No one can deny the devastating effects of COVID-19, as the virus continues to cripple the US, which now reports 10.3 million cases and nearly 240,000 deaths, and shows no signs of slowing down. The US reported surpassing a record 100,000 cases for each of the last five days. The coronavirus has deeply affected Americans' lifestyle, and sent many to shelter at home, school at home, and work from home. A Skedulo report released this week reveals that despite serious concerns for office safety (33%), 50% of desk-based workers have returned to the office: 33% of their companies have implemented mandatory requirements to work from the office full time and 17% part time.
Despite issues which were a result of the pandemic, "accelerated digital transformation is a silver-lining," said Matt Fairhurst, CEO and co-founder of Skedulo, who added that the quickened digital transformation "increased technology adoption for virtual customer appointments tools, new messaging tools, and online appointment scheduling and more point to a better-equipped and safer workforce. This also signals an opportunity for software companies to provide tools for the deskless workforce, an underserved market, as there is substantial room for improvement."
The 33% of respondents with serious concerns for an office return actually jumps to 75% for those whose companies made working from the office mandatory.
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Additionally, 60% of employees polled said they felt work has been more difficult during the coronavirus pandemic, and 51% across the entire study said their job satisfaction was negatively impacted by COVID-19. They cited more work due to staff reductions (42% for deskless, 47% of desk-based), as well as not receiving a planned raise or promotion (33% of both).
Productivity was also affected, despite the fact that 33% of all workers (37% of desk-based), said that their working hours have increased during the pandemic. And, according to respondents, and 28% of all workers said productivity has decreased, 32% of deskless workers, and 24% of desk-based workers also cite decreased productivity.
The impact on customer service found 34% of deskless workers claiming that quality of service has been negatively affected during COVID-19, but 66% said they were delivering the same amount of quality of service during the pandemic.
Overall, employees are optimistic about the new normal, with 86% of desk-based respondents and 78% of deskless respondents saying that their employer has done enough to limit potential exposure of COVID-19.
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Company edicts, employee reactions, and the state of optimism
- 73% implemented new tech for deskless workers during the pandemic
- 33% said it is now mandatory to work from the office full time
- 31% said their company has not asked employees to return to the office
- 19% said working from the office is optional
- 17% said it is mandatory to work from the office part time
- 66% have concerns about returning to work
- 75% have concerns about mandatory requirements to returning to the office
- 64% of desk-based workers with mandatory requirements to returning to the office
- cite the pandemic as negatively affecting job satisfaction
- 80% said they feel they have the necessary tools to complete their jobs.
- 78% were given tools to meet virtually with customers
- 72% were given tools to message customers
- 59% were given tools for online scheduling of appointments
- 29% were given tools to take notes
- 24% were given tools to track any potential mapping routes for travel optimization
- 40% of desk-based and 42% of deskless employees are optimistic based on their employers actions during the pandemic
- 30% of desk-based and 35% of deskless employees said their industry has a positive economic outlook
- 28% of desk-based and 32% of deskless employees said their company invested in tech to make their jobs easier
- 25% of desk-based and 30% of deskless employees said their company is showing signs of recovery and is hiring
- 23% of desk-based and 25% of deskless employees said the economy is growing steadily, despite the pandemic
- 21% of desk-based and 25% of deskless employees said new politics that have been introduced during the pandemic will remain long-term
- 18% of desk-based and 17% of deskless employees said that nothing makes them optimistic about the future of their job
"Field workers in tech sectors, like your cable or solar installation technician, aren't too different from other mobile workers, like a home healthcare worker or cleaning service provider," Fairhurst said. Overall, "the pandemic resulted in longer and more difficult workdays, and put these workers at increased risk for COVID-19" than colleagues who are desk-based. What we're seeing at Skedulo is the deskless workforce needs more tools and technologies to keep themselves safe while helping them perform more efficiently and focus on the job at hand."
The Skedulo report found that working more hours isn't sustainable, and that companies that have either furloughed or let employees go are the top reason for negative job satisfaction, longer hours, and greater pressure on employees in difficult work environments.
Businesses need to support employees in ways that will improve productivity, which means being actionable: Continue investing in tools and tech to keep employees safe and helping them work more efficiently. Scheduling tools are needed. Companies need to find an easy way to manage job queues and schedule daily work and appointments, while choosing an appropriate employee based on job requirements and to coordinate factors like availability and travel time.
"Overall," said Fairhurst, "these workers are optimistic about their jobs" because of the tech investments "that have made their jobs easier during the pandemic." Organizations which use frontline workers "need to take action that supports employees and helps improve productivity."
Methodology: The 2020 State of Work Report: Defining a New Normal Amid COVID-19 provides data on COVID-19's global effect on field workers and their desk-based counterparts; 1,336 employees (626 deskless workers, 610 desk-based workers, and 100 IT executives) were polled in October 2020, and were primarily from the US, UK, India and Australia.
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