2020 has been one of the most disruptive and least predictable years in living memory. As the COVID-19 pandemic has developed, businesses have rapidly changed course to adapt to an entirely new commercial environment. As a result, recent trends have emerged that will likely shape the business world for years to come. Here are three of the top business trends to watch in 2021 and beyond.

Massive Increases in Remote Work

Before the onset of the pandemic, some 4.5 million people were already working from home. By the middle of 2020, estimates suggested that nearly 42 percent of the total American workforce worked remotely. This represents an enormous increase in remote work. Going into 2021, this trend will likely continue to open up opportunities for businesses and employees alike. Without geographic constrictions, companies will be able to access a much larger pool of talent. In contrast, workers living outside of large commercial centers will have more job opportunities than ever before.

Innovation May Remain Depressed

The business disruptions of COVID-19 have severely impacted innovation, a trend that may continue into 2021. Businesses that are already facing significant challenges are less likely to take risks, preferring instead to maintain the status quo. While this probably won’t be a long-term trend, keep a close eye on it next year. As conditions begin to stabilize, innovation will likely regain its vigor going into 2022.

The Gig Economy is Here to Stay

While traditional employers were forced to lay off huge numbers of workers, companies in the gig economy could accommodate many of them. Gig services, such as food and grocery delivery, also soared in popularity as more people stayed home. As a result, it’s almost certain that the gig model of work will continue to thrive, even after the threat of COVID-19 has passed.

These three business trends are likely to define 2021 and may have far-reaching effects in the years to come. While no one can be certain how the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately affect the economy in the long run, the emerging trends will almost certainly shape the future of businesses across sectors and industries.