COVID-19: Remote Workforce Research

Goals

To understand how the remote workforce changed since the pandemic, and to have some best practices for enabling remote workers to work effectively. An ideal response would include information, data, and/or statistics surrounding how workers are moving towards remote working because of the pandemic, as well as two examples [case studies] on any companies that have successfully transitioned to being remote, and a summary of best practices of the best ways to move a company to be remote.

Early Findings

  • We were not provided a geographic focus for this project, so we assumed a broad approach and looked globally. If a more targeted approach is desired, for example, the United States, this would have to be clearly communicated to us in any reply.

How the Remote Workforce Has Changed Since COVID

  • According to a Future Forum research of 4,700 knowledge workers, the majority of workers never want to go back to the old way of working. Only 12% want to return to full-time office work, and 72% want a hybrid remote-office model moving forward.
  • In that same study, "knowledge workers report higher levels of satisfaction with remote work, when compared with office work, for work-life balance, stress and anxiety levels, productivity and overall satisfaction."
  • "Those with only a few months’ experience working from home were twice as likely as more experienced remote workers to say it negatively affected their productivity. Those with less remote-work experience also reported lower overall satisfaction and work-life-balance levels as well as more stress. Working from home is a learned skill. It takes time for knowledge workers to adapt to new ways of maintaining relationships and managing their physical environments. Companies can help speed up this learning curve by providing support, training and tools to help newly remote workers adapt."
  • "By late summer 2020, more workers in the U.S. (44%) and U.K. (45%) were primarily working from home than in the office. Interestingly, the reverse was true in Japan (52%), France (58%), Germany (51%), and AUS (39%) where more workers reported going into the office than work from home."
  • "Data reveals that 83% of those already working from home expect to keep doing so for at least the next three months. Given that most knowledge workers aren’t interested in returning to the office full-time, companies should start investing now in the hybrid environments employees prefer."
  • Research has long established that remote work can help mothers better balance their work and family responsibilities, which makes them less likely to sacrifice one for the other. Data collected during the pandemic suggests that working from home may also make the father more involved. More couples share family responsibilities more equally now than they did before the pandemic, according to a survey of American couples. In a survey of Canadian fathers, a majority report doing more household chores and spending more time with their children now than they did before the pandemic. If organizations continued to offer remote work opportunities after the pandemic is over, more women will have a level playing field.
  • Across the globe, it’s apparent, one thing will remain constant: remote work. Whether mandated by an employer or a personal choice, chances are many people will be working from home for the foreseeable future. For many professionals, this shift is a positive and welcomed change. A recent LinkedIn survey revealed that 63% of professionals would choose to continue working from home in some capacity even if their employer opened offices because over half of them (57%) are not yet feeling safe to return to work.
  • According to the State of Small Business in 2020 survey from OnPay, 44% of small businesses already had a WFH policy before the pandemic started. Once COVID-19 hit, shelter-in-place orders led almost 3 in 4 employers to allow their teams to work from home. In the process, many discovered the positives of permitting remote work. When things are back to normal, 50% more employers plan to rely at least partially on a remote workforce than before the pandemic.
  • Seventy percent of employees said working from home either made their job easier or was no more difficult than working from the office. Nearly 25% said it’s a lot easier to work from home.
  • There’s been a cultural shift toward using video calls: About 60% of Americans now use video calling platforms.

Companies That Have Shifted to Remote Work

  • Shopify has decided to shift to remote work. CEO and founder Tobi Lutke tweeted, “As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.” Lutke added, “Until recently, work happened in the office. We’ve always had some people remote, but they used the internet as a bridge to the office. This will reverse now. The future of the office is to act as an on-ramp to the same digital workplace that you can access from your #WFH setup.”
  • Hayden Brown, the CEO of Upwork, a global freelancing platform, said in a tweet, “Building on our 20 years of experience as a remote work company, we are now permanently embracing a ‘remote-first’ model.” Brown continued, “Going forward, working remotely will be the default for everyone, while teams will also be able to come together—once it's safe—for intentional collaboration and socialization. The #futureofwork is here.”
  • Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong announced on May 20th, 2020 that his digital currency exchange, headquartered in San Francisco, is “moving to a remote-first policy in light of COVID-19, meaning most employees will have the option to work from home.” Armstrong said he’s planning for the future to look different, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. "Over the last two months, I have come to believe that not only is remote work here to stay, but that it represents a huge opportunity and strategic advantage for us."
  • Google, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Capital One, Zillow, Slack, Amazon, PayPal, Salesforce and other major companies have extended their work-from-home options, according to the largest human resources organization, SHRM, and other sources.

Summary Of Our Early Findings Relevant To The Goals

  • Our initial hour of research was spent providing some relevant and salient data points surrounding how the remote workforce changed since the pandemic, as well as providing the names of three companies that have shifted to full or almost full remote work based on the tweets we found from the CEO's verifying this. We feel that this sets the table for future research.
  • We also spent the initial hour of research ensuring that there was publicly available information to answer all the research questions. There is an abundance of data, with multiple recent studies being completed on this subject. This is likely because remote work is top of mind for most organizations, given the uncertainty of future lockdowns.
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