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A survey of workers during the coronavirus pandemic finds that most believe the post-COVID-19 workplace will look very different.

May 26, 2020

Most American workers give their employers high marks for their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating the critical and trusted role companies play in providing leadership in times of crisis, a new Prudential survey shows.

The survey, conducted on behalf of Prudential by Morning Consult, found 72% of workers graded their employers a B or higher for their handling of pandemic-related issues. Half of American workers said they feel more committed to their employer because of its response.

This role also has a flip side. More than 40% of workers who gave their employer a grade of C or lower for its pandemic response said they’ll be looking for a new job once the pandemic is over.

The results are consistent with a February survey conducted as the coronavirus was taking hold in the United States. That study found nearly half of workers said their employers would play a trusted role in protecting employee health and providing coronavirus-related information and health resources.

“The measure of a good company is how well it conducts itself during the worst of times,” said Rob Falzon, vice chair, Prudential. “In the current environment, workers are counting on their employers for their immediate safety as well as their sustained well-being and continued development. Employers who respond accordingly will be doing right by their workers and will be best positioned for future success.”

The Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Living the Future of Work—conducted between April 29 and May 6—captured 2,050 full-time workers’ feelings on a range of issues related to the pandemic, from remote work to what workplaces might look like post-COVID-19.

With more than half of respondents working remotely at least some of the time, the survey findings also shed light on the home as workplace. Of that group, three-quarters praised their employers for ensuring their ability to work remotely; and in the shift from commuting to remote work, the skills they say they have gained most relate to learning new technology and time management—28% and 24%, respectively.

However, there have been some issues in the shift to remote work, with 40% saying that distraction and lack of focus are their biggest challenges, while the same number cited isolation as their primary concern. While more than one in two respondents said they feel as productive working remotely, 47% said they are working more hours at home than they did in the workplace.

These findings could indicate a coming challenge for employers in areas of work/life balance and creating community for remote employees. While more than half of workers said they would like to work remotely in the future, 55% of those currently working from home reported feeling less connected to their company.

Workers are also using their time at home to learn the skills they think they will need to compete in the job market. Underscoring a previous survey, in which less than half of respondents were confident they have the skills needed to compete in the future, 33% of workers used this time to learn to help ensure they will be employable.

As employers contemplate what their post-COVID-19 future may look like, a majority of workers say the workplace will never return to its previous “normal,” and will need to be physically and operationally restructured for employee health and wellness. In fact, 66% of those surveyed said worksites will need to be redesigned to create more personal space, and 1 in 2 wants their employer to limit the number of in-person meetings.

“When Americans return to the worksite, they will be entering the workplace of the future,” says Falzon. “This experience has accelerated the future of work, which will have a lasting impact on where we work, when we work, and how we work.”

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