest of the world to stand in solidarity and consider their own country’s race relations. Because of this, diversity deficits in the workplace were heavily scrutinized and assessed in an effort to better represent people of all races and ethnicities. 

Diversity hiring targets that have been re-evaluated this year will continue to be implemented in 2021. Positions of all kinds, including hourly-based roles, are set to be filled by a diverse range of qualified individuals, increasing racial representation in the workforce as a whole. 2021 will also continue to see a rise in diversity-related roles, including chief diversity officers, to ensure diversity targets are met. With 70% of job seekers evaluating prospective positions based on inclusivity efforts, organizations will have to prioritize diversity to meet the needs of applicants and the changing workforce.  

Addressing gender inequality in the workplace will also be prioritized next year. The COVID-19 pandemic has widened the gender wage gap and shed light on societal equality issues affecting women, such as their responsibility for childcare and household work. With women comprising a significant proportion of the frontline workforce, many of whom are poorly paid, pay equity has been top of mind in 2020. In fact, the first International Equal Pay Day took place on September 18th, 2020. 

Canada has taken steps to counteract the negative impact of the pandemic and its subsequent recession as it relates to women in 2021. Karen Jensen, Canada’s first federal pay equity commissioner, has helped put the federal Pay Equity Act into motion. The law will require employers to assess their compensation structure to ensure employees are being paid according to the value that they bring rather than their gender. This law is said to come into force later next year.

Laws such as this are sure to become widespread as equal pay is essential for economic growth and recovery, which will be a major focus of 2021. Employers who demonstrate a commitment to women’s equality and pay equity will help contribute to the rebuilding of the economy and the crucial leveling of the playing field in the workforce. 

Diversity in the workplace is essential for 2021

3. Reclassification of the Shift-based Workforce.


The global health crisis caused the world to appreciate how essential the shift-based workforce is to society. With frontline workers supporting entire communities, employers are now reevaluating how they can support hourly workers and their long overlooked needs. Previous discussions surrounding workplace wellbeing have been geared towards full-time salaried employees, but 2021 will see a shift to include hourly workers in the dialogue, as well as implemented strategies that target their specific needs. 

In January 2020, California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) went into effect, requiring companies to reclassify independent contractors as employees. The bill was passed in an effort to regulate companies that are fully dependent on the large number of gig workers they employ, including Uber and DoorDash.

While the bill was contested during the 2020 presidential election, its impact on future workforce legislation will be significant. California Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman described contract workers as central, not tangential, to the success of Uber and Lyft when ordering the companies to reclassify their drivers as employees. This perception of hourly workers as central to a business’s success will continue to grow in 2021, and more efforts will be made to ensure equal workplace rights and benefits for shift workers. 

4. Digital Transformation of the Workplace.


The digital overhaul of the workplace is unquestionably one of the most transformative and wide-reaching workplace trends to impact 2021. Digital operations became essential in the workplace this year as reliance on technology was required for safety, communication, and collaboration, and employers across industries have implemented tech into their business models at unprecedented rates. 

With mobile connectivity needs hitting an all-time high for frontline workers throughout the pandemic, digital solutions like employee scheduling software, with built-in team messaging and real-time schedule updates, will see a surge in use by shift workers in 2021. Platforms with features that empower hourly employees to tackle their daily tasks with their own devices, including the ability to digitally clock in and out, will be a valuable asset in next year’s continued digital transformation.

Digital upskilling will be a major focus of the upcoming year. PwC Ireland’s digital leader Joe Tynan reported that over 90% of Irish employees attended the company’s virtual Digital Academy in 2020, which involves two days of specialized digital training in areas such as accounting, HR, operations, and more. 2021 is sure to see an increase in tech training across all industries, particularly in shift work positions with a growing emphasis on e-commerce and safety-related digital operations, including manufacturing and logistics, retail, healthcare, and hospitality. 

5. Hourly Positions on the Rise.


While the COVID-19 recession has caused an unfortunate downturn in many jobs across industries, employers in the frontline workforce (such as healthcare and e-commerce) will ramp up hiring in 2021. Glassdoor statistics indicate that warehouse worker jobs are up 174% from last year, while registered nurse jobs are up 51%. 

Other positions predicted to be highly sought after in the new year include graphic designers and creatives, digital marketing specialists, and data analysts. These positions will see a surge in demand as organizations will be looking to rebrand themselves, implement powerful post-COVID marketing strategies, and understand their new market and consumers. 

Seeing the bright side of 2020 

2020 has been a difficult and uncertain year, but the challenges and discussions that have come from it are acting as a catalyst for change. The workplace trends for 2021 demonstrate the prioritization of inclusivity and employee wellbeing in the shift-based workforce, and the move away from outdated concepts that are no longer relevant in our changing world. We hope this article brings some hope and insight for the year to come. 

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