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Leaders Focus the Future on Remote Work and Wellness

New research shows that remote work and a focus on employee health and wellness are among the tools employers are using to resume and maintain operations post-COVID-19

Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend business priorities, companies are already looking to the future of work post-pandemic. According to recent surveys of businesses and their leaders, remote work is likely to be a mainstay going forward, while employee health and safety continue to be a key focus.

Remote Work is Expected to Expand

Reports show that the number of employees working remotely is likely to keep growing post-COVID-19. Remote work goes hand-in-hand with talent mobility, as employers use it strategically to eliminate geographic barriers to bridging talent shortages. The global pandemic is spurring employers to rely on telecommuting and virtual assignments, where an assignee fills a role virtually as opposed to physically relocating. As a larger business strategy, remote work doesn’t show signs of slowing down even as businesses open up again.

A report from the Conference Board based on an April 2020 online survey gauged how organizations are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic and assessing the future of work. Respondents included more than 150 human capital executives in mostly large companies spanning such industries as business and professional services, manufacturing, and health care sectors. It found that 77% of respondents across all responding organizations expect an increase in full-time employees working primarily from home (at least 3 days a week) 12 months after COVID-19. Additionally, when asked their top five most significant changes at their respective organizations throughout the recovery phase, the top answer was a shift to working virtually or remote.

In a report based on a survey of HR leaders from Gartner focused on future work trends post-COVID-19, nearly half of employees will work remotely at least some of the time, with pre-COVID-19 levels increasing from 30% to 48% post-pandemic. According to Gartner, this shift leads companies to examine critical competencies needed to digitally collaborate. Tactics that use virtual learning and development tools for employee growth while staying virtually engaged with employees allows employers to ensure such digital collaboration and teamwork.

Health and Wellness Strategies are a Continued Focus

Both reports also show that employers are expanding their roles regarding their employees’ financial, physical, and mental wellbeing. This includes the return to work, which The Conference Board reports is a high priority among executives. Alongside remote work, the top five organizational changes reported are reconfiguring office design to prioritize employee health and safety, examining HR policies regarding flexibility, personal time off, vacation, sick leave, etc., and a focus on employee engagement and experience. Whether focusing on mental health, designing a comprehensive wellness program for employees, or building a safe return-to-work plan, employers can take steps to cultivate health and wellness.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly shifted business strategies and priorities and will continue to do so even as some companies in various countries open back up. Having a plan in place for returning to work in a safe and healthy way ensures that employers continue to put employee wellbeing first. Whether or not that return-to-work plan includes remote work, it’s likely that remote work is here to stay for many companies.

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