Pension & Benefits News Three in four employers adjust workplaces in response to COVID-19, Willis Towers Watson survey
Thursday, June 4, 2020

Three in four employers adjust workplaces in response to COVID-19, Willis Towers Watson survey

By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff

U.S. companies are making a series of workplace adjustments as they prepare to operate in a post-COVID-19 environment, according to a new survey of employers by Willis Towers Watson. Moreover, employers expect that the percentage of their workforce who are full-time employees working remotely after the pandemic will be three times as many compared with last year.

The survey of 681 employers, conducted during the week of May 11, found nearly three in four respondents (74 percent) made adjustments to work to reflect the new post-pandemic protocol. Some examples include installing touchless payment systems, offering services via video rather than in person, creating more space on assembly lines or in distribution centers, and changing work schedules to limit employee contact.

Almost three in 10 respondents (29 percent) moved work to different jobs while nearly a quarter (23 percent) made changes to reflect work that was being done in-house versus by third parties. Some employers started outsourcing work or using gig talent for work that was typically done by full-time employees.

“The pandemic is clearly creating new challenges for virtually every employer as to how work will get done when employees return to the workplace,” said Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director and global leader, Work and Rewards, Willis Towers Watson. “Physically, many workplaces will look different as companies seek to create safe working environments for their employees. And we expect to see some companies accelerate their use of automation and use it in different ways, such as a substitution for repetitive or dangerous tasks.”

Use of automation. Indeed, among the 22 percent of companies that have made adjustments to their use of automation, 18 percent of work is currently being done through automation, up from 16 percent last year. These same organizations expect that 23 percent of their work will be done by automation after the pandemic.

Remote workers. Employers report just over half (53 percent) of their workforce are full-time employees currently working remotely or from home. While that is expected to drop to 22 percent after the pandemic passes, it would still be up significantly from last year's 7 percent. Conversely, employers expect two-thirds of their workforce to be full-time employees working in person or onsite post-COVID-19, up from 37 percent currently, but still below last year’s 82 percent.

“Although the economy is still in upheaval, one thing is clear: Remote working is here to stay,” said Adrienne Altman, North America head, Work and Rewards, Willis Towers Watson. “One of the many challenges facing employers is to what extent do they keep remote working policies in place and how do they support employees who make the shift permanent. Each employer will need to determine if this is a long-term strategy that is right for them.”

About the survey. A total of 681 employers participated in the COVID-19 Returning to the Workplace Survey, which was conducted during the week of May 11, 2020. Respondents employ 7.1 million workers.


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