Some of the nation’s largest employers are signaling a potential long-term—even permanent—continuation of remote work. To what extent will this impact the decisions and plans of other organizations?
COVID Impact Severe
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed over 1 million people globally and infected tens of millions more. While these deaths and infections, as well as the related effects on friends and families of those directly infected, a tremendous number of people have been somehow impacted by precautions taken to mitigate the spread of the disease.
Even the perfectly healthy have seen their everyday lives upended by the closure or reduced capacity of restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues; by school closures; and by the widespread and virtually overnight shift to remote work.
While some employees have enjoyed the increased flexibility and freedom of remote work—not to mention the elimination of morning and evening commutes—others long for the structure and camaraderie of the office.
Somewhere in the middle are others who wouldn’t mind a balance of old and new—in-office and remote work. But the one thing all these employees have in common is their desire to know when things are going back to “normal.”
Remote Work Likely to Be Long Term
At the start of the pandemic, many employees expected or were told that their offices would be shuttered for a couple of weeks as the nation sought to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic. The expectation was that a couple of weeks, maybe a month, of unprecedented measures would nip the pandemic in the bud, and the nation would get back to business as usual.
Fast-forward several months later, and the nation is far from in control of the situation, with infection rates rising amid dire predictions for the winter. With a widely available vaccine still months away for many, employers are having to think hard about when to bring staff back to the office, if at all. Many have set arbitrary expected return dates only to continually extend them as those dates approach and pass with no significant positive change in the underlying situation.
But recently, multiple large employers have announced bold updates that may make others take notice and follow suit. Target, one of the nation’s largest retailers and employers, announced in October 2020 that most employees at its corporate headquarters would continue to work remotely through June 2021.
And Microsoft has gone even further in announcing its 150,000 employees will have the option to work remotely on a permanent basis, joining other tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Square that have announced the same decision.
While many companies have yet to announce their remote work policy beyond the current year, the actions by such organizations as Target, Microsoft, Facebook, and others may be a sign of things to come.
These decisions by large employers are sure to get the attention not only of similarly sized competitors but also of smaller organizations from a variety of industries that often take cues from the big players in employment and other practices.