In September, lawfirm Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, issued a survey to their clients attempting to gauge how companies are managing their remote workforces and to identify key trends. The questions covered a broad range of employer issues raised by the pandemic, including morale and productivity, workforce reorganization and reductions, and managing legal issues remotely.
The firm received more than 426 responses representing a cross-section of industries, regions, and company sizes throughout the U.S. Respondents hailed from the legal and HR departments of their organizations, with many coming from the executive ranks. More than half of the responses came from organizations with 2,000 or more employees.
Seyfarth Shaw summarized the key survey findings as follows:
1. A whole new world. As we enter the end of 2020 and the pandemic shows no signs of abating, our respondents report that nearly 60 percent of their workforces are working remotely, up from 13 percent prior to the pandemic. Employers are bringing people back to the work site, but in smaller numbers (39 percent). To accommodate the shift, many companies had to make significant adjustments to how they manage remote workforces. These investments cover a range of areas from IT hardware, software, and security, to training and benefits for remote workers.
2. Get ready for your close-up. Video is the “new normal” for remote work and investigations. While 72 percent of respondents seldom used video before the pandemic, 66 percent of respondents reported new investments in networking and conferencing software as a result of remote work. And nearly half of respondents are now handling internal complaints and disputes via video. Of those who have engaged in remote proceedings, nearly 80 percent found the quality in need of improvement or worse. This indicates that employers and employees need greater fluency and comfort with these technologies, especially when it comes to legal proceedings where in-person depositions and investigations are not possible.
3. Remote workers are thriving. Our respondents overwhelmingly rated the productivity (83 percent) and morale (77 percent) of their remote teams as good, demonstrating that remote workers are faring well and generating results. With survey responses showing an increased focus on engagement, communication, and wellness, employers are taking proactive steps to ensure remote workers feel connected, informed, and healthy. Many have added new benefits such as employee assistance programs, wellness benefits, and flexible scheduling to help with the dual challenges of work and caregiving.
4. Recovery and reorganization. Furloughs, pay cuts, and RIFs were common for survey respondents, with approximately 40 percent reporting that these steps were necessary. When implemented, relatively small percentages of employees were affected, with 24 percent furloughed and 13 percent included in a RIF. The average pay cut was 16 percent. According to respondents, furloughs and pay cut decisions are slowly being reversed. While 87 percent of companies report bringing furloughed employees back, only 40 percent report bringing all of them back, indicating that more than half of employers are still in wait-and-see mode.
5. The coming wave. With 80 percent of respondents indicating no change, the employment discrimination wave that many predicted has not hit yet. Lex Machina results show federal case filings are down, with only 200 COVID cases filed. Our research shows 700 COVID cases filed in federal and state court, but most of them are preempted by workers’ comp or OSHA.
Source: Seyfarth Shaw, LLP.
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