Remote working, changes to organisational culture, and e-commerce and social media evolution are among the key business and marketing trends for 2021.

Remote working is just the start

Post-vaccine, we’ll no longer be talking about Working From Home. The future is Delivery From Anywhere. 

Because the cord has truly been cut from the workplace of old with new workflows and communication streams supporting a cultural adjustment in how we all operate. 

If that transformation was enforced by Covid, version 2.0 will surely bring an even more radical reimagining of organisations, driven by the rollout of true fibre broadband and especially, 5G. 

And that will see the acceleration of trends such as deploying teams of virtual assistants instead of expensive and inefficient in-house administration departments, acquiring expertise solely when necessary to fill a skills gap or time deficiency. 

While more business support services such as Call Handling, Marketing Support or Back Office Processing will be outsourced in the cause of reinforcing growth and robustness.

New tools of the trade

So if we are mostly working from home, wither the office? From lockdowns to reopenings to being locked out once again, we now possess a greater appreciation of what purpose the workplace serves. More than half of companies, according to an Institute of Directors survey, already intend to slash expensive floor space, anticipating that their headcount at HQ and elsewhere will never again reach its 2019 levels. 

However, let’s be honest, some roles simply work better when physically in the presence of colleagues.  

And for everyone else, a space where people can gather to collaborate and confer when necessary will remain essential in the cause of sharing ideas and inspiration. Consequently, expect some of those former desk hubs to become meeting areas or bookable presentation spaces in this brave new era. 

And as new staff come onboard, a 5-minute tour of introductions, a pointing to the coffee machine and emergency exit, and health and safety briefing, will be mere fluff 

Now, there is an imperative for employees to properly create a network between centre and home hub with the right office tech in place from Day 1. 

E-Commerce expands

No wonder Jeff Bezos was the biggest beneficiary of coronavirus.  

Amazon, with 37% growth in 2020, has become almost a utility as we are drawn irrevocably towards the convenience of a one-stop online store for our coffee pods and printer paper. 

What of the intangibles that can’t be delivered in a brown cardboard envelope 

Services. Support. Consultancy. 

Deals for which used to be agreed over a sales meeting and a personal pitch. Now the handshake has to be secured virtually.  

That online shopping mindset is spilling over into the business world too.  

We can purchase Research time with the click of a mouse and an upload of a brief. We pass over control of our Social Media Management to an expert provider with a username and password and a click on Paypal. Or share access to our accounts and expenses with a Bookkeeper who we will probably never meet. 

Organisations who make their services as easy to buy as a supermarket shop will flourish. 

E-Learning isn’t just for school kids

The concept of everyone in your company jamming themselves in a single, stuffy conference room for a training day won’t pass the comfort threshold for some time yet. 

Learning new skills or procedures remotely has become a necessity and the first wave of Covid disruption brought an explosion in knowledge acquisition as people – either for self-interest or future-proofing their career (or a love of baking) – sought upgrades in their personal development path. 

Organisations who want to keep their employees at the cutting edge need to invest in digital educational tools.  

Someone standing in front of their webcam reeling off the 2018 version of their Powerpoint just doesn’t cut it with those who can train and mentor effectively through the laptop screen with world-class resources remaining ahead of the game.

Corporate culture, disrupted but still with unified purpose

GenZ aren’t the only ones demanding a meaning to their jobs above and beyond a paycheque (or, more accurately, a bank transfer) and a place to spend the 9-5.

There is an expectation that a clear sense of values and purpose will filter throughout the organisation and provide enough of a genuine meaning to answer the question: ‘why am I here?’

Flexible hours, free coffee (of the decent variety) and wine on a Friday are all great perks. But we’ve moved on from the fussball table in the corner and the beanbags on the floor to the kind of valuable assets that motivate and retain talent – and customers.

We expect real development, a personal investment from our leaders, empathy, encouragement and constructive critiques rather than a bawling down the phone from the age of the dinosaurs.

With staff morale more precarious amid Covid, clear communications are vital, particularly with face-to-face time at a premium. It’s not merely about what we say, but how we say it.

Be social, buy influence

We’re all living vicariously through leafing through old Instagram feeds of exotic trips past and special Saturdays in the pub plastered over Facebook. 

The personal experience lives on, even now, as brands strive to recreate up-close excitement in a post. 

It’s inviting disdain – or worse, an unfollow - to merely sell, sell, sell on social media.  

It’s a transaction, where authenticity and engagement are priceless. That’s why the influencers will continue to play an ever more important role.  

If we can buy from anywhere, we will invariably choose who we like.  

Mark Woods is a freelance business writer