We asked our audience to tell us about a trend they see coming to their industry or community in 2021. Here’s what they had to say.

Hours reserved for elderly/vulnerable to shop
By allowing elderly/vulnerable to shop at a specific time of day not only is traffic less and more cautious, but store employees can cater to behaviors of this specific group.
Krista Maeder, assistant, Quester


Health passports
We're going to start proving we're vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to share indoor space. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says COVID is a "direct threat," so employers in health care, travel, retail and other trades where employees are at risk or present a risk to others are most likely to require vaccination with "reasonable accommodations." The case for requiring vaccination among vendors and customers is less clear, though we're already seeing airlines, stadiums and others make these plans as a way to welcome crowds in 2021. Whatever the details become for each business, it's hard to over-communicate with stakeholders as we begin to exit this pandemic.
Ryan Hanser, president, Hanser & Associates


Workplace flexibility
While not all employees were able to work from home, those who did saw their professional relationship with managers and colleagues evolve. Team meetings, project management, 1:1 check-ins all looked different – but the work got done. Trust was built and employers recognized that employees can work from home or be provided "workplace flexibility." This is a critical and life-changing benefit for many employees and I hope we will see the utilization of workplace flexibility grow by more Central Iowa companies.
Jackie Norris, self employed


Digital first
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about how we work, communicate and manage. Businesses have had to pivot and turn to technology to maintain operations, create contactless service and support remote workers across every facet of their organizations, throughout every part of the customer journey, and within their supply chain networks. These shifts have increased dependence on technology and accelerated the need for digital transformation. This trend will continue, given how capable technology has proven to be and how comfortable users (i.e., customers and employees) have become in using technology. To respond to financial pressures, safety concerns, and the need for greater convenience, efficiencies, and agility, companies will need to take a digital-first approach to everything; that is, they will need to put technology front and center in all that they do and consider it to be a primary vehicle to serve customer and business needs whenever possible.
Daniel Connolly, professor and former dean, College of Business and Public Administration at Drake University


An even greater reliance on outsourcing
Outsourcing essential business operations – from marketing directors to finance officers – will significantly increase. COVID, labor and talent shortages, and shrinking bottom lines will force small and midsized businesses to hire professionals with specific skill sets as needed. This outsourcing allows for the same activities, but with a lesser expense. You pay a proven vendor a portion of a much larger salary, save on benefits, and hold them to results. This allows a business to be more "action oriented." With this outsourcing, if the company wishes to speed up or slow down the spending or activity, outsourcing allows for ultimate flexibility. 
Jim Langin, president, Langin Solutions


Nature's constant
Throughout most of 2020 and the pandemic, we saw community members, friends and neighbors utilize the outdoors as a space of solitude and peace. Nature and the outdoors became a place of refuge. The outdoors remain a place for those to walk, run, bike, kayak and try new things. Park usage and trail usage will continue to increase as we head in 2021. With projects on the horizon like Central Iowa Water Trails, nature will always remain constant. 
Jen Cross, vice president of donor relations, Great Outdoors Foundation


Food insecurity rate growth/stagnation
Once we move out of the pandemic and additional assistance programming wanes and expires, a great number of folks who were facing food insecurity before the pandemic will return to the ranks of those who need pantry assistance to meet their food needs. This is a trend we saw when extended SNAP benefits reached their sunset date after the recession of 2009. And, in a smaller sample, what happened after the government shutdown in 2019 when January and February SNAP benefits were combined and distributed in January. 
COVID-19 did not create the reasons food insecurity is a problem. We have to remember how big a problem food insecurity already was before the pandemic. It will be key that we put a focus on and address those issues that were driving high food insecurity before we faced COVID-19 and continue to follow the trend lines of how great that need is across our community. Those organizations involved in solving food insecurity are going to continue to need the incredible support they've received over the last several months. 
Matt Unger, CEO, DMARC - Des Moines Area Religious Council


Grand reopenings
A reopening event showcases a business that opens again after being closed for a period of time, renovated, moved, changed its name or merged with another company. Reopenings can often follow natural disasters or events out of one's control, such as, but not limited to: pandemics (COVID-19), fires, floods, tornados, hurricanes or acts of terrorism.
Kimberly Baeth, president, Golden Openings Inc.


Deeper appreciation of in-person interactions
Not sure if this is a trend, but after COVID is over, we’ll see a resurgence in desiring in-person interactions with more appreciation with sincerity and respect; to really value human interaction and not take it for granted ever again. 
Kevin Pokorny, owner and consultant, Pokorny Consulting


Reconnecting
The pandemic has divided us on a physical level. Technology has helped, but we now know that being present is not just about being mindful. It is more important than ever to be able to give a hug, shake a hand, or just be able to smile with more than your eyes.
Lu Spaine, owner, Zumi Collection LLC


IT leadership critical
This year highlighted the importance of information technology professionals as companies raced to secure business operations for a remote workforce while reimaging services for their customers. From increased access to telehealth services to online education, technology is the solution for all businesses' ability to navigate these unprecedented times.
In 2021, we forecast an increased focus on digital transformation with companies adjusting their day-to-day operations. In doing so, C-level IT leadership will be critical for businesses as they map their recovery for future growth. IT must play a central role in shaping digital infrastructure, risk mitigation, and cost optimization.
Organizations that fail to identify top IT leadership and include them in key business decisions undermine the digital infrastructure that enables all aspects of their business. The Technology Association of Iowa is committed to providing educational resources and peer-networking opportunities for IT leaders statewide as they prioritize their business road map.
Brian Waller, president, Technology Association of Iowa


