The working environment going into 2021 is vastly different to that of the start of 2020. What are the HR trends employers should be considering to support workforce management, performance and positive engagement into 2021?


1. Remote working

In response to lockdown rules, 2020 saw universal effort and upheaval to establish employees for remote working, with employers typically focused on maintaining productivity and minimising operational disruption.

2021 is likely to see organisations focus on how remote working can best work for them and their workforce in the long run. Through their own personal experiences, employers and employees alike now understand that remote working brings both pros and cons for both parties. For example, if the organisation has reduced its office space, it may support or even require some form of remote working. Some employees may be happy not to have any travel time and costs, while some employers may be concerned with ensuring productivity and focus.

Discussion and agreement between employers and employees will be important to understand respective positions and preserve positive working relations. Any changes impacting employment terms may also need to be documented accordingly within the contract of employment.

Where remote working is continued, employers should review their arrangements collaboratively with employees using appropriate measures and effective communication.

Employers will also be dealing with related issues of longer term homeworking, such as the provision of suitable equipment and furniture for employees working from home.


2. Mental wellbeing

The challenges of the pandemic are manifesting in mental health issues, which in turn can impact productivity and morale.

Workers are facing new pressures over and above the ‘usual’ responsibilities of their job. This could include additional stress due to additional caring responsibilities, issues resulting from a lack of social interaction or new financial concerns if a partner has lost their job.

Employers have a duty to ensure the safety of their workforce, which includes mental wellbeing. There may also be additional responsibilities where mental ill-health constitutes a disability under the Equality Act.

HR and line managers are critical in nurturing a culture which supports mental wellbeing and encourages workers to be open about issues they are facing and any related support they may need to do their job in light of these issues.


3. Equality, diversity & inclusion

The momentum of 2020 for better equality, diversity and inclusion surely must be carried through into 2021. We should expect greater focus on organisations living their commitment across the breadth of workforce background, education, experiences and personalities, to not only meet their legal obligations, but also to ensure a more enriched and diverse workforce.


4. Cost optimisation

As the economic repercussions of the pandemic continue to affect organisations and budgets, cost concerns will undoubtedly sit high on the business agenda.

For HR, where headcount and people costs come under the spotlight, measures may include reorganisations, redundancies, pay freezes or cuts or adoption of more flexible working arrangements.

Implementing such measures will require employers to manage both the legal risks of change processes while also ensuring the people aspects are handled effectively to avoid damaging employee motivation and performance.


5. Management transformation

Remote working is also precipitating the need to review how teams are led and managed, and whether processes remain fit for purpose given the shift towards virtual interaction.

Do operations and processes require transformation to improve agility, flexibility and collaboration? How is performance and productivity to be monitored and measured? Traditional measures such as absence will also require reassessment, with new issues such as “epresenteeism” emerging.

Among the workplace upheaval, employers cannot lose sight of the continued importance of learning and development. This serves not only to ensure continued operational excellence, but also helps to motivate and inspire workers.


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris’ human resource specialists help employers with all aspects of HR strategy and workforce management. Working closely with our team of employment lawyers, we offer a holistic solution for employers on emerging areas of people risk and opportunity. For advice on a specific issue, speak to our experts today


Last updated: 15 December 2020


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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