- The gradual availability of coronavirus vaccines may not have diminished HR professionals' plans for remote work moving forward, according to data from a survey of HR leaders published by Gartner Dec. 15.
- Of 130 HR leaders surveyed, 90% said their organizations planned to allow employees to work remotely at least part of the time even after a vaccine is widely adopted, and 65% said their organizations would continue to offer employees scheduling flexibility. Moreover, nearly one-third of 118 respondents said they would relax some protocols, such as mask-wearing requirements, once a vaccine is widely available.
- At the same time, some HR leaders surveyed predicted that as many as 50% of their workforces would still want to return to the workplace at least on a part-time basis, Gartner said. More than one-third of 136 respondents said they would extend new benefits, such as child care assistance and additional sick leave, to employees.
Gartner's findings appear to reflect the approach some employers — though, not all — have taken after a year of remote-work experimentation due to COVID-19. Top companies in the tech industry have included remote work in their reopening plans 2021, including Google, which announced in recent weeks that it would pilot "hybrid" work arrangements for some positions once its offices reopen in September 2021.
The availability of COVID-19 vaccines also poses a variety of complex questions for HR departments beyond remote work. Employers have asked, for example, whether they may mandate vaccinations before permitting employees to return to the workplace.
Sources who spoke to HR Dive this month indicated that there are many hurdles to installing such mandates, both logistical and legal in nature. While U.S. employers received a glimmer of guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about how COVID-19 vaccinations may interact with federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may still need to note state and local laws that could impact vaccine mandates. Moreover, states are likely to roll out vaccines on differing schedules, further complicating mandates.
Sixty percent of respondents to Gartner's survey said they would encourage employees to receive a vaccine, but that this would not be required; 60% of respondents also said their organizations would provide resources to employees on where and how to get a vaccine, while 44% said they would either subsidize or cover the costs of vaccination.
"While there are concerns around the COVID-19 vaccine, including privacy and data security, ultimately, there are many factors involved in making decisions around an organization's vaccination strategy, including local government regulations," Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in Gartner's HR practice, said in the firm's statement. "Therefore, it is critical that HR leaders work closely with their legal and compliance partners."
The decision to embrace remote work also does not preclude employers from making other changes to their flexibility practices, particularly when it comes to pay. Employers who previously spoke to HR Dive indicated that they establish pay ranges depending on where remote workers are located, and may make adjustments if employees relocate while working remote. A November survey from Willis Towers Watson found that about half of company respondents were considering implementing a "hybrid reward" model, including paying employees based on where they are located.