In March of 2020, everything changed. Those of us who can work remotely began working from kitchen tables and sofas. We kept our children home from school. The world pivoted quickly as a means to keep everyone safe from the spread of COVID-19.
Many months later, we’re still living with precautions and adjustments. Some of these changes have yielded positive results for many, and some may be here to stay.
Working from home/telecommuting
Perhaps the quickest shift workplaces experienced was turning their workforce nearly 100 percent remote over the course of a few days. As the months went on, companies learned that they could not only survive, but grow and thrive with a telecommuting workforce.
According to one poll from Gartner, 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19, as opposed to 30% before the pandemic. Not only does this new model of working increase productivity and employee loyalty, but it also saves money. Think of the costs associated with real estate, furniture, phones, and more. Those can be significantly decreased when a majority of employees are working remotely.
As the traditional office changes, the traditional workday may also never go back to the way it was. At home we’re not only working, we’re also juggling virtual school, caring for sick or elderly family members, dealing with our own stresses, all while trying to remain present on video chats. To handle the new demands of our day, companies are allowing more flexibility in scheduling. Employees are empowered to move away from 9-5 and try out 9 to 12, then 1 to 3, then 8 to 11, and it’s working. Employers are seeing an uptick in productivity and morale when they extend this freedom to their workforce.
People appreciate being in charge of their own schedules and many don’t want to go back. A survey from Adecco found that 75% of workers wanted to keep flexibility in their scheduling when the pandemic is over, and the C-Suite agrees. In fact, eight out of 10 executives believe businesses will benefit from increased flexibility.
Access to more paid leave
The trend of offering more paid leave options was already on the rise, but as COVID-19 continued to spread, the government enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA) in April of 2020. It required certain public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for employees that are quarantined or have COVID-19 symptoms and two weeks of leave at two-thirds pay for those caring for someone in quarantine. This is a big step forward. This federal protection will end on December 31 of this year, but the effects may be long-lasting.
One survey found that 83 percent of employers nationwide are adjusting their business practices in light of the pandemic, and 32 percent are offering additional paid leave for employees. Another 18 percent plan to do so, and just over half of large organizations said they are implementing benefits similar to the ones outlined in the FFRCA. Here in NC, nearly one in three employers has added paid leave.
Home office stipends
By allowing workers to telecommute even part-time, employers could save around $11,000 per year for each employee. Many companies are using that money to offer home office stipends to their home-bound employees. Workers at the e-commerce company Shopify were given a $1,000 stipend to stock their home office spaces. At tech giant Twitter, all employees, even hourly workers, received reimbursements for all home office equipment – from desks to ergonomic cushions.
As more people work remote, this could become a very enticing perk for employers to adopt, increasing recruitment and employee loyalty.
Increased workplace empathy
Our environments and workdays have changed, and so, too, have the roles we play as colleagues. We’re sharing more about our personal lives, even inviting our co-workers into our homes via video chats. They see our spouses, children, and pets in the background. We are having a shared experience, and many managers and employers have responded with empathy and compassion. There is a renewed focus on employee well-being that may be a permanent fixture in company cultures.
In fact, 74 percent of employees want it that way, saying they want their managers to demonstrate a leadership style focused on empathy and a supportive attitude. Another 70 percent of workers say feeling like they have the right support available for their overall mental health after the pandemic is important to them. Offering this kind of support shows that businesses care about their employees, making them more appealing for recruitment and retention. This competitive edge will only help them when things return to whatever normal will look like.