Remote work is here to stay, Gartner finds

A survey of business leaders found that 82% plan to maintain a partial work-from-home structure even after COVID-19 is no longer a threat.

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Research and advisory company Gartner has found that businesses looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic are going to be facing a new kind of challenge: Managing a new kind of highly complicated, hybrid workforce. 

The study found that 82% of business leaders say their organizations plan to let employees continue to work from home at least some of the time, while 47% plan to allow employees to do so permanently. 

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

COVID-19, said Gartner HR practice advisory VP Elisabeth Joyce, has given businesses a chance to experiment in wide-scale remote work, but looking ahead it may be challenging to go back to the way things were, with employee expectations and plans for business resiliency both being tested during the shutdown. 

"The question now facing many organizations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce," Joyce said. 

Along with regular remote work allowances, other organizations are planning to allow flex days (43%) or flex hours (42%), and a small number (15%) are planning to transition to a workweek of four 10-hour days. No matter how an organization chooses to slice it, there's going to be widespread changes to how many of them operate.

Organizations transitioning to permanent hybrid work structures will need to address more than just a change in managing widespread workforces—they'll also have to figure out how to continue meeting goals. "While remote work isn't new, the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done," Joyce said.

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

61% of managers have increased the number of employee check-ins they do, which may be the reason only 13% have expressed concern over sustaining employee productivity among a remote workforce, despite the fact that Gartner said productivity of remote workers is a frequent topic of conversation. 

What does appear to be an actual concern to business leaders is maintaining their corporate cultures in the face of workers who aren't in a face-to-face environment: 30% said they're concerned about that aspect of transitioning to remote work. 

Also mentioned by Gartner were respondent concerns over creating parity between remote and in-office work experiences, and providing seamless employee experiences for remote workers. 

Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice, said businesses that want to succeed in a new world of hybrid work have to focus—hard—on getting corporate culture and employee experiences right, especially due to all the uncertainty about the future of work in the present moment.

Both corporate culture and employee experience, Kropp said, "help ensure organizations achieve the financial, reputation and talent outcomes that will drive business outcomes and competitive advantage."

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