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December 23, 2020updated 05 Jan 2021 5:24pm

Future of work predictions for 2021: Nine experts have their say

By Ellen Daniel

2020 saw perhaps the most significant change to the world of work in modern times, with the Covid-19 pandemic causing a surge in remote working. Attention now turns to the year ahead, and the question of whether such changes to the world of work are here to stay, and what this could mean for employers and employees alike.

We’ve asked experts from a range of organisations to give their 2021 future of work predictions.

2021 future of work predictions

Remote working will outlast the pandemic

“Remote work and other technological advantages spurred by stay-at-home orders will long outlast the pandemic, granting organisations more flexibility, cost savings, and an overall edge in their business plans to conquer any other obstacles the future might bring them. While IT and security professionals have made some strides in securing these modern work environments, 2021 will also be filled with organisations around the world striving to secure themselves in a more complete, future-proof fashion.”

Anurag Kahol, CTO and co-founder at Bitglass

Working from home will drive changes in security

“With much of the workforce now remote, traditional borders of security have changed, drastically driving the need for stronger identity management. There will be significant demand on resources to establish identity and identity-based connections, and some network security companies will begin investing heavily in edge detection using networking layers to determine where those edges really exist. In turn, CISOs will need to make decisions regarding home security investments.”

Edward Giaquinto, CIO at Sectigo

Employers will increasingly invest in “experience”

“In 2021 we will see more businesses making permanent changes to the way they operate. This will mean looking at innovative ways to support the welfare, development and ‘experience’ of their teams to account for shifting patterns of work and communication. In response, employees will be empowered to take much greater ownership of how they facilitate their work-life balance.”

Lloyd Salmons, co-founder at PepTalk

Automation may help to close the skills gap

“Automation will play a key role in closing the talent and data skills gap. We are at a pivotal point where there are not enough data scientists and engineers to go around, yet the demand for data analysis is astronomical. Businesses are urgently trying to identify the right talent, particularly as we have seen a sharp spike in demand for workers with specialist data skills – and there being no signs of this pressure letting up anytime soon.”

Simon Spring, senior account director EMEA at WhereScape

Data natives will enter the workforce

“Two factors will strongly influence the success of the upcoming generation of data natives: personalised individual curricula and the ability to handle all facets of data. To be successful as a new-hire in the job market graduates need not only analytical skills but also storytelling, project management and aspects of ethics and compliance. Personalised learning paths will be the key to compete in the workplace that is coming.”

Jürgen Kaselowsky, EMEA academics manager at SAS

Organisations will focus on adopting cloud services

“As the pandemic took hold, 2020 for IT teams was about enabling remote work: 2021 will be about improving productivity, which will require rethinking and refining their networking and cloud strategies. As organisations accelerate their move to the cloud and adopt more flexible work models, they’ll increasingly realise that the internet doesn’t deliver the reliability, performance and security they need for complex cloud applications and distributed workflows globally. That will lead more organisations to adopt direct private connections to their cloud services and embrace a more agile network model.”

Eric Troyer, CMO at Megaport

Upskilling will be key

“While new employees with new expertise are something large organisations can afford to invest in, that’s not a reality for most businesses. You can’t expect to hire new talent to take on all your technology endeavours. Rather, you must rely on your own teams to stay current. Providing tools, not just that train on new technologies, but help your teams upskill and reskill, is vital to progress. In 2021, I would encourage organisations to know what AI features are already available to them and not to be afraid to learn how to use them. Smaller organisations cannot hire someone new every time they want to embrace a new technology, and they don’t have to.”

Laura Baldwin, President at O’Reilly

Remote working will accelerate the adoption of automation

“Organisations may be able to operate factories just as effectively at half capacity as at full by adopting automation technologies to support remote working. In 2021, we can expect to see greater investment in this area as manufacturers look to future proof their operations against the prospect of another pandemic, or similar unforeseen events. The application of automation and other Industry 4.0 technologies such as AR, VR and analytics can ensure efficiencies are achieved with minimal impact, impacting both the top and bottom line of organisations. Additionally, remote working and automation will provide manufacturing organisations with better access to talent pipelines irrespective of geographical location – something that is becoming increasingly important in an age of digital skills post-pandemic.”

Rafi Billurcu, partner, head of manufacturing at Infosys Consulting

Employees will want clarity around remote working

“In the short term, due to the pandemic, remote work has been an option for many in order to survive the pandemic, but it shouldn’t just be seen as a temporary fix. As a longer-term strategy, remote work can only be successful if everyone is remote, so if some employees choose to return to the office whilst others continue to work remotely, this will inevitably have implications on the efficiency of the business, productivity, and overall culture. Remote first means providing all employees with all the necessary tools and equipment to do their job from wherever they want to work. Remote working must infiltrate team culture, perks, and benefits. In 2021, businesses need to decide whether they’re enabling a remote-first or a remote-friendly culture.”

Job van der Voort, CEO and co-founder at Remote.com


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