Predictions on the Long-Term Outlook for Remote Work

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The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyday life upside down in so many ways. From school and child care to socializing and work life, dramatic change has been forced on many individuals and businesses over the last several months.

One of the biggest examples of this is the shift to remote work for millions of Americans in virtually any profession that can accommodate such a relationship.

We have been conditioned to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a necessary but temporary aberration that will be a distant memory in a few months. But with a second wave of infections forecasted by some experts and many companies actually seeing improvements in productivity as their employees work from home, it’s very possible that the current state of affairs could become a new normal, with companies either continuing remote work indefinitely or at least revisiting their existing policies around occasional remote work.

We polled some business leaders and managers to get input on where their organizations stand on their long-term outlook for remote work.

Challenging Assumptions

First, as noted above, many companies have been forced to reconsider long-standing beliefs about what mass work from home would look like for their organization now that they have been shown what it does look like in practice.

“Traditionally, workplace culture is strongly influenced by the in person environment,” says Carole Spink, partner in McDermott Will & Emery, LLP’s employment group. “However, during these past several months, employers have found that remote working arrangements have been fairly successful. Companies should challenge their prior assumptions on the viability of remote work, particularly given the important health and safety considerations that must be made post-COVID.”

We received a lot of feedback to our poll, and overwhelmingly, businesses favored extending work from home beyond its COVID-based necessity. Very few were eager to get back to an in-office arrangement as soon as possible. While some envisioned a long-term transition back to the old normal, many are expecting to maintain at least the option of long-term remote work.

What Surveys Say

In addition to anecdotal experiences and expectations, there is also survey research to support the likelihood that work-from-home options are here to stay. Pulse, an online research and networking platform home to 17,000 CIOs and tech executives, polled its community and found that:

  • Almost 70% of leaders believe that at least a quarter of their staff will shift to full-time remote work after COVID-19. 
  • Even with the lifting of restrictions, only 4%of leaders anticipate a full return to work right away. 
  • 84% of employers say they plan to enforce a 6-foot distance whenever possible, 64% of employers will take employee temperatures once back in the office, and 35%will employ a contact-tracing system.

While the shift to remote work was very abrupt for most organizations, the transition—if any—back to in-office work will likely be far more gradual.

Gradual Approach

Companies are taking a wait-and-see approach with respect to local, state, national, and international experiences and guidance from applicable regulatory agencies.

In other words, caution is key for many companies. “We are taking a conservative approach to our employees’ transition back to our offices,” says Eva Majercsik, Chief People Officer at cloud software company Genesys. “For Genesys, this will be a multi-month process with a long runway, and we are considering multiple modifications.”

One approach the company is contemplating is the use of “zoning.” Majercsik says this will involve determining which departments need to return to the office and which can continue to work from remote locations.

Additionally, a gradual approach allows more time to work out the kinks of a transition—an opportunity lost in the original mass shift to remote work…

Source: HR Daily Advisor

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