Now’s the Time to Prepare Your Business for These 4 Employee Trends

By: on May 21, 2021

If you’re not prioritizing improving the employee experience at your organization this year, you should be. Not only because of the evidence that a positive employee experience improves your bottom line, but also to keep your business competitive in the post-pandemic future.

We’ll let you in on a secret: The best employee experience improvement strategy you can have is listening to what your workforce wants. This is easier said than done considering the feasibility of consistently evaluating employee feedback depends on your business’ size and available resources.

Don’t let these factors stop you. Read on to see how software can help you prepare for the employee-driven workplace trends we’re expecting to see play out over the next year.

Backed by Gartner research and our own findings, we’ll explain what these trends are, why they’re happening, and how you as an HR professional can respond to them successfully.

Trend #1: Remote work is here to stay

This January, Software Advice surveyed over 900 small-business employees and found that 37% are currently working remotely, full time. That may not seem like much at first, but it’s over five times as many employees who were doing so before the pandemic (7%).

That same survey revealed that employees want more flexibility in where they work going forward. In June of last year, 17% of those working from home due to the pandemic said they’d prefer to work remotely permanently when the pandemic is over. This January, that number grew to 23%.

We know what you’re thinking: “That’s less than a quarter!” But it’s not the full story. In reality, 86% of employees currently working from home want to continue to work remotely at least part of the time.

Where employees want to work post-pandemic

How to evaluate and respond to your employees’ work environment preferences:

  • Run a survey and ask your employees what their ideal work environment looks like (but don’t expect a “one-size-fits-all” answer).
  • In that same survey, ask employees to share any pain points they have with the remote work software your organization currently uses. You’re already determining what your return-to-the-office plan will be, so you might as well take the time to figure out whether the software you’re using is the right fit.

Trend #2: Blended work is the next big thing

Knowing that the majority of employees want to continue working remotely at least part of the time, the next logical question is: What kind of work environment best supports that?

The answer: a blended one. A blended work environment supports both in-person and remote work, and includes the use of a virtual workspace as well as a traditional office.

The upside of a blended work environment is that your employees can choose to work in the space that is best-suited for the type of work they’re trying to accomplish. And while your office space may not house employees for eight hours a day, five days a week, the hours your employees spend there will be productive and collaborative.

How to reassess your office space and equipment:

Trend #3: L&D opportunities are more important to employees than ever

In our survey this January, we asked small-business employees what will be the most important factors they consider when evaluating a new job after the pandemic. Thirty percent of respondents chose learning and development (L&D) opportunities.

Additionally, nearly half (49%) of the small-business employees we surveyed told us they haven’t developed any new skills during the pandemic. If that’s not enough motivation for you to start thinking about upskilling your employees, then maybe this is: Employees are 12 times more likely to leave a company that doesn’t offer them learning, development, and career-growth opportunities.

This means that when it comes to reassessing the benefits you offer, one of your top concerns this year should be offering learning and development programs.

Investing in a learning management system (LMS) is a great place to start. In fact, there are many LMS tools that come with personalized learning plans and course libraries, meaning the hardest part of the process will be deciding what skills would be the most beneficial to invest in.

Here’s how to develop a learning and development strategy with your employees:

Four-step L&D strategy

Trend #4: Burnout is the biggest threat to your employees’ well-being

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

Our survey found that of the small-business employees in the U.S. who transitioned to working from home due to the pandemic, 77% are experiencing at least some burnout. And after breaking the results down further, you can see that burnout is alarmingly high among younger workers:

Age Group Burnout %
18-25 (n=147) 92%
26-35 (n=200) 88%
36-45 (n=268) 77%
46-55 (n=164) 58%
56-65 (n=143) 61%


And even in the age group with the lowest level of burnout (46-55), over half are experiencing it on some level. It’s not unreasonable to say that aside from COVID-19, burnout is the biggest threat to your employees’ wellness and mental health this year.

Hosting a virtual happy hour or coffee break is a great employee engagement strategy, but it isn’t enough to break through burnout. What your employees really need is a break.

You heard that right: The best thing you can do to re-engage your employees in this burnout-rampant era is to encourage and enable them to take time off.

Here’s how to encourage and enable employees to take time off:

  • Connect with your employees before their PTO to figure out who can take over their responsibilities while they’re out
  • Encourage managers to share their PTO plans with their teams, including what they’re looking forward to during their time off
  • Gift organization-wide half days when company goals are met

Of course, there are other tactics you can use to beat burnout and re-engage your employees. But instead of blindly trying out engagement strategies until things improve, we recommend using employee engagement software to diagnose what’s causing disengagement at your organization. In some cases, these tools even provide you with follow-up steps you can take to address the pain points that are revealed.

Create a positive employee experience with the help of technology

One of the most influential facets of the pandemic has been getting a closer look into our co-workers’ lives. Through that experience, we’ve learned that when our employees feel supported in their professional and personal lives, they’re not only happier—they perform better.

If you’re an HR leader, you probably already knew this, but the impact the employee experience has on the rest of your business goals is worth reiterating.

The business impact of a positive employee experience

In each section of this article, we mentioned the importance of tools that can help you navigate upcoming changes with the employee experience in mind.

Here’s a recap of the specific kinds of tools we mentioned and how you can use them:

  • Survey tools allow you to poll your employees about anything and everything so you can keep their preferences in mind while making business decisions. We recommend using a survey to ask your team about their workplace preferences and what kinds of skills they’d most like to develop.
  • Remote work software makes staying in communication with remote workers when you’re not physically together much easier. This category includes video conferencing tools, collaboration platforms, and project management software. Even if your employees only work remotely part time, it’s still a good idea to invest in a tool that makes the transition from office to home feel seamless.
  • Learning management software provides everything you need to manage an online learning program. These tools help you create and publish courses, as well as track learners’ progress. Some LMS tools even come with a course library full of pre-made corporate learning resources so you can roll out an L&D program with minimal effort.
  • Employee engagement software helps your HR team uncover sources of disengagement. These tools can be used to set and track organizational goals, collect anonymous feedback, and celebrate exceptional employee performance. Employee engagement software can be useful in your efforts to fight burnout.

We know how difficult finding the right fit can be when there are thousands of software options out there. Luckily, we’re here to help you narrow down your search.

Click here to chat with one of our HR software advisors. All you have to do is tell them your feature needs and budget, and they’ll recommend five top-rated systems that work best for your unique criteria—free of charge.

With help from Software Advice, you can find the software you need quickly so you’re prepared for these changes when they come your way.


Survey methodology

The Software Advice HR in the New Era Survey 2021 was conducted in January 2021. We surveyed workers at U.S. small businesses with two to 500 employees. The responses are a representative sample (by age and gender) of the U.S. population. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.

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