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As Businesses Re-Open, Remote Work Will Continue

May 7, 2020

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

A majority of U.S. employers expect to continue their remote work policies and, to a lesser extent, flexible work arrangements after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson. The survey also found that while employers have boosted their employee communication in response to the pandemic, they will need to do more to help workers cope with expected increased levels of stress and anxiety in the months ahead.

Nearly 60% of respondents expect their work-from-home policies to remain in effect after the pandemic ends, while roughly half (49%) expect to continue offering flexible work arrangements. Employers also anticipate the fallout from the pandemic will have lingering effects on their employees. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) anticipate facing higher than normal levels of employee stress and anxiety over the next three to six months, while 60% expect to deal with maintaining employee resiliency.

The crisis has led employers to significantly increase communication with employees. Nearly nine out of 10 (88%) have increased communication on health and safety tips, while 84% have provided tips on working from home. Three-quarters of respondents (76%) have provided more tips on managing a remote workforce.

“It’s important that employers lay the groundwork now for greater stability in the workplace,” said John Jones, North America head of talent at Willis Towers Watson. “Initiatives such as work from home, virtual meetings, and enhanced communication will shape how workforces operate in a post-crisis world. And learning how to best leverage technology will be essential to support their employee experience.”

Managers receive high marks, but more training and employee listening is needed. Almost nine out of 10 respondents (89%) said their managers have “stepped up” to support their employees during the crisis, while 88% said their organization has been effective at removing obstacles so their employees can do their jobs efficiently. Even more — 92% — said their organization has been effective at providing employees with the technology, tools, and resources needed for them to work productively for an extended period of time.

The survey, however, revealed a need for employers to boost training for managers and to do more around employee listening. Only a quarter of respondents (24%) have increased training and development opportunities for managers during the crisis, but another third (32%) are planning or considering doing so for the balance of 2020. Additionally, only three out of 10 (31%) have conducted employee surveys but another 29% will or may do so this year.

“This is a moment of grief, loss, and unprecedented change, for many workers. While organizations are doing all the right things in the immediate crisis, they must move on from the essentials to understand the impact on people and build that into their talent and communication strategies,” concluded Jones.

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