U.S. companies and industries have had no choice but to let their employees work from home after many state governments mandated stay-at-home and quarantine, social distancing recommendations and orders to stem the spread of Covid-19. So reports Newsweek. A March 17 survey of 800 human resources executives found that 88% of organizations have encouraged or mandated their staff to work from home. The survey is from research and advisory firm Gartner.
Nearly 70% of organizations had already offered some employees the option to work at home on an as-needed basis pre-coronavirus, while 42% allowed workers to do it part-time and 27% full-time, the Society for Human Resource Management noted in its Employee Benefits Survey last year. "If you already have a trend or shift that is growing, a shock like the coronavirus pandemic tends to be supportive of that, accelerating the trend," says Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, a small business consultancy.
Up until the pandemic, teleworking in the U.S. was mostly limited to relatively few, affluent professionals, also known as “knowledge workers,” Pew Research Center reports. Covid-19 might accomplish what work-at-home advocates have long fought for--making telework a more mainstream benefit.
About 9.8 million of the U.S.’ approximately 140 million civilian workers, or 7%, have been allowed to telework, Pew Research Center notes, citing a 2019 National Compensation Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “And those workers who have access to it are largely managers, other white-collar professionals and the highly paid,” Pew Research Center reports.
The insurance industry is among the most telework-friendly with 32% of employers offering this benefit, while 29% of “professional and technical services” allow employees to telework. These include law and accounting firms and advertising agencies and consultants. “The information sector has the third-highest share of workers with telework access: 16% of workers in this industry have it,” Pew Research Center notes. “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.”
It is estimated that 60 million to 70 million Americans, representing 45% to 50% of the workforce, may try telecommuting during the pandemic, Kate Lister, president of consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, tells Investor’s Business Daily. "We believe, based on historical trends, that those who were working remotely before the pandemic will increase their frequency after they are allowed to return to their offices," Lister says.
"For those who were new to remote work until the pandemic, we believe there will be a significant upswing in their adoption," she adds. "My best estimate is that we will see 25% to 30% of the workforce working at home on a multiple-days-a-week basis within the next two years.”
Mark Zandi, a Moody’s economist, says the pandemic elevates the importance of being able to work remotely online and that teleworking is likely to remain a more permanent fixture in the workplace. "Work-from-home will also become a much more common practice for businesses,” Zandi says. “Companies are investing aggressively in the technologies necessary for [work-from-home], and employees are quickly learning about and adapting to this way of working.”