How 2020 is Reshaping the Future of Work: Five Trends to Watch Right Now

By Dr. Brad Shuck

The context of work is entering a new field of play in real-time. Perhaps never has an industrialized society experienced the need for such rapid evolution related to the world of work, in every sector and industry, on every continent, and within every community. The one thing COVID-19 has highlighted is how very connected, social, and community-driven business is–and how no one is spared.

As we look to the future of work, organizational leaders need a foothold. The data trends are telling and the future of work as we know it will pivot. As we look ahead, five key trends will define the immediate future of collaboration, connection, and community.

Trend #1

Employee engagement has never been more important, but it is changing as the value proposition of the economy, work, and community shifts. Engagement is being driven by the overall life cycle experience, but unlike pre-COVID-19, it is a much shorter cycle. Instead of months, it is looking like moments may be the new measurement standard. As our capacity for risk, information, and decision-making shrinks, employees, business leaders, and human resources are making decisions in a much quicker cycle. 

Trend #2

Feeling connected to a community and an authentic belief that work that has purpose is front and center. Employees who tell us that they believe their work has purpose and that their leaders are connecting back to that purpose through key messaging and opportunities for collaboration, are also telling us that they feel a part of the community.  And community is driving a host of outcomes, including engagement, wellbeing, and stress. Employees who tell us they feel connected to their organization also say that they are willing to wade through the ambiguous scenarios so many employees are facing. Community remains critical and cornerstone to your value proposition.

Trend #3

There is a second wave of anxiety and stress is coming. Not too dissimilar from the first few days of the COVID-19 lockdown nationwide, as we re-open the country and businesses begin seeing in-store customers, we are seeing that same level of anxiety as a new wave of change and uncertainty begins to materialize. Leaders continue to tell us that they are working with employees who are not sure it’s okay to come back, who may not feel safe, and who are worried about what is happening at home. This is an important pulse to take stock in.

Trend #4

Counter to the rationality of data gathering, now is maybe one of the best times to tap into the measurement of youremployee experienceand engagementThis is the time to get the data that will help you make changes that impact your culture and future business for decades to come. Most won’t do this, but those who do will have better understanding and a competitive advantage that will last into the foreseeable future. Making decisions based on data will be the differentiator for many industries that accelerate through the curve and thrive.

Trend #5

Those who have continued to work will need a break. We have no idea what that could look like, but all of the models of engagement suggest that there is a natural ebb and flow–moments of engagement, and then moments of rest.  Without rest, the rate of burnout will be extraordinary. Leaders should be thinking about this and how they measure this continuum. Leaders need to be thinking about what they can do for employees who have continued to work through the crisis. Incredible levels of energy have been applied over the last few months, and at some point, employees will need to recoup. This is where recognition, appreciation, and dignity come into play. 

The future of work is pivoting in the real world in real-time as a result of covid-19.  And those impacts will be with us for the coming years and well into the next decade.  Business leaders need to be listening to gain better understanding of the impact on their employee experiences. By paying attention to the five key trends identified here, leaders can make sure they update new approaches. They can keep a finger on the pulse of cutting edge changes, and listen and respond to the human behavior and emotion at play with their best talent.  

For more information about employee engagement, research trends on the future of work, and collaboration, follow Dr. Brad Shuck on the socials at @drbshuck. For more information about how to measure, understanding, and leverage the employee experience during remote and face-to-face work, Unitonomy is the industry leader. Follow us at @unitonomy


Dr. Brad Shuck is an internationally recognized thought-leader in the areas of employee engagement, leadership, and employee health & wellbeing.  Dr. Shuck is a tenured Associate Professor and Program Director of the Human Resource and Organizational Development program at the University of Louisville and principle consultant of LEAD Research, LLC, an advanced human resource analytics consulting group focused on emerging technologies related to leadership, engagement, and design.  

Dr. Shuck is an advisor to Unitonomy.

Unitonomy creates culture management software to help people work better together. Unitonomy products help companies change their work culture by augmenting communication. Want to learn more? Try any Unitonomy product for FREE!

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