- As HR departments determine what work will look like after the COVID-19 pandemic, only 12% of global knowledge workers in a survey by workplace communication platform Slack said they intend to go back to working exclusively from an office.
- The company, which polled more than 9,000 self-identified "skilled office workers" in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Japan and Australia, found 72% wanted a combination of office-based work and remote work moving forward. More than 50% of respondents said their work-life balance was better as a result of the shift to remote work.
- Other benefits cited by respondents included the elimination of commutes and increased savings. But more than one-third of respondents said their sense of belonging at work was worse as a result of remote work, while others faced challenges in building relationships with colleagues, being aware of others' work and dealing with isolation and loneliness, Slack said.
The survey results point to a variety of trends observed by others in recent months. Gartner found in July that 80% of surveyed company leaders planned to allow employees to work remotely at least partly after reopening.
A number of companies stated intentions to extend remote-work arrangements early on during the U.S. response to the pandemic. As early as May, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would allow employees to work remotely through the end of 2020, adding that 50% of its workforce could be remote in the next 10 years. More recently, a survey by HR consulting firm Mercer found 83% of companies were considering implementing flexible work options, including remote work, to a greater extent than they had before the pandemic.
Despite this, employees and employers have demonstrated concerns about a larger shift to remote work. The same Mercer survey found 66% of respondents had concerns about leaders' and managers' attitudes and skills with respect to managing a flexible workforce. More than half said maintaining existing organizational culture would be a challenge in a more flexible work environment.
As Slack observed in its research, employees may not feel as connected to their colleagues as they might be otherwise. A survey released in April by software platform Smartsheet found that Generation Z and millennial workers in particular felt less connected. Those used to working in office settings may find adjustments to be difficult even if offices do reopen, however, because of protocols like mask-wearing policies, physical distancing and closure of meeting spaces.
Employers have important compliance considerations to consider if they allow additional telework in the future. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor updated its guidance to clarify pay requirements for remote workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. And those wishing to more closely monitor employee productivity during the shift to remote work will need to consider the patchwork of laws that regulate employers' ability to do so, sources previously told HR Dive.