5 Workplace Shifts That Are Here to Stay


A global pandemic, protests for social justice and a contested presidential election made 2020 a watershed year. It seemed like every part of daily life was reordered and reimagined. As businesses, and how they operate, continue to experience radical shifts, the future of workplace financial benefits is being redefined.

In what seemed like overnight, remote working put digital transformation plans into practice, signaling seismic organizational change. Work has officially transformed — every organization has an opportunity to address cultural, societal, and technological shifts to thrive post-pandemic.

Here are five key trends that are here to stay. 

  1. Exceptional Consumer Experience Is Table Stakes In 2020, we saw the fastest shift in consumer behavior in recent years. In response to lockdown and work from home mandates, consumers flocked to new technology, accelerating consumer trends of convenience and frictionless payments. Those expectations now extend to the workplace. Organizations looking to support the workplace benefits and retirement planning needs for their employees may find value in offering an interactive participant experience. Delivering frictionless enrollment and benefits portal login, relevant communications year-round, and customized benefit solutions that tailor financial education to an individual’s specific life and career stage, can build engagement for all workers. And, as Forbes notes, organizations that make engagement a central part of their business strategy see increased loyalty and profitability.1

  2. Diversity & Inclusion Are Critical Last year, protests in cities across the U.S. prompted a national conversation around the social and economic inequities facing Americans of color. Systemic racism dramatically limits the earnings, savings, home values and overall wealth of black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) Americans — resulting in a staggering retirement wealth gap. On average, white Americans have seven times the retirement savings of black Americans, and five times the savings of Latinx retirees.2  Businesses are in a position to drive real change in the coming years with hiring practices that prioritize diversity as an integral part of their business strategies and financial education that supports the unique needs of all employees, helping build financial resilience for BIPOC communities.

  3. ‘One Size Fits All’ Is Over — With five generations in the workplace, providing benefits support for employees at every life and career stage can pose a significant challenge. Millennials and Generation Z now make up more than half of the U.S. population and have different workplace needs than their Baby Boomer and Generation X colleagues. They also have different expectations when it comes to communication, financial education and support. The age of standardization has shifted to an expectation of highly personalized experiences in every aspect of life and work.3  Organizations looking to secure in-demand skills in an emerging and competitive talent pool may have to transform their thinking around workplace benefits and retirement planning. Strategies that use personalization to connect with a multigenerational workforce can ensure every employee feels seen, valued, and engaged.

  4. Remote Working Is Here To Stay — A recent report showed that one in four Americans will be working remotely in 2021.4 With the vaccine rollout in effect, that percentage may shift over the next year, but robust numbers in remote working are here to stay. A Gartner survey found that 82% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time5, while 65% of employees reported wanting to stay a full-time remote worker post-pandemic.6 Moving forward, it will be important for organizations to drive cultural shifts in the workplace that emphasize connection and belonging, a unique challenge in virtual environments. Recognition programs that highlight and amplify employee contributions can demonstrate an individual’s value to the broader organization, even when teammates are physically apart. Extracurricular activities – even when virtual – can also provide meaningful experiences for connection and team building. And, when it comes to benefit programs, those that emphasize holistic wellbeing and work-life balance can help remote employees feel supported while providing valuable tools that can reduce stress and keep employees motivated and engaged.

  5. Modernization Of Workplace Benefits — The shift to digital-first operations has pushed businesses to reimagine how they connect and engage with employees, and how they can add value both to their employees’ professional and personal wellbeing. New technologies for plan customization and personalization provide organizations with an opportunity to truly differentiate their workplace benefits to better appeal to every employee’s specific preferences and financial wellness needs. Workplace benefits portals can streamline communication and provide employees with easy access to information and resources. Mobile apps empower employees to manage finances and track goals when and where they choose. Digital portals for financial wellness can provide tailored, engaging financial education and actionable guidance to help every person achieve their near and long-term goals.

Next Steps For 2021 And Beyond

Last year was marked by rapid change that will rewrite how we live, work and connect in the years ahead. Morgan Stanley at Work leverages a vast network of Financial Advisors to provide guidance around how these trends will impact businesses, and their workplace financial solutions moving forward. Connect with a Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor today to put our broad knowledge base and topical insights to work in helping your business, and employees, adapt and thrive in the years ahead. 

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1 10 Timely Statistics About The Connection Between Employee Engagement And Wellness. Forbes. January 16, 2019.
2 Social Security is a Great Equalizer. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. January 2020, Number 20-2. https://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/IB_20-2.pdf
3 The Cultural Demographic Shift Is In Full Force. Forbes. August 29, 2020.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2020/08/29/the-cultural-demographic-shift-is-in-full-force/?sh=44f55b1b6ad8
4 Future of Workforce Pulse Report Upwork, December 2020.
5  https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-07-14-gartner-survey-reveals-82-percent-of-company-leaders-plan-to-allow-employees-to-work-remotely-some-of-the-timen
6 https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/remote-work-statistics/



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