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2021 Frontline Work Trends You Need to Get Ahead Of

If we’ve all learned anything over the past few months it’s that a majority of corporations can work well even when socially distanced…to a degree that is. In mid-May, Twitter announced that some employees would permanently work from home, while in August Google issued a statement that employees would work from home until at least summer 2021. And while most workspaces have shifted to a work from home environment or work from office hybrid, there are some industries that are too highly personalized to fully follow a distanced model.


Distanced workers connecting digitally:

That said, with a plethora of tools, processes, and communication channels now available with the click of a button, creating a unified workforce is theoretically more accessible than ever. Even companies once lagging behind in the tech race now clearly understand the importance of, or are actively seeking out a connected digital workplace in order to centralize communication.


Unacceptable communication gaps:

As 2020 progressed, workplace and efficiency experts charted the effects of the pandemic and also its effect on work styles. That meant that gaps in communication and efficiency for frontline teams, that might have once been tolerable or considered lower priority are now considered unacceptable. As we get ready to wave goodbye to one of the most tumultuous years in modern history, now is also a great time to embrace newer levels of connectivity that allow us to better work and communicate together apart.


Digital transformation tips:

Whether it’s teaching your entire team a new way of interacting (How many Slack channels are too many?) or planning the next few months together (Asana, anyone?) or even outfitting your frontline crew with walkie talkies, the time for digital transformation is now.


To help you figure out what’s next for your own staff, we gathered some of our top picks for frontline work trends.

“As we get ready to wave goodbye to one of the most tumultuous years in modern history, now is also a great time to embrace newer levels of connectivity that allows us to better work and communicate together apart.”

The Top 5 Frontline Work Trends for 2021:

  • Positive employee experience: In late October, David Johnson, Principal Analyst at Forrester released his predictions for 2021. He explained that Forrester’s future-of-work team had spent about a year exploring systemic risks that affected organizations and the way companies failed or flourished. At the time, the research began in November 2019, Johnson and his team weren’t quite aware of the tremendous impact COVID-19 would have on businesses. In the introduction to the report, Johnson explained that even right at the beginning it was clear to the research team that organizations with great employee experience (which Johnson refers to as EX) could “effectively protect themselves from the worst effects of these risks.” The flip side is that fewer than a third of the companies studied actually conduct employee experience surveys.

What this means for you: Before you implement changes to your own corporate structure, consider creating polls for employees that allow them to report back on what works or what’s lacking. The last thing you want is to connect a team of miserable coworkers. Creating a better environment — even if it’s distanced for now — results in a company better protected from future risks.


  • Help remote workers be more effective: If there’s a single thing you should do over the next few months it’s figure out a way to make sure your staff has as much help as possible to better do their jobs. In the same report mentioned above, Johnson explained that when social distancing isn’t an option, some frontline workers might receive help from physical robots. And if that sounds a bit too futuristic for you, consider the fact that having a cellular connectivity plan means that you’re all connected even when working far apart.

What you can do: At this point we’re all feeling a bit drained, but that doesn’t mean we can’t figure out how to implement positive changes to our shared work environment. At Relay we’re proud that our devices not only connect workers, they also empower them through the use of a panic button and completely connected cellular network. If people are worried, they can’t do their best work. Empowering them through connectivity and a device that alerts anyone to potential danger allows them to work better and smarter.


  • Flexible work schedules: Financeonline.com had an interesting report on how Gen Z will change the workplace. As younger employers enter the work world, they’re no longer tied to the 9-to-5 schedule of their parents or older siblings. Technology also means that you can work from anytime, anywhere. Understanding that your frontline workers may be happy to be on call Saturdays while goofing off on Monday mornings means that your staff will be willing and able to work during the hours they’re on call.

Try this: Discuss new work terms and protocols with your HR teams. For instance if someone describes themselves as a night owl, don’t try to force them to work a front desk at the crack of dawn; instead, allow them to work at their own time…and hours, for best results.


  • Acknowledge frontline workers beyond their titles: As we saw over the past few months, frontline workers are more than the people who get us through the toughest times. Vogue magazine featured nurses and other medical professionals not glammed out in couture, but rather in their normal work environments. And Fashionista.com reported that U.K. fashion brand Halpern’s Spring 2021 collection was inspired by and modeled by frontline workers. For the latest show, the article explained that (Michael) “Halpern cast eight female frontline workers in the U.K., from across the public service sectors.”

Make them feel special: Is there anything you can do that allows clients and customers to get to know your frontline staff beyond their job title? Sometimes a bit of fun adds humanity to what are often the most stressful careers and sectors. Allowing people to see frontline workers beyond their job title allows for a deeper connection and more appreciative work environment.


  • Create a frontline workers hotline: While we all know that this is a global pandemic, it’s sometimes hard to think beyond our own limited environments — especially when we’re in lockdown mode or stuck close to home. In researching these trends, we came to realize that frontline work trends are being studied and improved on internationally. For instance as reported on gulfnews.com, in the United Arab Emirates, there’s an active program calling for frontliner support. More than that, there’s actually a government sponsored organization called the “Ministry of Community Development’s National Programme for Happiness and Well-being,” with a dedicated hotline for frontline workers.

You can create one too: While you can’t necessarily create a national hotline accessible to all frontline workers at all times, you can create one for those on your team. Whether it’s a code word, time of day or chat function, creating a safe place for those caring for everyone else means they have a way to recharge and reconnect while comparing experiences with fellow frontline workers.


Relay helps you to create a highly-personalized network for your frontline staff. Contact us to find out how to set up your own hotline.

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