WFH to remain a trend one year after pandemic subsides


Remote working rates post-Covid-19 will likely remain well above pre-pandemic levels, according to research released Wednesday by The Conference Board. Its survey of 150 HR executives — primarily at large US companies — found 77% expect an increase in the number of employees working remotely for at least three days per week even 12 months after the pandemic substantially subsides.

“A shift toward more remote working will have major implications for HR departments,” said Robin Erickson, a report co-author and principal researcher at The Conference Board. “Among other changes, they will be able to recruit workers from a broader geographic pool and will need to hire and promote those who can inspire remote teams.”

Productivity. Thirty-seven percent of companies that had more remote workers before Covid-19 report employee productivity has increased during the crisis.

Organizational change. The research also found US workers should continue to brace for more permanent, sometimes painful changes at their organizations. Rather than continuing to enact more easily reversible decisions such as furloughs and hiring freezes, some HR executives said their companies will now focus on making long-lasting changes, including more layoffs and restructurings.

Permanent layoffs and major restructurings are more likely to take place from May through July than they were to have already occurred, according to the report. However, only 16% expect permanent layoffs to come in that timeframe; 9% expect a major restructuring. And in the months ahead, blue-collar-heavy companies are more likely to enact harsher workforce cost reductions than white-collar-heavy companies.

Post-pandemic outlook. As of the end of April, more than 55% of survey respondents from organizations that experienced a decline in revenue after Covid-19 expected to return to pre-pandemic revenue levels within the next 12 months. Thirty-nine percent believed revenue levels will return after 12 months; 4% believed they will not return to pre-pandemic levels.

The full report is available online.