Many employers in the United States expect to continue their remote work policies and, to a lesser extent, flexible work arrangements after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
This is according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, which found that 59% of the more than 200 employers surveyed expect their work-from-home policies to remain in effect after the pandemic ends, while 49% expect to continue offering flexible work arrangements.
Similarly, WorldatWork’s “COVID-19 Quick Polls” found that 57% of the 393 employers surveyed said there will be an increasing amount of (i.e., more or much more) flexibility around remote work after the pandemic is over.
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 in 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.”
Almost nine in 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 do more around employee listening. According to the survey, 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 in 10 (31%) have conducted employee surveys, but another 29% will or may do so this year.
The survey found respondents believe changes organizations implemented since the pandemic began are having some positive effects, as 63% said the changes are having a positive impact on their culture. Additionally, more than half believe the changes are enhancing employee well-being (59%), experience (55%) and engagement (52%); however, only 36% believe the changes are improving employee productivity.
The pandemic has also forced many employers to evaluate many of their talent-related strategies. For example, six in 10 respondents (59%) have made changes to their onboarding strategy while 45% have altered their talent acquisition strategy. Only 16% have changed their performance management strategy; however, one in three respondents (32%) are planning or considering changes to their performance review cycle.