It’s a question occupying the minds of millions of employees who’ve worked from home for just over a year now: will they still be allowed to work remotely, at least some days, once the coronavirus pandemic has faded?
On March 17, one of America’s corporate titans, Ford Motor Co., supplied its own answer: it told about 30,000 of its employees worldwide who’ve worked from home they can continue to do so indefinitely, with flexible hours approved by their managers. Their schedules will become a work-office “hybrid”: they’ll commute to work mainly for group meetings and projects best-suited for face-to-face interaction.
A report this week from the employment website Indeed.com says postings for jobs that mention “remote work” have more than doubled since the pandemic began. Such job postings are still increasing even while vaccinations are accelerating and the pace of new confirmed coronavirus cases is declining. “If job postings are a guide, employers are increasingly open to remote work, even as some employees return to the workplace,” says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed.
The share of Indeed’s job postings that mention “remote work” or “work from home” reached seven per cent last month, up from just below three per cent a year ago. But in some industries, the gains were far more dramatic, including those that haven’t traditionally welcomed remote work.
In legal services, for example, remote-work postings for jobs including paralegals and legal assistants jumped from under five per cent in the second half of 2019 to 16 per cent in the second half of 2020, according to Indeed’s data. In banking and finance, for such jobs as actuaries and loan underwriters, remote-work postings surged from four per cent to nearly 16 per cent. For mental-health therapists, they rose from one per cent to nearly seven per cent.
Ford is just the latest company to say they’ll allow remote working to continue after the pandemic. Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc. (which owns Google), Salesforce.com Inc. and Twitter Inc. said they’ll continue work-from-home policies indefinitely. And while Target Corp. will leave its main downtown Minneapolis office location because it’s moving to a hybrid model for 3,500 workers, it’ll keep other downtown offices.
Ford has found over the past year that employees and supervisors believe more work can be done remotely, that they can still connect with each other and that they have the means to do their jobs, says Kiersten Robinson, chief people and employee experiences officer at the automaker. So when its hybrid schedule begins in July, or soon thereafter, Ford will give teams a choice of when to come to the office. Robinson says a flexible schedule will also help Ford compete for talent. “I do think we’re seeing a real shift in expectations among candidates.”
Company executives overwhelmingly report that remote work has succeeded during the pandemic, according to research by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. About 55 per cent said they envision allowing continued remote work, according to the survey of 133 executives of mostly large companies. Just 17 per cent said they wanted employees back in the office as soon as possible. An additional 26 per cent said they preferred only limited remote work but recognized that it’s become popular with employees.