One of the most visible and tangible COVID-19 business impacts for many employees is the complete shift to working from home. According to survey results published by Willis Towers Watson on May 21, 2020, roughly three-quarters of employers adjusted their workplaces in response to COVID-19 and reported that 53% of their full-time employees are now working from home.
This sudden shift created major headaches for businesses and their managers and HR departments initially, including the logistics of shifting so many people to remote work virtually overnight and concerns about major drops in productivity.
Looking at Remote Work in a New Light
But several months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the “new normal” of remote work, many businesses are starting to look at remote work in a brand-new light.
“Although the economy is still in upheaval, one thing is clear: Remote working is here to stay,” said Adrienne Altman, North America head for Work and Rewards at Willis Towers Watson. “One of the many challenges facing employers is to what extent do they keep remote working policies in place and how do they support employees who make the shift permanent. Each employer will need to determine if this is a long-term strategy that is right for them.”
The Willis Towers Watson survey found that employers expect two-thirds of their workforces to be full-time employees working in person on-site in the post-COVID-19 world. That’s certainly more than half, and it’s more than the 37% who are currently working on-site, but it’s a big dip from last year, when 87% were working in person.
Benefits of Remote Work
From a management standpoint, there may be many benefits of permitting or even encouraging or requiring remote work. For one, employees generally like the arrangement.
According to a survey by Fishbowl, roughly 55% of respondents said they would choose working from home as their new normal. This means a flexible remote work policy could help improve morale, as well as boost recruitment efforts and reduce turnover.
Additionally, remote work can help a company pull in a more diverse talent pool by expanding the geographic area from which it finds applicants.
COVID-19 has created a number of significant forced experiments in which companies have been compelled to make organizational decisions they likely wouldn’t have in the “old normal.” But many are now seeing benefits they didn’t expect, and work-from-home arrangements in particular could be here to stay.