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What Your People Need in 2021

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

We are at the time of the year where business is likely slowing down, and we are starting to reflect on 2020. And, what a year it was to reflect on.

You had to lead under unprecedented circumstances and undoubtedly had to make some hard decisions. You had to do your job in brand new ways while also being a teacher and working from your kitchen table.

Whether we like it or not, work- and home-life have merged, making work more personal than ever. Employees will have unique needs and expectations heading into 2021.

I put together a list of things to consider as you look to your employee’s experience for the upcoming year.

Remote Work Expectations

Many companies have been playing it by ear during the ever-changing rules of the pandemic. While we can be hopeful to get back to some form of normalcy in 2021, we still have a long way to go. The upside? We’re pros now, and you may have actually found some new productive ways to get work done. Take a look at your local and state guidelines and align your workplace expectations with them. This will provide needed clarity to employees to know when/if they are expected to be in the office and what safety precautions will be taken when they get there.

Start asking your employees what they need to be at their most productive. Are employees more productive from home or are they counting down the days to get back to the office? What does their home office look like?

When you are building your budget, consider factoring in funds to assist your employees with their work from home setup.

Results vs. Time Spent

Best practices show that a flexible work environment works best when there is agreed upon online hours within teams. For example, maybe your team agrees to be online from 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm, and other than that, you can work at 5am or 2am. This allows people to be flexible to work while parenting, teaching or balancing anything else while working from home. Tailor your performance evaluations to reflect performance and values over nuanced office expectations.

In a Forbes article titled, “What Will the Future of Work Look Like in 2021?” they address a concept called “toxic productivity.” That term boils down to this- employees feel like they have to be more productive during difficult circumstances resulting in them feeling “always-on”. So much so that The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported that 89% of respondents worked while unwell, and 73% worked while they were on leave or off-hours. This is staggering and something you should be keeping a pulse on in your own organization. There are many innovative tools to help you focus on productivity and collaboration online. Use these tools to your advantage and communicate expectations for time-off.

If you don’t trust your employees to be delivering for you in varied environments, you should go back to the drawing board with your recruitment efforts. Trust is the foundation of any productive team and cultivating it should be a priority in 2021.

Focus on Employee Wellness

Wellness can mean many things, so I am going to boil it down into two areas: education and empathy.

Education- Health insurance is confusing and intimidating. A lot of assumptions are made about coverage, and many people find themselves staring at the reality through a bill in the mail when the damage has been done. Now is a great time to make sure your employees are clear on their coverage and what their options are. Ask your HR to put together a presentation for a virtual lunch and learn to educate employees on their coverage.

If you are company with a high-deductible plan, it might be time to consider introducing an HSA option to your team. An HSA can be used for gym memberships, therapy or even just providing a cushion for any medical issues that arise. Consider matching $25/month for your employees and pair that with wellness incentives that can result in an HSA “bonus” at the end of the year. Many companies spend thousands on happy hours and company parties, but in the absence of get-togethers there is a way to place value on health and wellness without breaking the bank.

Empathy- According to an article titled “Why Empathy is Important in Leaders Right Now” on, teams that are led by someone with a high emotional intelligence are more productive and more likely to persevere through rough patches. Your people leaders should be carving out more touch bases with their team in the remote environment. Schedule training on empathetic leadership for your managers and then hold each other accountable.

After a year like 2020, your team wants to be assured that you know their value. These few considerations can go a long way to moving forward into 2021. Cheers to that!

To discuss these best practices further drop me a line on the contact page, or email me directly at

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