4 Jan 2022

10 stats showing how COVID changed perceptions about work

Written by: Regina Beach

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Working from home became the new normal for many office workers during the coronavirus pandemic. While many workers didn’t choose to work remotely, they overwhelmingly succeeded in doing their jobs from spare bedrooms and dining room tables.

Employers are taking several distinct paths now the pandemic is managed enough to bring workers back to the office. Some employers, like PR company Havas, are implementing hybrid models where employees come into the office on only certain days of the week. Others, like Twitter and Shopify, are allowing employees to work from home indefinitely. On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, are leaders who want their employees back in the office full-time as they were before the pandemic.

Employees have leverage over their employers as workers look for higher wages, better benefits, and more flexibility at a time when labor is at a premium for workers of all skill levels and qualifications.

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Are taking a back seat to a new generation of perks including better medical, dental, and mental health benefits, flexible working schedules, as well as child care and eldercare.

ErgoTune consulted surveys and polls about COVID-19 and the future of work to compile a list of key statistics that provide insight on the changing conceptions around work.

40% of white-collar workers want to stay remote

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Gallup defines white-collar employees as those traditionally working on a computer or in an office. Among white-collar employees, there was little variance in response by gender, with 41% of men and 39% of women preferring to work remotely (nonbinary genders were not accounted for in the poll). An additional 12% of white-collar women and 10% of white-collar men, given the current state of the pandemic, would be willing to work remotely. Earlier in the pandemic, workers cited safety as a key reason for wanting to work from home—now, workers simply prefer it. FlexJobs cites the benefits of remote work range from saving money and a reduced environmental impact to better work-life balance and improved productivity.

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Child care responsibilities a plus for 45% of those preferring remote work

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A Pew Research survey found 45% of respondents cited child care responsibilities as a major reason for preferring work from home. The additional financial and logistical stress of finding adequate care for school-age children whose schools are learning remotely led many parents to attempt to work remotely and care for their children simultaneously. McKinsey found women took on more additional child-rearing and domestic duties during the pandemic, a fact that’s even more pronounced for single mothers and mothers of colour. Child care responsibilities, however, did not top Pew’s list of reasons people chose to work from home. The two reasons were that they simply liked working from home better and were concerned about COVID-19 exposure.

Half of parents struggle to work remotely without interruption

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Mothers (52%) and fathers (48%) of children under the age of 18 reported equally that it is difficult to finish their work without interruption. However, it was not only parents who felt interrupted while working from home: 20% of workers without minor children also encountered interruptions. Parents were less likely to have an adequate workspace at home than those without children.The Washington Post offered some tips to minimise interruptions, including having each parent schedule shifts of when they're in charge. Other tips include waking up earlier than their kids to begin working, keeping a family schedule, and teaching children how to help themselves.

98% of HR leaders plan to expand employee benefits due to COVID-19

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While an overwhelming majority of employers are expanding benefits their employees truly want due to the pandemic, 89% report they are deprioritising at least one benefit their employees no longer find as useful. The most common reduced benefits include those surrounding commuting, tuition reimbursement, catering, and on-site child care. In exchange, companies are expanding flexible care benefits (for children and elders). The vast majority of respondents (95%) reported care duties to be a factor in attrition. Some (41%) are offering higher salaries and promoting from within the company to hedge against what’s being dubbed the “Great Resignation.”

51% of employers expect to expand mental health benefits

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Expanded medical, dental, and retirement benefits top the list of those employers plan to expand. The next-largest group of benefits respondents intend to expand include child care, eldercare, and mental health benefits.

These benefits recognise that employees are three-dimensional people with competing priorities outside of work. Employees with better mental health are more productive by as much as 12%, according to a study in the United Kingdom. Burnout and mental health came in third on a list of the 12 biggest challenges during the pandemic, according to a McKinsey/Lean In report.

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25% of employees struggle to unplug while working remotely

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While the biggest benefit Buffer's State of Remote Work Survey found with working remotely was the flexibility of working schedules (cited by 32% of respondents), that same flexibility blurred the lines between work and downtime for many remote workers. Workers need to manage burnout when the home and office have merged. Unplugging was compounded by stay-at-home orders and the inability to see friends after work. These numbers may change as restrictions continue to lift and non-working hours resume the normal pace of life. Eden Workplace recommends setting clear boundaries, focusing on well-being, and embracing creativity as ways to disconnect from work.

Remote work has changed how 41% of workers collaborate, communicate

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Collaboration and communication changes included greater online communication via video conferencing and digital platforms such as Slack. It’s possible that the longer an employee works remotely, the easier they find virtual collaboration. Only 13.5% of employees who were remote before the onset of COVID-19 found collaboration and communication a top difficulty. This compares to the 20.5% of those who went remote due to COVID-19 that cited collaboration and communication as their biggest struggle. Both groups had similar response levels for the top struggle: the inability to unplug.

25% of workplaces changed sick leave or paid time off plans

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Before the March 2020 stay-at-home orders in the U.S., 75% of employees had paid sick leave.

Unionised and full-time workers are more likely to have sick leave than part-time or non-unionized workers. Of the firms that offered paid time off, 34% added between one and five paid leave days due to the pandemic, a fifth added between six and 10 days, and 37% added more than 10 days. For the companies that added additional sick leave in response to the pandemic, 90% indicated these changes were temporary, though BLS does not have clear data on when or how these benefits will revert. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was the first federal sick leave provision ever passed in the U.S. and granted up to two weeks off due to COVID-19 for employees at firms of 500 or fewer workers.
In Singapore, if you are covered by the Employment Act, you are entitled to paid sick leave if you have worked for your employer for at least 3 months.

54% of workers give heavy consideration to health insurance

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More than 722,000 Americans have died from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Given the figures, COVID-19 has reprioritised the importance of health benefits to employees. The average American spends nearly $7,500 annually for single coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It’s no wonder 54% of Fractl survey respondents, many of whom are young and healthy, are paying more attention than ever to total compensation including health insurance benefits rather than just salaries when considering a new role. Health coverage is by far the priciest benefit companies offer their employees, but a high-quality plan may entice new recruits and keep current employees from looking elsewhere.

Millennials, Gen Zers more inclined to strongly prefer remote work

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Younger generations prefer remote work to in-person employment. According to Pew Research, millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, while Gen Zers were born in 1997 onward. Forbes found that both generations saw working remotely as less stressful and promotes a better work-life balance. Morning Consult and Bloomberg News found that 49% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work, compared to 39% of workers overall. While 68% of senior management would like employees in the office three or more days per week, with the “Great Resignation” in full force, employers need to think carefully about office flexibility to retain top talent.

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