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COVID-19 Return to Work Survey: Key Findings

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At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, immense shock and uncertainty brought about an immediate scramble by many organizations to change and implement programs -- just to stay afloat from the financial, emotional, physical, and social stress they were experiencing. To equip leaders with the relevant data and strategies they needed, QTI launched a survey in April to identify the COVID-19 impact on talent and total rewards strategies. The key findings and solutions from that survey can be found here.

Now, the dust is starting to settle. In April, 24% of business were closed under WI’s Safer at Home order; as of June, only 4% of businesses remain closed either partially or fully. As states and counties are reopening, the future outlook of business is becoming a little clearer. While there continues to be uncertainty, we are entering into the next phase and adjusting to a “new normal”.

To help organizations strategize their transition to this phase, we released another survey between May 18-22 -- in which primarily Wisconsin-based employers shared their plans for returning to the workplace. With174 participating organizations of varied sizes and industries, the survey results offer a robust snapshot of both return to work approaches and an update on important workforce changes including furloughs, layoffs, pay reductions, remote work, and more. 

As each organization is unique, please note that not all are taking the same approach to returning to work, as COVID-19 has impacted, and continues to impact,organizations differently.

Workforce Changes

Since the April survey, businesses are better understanding how they will be impacted over the next 6 to 12 months – while some industries have thrived, the majority are expecting anywhere from a 5% - 40% reduction in budget revenue. As the cost of employees is about 70% of operating expenses, it is no surprise that organizations are making changes to their workforce in response.

Furloughs and Termination

Since the April survey, the percentage of responding organizations that have furloughed employees has decreased from 33% to 25%; unfortunately, those that have been obligated to terminate employees has increased from 12% to 18%.

Hiring Changes

As growth lulls and budgets are stretched, 73% of organizations have made changes in their hiring practices – the majority have applied limitations such as hiring freezes, decreasing overtime hours, and delaying start dates.

Workweek Scheduling and Flexibility

Our survey revealed that 92% of organizations have adjusted to remote work and 68% have allowed for flexible schedules since the onset of COVID-19. Yet, even as many companies take steps towards returning to the workplace, the majority of those surveyed plan to modify policies to continue these practices in some capacity moving forward.

Hours and Compensation Reductions

Despite the economic hardship, many companies are remaining optimistic -- the majority of organizations have not made pay or hours reductions, nor do they plan to delay or adjust merit/COLA base pay increases.

Of those making compensation changes,common actions include:

  • Freezing incentives
  • Delaying incentive payouts
  • Goal adjustments

Return to Work

In this issue of public health, it is evident that cautious planning and preparation are required for a successful transition into the next phase. Nearly all surveyed organizations have a return to work strategy or are currently preparing one – in fact, 98% are implementing multiple measures of precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. There are many considerations and best practices to help keep your employees safe -- in addition to these results, consider referencing our “Return to Work” checklist to guide you in your decision making.

Top Precautionary Measures

  • Mandating social distancing
  • Establishing protocals for employees who present symptoms/test positive
  • Rigorous workplace cleaning

Return to Work Timing

61% of organizations anticipate the majority of employees back in the workplace within 60 days of the stay-at-home restrictions being lifted – and for employers with 100 or less employers, this number increases to 70%. Only 4% of employers plan to delay their return until a vaccine is available.

  • 12% plan to allow their employees to work remotely indefinitely
  • 2/3 organizations are planning to reconfigure the physical workspace to allow for social distancing
  • 57% of organizations, with 250 employees or more, are planning to conduct testing and/or contact tracing
  • 70% of organizations plan to require PPE
  • 60% of organizations requiring PPE plan to provide masks for employee use
  • 32% of organizations are conducting employee temperature checks

For more information on successful return to work strategies, contact us or check out our COVID-19 Resource page.

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