Did 2020 Change the Workplace Forever?

Companies report real attention to Flexibility, DEI, Mental Health

The profound events of 2020 will have lasting repercussions on the workplace, especially in the areas of flexibility; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); and mental health support, according to survey results released Thursday from global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“In order to attract and retain the best talent, companies should embrace the technology that allows remote work and flexible work schedules. The commitment to diversity and mental health support that was brought to the forefront in 2020 will only help these efforts,” said Andrew Challenger, workplace authority and Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Flexibility & Remote Work

Over 84% of companies responded they are offering some flexibility to workers during this time. Of those, 64% report offering flexibility to all employees, and 40% are offering flexibility specifically to parents and caregivers. Nearly 13% report offering child care options during this time, and 23% increased paid time off offerings.

When asked if this flexibility will extend past the pandemic, 95% of companies reported some or all elements of the newly instituted flexibility will continue. Just 4% of companies reported they will eventually return to pre-pandemic routines.

The survey was conducted online among 201 Human Resources executives from companies of various sizes and industries nationwide. Responses were collected March 2nd through March 12th, 2021.

Meanwhile, 6% of the 96% of companies that moved all or part of their workforces to remote work situations plan to return to their pre-pandemic remote work policies. Another 4% will not keep workers remote, and 5% are still determining what they will do. That means 84.2% of companies are retaining new remote work options for their teams.

Do you plan to keep remote workers remote?

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

“Remote work is the work of the future. Positions that were previously thought to be perpetually in person, such as customer service or other client-facing roles, were successfully converted to remote positions during the pandemic. This will continue with the adoption of artificial intelligence and robotics in the coming decades,” said Challenger.

Racial Justice & DEI Efforts

While many companies were forced to convert in-person work to remote in order to continue operating, the racial justice protests caused many companies to rethink how they talk about race with workers and the policies they enact around diversity.

Over a quarter of the companies surveyed facilitated guided discussions about race directly due to the racial justice protests last summer. Another 19% of companies updated their current DEI policies, while 13% created policies. Nearly 4% of companies started DEI committees to respond, while 3% have begun a process to address race.

Nearly 60% of companies are actively working to develop diverse talent, and 26% said they recently recognized and promoted diverse talent.

Mental Health Support

The pandemic also brought mental health and the need for support into stark relief. Over 51% of companies responded they are making an extra effort to address mental health issues during this time, and 23% are taking a case-by-case approach. Just 2% of respondents said they are not addressing this issue with workers.

“The intense isolation created by the pandemic is doubtless impacting almost everyone on any given team. Managers should schedule regular check-ins with their workers to assess how they are doing; what outside factors may be impacting them, such as family or health issues; and whether workloads need to be adjusted to bring relief,” said Challenger.

“Mental health issues have too long been considered taboo, and it’s unfortunate that it took a global pandemic to give workers the impetus to talk about these issues more openly. But now that so many of us are enduring the same shared experience, companies should highlight mental health support and create an environment where workers can freely discuss their issues and how their jobs may play a role,” he added.

See our latest survey results (Challenger Post-COVID Return to Work Plans, March 2021)

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. © in an online survey conducted March 2nd through March 12th, 2021 among 201 Human Resources executives.

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