The pandemic brought a big change to work around the world and the U.S., but we don’t yet know whether those changes are here to stay.
More than half of the U.S. workforce was working from home in April, a dramatic increase from just 13% before the start of the pandemic, according to two rounds of surveys by Upwork. Hiring managers and employers have found the transition to remote work to be better than expected and say they are more open to such arrangements in the future.
“Before the mass amount of work from home, there was a great deal of skepticism as to whether working from home was even an option,” Anne Walsh, Guggenheim’s chief investment officer of fixed income said in an interview that aired as part of the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit: Road to Recovery. “Quite clearly society has now learned that this is a demonstrable success, and this will give working people so much more flexibility going forward.”
Two experts weighed on what those changes and flexibility might look like at Yahoo Finance’s annual summit.
‘Better use of time than the painful commute’
The autonomy of remote work allows individuals to have more control over their schedules and tasks and to enjoy their work more, according to Walsh who referred to an October Prudential survey.
“We've shown ourselves as a work society that work can be changed and the style of work can be changed in such a way that we can get a lot more productivity without that constant, what I call the ‘industrial model of face time’ and sitting next to your manager and so forth,” Walsh said. “The work world is ready for a change.”
More flexibility and options to work remotely will reduce the least favorite aspect of a working person's life: commuting. Remote workers saved about an hour by not commuting, according to the survey. While the majority of the saved commute time — 57% — was applied to work, the rest can be used towards time benefiting your physical and mental health, according to Walsh.
“Even if they're using that for some other purpose, spending time with their family, catching up on a little bit extra rest or what have you, or enjoying health,” she said, “is a better use of time than the painful commute that so many people had to go through.”
‘We can reach deeper to bring talent into the organization’
The pandemic may push the private sector to expand their talent pool now that remote work is proven to be effective and being in a specific location is less of an issue.
“If you provide that kind of flexibility, we can then from a geographic standpoint, as well as from a socioeconomic standpoint, we can reach deeper to bring talent into the organization,” Rob Falzon Prudential’s vice chairman told Yahoo Finance. “We can accommodate the individual needs of that talent in coming to work for us, whether it be scheduling flexibility or location, remote.”
Before the pandemic, Prudential made employees who wanted to work remotely prove to their manager why they should do this. Now, Falzon said the company intends to “turn that telescope around.” Managers will have to show why employees need to be on-site.
‘We need to attract women to the industry’
Female workers have been particularly hurt by job losses compared with previous recessions because sectors with high female employment — like service occupations such as restaurants and hospitality — suffered some of the worst job losses, an April paper from the National Bureau of Economics found. But the more flexibility for remote work in the future may help.
“Women have been more disproportionately, negatively impacted during the coronavirus because of some of these burdens,” Walsh said. “My hope is that on the backside of coronavirus that women will enjoy the benefits of this new flexibility in work.”
Women have been seeking ways to balance the burdens of family and work, so the option to work remotely and have more flexibility may help attract and retain them as top talent.
“I come from the investment management industry and we need to attract women to the industry and retain them,” Walsh said. “Whether it's providing more satisfaction at work, opportunity, or flexibility, [these] are going to be strong ways for companies to attract and retain top talent.”
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