January 18, 2021

2020 has been an unforgettable year marked by political tension, economic upheaval and border disruption, affecting many lives and businesses in the process. However, a new year doesn’t change the catastrophic impact of Covid-19. Adapting to a new paradigm will be paramount, so expect to see more tech coming into play in big or small ways. Here are five trends in 2021 that will shape businesses in a post-Covid world.

Green Focus

Climate change is not new, but as the earth gets hotter, a warming world increases the chances of a growing range of deadly diseases. Green focus will continue, as companies continue to reassess operations and consider ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Iggy Bassi, CEO of Cervest affirms this, saying that “the new year will see a renewed, stronger spotlight on how organisations take responsibility for their climate security and the measures enforced to tackle risk, as the pandemic has brought a new impetus to overall risk frameworks, especially climate.” Two months ago, Unilever pledged to hit an annual global sales target of €1 billion from plant-based and dairy alternatives within the next five to seven years. Over in Asia, China and India are currently heavily investing in green energy, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is confident that the country’s clean energy capacity will increase to 220 gigawatts by 2022.

Expansion of Remote Work and Video Conferencing

Global Workplace Analytics predicts that 25 to 30 per cent of the workforce will be working from home several days a week by the end of 2021. Joshua Zerkel, Asana’s Head of Global Engagement, adds, “In 2021, business leaders should take a critical eye to the tech stack deployed to help teams cope with the rapid transition to remote work. A lot of those tools, like Asana, Zoom and Slack will stay in place to support workers in distributed work. But ensuring employees know the purpose of each app they are using, and how they are using it, is vital to keeping teams aligned.”

This year, virtual offices will be in demand over traditional brick-and-mortar locations where employees have a new and unique way to work—allowing for more flexible time management. In Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, he also encourages the use of virtual assistants to help companies with daily administrative tasks remotely.

Virtual and Augmented Reality technology

Last year, virtual and augmented reality took centre stage in the form of AR avatars, AR indoor navigation, AR cloud, virtual concerts and events, and even facial expression recognition technology. And the dawn of 5G will only empower and unlock the future of AR and VR.

Since physical meet-ups are still discouraged to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the concept of holographic participation, where people can assume realistic avatar forms during meetings will be more prevalent. Last year, Microsoft introduced Virtual Robot Overlay for Online Meetings (VROOM) dedicated to one-on-one interactions. Perhaps in 2021, we will see applications with multiple people and experiments in shared mixed reality workspaces.

The Rise of Automation

Automation technology and artificial intelligence will become more ubiquitous this year as companies re-evaluate their processes to reduce the need for human labour. Hence, the use of robotics will not only reduce manpower costs but also increase efficiency. Some of the top technology companies across the world like UBTech Robotics in China and Fetch Robotics in the U.S  have already begun robotics integration. Sergei Anikin, Chief Technology Officer of Pipedrive, foresees that the demand for such innovative solutions will peak in 2021, which will, in turn, give industries “the motivation to invest in digitalisation and automation.”

Greater Emphasis on Data and Protection

Over the past few years, there has been a tremendous increase in data volumes—prompting businesses to capitalise on data to understand what their customers want and to make informed decisions that yield the highest returns. But as companies collect more data from users or customers, they face the risk of data theft and breaches. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime would cost businesses almost US$6 trillion by the end of 2021. “Your team will experience an uptick in phishing attacks as a result of the global Coronavirus pandemic,” said Robert Herjavec, CEO of Herjavec Group. If you don’t have an IT security team, it’s time to hire more help.