- After a year of transition away from in-person worksites at many organizations, a majority of both executives and employees surveyed this month by PwC say that remote work shifts caused by COVID-19 have been successful at their organizations.
- Productivity may be a big factor behind future decisions to maintain remote work. Fifty-two percent of executives said that productivity improved during the prolonged work-from-home period, while 34% of employees said the same. But while more than half of workers wanted to work from home at least three days per week, 87% said the office is important for collaboration and building relationships.
- Executive respondents were also likely to perceive value in offices from a cultural perspective. Only 5% of executives said that employees did not need to be in the office in order for their organizations to maintain a strong culture. A plurality, 29%, said workers should be in the office at least three days per week in order to do so, while 21% said keeping a strong culture would require employees to be in the office five days per week.
The pandemic-driven shift to remote work will impact not only the schedules on which employees run, but also the tools with which they work.
In a previous PwC report published in December, the firm surveyed IT executives and found 65% expected at least a quarter of their organization's workforces to work from home permanently after the pandemic. Additionally, leading firms in the report said they invested in workflow automation tools as well as cloud-based collaboration tools, in part to support hybrid work models in which workers spend time working both in an office and at other locations.
Automation is likely to be accelerated by the pandemic, particularly in jobs with "high viral transmission risk," according to a July working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The addition of high-tech tools may be a positive sign for organizations looking to streamline their operations and transform digitally, but management styles must also evolve in order for workers to keep up, a Verizon Business executive told HR Dive last year.
Ultimately, not all employees have responded to remote work positively in the past year, with a majority of Generation Z and millennial employees in a 2020 survey by software platform Smartsheet reporting that remote work made them feel less connected.
However, the pandemic has allowed some employers to focus on improving work-life balance and address issues such as family life, self care and employee experience. Such reflections have inspired some to experiment with flexibility, including offering employees to work a hybrid schedule, even after the pandemic ends.