Thanks to COVID-19, Remote Work is Here to Stay

Thanks to COVID-19, Remote Work is Here to Stay

Global Workplace Analytics research indicates that pre-COVID 3-4% of the workforce was working from home half-time or more. A significant portion of these were highly paid knowledge workers, “such as executives, IT managers, financial analysts and accountants.” The numbers varied by industry and size of organization, as well.


About a third of employers of insurance carriers (32%) have this benefit, followed closely by “professional and technical services” (29%), such as law firms, accounting firms, advertising agencies and consultancies. The information sector has the third-highest share of workers with telework access: 16% of workers in this industry have it.


Employees of larger firms are more likely to be offered telework as an option. At business places with 500 or more workers, 12% have access to telework, compared with 6% at places with fewer than 100 workers. (The NCS is a survey of “establishments,” not workers. An establishment in the private sector is typically a single factory, office, store or other worksite.)


But the Coronavirus crisis has driven a big increase in remote work throughout organizations and across industries. A recent Gartner survey found that (as of March) 88% of employers “have encouraged or required their employees to work from home,” and Statista reports that 20% of workers or more now operate from home.


Nobody was really planning for these massive dislocations three months ago, so many CISOs have had to think fast and react quickly around an entirely new set of considerations. The chaotic rush to enable a remote workforce may pay off in the long-term, however: once we’re past COVID-19, we can expect far higher levels of remote work to become the norm. According to a separate Gartner survey, three-quarters of CFOs plan on moving on-site employees to remote status, with a quarter of respondents saying they expect 20% or more of their workforces to be affected.


Everyone Is on Board With Remote Work


Perhaps not surprisingly, a key motivator for organizations is the cost of commercial real estate. But it isn’t just companies driving the shift to remote work. Global Workplace Analytics reports that more than half of workers are employed in positions “compatible (at least partially) with remote work”; more and more workers want, and actually seek out, remote positions.


Before the crisis, surveys repeatedly showed 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time. Over a third would take a pay cut in exchange for the option. While the experience of working at home during the crisis may not have been ideal as whole families sheltered in place, it will give people a taste of what could be.


Companies are responding to worker demand, with approximately 80% now using various forms of work location flexibility to appeal to these employees.


Helping the trend along is the fact that employers are finally growing more comfortable with remote work as management-by-butts-in-seats slowly gives way to management-by-results. The Global Workplace Analytics forecast goes on to note benefits associated with travel cost savings, disaster preparedness (resulting from decentralization) and environmental sustainability (reductions in commuting impact), ultimately predicting we’ll see “25-30% of the workforce working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis by the end of 2021.”


When we consider that remote work was trending up even before COVID, it’s reasonable to expect that number to continue climbing for the foreseeable future – perhaps dramatically. This is great news for CISOs who like to stay busy, and fortunately digital transformation initiatives enabling off-site work are advanced enough that the COVID-induced shift, while not simple, is now possible in ways it wasn’t not too long ago.

Sam Smith, PhD | Contributor
Sam has worked in technology and communications marketing for more than 20 years and during that time has served a host of Fortune, enterprise and mid-market leaders. He earned his doctorate from the University of Colorado, where he focused on the development and adoption of emerging digital communication technologies.