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Career Corner: 2021 Workplace Trends

The pandemic has changed how many work. | Courtesy photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash

By Angela Copeland

Have you had enough of 2020? Let’s look to what you can expect in your 2021 workplace. The 2020 pandemic has been a historic year. We’ve experienced unexpected change and, interestingly, some of that change may be here to stay.

Recently, Glassdoor’s chief economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, shared his five predictions on what the future holds at work. First, office life will return, but will never be the same. Second, employees expect progress, not pledges, on corporate diversity, equality, and inclusion. Salary expectations will get a permanent work from home overhaul. Company cultures must adapt to post-COVID-19 realities. And, although the COVID-19 recession is likely over, those jobs may never return.

I’m sure you would agree; there’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with a few of the highlights.

More than 40% of U.S. workers have been working from home full-time since June 2020. This dramatic shift has caused significant changes in the way we work. Chamberlain believes that although companies have been forced to rethink work from home policies, employees will ultimately return to work once it’s safe. Although remote work allows companies to hire from anywhere, it has downsides. Chamberlain cites poor employee communication, lack of motivation and performance, lower creativity, and lack of spontaneity as the drawbacks to remote work. Casual bonds created through in person interactions are critical for building a culture of innovation and creativity. According to an internal survey of Glassdoor’s own workforce, most workers prefer a hybrid work arrangement, splitting time between home and office.

The Black Lives Matter movement also cast a needed light on racial inequality that will impact our workplace going forward. Companies are being pushed to make real progress on diversity and inclusion efforts. The public also expects more transparency on these efforts going forward. Conversations around economic inequality and police violence sparked a national conversation. In the workplace, this conversation has the potential to be a win-win. In other words, diversity attracts talent. Glassdoor found in a recent survey that more than three in four employees and job seekers say they would no longer apply at a company without workplace diversity.

Chamberlain also predicts a shift in salary expectations. He believes tech workers moving from expensive metros such as San Francisco or New York should expect pay reductions from 5 to 30%, depending on where they move. This is one point where my perspective veers away from Chamberlain. If a worker has a unique skillset, a company will be forced to pay the fair market rate for that skillset, regardless of where they live. On the flip side, if location is no issue, job seekers will likely face more competition as they apply for jobs. I believe the increase in competition will change salaries more than a cost-of-living adjustment.

Ultimately, the unexpected nature of 2020 has forever changed our workplace, for good and for bad. Here’s to a better 2021!

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

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