One year after the world up ended itself, there’s a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel – but we’re not there yet. Though we may be able to start having weddings and going to concerts again soon, the mental health effects of the last year’s events will be sticking with us for a while. What can companies do until then to keep organizations and employees operating at their best? Without further introduction, here are the Top 5 Company Culture Trends of 2021.

1. Remote Work is Here to Stay

Before the coronavirus forced companies around the world to implement work from home policies, around 43% of U.S. workers spent at least some time working remotely. As we move forward, this will be seen as an expectation, not just a perk. For roles that don’t need to be done at a particular location, working from home means no more stress about commuting, meal prepping or dry-cleaning pickups – not to mention avoiding potential infection because of less social interaction.

The common refrain that productivity and collaboration are lowered outside of an office setting have already been debunked. Increased flexibility provided through virtual work has given many people more time to connect with their families. And though the abrupt change from in-office work last spring took some adjusting to, more than half of survey respondents would like their employer to provide a work from home option more often.

According to research from Gallup, workers who spend three to four days working offsite are far more engaged in their jobs than those who are in a traditional office setting every day. Productivity is boosted by giving employees more control over their schedule and work-life balance.

As autonomy while working remotely is necessary for employee, employers have to provide independence and show trust in employee’s ability to get work done. It’s also important to remember that while the pandemic is ongoing, there are added pressures on workers to not only keep their jobs, but also act as caregivers for children schooling at home or loved ones with extra needs. Business-as-usual expectations will require adjustment for a while even following a return to ‘normal’.

You may be wondering how all of this plays into employee mental health. Well, beyond professional credentials and ability to meet deadlines, peoples’ personalities play a role in what kind of worker they are, too.

Since remote work became more common, you may have seen the glut of think pieces about how introverts are actually handling it pretty well. Introvert vs. extrovert isn’t as simple as a shy personality versus an outgoing one, it’s about where someone’s energy is drawn from and what they need to do to recharge.

Office life is an extrovert’s world – traditional work spaces, especially open office ones, are set up for extroverts, even though up to one half of the population identifies as an introvert. Quieter home offices allow for deeper focus in introverts, which could lead to a higher quality of work. It also means they’re more likely to be heard by management and team leaders because more vocal coworkers aren’t sharing the same space.

On the flip side, extroverts may be missing the energy they get from being around people so it’s important to find a way to make sure their mental well-being is also being taken care of. Accommodating different personality types and working styles will optimize potential for employees.

2. No More Silence on Social Issues

2020 taught us a lot of life lessons, not least of which is that it’s no longer enough for companies to put out bland statements about diversity and inclusion and other issues. Taking accountability is now a must, from both a revenue perspective and an employee attraction and retention one.

It’s been shown that organizations with higher levels of gender diversity that also have HR policies and practices in place have lower levels of turnover. And having women represented in upper level management means other women are more likely to show interest in joining the company.

For employees of color, it should be no surprise that an inclusive environment is particularly important. In Canada, people who anticipated or prepared for potential bias at their roles reported a high intent to leave their positions.

Innovation, profitability and a company’s financial health (including things like market value, investment performance and revenue) have shown a link with diversity in several studies. Keep in mind that diversity can come from career path and industry background too, not just gender and racial background.

Being truly diverse and inclusive takes a lot of work, so look for progress and education instead of perfection to start. For instance, don’t focus on a fixed diversity number or metric, look at month to month or quarterly progress.

And it’s important to encompass many different social issues within your company mission. It’s not only racial justice and gender equality that require attention, but also environmental justice and economic inequity. It’s now an expectation for companies to take a stance on this, and support their employees, too.

3. Physical Fitness for Mental Well-Being

It’s long been known that there is a link between a person’s physical health and their mental well-being. Poor mental health is a known risk factor for chronic physical conditions and vice versa. So the journey toward resiliency isn’t merely helping your mindset, but your body as a whole.

There’s also a strong link between gut health and mental wellness. Recent findings in the field of nutritional psychiatry have found that there are correlations between what we eat, how we feel and behave, and the bacteria living inside us.

Since serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, appetite, moods and pain, is mostly produced in the gastrointestinal tract, this is hardly surprising. The production of serotonin is highly influenced by the good bacteria in your body and it acts as a barrier between the bad bacteria to limit inflammation and improve absorption of good nutrients.

