How Many People Will Work From Home in 2021? When Will We End the Layoffs?

A recent COVID-19 employer survey conducted by Willis Towers Watson says that a majority of North American employers expect that most of their furloughed workers will return to work by the first quarter of 2021. However, relatively few employers expect this to be the case for laid-off employees.

Even though more employees are working remotely than ever before, few companies have policies in place that could encourage this arrangement once the dust settles around the pandemic.

According to the survey, 55 percent of respondents expect most (at least three out of four) of their furloughed employees to be back at work by the first quarter of next year; however, just one in six (16 percent) expect to rehire most of their laid-off workers by then. Public health and economic recovery are two of the biggest factors in deciding which employees to bring back to work. However, employers need to adapt to having a larger percentage of remote workers—a new normal which will fundamentally change their culture.

Looking ahead, employers expect that the proportion of their workforce who are full-time employees working from home (19 percent) will be less than half of the current levels (44 percent) but nearly three times what it was last year (7 percent).

However, less than two in 10 employers (19 percent) have changed policies to encourage more remote work although 60 percent are planning or considering doing so. Only two in 10 (20 percent) have provided tools and resources to employees who may work remotely long term, although two-thirds (66 percent) are planning or considering doing so. And just one in 10 respondents (10 percent) have acted to offer employees subsidies to manage costs of working remotely while nearly three times as many (29 percent) are planning or considering doing so.

Nevertheless, roughly eight in 10 employers (79 percent) made adjustments to reflect the new protocol while more than half (58 percent) adjusted to the definition of the role of the workplace and what work should be primarily done onsite versus remotely. And nearly three in 10 employers (29 percent) made changes to move work to different jobs.

Additional survey findings include:

  • Over half (52 percent) of employers expect most (three out of four) workers who took a pay cut or had their workweek reduced will be back to normal levels by the first quarter of 2021.
  • Three in 10 employers (29 percent) have accelerated or adopted new special initiatives, such as technology rollouts, while nearly four in 10 (38 percent) have changed or are planning or considering changing where work is done to reduce supply chain risks.
  • More than half of respondents believe changes they have made since the pandemic began have had a positive impact on employee wellbeing (53 percent) and the employee experience (51 percent).
  • Most respondents have a sufficient budget to maintain and effectively deliver existing talent and reward programs (88 percent), but fewer have the budget to add critical new programs (58 percent) or adopt new technologies (49 percent).

About the author, Rhamy

Rhamy grew up watching and working with his mother and grandmother in the senior insurance market. This familiarity with the struggles faced by people trying to navigate the incredibly complicated and heavily regulated healthcare market led him to start Poplar Financial while working on his degree at the University of Memphis. After completing his MBA and Bachelors in Finance and Economics, Rhamy guided Poplar Financial through the disruptive opportunity that is the Affordable Care Act. Since then Poplar Financial has received numerous awards from major insurance carriers and has completed its fourth year in a row of doubling in size. Now his team focuses on the processes around human resources and specializes in providing companies with between 20 and 1000 employees with the payroll, benefits, and HR needs.

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