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Over four-fifths of companies will allow employees to work remotely after lockdown

Study finds dynamics of the new work situation means organisations need to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce

As many as 82% of firms intend to permit remote working some of the time as employees return to the office after lockdown, according to research by Gartner.

The analyst surveyed 127 business leaders representing HR, legal and compliance, finance and real estate on 5 June 2020, and nearly half (47%) said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full-time going forward. For some firms, flexi-time will be the new norm as 43% of respondents reported they will grant employees flexible working days, while 42% will provide flexible hours.

“The Covid-19 pandemic brought about a huge experiment in widespread remote working,” said Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice.

“As business leaders plan and execute reopening of their workplaces, they are evaluating more permanent remote working arrangements as a way to meet employee expectations and to build more resilient business operations.”

Organisations welcoming employees back to the company workplace are instituting a variety of safety measures. Respondents were nearly unanimous in planning to limit face-to-face meetings (94%) and providing protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitiser (91%). Eighty-three percent of respondents said they intend to limit or sequence employee attendance at the office.

“The question now facing many organisations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce,” said Joyce. “While remote work isn’t new, the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done.”

Gartner noted that as employers move toward a hybrid workforce, the productivity of remote employees is a frequent topic of conversation. However, just 13% of business leaders voiced concerns over sustaining productivity. While 61% of business leaders surveyed have implemented more frequent manager-employee check-ins, 29% report not taking any measures to track productivity remotely.

Among the challenges of managing a hybrid workforce revealed by the study, 30% of business leaders are most concerned with maintaining corporate culture. Thirteen percent of respondents reported concern over creating parity between the remote and in-office experience; 13% also are concerned about providing what was described as a "seamless employee experience".

“It is critical that employers get their corporate culture and employee experience right during this period of uncertainty,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “Both facets help ensure organisations achieve the financial, reputation and talent outcomes that will drive business outcomes and competitive advantage."

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