Mercer, an HR and workplace benefits consulting firm, recently conducted research regarding the effects of remote working amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of said research may finally erode the skepticism that many companies face about working from home.
94 percent of 800 employers surveyed by Mercer have found that their productivity was the same or higher than it was before the pandemic, even when most of their employees were working from home.
“Historically, there has been a perception in many organizations that if employees were not seen, they weren’t working—or at least not as effectively as they would in the office,” said Lauren Mason, a principal and senior consultant at Mercer.
“And in most cases, this forced experiment around remote working as a result of COVID-19 has shattered those perceptions to prove that most employees can actually be trusted to get their work done from home. As organizations are thinking toward the longer term, they are looking at how they can execute flexibility at scale to deliver on the value of flexible working, like enhanced performance and productivity, a better employee experience, an expanded talent pool, and, in some cases, potentially reduced costs,” she added.
Mason also mentions that the transition to a remote working environment was not necessarily smooth. Workers were forced to work from home as a measure against COVID-19. As such, companies had to overcome challenges such as getting employees the equipment they needed as well as establishing VPN networks and communications to ensure security and connectivity. However, once these hurdles were cleared, companies reported that it was smooth sailing onwards.
It was also mentioned that this model still needs to be monitored for sustainability. Other research had found that some employees could not distinguish leisure from working hours, thus resulting in working three hours longer on average; which may eventually lead to burnout.
At the moment, Mercer’s research shows that up to 83 percent of respondents said that flexible workplace policies will remain even after the current health crisis passes. These policies include allowing more people to work from home or letting them adjust their schedules.
Remote work will be especially critical in the near term for working parents with young children, as schools have either closed or are operating on split schedules.
Regarding this, Mercer stated that up to 60 percent of employers said that they are letting parents adjust their schedules, with 22 percent saying that they are letting parents temporarily shift to part-time status if required. Another 37 percent are letting parents choose when they do those parts of their job that don’t need to be done at any particular time or place.
Mason adds that in order to sustain this level of flexibility at scale, massive workplace transformations must take place. People, processes, and infrastructure must all be scrutinised to ensure that employers maintain or enhance the employee experience in a flexible environment in order to deliver key outcomes such as engagement and productivity.