2021 digital workplace predictions from Unily’s leadership

While there are a lot of uncertainties about the new world of work, one thing is for sure: technology will play a leading role. But exactly how will digitalization impact your organization in the years to come? We've tapped our own digital workplace leaders to share their predictions surrounding the future of work.

Employee remote working on her digital workplace

Looking ahead to the new world of work

2020 put technological innovation at the top of every leader's priority list. Nearly 70% of employees agree that C-level execs have expressed more involvement in the digital workplace since COVID-19.

Now that all eyes are on your digital infrastructure, what can you do to ensure you have the tools and technology needed to thrive in the new world of work? Is it even possible to prepare for your next chapter in the face of so much uncertainty?

There's no doubt that the year ahead will bring its own set of changes and challenges. While it's impossible to look into the future, we can leverage expert insights to predict what will take precedence in the post-pandemic era.

Our top predictions for 2021 and beyond

When it comes to the digital workplace, we're lucky to have a team of leaders with in-depth knowledge of the digital landscape and how it intersects with organizational priorities. Below, we've included the top predictions from our own chief officers, as well as our customer success and onboarding leads.

Digital transformation will remain at the top of your agenda

"The year ahead, particularly when you think about all the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, is going to see a continued focus on digital transformation. If you’re one of the CIO's who has already secured increased funding for this, you’ll be able to invest in the technology that matters most, when you need to. This in turn will ensure your workforce is more aligned, connected, and engaged with the strategic goals of your organization."

"Being in this position means you’ll be able to take bigger risks and have the opportunity to fail fast, something that is becoming increasingly important. If you have removed the budget constraints, you’ll be able to learn from your mistakes faster, and that is going to be essential to ensure you don’t lose momentum in the year ahead." Sam Hassani - CTO

Past curve balls will allow us to plan for future ones

"I think 2019 was a change accelerator. As we have seen from the pandemic, life throws us curve balls and you can deal with change if you have a great team! We invested in talent last year, despite COVID-19, and we grew our business by nearly 30%."

"Despite a global pandemic, we kept asking our prospects: “What problems are you trying to solve and how can we help you solve them?” If we understand the problems, we can work with our clients to offer a solution."

"Suddenly, people are working from home in significant numbers. This means that businesses need to accelerate their plans for change. Physical offices will become virtual, and savings on property costs will be redeployed into digital transformation and employee engagement strategies. This will be a continued change in the market. We will not go back to 2019!" Jo Skilton - CCO

The digital workplace will become a central focus

"From a Customer Success perspective, we have learned that you can never be too prepared and that the value of a tool like Unily to businesses cannot be underestimated. We’ve seen content creation levels increase, employee usage numbers go through the roof, and the digital workplace becoming a central part of the employees’ working day."

"As companies have seen firsthand the value and increased engagement, I anticipate that this will continue throughout this year. As a Customer Success team, it is our responsibility to support and guide our clients in leveraging the tool to the best of their ability, ensuring that their business goals are met, employee needs are being listened to and that the digital workplace continues to evolve." Rachael Skilton - Director of Client Services

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Employee experience platforms will be needed to maintain employee engagement

"I think there are more eyes on ROI and justification for employee experience platforms like Unily to remain as a cost. It’s the job of the Unily teams to shape the client usage to ensure they are seeing the value and continued adoption, while budgets are being cut by an organization."

"The Unily teams must be proving to the client that without this kind of tool, they will struggle to galvanize the remote workforce and as things return to a new normal, they will need the platform to navigate the change and keep employees engaged." Hannah Unsworth - Head of Onboarding EMEA

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The digital workplace will overtake significance of the physical office

"Business performance isn’t everything. Of course, your bottom line is important, but last year showed us that looking after your employees and the local community is vital. This new vein of thinking needs to continue in the year ahead and beyond, once we come out the other side of the global pandemic."

"COVID-19 forced many of us to work from home with very little notice, and organizations adapted to what was initially thought to be a short-term situation. I think businesses will now start to establish long-term work from home strategies, building on the success of what they implemented last year."

"This will form a catalyst for businesses to actually begin running down physical work environments in favor of digital ones. These organizations will also be looking at better and more personalized ways to engage their employees, customers, and partners. Communication was the backbone for businesses last year, and the lessons that were learned will very much be put into action in 2021." Will Saville - CEO

Remote working will bring increased employee satisfaction

"2020 taught me two lessons; that communication cannot be undervalued, and that remote working can and does work. During a time of such uncertainty, we saw people pull closer together, communication increase and leadership become more visible to support teams in guiding them through the unknown."

"An increased cadence of business updates and varied content types focused around mental health, wellbeing and remote working contributed heavily to the productivity and satisfaction of employees during such a difficult period."

"Looking ahead to 2021, I think both of these lessons remain important and should be considered in future business planning. Employees need variety for their engagement and wellbeing, and the opportunity to be flexible improves satisfaction immensely." Rachael Skilton - Director of Client Services


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Flexibility is the key to survival

"If you don’t react to the dynamic shift in the market now, you won’t survive. Budgets will be tight, employees will want to be engaged rather than feel remote, and people will be working from home more often than pre-pandemic."

"Businesses will need to think about how they ensure that they continue to engage their employees whilst working remotely. Organizations will need to work smarter, and while trust will be critical, effective communication will be the absolute key to success." Jo Skilton - CCO

Internal communications will need to evolve

"As long as you keep close team communication and collaboration, you can adapt and still keep people happy. Working remotely has not only impacted the way we work internally at Unily, but has impacted the way we facilitate onboarding; whether that is workshops or building relationships with clients in person."

"As a team we have worked very hard to continue to share knowledge and keep our spirits up throughout lockdowns and remote working. We have all benefitted from having camera chats multiple times a week, but we are missing the kitchen conversations with other teams and finding that some cross-department communication could be better, so that is a focus for us in the year ahead." Hannah Unsworth - Head of Onboarding EMEA

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Online collaboration is going to grow

"With a lot of companies seemingly moving towards a remote-first working approach, I can see priorities shifting towards enabling a more collaborative, social, mobile-first digital workplace. Employee engagement is going to become even more key to businesses with staff largely outside of an office space."

"Where we’ve previously seen digital workplaces becoming communication-focused tools, I believe that whilst this will continue, there will also be an addition of more online collaboration spaces where employees can connect with each other, share and collaborate on work items, and access the tools and channels they need to perform their roles." Rachael Skilton - Director of Client Services

Digital demands will increase

"We continue to see clients use Unily in similar ways to last year but we are seeing an increase in those wanting to launch quicker with a tighter scope. We are having to adapt our processes to ensure we can still meet these needs."

"The importance of internal communications is of course at the forefront of minds, but we are finding that people now need their digital workplace to work harder for them across the board! New starters can’t tap people on the shoulder to ask for help anymore, so not only do these employees need access to everything, but there’s now a greater need for integrations with HR systems to remove barriers to entry. I also predict an increase in leadership interest in Unily's employee experience platform, as it may be one of a few ways to reach their workforce as the global pandemic continues." Hannah Unsworth - Head of Onboarding EMEA

Final thought - what lesson have we learned from 2020 and how can we use this to predict what the year ahead will bring?

Communication, communication, communication is king. Nothing happens without it, and great things happen with it when it’s effective and two-way! Businesses that get it right will thrive; the others will struggle to survive. Jo Skilton - CCO

Get in touch with our digital workplace experts to find out how you can take your digital infrastructure to the next level.

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