Working remotely, a staple of the coronavirus public health crisis, is likely here to stay in some form even after the pandemic ends, a majority of CEOs said in a new survey.
The survey of mid-market CEOS from Hofstra University and Marcum LLP shows that more than 80% said they’re likely to allow for a partially remote workforce after the pandemic is over.
The permanent switch to a partially remote workforce will be the most lasting business change from the pandemic, 82% of chief executives said.
“One of the most frequent questions I've been answering in the last few weeks is, 'How should we be returning our employees to the workplace, especially when some don't want to come back?’” said CBIA HR Counsel Diane Mokriski.
“The answer, of course, will depend on each company's circumstances, but a hybrid remote/in-person model is often a good solution.”
The survey polled 251 CEOs from companies with revenues ranging from $5 million to over $1 billion.
“There is no doubt that workplace practices, policies, and behaviors will be changing permanently in many ways post COVID,” said Janet Lenaghan, dean of Hofstra’s Zarb School of Business.
“Mid-market CEOs clearly recognize that giving people flexibility is a smart business strategy that leads to greater productivity.”
But Mokriski said employers should take several factors into account when deciding about employees returning to the workplace.
“Consider things like the percentage of the workforce that's been vaccinated, the physical space between employees at work, whether some employees are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease, whether employees can be productive, effective, and efficient when working remotely, and the potential for employee turnover if workers view the company as being unreasonably inflexible,” Mokirski said.
Almost half of CEOs (45%) said they will require employees to get a COVID vaccine if it’s legal, and 36% said they would offer employees incentives to get vaccinated.
“It's important for employers to understand and appreciate that there are strategies they can legally implement, but that those may differ from the strategies they should implement, based on the makeup of their workforce and the company’s needs,” Mokriski said.
She said employers can legally require that employees be vaccinated, as long as they make exceptions for religious or disability-related reasons, and can ask about employees' vaccination status and whether they plan to get one.
The survey also found that optimism among CEOs is slowly rising.
“Ten percent now rate their outlook as ‘very positive’—10 on a scale of one to 10—compared to 3.4% who were ‘very positive’ two months ago,” the survey said.
CEOs in most economic sectors were “conservatively optimistic” about the next 12 months, the survey said, with wholesale/distribution companies the most positive, with 100% of their CEOs rating their outlook between five and 10, followed by technology/communications companies with 82% expressing optimism, 75% of retail employers, and 74% of manufacturing CEOs.
As to what will influence their business planning over the next 12 months, one-third said economic concerns will be the primary influence, while 62% said economic concerns would be among the top three influences.
Other factors impacting business planning include technology (38%), rising material and operational costs (37%), and available talent (34%).
The CEOs were also asked about the potential impact of a $15 federal minimum wage.
More than one-third (69%) said they’re preparing for $15 an hour while 27% said they’re taking no steps for the possible wage hike.
Among the potential outcomes of a $15 minimum wage, CEOs cited more automation, more contract work, cutting hours, cutting benefits and requiring workers to pay more for them, and layoffs.