Remote Work Revolution Gains Steam
Norwalk, CT. [Sept. 3, 2020] As states move through various stages of reopening their economies, many employers have followed suit by making their offices available to employees. But are employees returning to an office environment?
OperationsInc (www.OperationsInc.com), one of the nation’s largest human resources consulting firms, recently conducted an independent, pulse survey designed to gauge the status of office workplaces throughout the U.S., including where organizations stand with regards to reopening and recalling workers, policy changes resulting from the pandemic, and anticipated future workplace issues.
Results from the 12-question poll demonstrate that the vast majority of the over 300 survey participants, representing organizations from across the country, continue to overwhelmingly rely upon remote work setups as a business continuity tool. The looming challenges surrounding the safe opening and ongoing operation of schools are also weighing heavily on the plans of businesses to more broadly reopen their office doors, as organizations are anticipating the need for employees to juggle work and parenting responsibilities.
OperationsInc says the workplace may be forever changed.
David Lewis, CEO of OperationsInc, points out that most offices are not reopening as a return to pre-pandemic normalcy, but more as a means to provide employees with a work location option outside of the employee’s own home office.
“Employers are resoundingly telling us that they do not view it to be safe to fully reopen their workplace, so they are taking the approach of not forcing a return to pre-COVID normal and are instead letting employees determine how and when to return to the office,” Lewis said.
Lewis is also calling for state officials to offer more guidance about how to reopen offices safely and better clarify whether it is safe to return at all.
“The fact is that some states have sent the message to stay home where you can, where others have sent mixed messages,” Lewis added. “States like Connecticut are saying ‘you should stay home, but if you do come back, it will be somewhat safe.’ Employees, and their employers, need more complete safety guidelines, set by the state, to get closer to that pre-COVID normal standard.”
As the organizations surveyed continue to cling to remote work as a way to keep moving their business forward while keeping employees safe, Lewis also points to the uncertainty surrounding in-person school openings as a reason why businesses need to continue to improve and optimize their remote work programs.
“Despite the national push to reopen schools, the reality is that COVID-19 will infect students and teachers at a level that, for some, will result in a full shutdown of classes and a return to remote learning. In some places, we have already seen this happen,” Lewis said. “This ongoing and cyclical uncertainty means that every business must be flexible and accommodating to the needs of their employees until the threat of the virus clears.”
“We saw the struggles so many had balancing work, home, parenting, and educator responsibilities last spring and winter. Our advice to our clients continues to focus on optimizing remote work approaches and being prepared for daily disruptions and imperfect conditions.”
Offices Are Reopening, But Most Have Not Required Employees to Return
While two-thirds of employers surveyed have indicated that they have not yet resumed pre-COVID operations, the vast majority have reopened at some level.
- 27% of organizations surveyed either never closed or have reopened fully, welcoming employees back to their offices.
- 41% have reopened on a partial basis.
- 23% of businesses surveyed remain closed and are operating on a 100% remote basis.
Though the office may be accessible to employees, fewer than 13% of poll participants have mandated an immediate return to an office environment.
- 48% of those surveyed have made the office available for use, but continue to mostly operate remotely.
- 5% of survey participants have reopened and asked all employees to return.
- Just 14% of organizations polled have had its full workforce work from the office more than three times over the last 30 days.
COVID-19 Has Caused Seismic Shift in Attitudes Surrounding Remote Work
The pandemic may have forever changed American office life. Sixty percent of those with no remote work programs in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak are now rethinking their remote work strategies.
- Prior to COVID-19, 43% of survey participants did not have any remote work programs in place or offer any work from home flexibility, and just 7% offered remote work arrangements for its full workforce.
- Only 18% of those surveyed indicated they will get rid of remote work programs once the virus clears.
School Scheduling Issues Expected, Most Employers Plan to Accommodate Employees as Needed
The vast majority of employers surveyed (over 75%) employ individuals with school aged children and recognize the scheduling and availability challenges presented by distance learning or hybrid arrangements (in-person schooling only some of the week).
- 65% of employers surveyed plan to offer flexibility for those employees facing school scheduling challenges.
- 18% were unsure at the time of the survey how they would manage school scheduling issues.
- 13% of those surveyed plan to encourage employees to do whatever possible to report back to the office, working with employees on a case by case basis as needed.
- Just 4% of those polled plan to require employees to manage childcare issues and report back to the office as usual.
As Offices Reopen, Conflict Can be Expected
Those employers recalling workers to an office environment may encounter workplace conflict tied to employees disregarding health and safety precautions put in place by the employer. Whether this is tied to the improper use of PPE, social distancing breaches, or disregard for mandatory quarantine orders, employers should be prepared to manage these employee relations issues.
- 18% of organizations surveyed have had some level of complaint(s) filed due to employee or visitor behavior that an employee has deemed risky or outside of compliance standards set by the employer related to health and safety. Considering how few organizations surveyed have a full team in place working from their office location, this should be considered a high percentage.
- 62% of employers polled have provided guidelines for employees returning from a COVID-19 “hotspot”.
- Of these employers, 89% have asked employees returning from high transmission areas to quarantine for 14-days before returning to the office.
- 59% have required that employees notify their employer of any travel plans.
- 16% of organizations who have provided guidelines around “hotspot” travel require employees to take a COVID-19 test before returning to the office.
Survey data was collected online between August 11, 2020 and August 18, 2020.
Founded by CEO David Lewis in 2001, OperationsInc provides HR related support to over 1,800 businesses of all sizes and across all industries.
The HR consultancy, which is one of the largest in the nation, has a portfolio of over 200 different HR related services, including Remote Work Optimization and Assessment Services, Return to Work Assessments & Strategic Guidance, COVID-19 HR Crisis Management, Human Resources Outsourcing and Consulting, Managed Payroll Services, Payroll and HR Contingency and Continuity Planning, Reduction in Force Management and Administration, Interim and Emergency HR and Payroll Support, Outsourced Recruiting Services, Training & Development Services, Employee Leave Management, Organizational Development Services, and Benefits Administration.
OperationsInc also has developed a special COVID-19 response division, designed to help businesses optimize and enhance remote work programs, and safely and effectively reopen office locations.
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