A winter of discontent? The trends we are seeing as we enter the final quarter of 2020

I suspect many will be glad to see the back of 2020. Whatever lies ahead, given the ongoing political uncertainty of every kind, without doubt, we’re in for a bumpy few months.

Earlier this year, we launched simplytrends to help our community have a snapshot of what is likely to be coming our way.

simplytrends is compiled by delving into the insight we have access to from our 300+ simplycommunity members, 1,000+ event attendees, 7,800 + readers and our simplypartners. We also look at the meta trends, the large external forces, which drive change in consumer and employee behaviour.

By exploring these trends and by listening to our community, we’re able to get a clear idea of how these influences are manifesting themselves within the workplace.

The key trends we’re seeing this quarter are:

  • Employee empowerment
  • The remote working itch
  • Purposeful businesses
  • Humanising digital experiences
  • Office reinvention

Employee empowerment

A defined digital culture is increasingly in the hands of employees. With no rulebook to refer to, nor guidance to follow, there is a delicate balance to be had with people trying to hold on to what they have in the midst of uncertainty against a seismic shift in consumer and business behaviours as well as a change in operating models.

People are asking questions and not often getting answers.  We need somewhere we can go. Somewhere we can be heard. Externally, this is manifesting itself through the uprising of communities; the resistance to increased restrictions. The collective voice is getting stronger.

The remote working itch

The surge in adrenaline we felt at the beginning of the pandemic has diminished. There’s an overwhelming sense of going backwards rather than forward. As the winter draws in and a rise in restrictions, people are feeling fatigued.

Many people will be desperate to get back to the office if only every now and then or, in part because they are lonely. And really, we’ve yet to understand whether the benefits of working from home can last for a sustained period.

Areas which in communicators should focus on include employee wellbeing, ongoing challenges with connecting culturally/ geographically dispersed teams, and a potential shift in reward options. Clashes over employers’ responsibilities to their remote workers are unlikely to be far away.

Purposeful businesses

Company values and mission remains crucial to employees and customers alike. As is the increased importance of authenticity and trust. Covid-10 has reclassified what sustainability and purpose looks like in today’s world. No longer is it solely about core environmental challenges. Purpose must co-exist alongside requirements on hygiene and supporting people during the looming economic downturn.

Over the last quarter, this has been heavily driven by social movements such as Black Lives Matter, Gen Z entering the workforce and individual wellbeing. With no flashy offices to show off at the recruitment stage, what is it that really makes you stand out?

Humanising digital experiences

Our next trend is based on how we can bring the human to life across digital experiences.

What we have gained in connectivity through digital, we have lost in creating and strengthening true – and new – relationships. The shaking of hands, reading body language in meetings the watercooler conversations where we get titbits of information from our colleagues which tell us more about who they are.

Our increase in digital experiences have undoubtedly given us a lens into our colleagues’ lives, but is this enough? We now need to ask ourselves; what can we do with the technology we have now, to make it a better experience for all of our team members, regardless of where they are.

Office reinvention

This is an interesting one. In the absence of a physical office and a question over how to keep teams feeling connected, are we going to see a reinvention of the office? Companies such as Teemyco, Sococo and Pragli offer ‘virtual offices’. Initial findings suggest these are growing in strength and levels of investment they are receiving.

Not a trend we’re seeing with our members and personally, I’m not convinced. These platforms raise questions around creating cultures of presenteeism and surveillance. They may be seen as the next innovation, but like the introduction of any new technology make sure it’s well thought through and relates to what your business wants to achieve.

simplycommunity members can get access to the full report on the community site.

Looking for some support? Our simplyconsulting team is here to help.


Lisa Pantelli, head of content & community

Lisa is simply’s head of content and community. She is an award-winning employee engagement and internal communications specialist.

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