Top 10 Work Trends 2021

The topics on the 2021 list are multifaceted and complex — some have been on prior years’ lists and others are very focused trends resulting from the distress of a global pandemic and critical social issues that came to the forefront in 2020.

New this year, the Media Subcommittee of SIOP's Visibility Committee has partnered with these volunteers from SIOP membership to provide regular quarterly updates on developments in the Top 10 Work Trends.

Scan the list below for a summary introduction to each trend and click the trend titles to jump to the latest updates.

Trend #10 Virtual Learning

Champion: Stacey Boyle, PhD 

Virtual learning, the use of technology to deliver instruction and facilitate more effective learning, is our 10th most impactful trend identified this year. Although use of technology to enable digital aspects of learning and gamification has been evolving for decades along with more robust technology and algorithms; the global pandemic, which kept many at home and out of traditional classrooms, accelerated increased usage and adoption across workplaces and educational institutions around the globe. 

Read the latest Trend Update.


Trend #9 Building Cultures of Agility And Adaptability

Champion: Kenneth P. De Meuse, PhD

Identified as a top trend on a couple of our prior lists, this trend has once again risen to the Top 10. With so much disruption—in different ways across different industries and geographies—many businesses have had to pivot their business strategies and adjust approaches to getting work done accordingly. With some organizations implementing reductions in their workforce and others rapidly expanding, the amount of change experienced in a short time was immense.

Read the latest Trend Update.


Trend #8 Changing Nature of Work

Champion: Eric Sydell, PhD

For the 5th consecutive year, the Changing Nature of Work appears on our Top 10 Work Trends list. Many recent developments of this trend are being driven by the growing adoption of artificial intelligence, increased digitization, more automation, and approaches to who (employees, contractors, consultants, temps, etc.) does the work and how, often based on an evolution of new skills required.

Read the latest Trend Update.


Trend #7 Work Life Integration

Champion:  Angie McDermott, PhD 

After falling off the Top 10 Trends list last year, work–life integration re-emerged as a key trend, in large part due to the shifts which took place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Work and other aspects of life converged in new ways when large portions of workforces shifted to work from home. New adaptations are required for handling schooling for children; managing personal and family member illness; and other aspects including community, well-being, health, and other lifestyle components.

Read the latest Trend Update.


Trend #6 Team Effectiveness  Across Virtual and Distributed Environments

Champion: Gordy Curphy, PhD

Appearing on our list 5 years ago, team effectiveness across virtual and distributed environments reemerged as a top trend this year, as many workers stopped working in their offices.  With significant developments in collaborative technology over recent years, some organizations have grown accustomed to working effectively without being physically co-located, but others are grappling with challenges to productivity as leaders, managers, and team members who relied on physical proximity are being required to adapt new ways of working. 

Read the latest Trend Update.


Trend #5 Social Justice

Champion: Dyan A. Ludeña Ferraris, PhD

Organizations have an opportunity to contribute to a more just society by adapting an updated definition of Corporate Social Responsibility. The killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in 2020 ignited a global movement seeking an end to racial injustice for Black/African American people. While systems that perpetuate disadvantages for certain social-identity groups have existed for centuries; communities, shareholders, consumers, and employees are now very clear that corporations are obligated to dismantle systematic discriminatory practices and actively contribute to positive societal change within their four walls and within the communities they function in. What is needed now is Corporate Social Justice, a data-based and community-focused approach, bringing in the voices, experiences, and stories of underserved populations.

Read the latest Trend Update


Trend #4 Inclusive Practices to Get, Keep, and Grow Talent

Champion: Kisha Jones, PhD

Appearing again on the Top 10 Work Trends are inclusive practices to get, keep, and grow talent. Inclusive practices are implemented in organizations in order to ensure that all people, especially those who hold minority identities across various dimensions (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, social class, religion, etc.), feel accepted and valued in the workplace. This topic has important implications for enhancing the extent to which the individual and organizational benefits of workplace diversity are realized. Effective management of diversity, equity, and inclusion means that diverse talent are excited about working at an organization, are able to put forth their best contributions, and desire to stay. 

Read the latest Trend Update.


Trend #3 Implementing Strategies & Measuring Progress on DEI and Belonging

Champion: Tony Cooley, MA

Related to the above trend, implementation of new strategies and measurement of impact of various diversity, equity, inclusion, and belongingness programs emerged as its own trend this year.  This is in large part due to the continual evolution of talent analytics capabilities.  With the capture of accurate and consistent data over time, and the availability to key stakeholders of practical reporting and dashboarding tools, progress on DEI &B initiatives, or lack thereof, is becoming much more visible. 

Read the latest Trend Update.


Trend #2: Employee Health, Well-Being, Wellness and Safety

Co-champions: Maryana Arvan, PhD and Keaton Fletcher, PhD

Similar to last year, this trend remains a top priority for many organizations. Benefits costs continue to rise, and organizations continue to invest in helping employees manage stress to help reduce the physical, mental, and emotional impacts that drive increased costs. Those costs are both direct costs to the balance sheet and indirect costs like lower engagement, performance, and retention. With COVID-19, a much greater focus on safety emerged for both essential and non-essential workers; and many employees shifted to working from home and experienced greater integration between work and family.

Read the latest Trend Update.


Champion: Lindsey Wuerfel, MA, MBA

Working remotely and flexible work arrangements emerged as our top trend this year. Although significant variation exists across industries, occupations, and geographies, the rise of remote work impacted many and has a broad array of implications for both employers and employees.

Read the latest Trend Update.




Each year since 2014, SIOP has surveyed its members about the top issues they are seeing impact the workplace. These lists provide insights into trends shaping the workplaces of today and tomorrow.

The Top 10 Work Trends represent broad, complex issues of modern society posing difficult challenges to the business world. Industrial-organizational psychologists can help organizations grappling with these issues find solutions that are right for their organizations and their staff.

Watch for additional information and updates to this page provided by the volunteer Work Trend Champions over the course of the year.

Are you using your I-O psychology expertise to conduct research related to these Top 10 Work Trends? Or are you applying your scientific knowledge to help organizations address these Top 10 Work Trends? If so, reach out to our Visibility Media Subcommittee Chair Heidi Glickman to share.

Previous Trend Reports