80% of organizations did not have a remote work program before COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic completely altered the way of work, changing the landscape for hiring and daily business operations, Mind Edge and Skye Learning found.

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The majority of employers (80%) said they did not have a remote-work program before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but the crisis forced companies to adapt, a Mind Edge and Skye Learning report found. This significant shift completely altered the working world,  impacting hiring, work/life balance, and daily business operations.

The State of Remote Work 2020: The Age of the Pandemic report, released on Tuesday, surveyed more than 800 US remote workers to determine their attitudes surrounding work from home (WFH). 

SEE: Top 100+ tips for telecommuters and managers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

While social distancing guidelines around the nation are still recommended, many businesses are looking to return to the office. The situation is still uncertain, however: Nearly a third (28%) of workers and managers said they expect to remain working remotely full time even after returning to normal operations, but another 35% said they expect to return to the office full time. 

Opinions surrounding WFH varied, according to the report, with many struggling to strike a balance between work responsibilities and home life. 

"For many people, remote work has blurred the line between 'work' and 'life,'" said Jefferson Flanders, CEO of MindEdge Learning. "One of the biggest complaints from survey respondents was that they were unsure when it was time to end work for the day; as a result, we suspect that a lot of folks are working longer than they might be if they were still at the office." 

Advantages and disadvantages of remote work 

"Many workers have been increasingly hard-pressed to maintain a healthy work-life balance, especially since the rapid shift to fully remote work," Flanders said.

Some 30% of respondents said that working from home made their jobs harder, while 26% said it made their jobs easier. Most (40%) said the impact of remote work was both positive and negative, the report found. 

Workers ages 45 and older seemed to struggle the most, with 33% reporting that WFH made their jobs harder. 

Some of the biggest complaints with WFH included the increased number of meetings or phone calls (44%), problems with communication technology (37%), distractions at home (33%), and uncertainty about when to end the work day (23%), according to the report. 

"There are some sobering findings as well. Only 12% of workers say that working remotely has had a positive effect on their mental health, and half say that working from home has had a negative impact on their emotional or mental health," Flanders said.

"Those who reported an even stronger dislike? Parents with school-age children at home, with half (50%) reporting a negative impact on their emotional or mental health," Flanders added. 

Remote workers found ways to break up the time and reduce stress, however. More than half (51%) said they went outside for a walk/fresh air, some 43% said they caught up on TV, and 31% said they took breaks to spend time with family.

As for the positive sides of WFH, "It's what you would expect: Flexibility and shorter commutes top the list, of those who say that remote work has made their jobs easier," Flanders said. 

The majority (66%) cited increased flexibility as the biggest perk, followed by a lack of commute (59%) and fewer interruptions (46%). 

Changes in the hiring and training landscape 

The report also explored how hiring and training has shifted during this time. 

"Despite the recent disruption of the economy, 37% of the managers in our survey say their companies are hiring, and they express a strong preference for experienced workers (42%) rather than recent college grads (17%)," Flanders said. 

"But in this very uncertain economic environment, we think that the demand for training is going to be very strong," Flanders noted. "Even before the coronavirus hit, our surveys found that many workers were interested in skills training to 'future-proof' their careers. Now that so many workers are unexpectedly back in the job market, we think that many of them will be looking for skills training to get a leg up on the competition." 

Within organizations, that majority (82%) of managers said that training in how to manage remote employees would be helpful in navigating this new work environment, indicating that employees want to be upskilled, for the most part. 

"For those who are looking for a job, one of the biggest findings in our survey is that managers place a high value on certifications—exam-based credentials awarded by an industry-recognized group," Flanders said. 

"Close to three-quarters (72%) report that certifications on a candidate's resume hold a great deal or fair amount of value," Flanders said. "With this in mind, graduates who are new to the workforce can begin to prepare for remote work positions by building their credentials to remain agile in times of flux." 

For more, check out CompTIA offers remote certification exams, extends exam voucher expiration dates due to coronavirus on TechRepublic. 

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