Businesses Extend Work from Home

Topics: Small Business

Summary: As the second wave of coronavirus rages across the U.S., many businesses are extending their work from home policies into mid-2021. Find out what employees think about returning to work and what working from home could look like in the future. Both large, mid and small businesses should review their insurance policies to ensure they have adequate coverage during these changes.

Work from home extensions

Since March, many workers and managers have settled into a new routine of working from home. Working remotely has profoundly impacted businesses, from their business continuity programs and employee safety precautions to changes in their office locations and spaces.

Organizations Extend Remote Work Policies

At the beginning of the pandemic in the spring, companies adjusted to remote work to comply with their state’s stay-at-home orders. At that time, employers and employees alike thought they would be back in the office by the summer. As the coronavirus crisis continued, they figured they would be going back to the office by the fall, which moved to returning in the new year. However, with COVID-19 cases growing, companies around the United States have extended their work from home policies even further and delayed their return to the office dates. Large corporations such as Google, Slack, Microsoft, Target and more have postponed having workers returning to the office until summer 2021 at the earliest.

Large organizations are continuing to adapt their work from home policies and requirements, including giving employees money to purchase home office supplies, providing bonuses for relocating away from more expensive cities and offering more flexibility for future work from home options.

A recent Envoy study found that currently, 73% of U.S. employees fear going back into their workspace as it could pose a risk to their health and safety. Workers’ concerns for returning to their office or workplace vary based on the type of work they do. Essential workers, retail staff and those who work in manufacturing are not as concerned as those who work in the technology and business service industries.

Impact of Remote Work on Businesses

The shift to working from home has impacted commercial real estate, especially in urban areas designed for the 9-5 workforce. The continuation of working remotely has seen a significant decrease in traffic to urban centers, downtown business areas and metropolitan neighborhoods. The spring shutdowns led to reports of urban dwellers moving from the city to rural areas and suburbs, as many businesses are no longer requiring the need to physically go into an office, negating the worry of a long daily commute.

However, large numbers of the labor force cannot work remotely, which has wide-ranging implications for the economy. For instance, it has worsened the inequality gap between those that can work from home and those in retail, health care and other customer-facing services that go into their place of work every day.

As businesses continue to adjust, they need to weigh the benefits and challenges for their workforce and their organizations, such as:

Work from Home Savings for Companies

Working from home became necessary during the pandemic to help slow the spread of the virus, leaving many business centers and office buildings empty. As companies reopened, there was a reduced need for larger office spaces, as workers were given the option to continue working from home – and many took that option. In the next few years, business owners will need to determine if they want to keep larger office spaces in urban centers or convert to more flexible workspaces to save on rent and everyday facility costs.

Reduction in Business Travel Costs

Virtual meetings have taken over in-person meetings, thus reducing business travel costs. While this might not have all the personal touches for face-to-face meetings, businesses' savings could outweigh the costs.

Workers’ Compensation Claims

Small business insurance coverage, including general liability, commercial property and workers’ compensation, will protect workers while at the worksite, office or home. Workers’ compensation insurance generally covers an employee who is hurt during business hours, even while working from home, but workers’ compensation claims have changed due to remote work. As part of a business continuity plan, business owners should have best practices and protocols for their employees to mitigate the risks found in working from home, including ergonomically unfriendly or awkward workspaces.

The Future of Work from Home

Companies will start to look at hybrid work models that allow office workers to work from home a few days a week, allowing them to collaborate with team members while offering more flexible workdays. Global Workplace Analytics reports that 56% of the U.S. workforce has a job that is compatible (at least partially) with remote work, but before the pandemic, only 3.6% of the workforce worked at home half of the time or more. They estimate that by the end of 2021, 25% to 30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week, as employees demand more flexibility from their employers.

In a July 2020 Forbes survey, over 50% of respondents said that even after a vaccine and the pandemic lessens, they would prefer to work a combination of days in the office and working remotely. 23% would like to continue working fully remote, while only 25% said they would want to return to the office full time. Workers surveyed said they were more focused and deadline-oriented when working at home; however, 47% of workers have some difficulties with projects requiring team collaboration. Slack surveyed workers and found that a majority (72%) do not want to go back to the “old way” of working, with only 12% wanting to return to full-time work in an office.

The pandemic has reshaped how businesses work and will work in the future. The quick turnaround to remote work has shown the importance of flexibility and an employer’s trust in their workforce. When the pandemic is in the past, employers will see the need to build on that trust and create more flexible work from home policies. Supporting their employees to work from home with the right tools will ultimately help a business’s productivity.

Protect Your Small Business with AmTrust

AmTrust Financial understands and supports small businesses across the country as they adjust to pandemic operating rules. Contact us for more information about small business insurance options to protect your onsite employees and your remote workers.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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