December 30, 2020

7 predictions for the world of work in 2021

As the year comes to a close and we reflect on 2020. What does the world of work look like for the technology sector in London and Berlin in 2021?

Market & Insights
7 predictions for the world of work in 2021

TL;DR — Our Predictions for 2021

  1. WFH will become more commonplace, but employees will still expect to have access to an office between 2 and 4 days a week, depending on their role in the company.
  2. With more independent work carried out from home, business owners will shift from a culture of offering employees a dedicated desk, to offering more efficient space utilisation methods –fewer dedicated desks, more touchdown space, hotdesks and collaborations spaces.
  3. With work becoming more flexible and continuing to bleed into home life, business owners will need to tune into individuals' circumstances to provide different work schedules that are more conducive to each employees’ productivity.
  4. Mental and physical wellbeing will become a much higher priority for more businesses. This includes making the workplace more appealing to employees through contemporary WELL standards.
  5. Professionalising HR will be a requirement for all growing businesses that are looking to effectively implement flexible working practices, maintain a productive working culture and attract the right talent.
  6. The rise of flexible working practices will see management styles adapt. Businesses will need to develop better processes and systems for measuring team performance –with metrics favouring ‘output’ as opposed to ‘time worked’.
  7. More businesses will see the value of flexible workspace providers. Investing time and capital in designing and managing their own office will fuel this thinking further.


TS;WM — Our Predictions for 2021

  1. WFH will become more commonplace, but employees will still expect to have access to an office between 2 and 4 days a week, depending on their role in the company.

    With digital infrastructure and multiple online tools available, teams have proved that some types of work (mostly individual tasks) can be carried out just as effectively as before whilst working remotely. In a post-coronavirus world, there’s no doubt that WFH and remote working will continue to be popular. If nothing else, 2020 has been nothing short of a useful experiment for businesses on this front. Of course, on the flip side, we’ve also learned that most forms of collaborative work aren’t quite as easy while working remotely, and a number of leading surveys also convey that the majority of employees have also widely expressed their wishes to maintain a physical workplace for ‘a few days a week’ (see Hubble¹ survey).

    So once cost pressures and the restrictions around the pandemic are put to one side, a re-correction towards equilibrium must ensue. What will remain is likely to be a much more flexible normal; where HQ’s will be smaller, layouts and office designs will be more collaborative and businesses will stuff their workspaces full of more things that make the company culture unique.


  2. With more independent work carried out from home, business owners will shift from a culture of offering employees a dedicated desk, to offering more efficient space utilisation methods –fewer dedicated desks, more touchdown space, hotdesks and collaborations spaces.

    Our longstanding status quo for employees joining an established company is to be offered a dedicated workstation. You settle in, set up your things and that’s where you should work, regardless of the type of work you are doing. Unless you’re an employee of Google, EY and Twitter et al., the world we all knew before 2020 was not a world synonymous with a company-wide ‘allowance for WFH’ or ‘flexible remote working’. In fact, if you considered this to be normal at work, you’d be in the small minority. Either that, or you had a special exceptional arrangement with your employer.

    Enter 2020. With more people working from home than ever before, the days of dedicated desks for everyone is certainly behind us, but with the majority of employees missing aspects of the workplace², employers have been forced to weigh up the benefits of more flexible working arrangements. Of course, on the surface, the financial benefits of removing fixed office space costs are appealing. Look beyond the surface however and we begin to challenge the fundamentals of human productivity, motivation and wellbeing at work. Where does innovation happen? What intangibles are lost through the cracks that inevitably form? What is the net impact on company-wide output? Depending on your business model and other factors (such as a company’s geographical presence) it is this kind of uncertainty that is bringing most businesses to the same logical answer; a physical HQ is a necessity.

    We predict 9 out of 10 companies will continue to commit to renting a physical workspace (in London and Berlin) in 2021. Many HQs will shrink, but the importance of the workplace has not diminished with the rise of remote working. Instead, it is the type of work carried out in the workplace that is likely to see the biggest transition. For many businesses in 2021, the office will start to be used as a “hub space”. These spaces will still comprise some dedicated workstations (for those employees with roles who prefer their own setup), but “hub spaces” will mostly be a space for collaborating, team meetings and socialising with fellow colleagues. Office Managers’ will have already begun to reshape their existing office layout. If they haven’t already up-sticks and downsized the office completely, they’ve cannibalised rows of dedicated desks in favour of touchdown space, meeting spaces and presentation space. The mindset has changed from that of quantity, to quality.


  1. With work becoming more flexible and continuing to bleed into home life, business owners will need to tune into individuals' circumstances to provide different work schedules that are more conducive to each employees’ productivity.

    The rise in companies successfully adopting a remote working approach in 2020 has been well documented –arguably with the technology sector most successfully adapting to the crisis.

    Just as business owners downsize their offices after the recognition that employee output and productivity levels can be maintained remotely. They must in turn begin to hone in on employee wellbeing and productivity outside of the office. Businesses transitioning to flexible working are now incentivised to empower employees to work how they feel most productive. 

    In turn employers will need to pay closer attention to employees' personal lives and circumstances. 2021 brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘workplace’; now more than ever we all have a multitude of environments contributing to our place of work, incorporating the home office, that Wednesday morning cafe spot and of course, the office.

    By enabling more flexibility, less rigidity, employers can offer employees more freedom to arrange work around their other commitments. Parents, for example, can work around their busy school run schedule with less stress. Provided deadlines are met, employers stand to benefit from offering their teams more autonomy. This will, however, mean adapting the way teams are managed (see more on this in prediction 5).