So in addition to getting appropriate exercise for someone’s age and physical ability, diet makes a difference. If people can start noticing how food makes them feel – not only in the moment but also the next day – it could help identify triggers for poor health.

Routines can also be helpful for building up resiliency, beginning with sleep. Sufficient sleep helps the brain process emotional information, and every body is different. Create a sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco products in the evenings. And of course, make sure your mattress, pillows and bedding are supportive and comfortable.

Even if you don’t usually thrive on a strict schedule, having a routine can be helpful when unpredictability, uncertainty and stress arise. Giving structure to your day can also give you a sense of control and improve your focus and productivity.

It’s more than simply daily responsibilities that should be built into a routine, set aside time for self-care, too. Whether it be meditation, exercise or just setting work aside to read a bit, things that make the soul happy will improve resilience.

Remember to encourage your employees to take mental health days when they’re needed – and make them feel comfortable asking about it. Sick days shouldn’t solely be for colds and stomach bugs, but energy recharging too.

4. Becoming Tech Forward with Data

We know there are a lot of platforms out there that can help you recruit and train employees, but are you also using technology to explain or uncover causes of turnover, absenteeism and other organization drains? Keeping and analyzing metrics like these may help you get to the root of the problem, if there is one.

But it’s not just about tech that can help organizations on a macro level, providing employees with the tools they need to be successful at work and in life is important, too – just look at the numbers. Work is often cited as a primary source of extreme stress (22% of respondents), followed closely by financial well-being (21%), which is obviously closely tied to employment for most people.

Take the headversity app, for example. Because it’s personalized, proactive and skills-focused, it allows employees to take control of their mental well-being on their own. But the platform can also help you find patterns in data that make decisions about company-wide mental health initiatives easier.

heaversity‘s psychiatrist-developed curriculum provides training right in your employees’ hands, there when they need it. The benchmarks and data points it provides help users understand their mental health journey and train for better resilience. The digital platform is especially convenient for remote jobsites and users in rural areas.

5. Emphasize the Employee Experience

This one isn’t a new trend; employee experience should always be on your radar. However, there’s no telling when we’ll get back to traditional working life, so until then we’ll just have to keep adapting.

Over the last year, workers haven’t been moving from job to job like they normally would. That said, a recent survey says that 80% of employees would leave their current position if another role paid more attention to employee mental health. And it’s no surprise that job satisfaction, turnover and burnout are interrelated. Shiftworkers especially can struggle with work-life balance and burnout because their hours don’t fit traditional office ones.

Some managers may continue to worry about presenteeism, and that attitude is trickling down to workers. Around 85% of office workers felt they needed to prove that they are working hard to keep their jobs. At the same time, virtual workers are accumulating an extra 28 work hours every month compared to this time last year.

Professional development is one way to keep your staff engaged – and learning new skills and achieving career goals isn’t dissimilar from mental health benchmarks. When you consider how things like a growth mindset and energy management can lead to more productivity, they can also put people in a better place to contribute.

Though your organization may have already worked out the kinks of virtual work, collaboration is still an important part of engagement. When projects come up, be upfront about needs and goals so you’re not doubling up on work or running into misunderstandings. You should also have some flexibility when it comes to message response times. When you can’t simply stand up and call someone’s name across the room, you’re bound to receive a slower response via email or instant messaging chat.

Bonding as a team is always important, even when you’re not face to face. Introduce happy hours or weekly coffee meetings where personal chat is expected. People still love to talk about the reality TV they’re watching and DIY projects they’re working on. But remember that just because people are working from home doesn’t mean that they have more time to devote to work activities, they still have laundry and meal planning and puzzles to do. Scheduling things outside of work hours is fine on occasion, but don’t make a habit of it.

Mental Health and Well-Being at the Forefront

Companies and organizations should be prepared to assist employees in maintaining their well-being, as morale, productivity and presenteeism all play into the bottom line. And studies show that across all demographics, mental health was ranked as the number one factor in overall well-being for workers, above both physical and personal health.

One of the most important things organizations can do to promote mental health and well-being is to destigmatize it. When employees feel supported, they’ll be better able to focus on their work and their personal health, two important links in workplace resiliency. Keep these things in mind as you and your company move forward in 2021 and beyond.