The Future of Work and Benefits after COVID-19, Part 1
By Rich Wolfe, Chief Executive Officer and Steve Campbell, Chief Human Resources Officer
In this first post of this two-part series, we examine several ways in which COVID-19 has changed how and where work gets done, and explore how these effects may shape the future of work in a post-pandemic world.
In just a short time, COVID-19 has had a profound and long-lasting impact on the way people and organizations everywhere approach their work. While there is much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, there are also valuable opportunities for organizations to evaluate the status quo, optimize their operations, and stay adaptive.
A major factor driving these opportunities has been the switch to remote work – as well as the need for secure and mobile-ready technology to support this move. Here, we look at how these changes will affect the way employers approach the concept of work going forward.
Increased Demand for Remote Work and Job Flexibility
Remote work capabilities are a defining factor among companies that were best prepared to handle the sudden emergence of COVID-19. Today, the ability to work from home is no longer just an employee perk; it is fast becoming an employee expectation, and has also proven to be an essential element of a strong business continuity plan.
Prior to the pandemic, there had been a 91% increase in the number of employees working remotely since 2009.1 Now, an estimated 66% of employees are working from home 2 – and both employers and employees are beginning to recognize the benefits of working outside of the traditional office space.
Working from home saves employees time and money by eliminating the costs associated with a typical work day, including the daily commute. Companies with a large remote employee population can also save on facility expenses, as well as widen access to top talent outside of a company’s immediate vicinity.
While working from home was certainly gaining popularity before the current pandemic, COVID-19 has pushed employers to embrace remote work at a pace that some HR leaders did not expect for at least another decade. Today, both employees and employers are recognizing that working in the usual office setting may not be necessary or even as productive as once thought.
Some organizations have struggled to overcome concerns about productivity and professionalism while allowing employees to work outside of the office. These concerns are understandable, but employees can actually be more productive when working from home under the right conditions.3
For many people, the flexibility afforded by working from home will be difficult to relinquish after this pandemic has passed. Moving forward, business leaders can expect job flexibility and remote work capabilities to remain a significant draw for talent – especially now that employees have experienced the benefits of remote work for themselves.
Secure and Mobile Technology for Business Continuity
The organizations that have seen the most success during the COVID-19 pandemic were those that maintained a modern mobility strategy as a key focus of their technology infrastructure. Social distancing measures and lockdowns have made it difficult (and in some cases, unsafe) for employees to travel and work in the office as usual. Now it is crucial that employees have access to the secure technology solutions necessary to ensure productivity, collaboration, and data security across their entire team – regardless of location.
Unfortunately, not all businesses were prepared for such a sudden shift in their daily operations. For instance, a key aspect of a strong mobility strategy is 100% laptop deployment – paired with access to a secure virtual private network (VPN).
One important limitation on mobility is that traditional offices have typically relied on static desktop computers for employee use. While laptop computers often require a larger investment than desktop machines, they also ensure that employees have the hardware and software necessary to work while away from the office. After the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect companies to focus more heavily on optimizing their technology infrastructure to support more robust mobility strategies and business continuity plans, including the switch to mobile hardware.
While organizations adjust to sudden changes in operations, this is also an important time to evaluate the preparedness of your key vendors. It is imperative that your essential business providers – such as your benefits enrollment and administration partner – were properly prepared prior to the emergence COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure you and your employees continued to experience uninterrupted, high-quality benefits service.
As working from home becomes increasingly mainstream, HR teams must focus on building a strong communications strategy, developing a remote-friendly culture, and assembling the right vendors to support employees’ needs across a widely dispersed workforce. How are your partners prepared to help you make the necessary shifts to meet these changes head on?
For more insights into how employee benefits will evolve due to COVID-19, download the 2020 Benefit Trends Report from Empyrean here – and be sure to check back for part two of this post coming soon.
- Reynolds, Brie Weiler. “159% Increase in Remote Work Since 2005: FlexJobs & Global Workplace Analytics Report.” FlexJobs Corporation. Boulder, CO. July 2019.
- “Working from Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic: The State of Remote Work.” Clutch Co, LLC. Washington, D.C. April 2019.
- Choudhury, P., Larson, B., and Foroughi, C. “Is it Time to Let Employees Work from Anywhere?” Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA. August 2019.