  1. Mental and physical wellbeing will become a much higher priority for more businesses. This includes making the workplace more appealing to employees through contemporary WELL standards.

    One of the silver linings to a widespread movement towards ‘tuning into employees’ over the last 9 months, has been an accelerated appreciation for the importance of physical and mental wellbeing. No doubt stimulated by the challenges brought about by WFH, which include; video call anxieties, loneliness, less physical exercise, chair ergonomics and longer screen time during the WFH week².  As a result, businesses are placing a higher importance on mental and physical wellbeing in 2021 than ever before.

    So it comes as no surprise that businesses and workplace operators alike are paying more attention to WELL standards³ in the physical environment as well. Honing in on features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Despite all the flexible WFH policies, there’s no question employers want to encourage employees to come to work, and when they’re at work, for employees to be at their very best. In 2021, more than ever businesses will need to build offices that their team wants to go to, not that they’re obliged to go to. With Offices in 2021 more likely to shift to become more focused on collaborative working environments employers will begin to incorporate more home comforts and experiences into their workspaces; more amenities like gyms, showers, coffee shops and cafes, as well as lounge’s and more availability for bike and car parking.

    “I’d have thought there will be a lot more flexibility as to when and how work is done, a greater openness to part time working and flexible hours. Of course the average time in the office will decrease. But the pull of “we” will be strong - creativity, training and mentoring, communication and, in many cases, productivity are all better when you work together. Many of these things are only more obvious after time. The pull of being together, of “we”, will be strong.”  — Jonathan Bevan, Techspace CEO.


  1. Professionalising HR will be a requirement for all growing businesses that are looking to effectively implement flexible working practices, maintain a productive working culture and attract the right talent.

    Top companies that invest in professionalising HR and championing company culture are investing in the development of their people. The successful administering of these practices helps build trust, improve individual’s output and eventually the whole company fosters a high performance culture. Something all high growth businesses strive to create –a recipe that develops potential talent, attracts the best talent and retains top talent. In 2021, these practices will need to be adapted for WFH and remote working in order to be effective.

    To fuel the fire, an increase in employee remote work also means colleagues spend less in-person face time with each other. In particular, managers and colleagues are then less likely to pick up on behavioural cues that might indicate something might be wrong. Issues and challenges in 2021 are increasingly likely to be missed, and in turn businesses will need to develop HR practices that “check-in” on their employees more regularly to counter some of these challenges.

    Of course, many managers may not be rushing to let their team work more flexibly either. Managing a dispersed team across varying schedules is no easy feat. and businesses may need to consider management training as part of the new flexible normal. Of course, competition for talent will ultimately be the driving force behind this change. An annual survey by FlexJobs’ found that 69% of respondents said that flexibility was ‘one of the most important factors' when evaluating job prospects. 30% said they had left a job because it didn’t offer flexible work options.

    Implementing well considered flexible working policies for all employees, and establishing clear rules will be a requirement for all businesses. Not least fast growing businesses that are experiencing lots of changes already. For this reason, we expect to see businesses establish a strong HR function at an earlier stage of their development. This will not only help the company stay competitive from a recruitment standpoint, it will help to safeguard employee wellbeing, and company-wide productivity.


  1. The rise of flexible working practices will see management styles adapt. Businesses will need to develop better processes and systems for measuring team performance –with metrics favouring ‘output’ as opposed to ‘time worked’.

    A term that’s intentionally avoided by growing technology businesses is “Digital transformation”. You don’t have a particularly innovative technology startup if this has suddenly become a requirement in 2020. But the reality is, 2020 has shaken the tree for all businesses, even the technology sector, and we’re all leaning against our digital infrastructure more than ever –whether it's adopting new software to track projects, or adopting more features to create more visibility across the team– 2020 has made many businesses push more of their processes and reporting online, because we’d be blind without it, and managing our people is nigh on impossible without it too.

    When your team is sitting next to you, the visibility and feedback is ever present, and managers can intervene, coach and support when required. In 2020, managers have been driving with a few less rear-view mirrors. 2021 therefore is likely to see management styles adapt to suit more fluid and flexible schedules. Regular check-ins might book-end the day but we’re likely to see more autonomy and freedom given to employees to complete projects and tasks without checking in. Saving collaborative meetings and planning meetings for one or two chosen weekdays when all stakeholders are in the office. And of course, businesses will need to get more comfortable with management by numbers, reports and data. 


  1. More businesses will see the value of flexible workspace providers. Investing time and capital in designing and managing their own office will fuel this thinking further.

    Aside from the countless other changes businesses have to invest time in updating for a brave new world, pulling together all the right aspects of an office is expensive, time consuming and requires expertise. Over and above this, the increased flexibility and volatility of a changing workplace dynamic means many businesses in 2021 are not willing to make commitments long term.

    Low upfront commitments, short notice periods and month to month contracts with one monthly invoice makes flexible workspace operators well positioned to support businesses who want to control their costs in 2021. Many of these spaces also offer an abundance of amenities to all members, which further spreads and reduces the cost per person each month.

    For this reason, we expect to see an accelerated growth in the demand for flexible workspaces in 2021. If you’d like to speak to us about how Techspace can support your business in 2021, please get in touch with us - enquiries@techspace.co




Reference materials

¹ Hubble - Should we ditch the office survey - https://hubblehq.com/should-we-ditch-the-office/survey-results

² Cornell University - A Tale of Two Cities: Software Developers Working from Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic - https://arxiv.org/abs/2008.11147

³ WELL standards v2 - https://www.wellcertified.com/certification/v2/


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