Market Update: January 2021

While we were all hoping for this year to be markedly different than 2020, we started it off with nationwide lockdowns and a return to homeschooling. So as we stare down the barrel of a brand-new year, with optimism and hope for brighter days ahead here are just some of my observations on emerging trends in recent times…  

Zoom fatigue:

Yes, it is now an actual thing! Who knew that once the initial novelty of working from home and removing the daily commute wore off, we would once again be craving the opportunity to ‘chew the fat’ with colleagues in the Canteen and avoid getting stuck behind our monitors for 8+ hours a day.  Zoom calls mean being consistently on show and in ‘performance mode’ throughout the call. Face-to-face conversations do allow for a more relaxed, natural flow to the conversation; something that video meetings lack. There can be a real anxiety that goes along with Zoom meetings. Not to mention, having a video call in which you can see yourself the entire time means having your game face on while your brain struggles to continuously show signs of engagement. This can be physically and mentally draining. Zoom’s own CEO Aparna Bawa agrees that screen fatigue is a real struggle. She suggests building wellbeing into your life and making sure you take breaks from the screen. Employers have been urged to maintain an open dialogue with employees and be on the constant lookout for signs of distress within their teams.

Employee Well-being:

There is a growing sense of needing to take better care of our mental and physical well being as a result of being shackled to our computers, juggling our jobs with homeschooling and the overall increase anxiety and uncertainty in the world. Good leaders have definitely taken a more flexible and humanistic approach to this topic, often providing greater flexibility in people’s working day to go for walks or exercise, introducing mandatory ‘time out’ sessions to detox from our laptops and stay focussed. Good communication is extremely important during these times. Simple solutions like flexible schedules, 1-on-1 chats with managers, casual Friday catch-ups etc. can have a really positive and lasting impact on employee wellbeing, whilst also strengthening team relations and increasing productivity.

Job Seekers:

According to Ceridan’s 2021 Pulse of Talent survey, most of the workforce (67%) is open to new job opportunities. Not all of these employees are unhappy with their current jobs — but they’re looking for new challenges, growth opportunities, and salary increases. This I believe is born out of many people having put their careers on hold during the turbulent times we’ve experienced in 2020. Today’s employees also value growth opportunities above all, so if they feel like there is no room to grow within their current employment, casually browsing for new opportunities that offer growth has become increasingly common. Will 2021 be the year you grab that career opportunity? 

Adapting to restrictions:

For many, this current national lockdown hasn’t had the same level of business interruption as ‘lockdown 1’ did. The exception being large parts of Hospitality & Retail that have been forcibly shut down – truly terrible times for them. This lockdown has also been much easier to adapt to, as many companies are familiar with having huge parts of their workforce working remotely. Employees, too, on the whole, are comfortable working from home and have adapted to the benefits that it can bring.  


The dramatic increase we saw in interim and consultancy led work in 2020 is still a very viable option for many companies in the new year. This is especially true for companies who are working on short term measures and trying to harvest new green shoot opportunities in the future whilst we come through the other side of these turbulent Covid times.  

Hiring Priorities:

Hiring for experience continues to be a top priority to help companies steer through challenging times. Resilience, agility and flexibility are top of the attributes wanted. According to a report published by Gartner (Gartner 2021 HR Priorities Survey), 52% of HR leaders believe the next 12 months will have a significant impact as organisations shift from designing for efficacy to designing for flexibility. Hiring candidates that can be flexible is vital, no-one knows what 6 months will look like. We are all waiting with cautious optimism, hoping the vaccine rollout can be smooth and efficient so we could return to some semblance of normality. There is a long way ahead but regardless, employers are now requiring future hires to enter into an increased level of flexibility looking ahead into a post-covid era.

Remote Working:

The shift to remote working has indeed removed many geographical barriers that previously may have existed for many employers. This has led to an increase in the potential talent pool they can consider hiring from – which is now having a very positive effect not only on the quality of talent but an increased diversity as well which would drive the business further. Do have a read of my latest blog post to learn more about remote working and it’s long term impact on employees, businesses and recruitment (Click here)

Keeping up with demand:

This is the biggest challenge facing many parts of food manufacturing. With national lockdown and Brexit comes the increased demand for core categories such as Bakery, Ready Meals and Frozen goods. Production and distribution will have to keep up with this considerable increase in demand whilst also maintaining Covid protocols and protecting the wellbeing of their staff.

Hybrid Working Models:

Businesses continue to look at improving their P&L (to deliver shareholder value), decisions on moving to less expensive office locations or smaller head office premises form part of an overall bottom line improvement strategy – in line with changing employee working habits. So, are the days of 9 to 5 soon to become a thing of the past? Most employers are indicating a preferred ‘hybrid approach’ to working patterns that will continue post Covid. According to Gartner, nearly half the workforce (48%) will continue to work remotely in some capacity post-pandemic (this is compared to 30% pre-pandemic) Companies are also considering 4 day work weeks and flexible schedules to allow for a more balanced and productive workforce.


Recruiters and employers alike (for the most part) have embraced the utilisation of video interviewing. With less time spent travelling attending multiple face to face interviews reduced overall hiring timescales. There is, however, a growing concern at the long-term impact on new employees ‘learning journey’ in the absence of being around more experienced colleagues.

Induction and onboarding processes are being creatively shaped to cope with the remote nature of our current world. Hiring managers and recruiters would need to continually streamline these processes to make them more effective over the next few months.


While networking events definitely seem like something to think about in the distant future, vast numbers of job seekers are networking virtually as much as possible. Not only does it provide great opportunities for conversations with old colleagues, friends and peers during what can no doubt be a lonely time for us all, but it is also a great strategy to utilise to land your next job.


The pandemic and countless unsuccessful negotiations put Brexit on the backburner for much of 2020, with a deal only emerging in the final hours. This delayed final Brexit deal made it very difficult for businesses to plan and prepare. No deal was a very real possibility and companies were stuck trying to create contingency plans during one of the most uncertain periods of time.

Home Schooling:

Working parents were dealt with another blow with the announcement of school closures and at least 6 weeks of homeschooling. This is causing a huge knock-on effect in productivity. I suspect anyone having to Home school and keep up with a busy job will be much more skilled in the art of spinning multiple plates in the future! I speak from personal experience here! 

So, as the industry continues to flex between national lockdowns and moving up and down the tier system like some kind of premier league table of doom, I’m continually amazed by the collective resilience and determination shown across the Food & Beverage Industry. It makes me incredibly proud to play a small part in this fantastically resilient sector.  

I’m optimistic that 2021 could be a fantastic year for many. There is light at the end of the tunnel…. let’s just hope it’s not an oncoming train! 

If you found this article interesting and are keen to hear more conversations like this, join me on my podcast The Leader Insights Series – hear top leaders from the industry and I dig deeper into business trends, leadership traits, tips to successfully manage remote teams and more!

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