- Two recent surveys provide different impressions of how U.S. workers are adjusting to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, one painting a picture of engaged, productive employees and the other reporting diconnects.
- Most employees in a KPMG survey said they felt prepared to transition to remote work and that their teams are collaborating better as a result of the changes. More than half (54%) said their productivity had improved since the transition, while 64% said the quality of their work improved.
- But most younger workers in particular have found the transition difficult, according to a survey by software platform Smartsheet. More than 90% of both Generation Z and millennial employees in that survey reported difficulty working from home, while more than 80% of both groups said they felt less connected. Half of respondents in both groups said they found it hard to get status updates.
As remote work becomes routine for companies that can afford to make it work during the pandemic, experts have questioned whether the trend will continue after the threat of the novel coronavirus has passed.
Early research showed many employees, at least, believe this will be the case. A survey conducted in early April by OnePoll and Citrix found more than a third of employee respondents believed their organizations would be more relaxed about remote work following the pandemic. Similar to the KPMG and Smartsheet surveys, however, employees had a mixed reaction to different components of the remote experience. For example, a third of the OnePoll/Citrix respondents said they felt overwhelmed by their remote work situation.
Even before the arrival of the pandemic in the U.S., a January survey by Robert Half found that employees felt deterred from taking advantage of remote work perks over concerns about technology and fears that distractions would hurt productivity.
Telework, reduction of hours and other impacts of the pandemic are also compounding employees' stress levels, an April 7 Gallup report found. Even so, more than half of respondents to a Gallup poll included in the report strongly agreed that they had a clear plan of action, a figure that rose by 15 percentage points since mid-March.
Employers are taking steps to address issues that may affect remote workers during the pandemic. Education company Chegg, for example, is offering childcare reimbursement worth up to $500 per family to employees who are working parents. Vendors are also pitching solutions to employers ranging from "wellness boxes" full of snacks to virtual, video-game like representations of their offices.
Emotional stability and autonomy can be important predictors of whether employees can successfully transition to remote work, a 2018 study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology found. Besides providing support, employers also need to prepare employees by giving them them the proper equipment, sources previously told HR Dive.