Most U.S. employers have accepted that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the future of work. This is particularly true on the fundamental level of where employees work. Aside from looking around our own virtual workspaces, how do we know this?
First, since the start of the pandemic, employees have worked from home in unprecedented numbers. Before the crisis, only 13% of workers in the U.S. were remote at firms run by the Fortune CEO community. By June, that number stood at 73% of workers in the U.S., even though some states had eased their lockdowns allowing businesses to reopen.
Further, for many companies, particularly in tech, the work-from-home experiment has been surprisingly successful. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and when faced with no other option but to adapt, CEOs of the 2020 Fortune 500 list reported that one of the single most important things the crisis has taught them is working from home works.
Finally, according to research from Gartner Inc., nearly three quarters, or 74%, of chief financial officers expect to transition a number of previously on-site employees to remote work setups permanently in the aftermath of COVID-19.
This data is not surprising when you consider the advantages of remote work — substantially lower real estate costs, increased flexibility for employees, access to a much wider and more diverse talent pool, and a positive impact on the environment due to reduced commuting. In addition, considering that spikes of the virus are likely to continue for some time, many employers appreciate the health and safety benefits most of all.
Of course, there are challenges too, for example, how to effectively onboard new hires, how to maintain a sense of company culture and deliver a top-notch employee experience without working together at a company office, as well as mitigating against unintended disparate treatment of employees, among others.
While there are certainly hurdles to navigate, risk profiles to consider and cost-benefit decisions to be made, there is nothing legally insurmountable about transitioning to a permanent remote work model. Each organization is different, and what works for one
company many not work for another, but with careful planning, it can be done.
Recognizing that there are many integrated legal considerations and drivers, including employee compensation and benefits, data privacy and trade secrets, corporate law, and corporate tax, what follows is a basic five-step blueprint of the U.S. employment law considerations for building out your company’s remote work plan.
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This article was originally published in Law360.