Decoding the top priorities facing HR leaders today

Anita Lettink, a keynote presenter at HR Tech Fest Connect 2021, gives some tips on defining organisations' post-pandemic approach to work.
By: | May 7, 2021

By Anita Lettink, Advisor, Future of Work Speaker and Founder of

The pandemic has made one thing clear: work and location are not as tightly connected as we once thought. People can be productive outside of the office and working from anywhere is becoming the norm, especially for young people.

By 2025, the workplace will look profoundly different as flexible work arrangements give rise to the “economy of individuals”. That leads to a world of opportunity where HR leaders can source talent globally.

But it also raises concerns: Who are the employees most likely to thrive in this new environment and how can you help others catch up? How can you measure outcomes instead of presence and working hours? It is time to design what your post-pandemic workplace will look like.

With the advance of mobile technologies, how people live and work has changed dramatically over the past decade. The ability to be connected regardless of location has opened new ways to work and collaborate with colleagues no matter where they are.

And while we might think that the pandemic brought a fundamental change in employee expectations, the opposite is true: well before 2020, employees expressed the wish for more flexibility.

When I ran the HR2025 survey in the fall of 2019, around 65% of global respondents expressed a need for more flexibility in working location. The same was true for working hours: just 12% wanted to stick to traditional office hours. More than 50% of respondents were looking for flexible working hours. They wanted a better work/life balance, more in line with their personal needs.

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“By 2025, the workplace will look profoundly different as flexible work arrangements give rise to the “economy of individuals” – Anita Lettink, Advisor, Future of Work Speaker and Founder of


Interestingly enough, those numbers have not changed. Most of the research that was published in 2021 shows numbers that are close to what we found back in 2019. The biggest change: what people wished to achieve by 2025 became reality in 2020.

Being able to decide when and where you work is a strong motivator for productivity, engagement, recruitment and retention. Reverting back to being told to work in the office 9-5 will not go over well, especially not as employees held off on switching jobs.

You cannot return to the way it was before the pandemic. Your employees will not accept it. Once economies rebound, we will see employees jump on the opportunity to accept a new job that fits their new lifestyle.

Now that companies are reopening physical locations, the challenge is to carefully think through what this means: for the workforce, for individual employees and for your culture.

The rapid transition to remote work was made possible by a digital transformation that was already underway, based on technological advances like mobile, cloud, cybersecurity and devices. There was no time to think beyond supporting employees to remain productive while working from home.

But now it is time to deal with the challenges of remote work. Employees feel overwhelmed, isolated, and out of sight. They miss in-person interaction and collaboration. Managers struggle to lead virtually, keep their teams motivated and employees productive.

Which means you need to define your post-pandemic approach to work, including new behaviors, guidelines, and policies. What are your strategies to improve productivity, communication, and collaboration? When do employees need to be in the office (if at all)?

Here are three ideas to get you started:

  • Design for flexibility. Your workforce is not looking for either/or: they want a healthy balance. Use this opportunity to design a workforce approach that combines the best of both worlds: remote and in-person, onsite and offsite, with business resilience in mind (because this pandemic will not be the last).
  • Apply a working from anywhere mindset and let the activity determine the location of work. Develop a work style in which employees can use different locations related to the various tasks they need to complete throughout the day.
  • And, especially important, engage your workforce. Ask your employees and managers to participate. You gave them the responsibility to organise their work from home and trusted them to perform. It would be detrimental to their satisfaction if you took that away. Invite them to share what works and what does not and let them propose solutions. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Anita Lettink is Advisor, Future of Work Speaker and Founder of, and will be making the closing keynote at HR Tech Fest Connect 2021 on May 27.