As Minnesota gradually begins to reopen, companies are assessing when is the right time for their employees to head back to the office. The coronavirus pandemic forced many companies to adapt quickly to the world of remote work. In the blink of an eye, daily commutes became a few short steps and video chats replaced conference room meetings. People who had never worked from home before were faced with sharing office space with roommates, spouses, children, aging parents and/or pets. A dog barking in the background or a toddler grabbing a headset may be commonplace on video calls, met with understanding nods and the occasional chuckle from colleagues and managers, alike.
With much of our world and daily lives changing rapidly, staffing firm Robert Half wanted to gauge how workers are faring in this current climate. We surveyed more than 1,000 professionals, 77% of who stated they are working from home, and overall, that experience has proven to be a positive one. Some highlights include:
• 63% realize their jobs are doable from home
• 60% enjoy a better work-life balance due to a lack of a commute
• 43% are more comfortable using technology
For many, the past few months have been a time of transition and reflection as we shelter in place. Workers are contemplating how, where and when they want to work, as well as their expectations of employers when businesses reopen. With remote work being a success – both professionally and personally – many have the desire to telecommute more often than they did prior to the pandemic.
Undoubtedly, enjoying a better balance between work and personal life is a contributing factor to this increased appetite for remote options. According to our research, 79% of respondents want to continue the practice of working from home. We have known for a while that long commutes and traffic contribute to less time with family, decreased productivity, stress and eventually burnout.
In the post-pandemic workplace, there are new concerns on the horizon that focus on the case for personal space. Our research found that more than half (56%) of workers worry about being in close proximity to others at the office once re-entry occurs. Many professionals anticipate spending less time in common areas of the office and nearly 60% will reconsider attending in-person business events in the future.
We’ve all heard that things will not necessarily return to “business as usual” and we’ll likely begin to see the emergence of a “new normal.” This is in alignment with our findings, as post-pandemic employees have new expectations. Companies will need to reassess priorities and make meaningful changes that will improve the work environment for their staff.
Survey respondents cited measures they expect their employers to implement or consider as a result of COVID-19:
• Better cleaning procedures (79%)
• Fewer in-person meetings and trainings (70%)
• Staggering employees’ in-office work schedules (55%)
• Require employees to wear masks (52%)
Physical office space may look quite different in the future with fewer open workspaces and common areas. Another thing of the past may be the handshake, as nearly three-quarters of workers (72%) reported they will rethink the gesture in the future.
An interesting upside is that the pandemic has changed professional relationships: 20% of workers said they feel closer to coworkers and 19% feel closer to their manager. COVID-19 has created a “we’re in this together” attitude. We’ve experienced fear, uncertainty and challenges together, which may be cultivating increased empathy in our professional relationships. The use of video tools has helped break down barriers and allow professionals see the personal side of their colleagues and managers, whether it be children, pets or their home office in the background.
Working parents have had their own set of challenges during this time, as they balance work with childcare, e-learning and homeschooling. However, this has perhaps created a sense of camaraderie as 27% of parents have grown closer to their colleagues and 26% said the same about their boss. During this time, it’s important for managers to be empathetic and remain flexible with parents who may have inconsistent schedules and need to take more frequent breaks.
There’s no doubt that companies are having to make difficult decisions during this crisis, and most workers understand this. Many employers are increasing transparency and communication to staff, which in turn builds trust and a feeling of togetherness. For the majority of organizations, the top priority is the health and safety of their staff. Implementing programs and policies that help employees continue to feel supported will be crucial as we transition back to the office.
Kyle O’Keefe is a senior regional vice president of Robert Half in the Twin Cities. Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. For more information about our six Minnesota locations, call us at 651.968.4599 or click here.