Escalating poverty and food insecurity
After careful analysis of the relationship between food insecurity and the past two recessions, we expect food insecurity rates to continue climbing until 2024 and that they will most likely not recede prior to 2027. In addition, food prices are at record highs and it is likely we will see a decrease in USDA food support in 2021. 
Michelle Book, CEO, Food Bank of Iowa


Local foods
With the onset of COVID and the disruption to the food system with cruel and money-centric decisions, there was a meat shortage in Iowa. The popularity of CSA memberships (local farm vegetable subscriptions) and locally raised meat sales spiked. As more and more people are discovering the difference in taste, quality, safety and emotional tie to the food they consume, demand for local food production will continue to grow. Furthermore, as the climate crisis moves more toward the forefront in political strategy, local foods will become a more tangible and obvious focus. Locally raised foods will be a popular way to support the local economy, mitigate climate change and safely feed our families.  
Genie Maybanks, development, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust 


Progression of drones
Drone technology continues to progress and is beginning to see wider acceptance in many areas such as construction, real estate sales and farming, to name a few. While the future of air taxis for human transportation is still a ways off – check out this article for seven such possibilities bit.ly/3rlysXE – 2021 may bring some intermediate steps as drones advance. We may start hearing more about drone deliveries and drone airlines from the likes of Walmart and Amazon. Standards that allow drones to effectively communicate with each other for collision avoidance and obstacle clearance will mature, and there will likely be significant work in the areas of privacy and safety regulations to catch up with the aerospace technology under development currently. 
Brian Mulcahy, director of finance and administration, Des Moines Airport Authority


Return to travel
There are many predictions surrounding air travel, ranging from if business travel will return to if all the airlines will still be operating. While there are many unknowns, people are itching to travel again. Whether they feel cooped up from quarantine or are eager to visit their clients, people are interested in getting back to their travel routines. COVID-19 positivity rates and vaccine availability will affect when businesses and families feel comfortable traveling, however, a small survey we conducted on travel showed nearly 50% of the businesses surveyed plan to resume travel by end of Q1, with 19% waiting for the vaccine to be available. On the leisure side, 62% of individuals surveyed expected to travel by the end of March, with another 20% waiting for the vaccine. 
Historically, after each downturn in air travel, we have seen a double-digit percentage increase in passenger traffic. At Des Moines International Airport, we are moving forward with plans that will position us to welcome back travelers safely now and in the future, because the question is not if air travel will recover, but when and how quickly.
Kayla Kovarna, communications, marketing, and air service development, Des Moines Airport Authority


Increased cyberattacks
Cybercrime has become an industry. Ransomware will continue to be one of the largest cyberthreats in 2021. Ransomware attacks doubled in 2020 after a 118% increase in 2019. The best prevention against a ransomware attack is a dependable data backup plan. Not all backup plans are the same. Annually check to make sure your data backup plan will keep you from reaching for your wallet if you’re attacked.
In addition to that, email phishing will continue to be a high concern. The sophistication of fake emails continues to evolve. Most of the attacks happen during the workweek, as many employees are still easy targets. There are many resources available today to help educate your employees on how to spot these tricksters.To help combat these growing trends I recommend finding a trusted local partner to help protect your data in this increasing threat landscape.
Paul Schut, technology adviser, Marco Technologies


Intelligent video monitoring
A trend we are seeing in the security industry is using monitored intelligent video cameras to expand security coverage and real-time response. We expect this trend to increase the demand for smart video monitoring services in 2021. The latest smart video monitoring services include:   
Intelligent video monitoring: Intelligent video cameras can detect people and vehicles in restricted areas during specific times, and alert our monitoring agents to respond in real time. Intelligent video monitoring is becoming popular as it expands security coverage, and can proactively deter crime or stop a loss before it happens. 
Video verification: Our monitoring agents can see what is happening on live video, and respond in real time.
Live video tour: Our monitoring agents can log in to view video surveillance cameras to monitor what is happening after hours, or to view critical areas at specific times of the day to make sure everything is OK.    
Brad Duffy, president of security officer services, Per Mar Security Services


Diversity in hiring
It used to be common to hear a pool of candidates reflected the local populace of low diversity. However, with increased diversity in urban centers, increasing acceptance of remote workers, and a recognized need and value for diverse experiences, that excuse will weaken and we will experience an increasingly diverse workforce.
Tej Dhawan, chief data officer, Principal


More misinformation
Easy access online to information leaves lots of room for bad actors to spread rumors or fake news. There's a lot of mistrust of news outlets or other content producers. The need for accurate and in-depth journalism has never been greater to break through that misinformation.
Suzanne Behnke, executive director, IowaWatch — Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism


Work-from-home design integration
We know that COVID accelerated many trends that were already underway in housing. Work from home (WFH) has been integrated into our design of rental units for the last five years, but we know that this trend will explode in 2021 as employers recognize the flexibility benefits that employees have come to embrace, as well as the ability to reduce costs. The extent of this trend will be one of the defining moments for real estate in 2021 and well into the years beyond.  This trend will focus both on unit design as well as how we market our cities. 
Growth in WFH will allow location independence – the ability to potentially cut ties with the location/city of the “office.” Flight to lower density, recreational opportunities and affordable housing costs will all drive housing choice in 2021. The National Association of Realtors named Des Moines as one of the top 10 markets that will perform well post-COVID. As we focus on growth, our “home” design must respond to a growing need that our “home” serves a wider variety of expectations including a unique WFH space that can be comfortable, quiet and yet flexible enough to serve other purposes outside of our work hours.
Kris Saddoris, vice president of development, Hubbell Realty Co.