Data Drop: Remote Work to Remain, the Focus of DEI and the Evolution of Benefits


There are certain issues that have taken center stage in the collective conscious when talking about the workplace, the future of work and how the current workforce is faring in the COVID era and now, beyond. Naturally, as those things enter the collective conscious, researchers find themselves asking what exactly holds true and what can we learn from it?

As usual, my inbox is full of the latest studies and surveys being conducted by HR vendors, researchers and employers of all sizes. In today’s data drop, we’re going to take a closer look at the mentality shift employees have experienced over the last year around remote work, the primary focus for DEI programs and the ongoing struggle employees have experienced with mental health.

No Coming Back

The tired routines of yesteryear have essentially been proven to be a waste of time, energy and resources. Or at least that seems to be the opinion of most workers whose job don’t necessarily need to be tied to a desk.

While numerous studies have shown recently how much people value working from home and that they won’t react positively to being asked to come back into an office full time, a report from CraftJack, a site dedicated to connecting contractors to people looking to improve their homes, asked some interesting questions of more than 2,800 American workers currently working from the confines of their houses.

Key findings include:

  • 61% of Americans would move if given the option to work permanently remote
  • 87% believe they should be paid the same if they move to a more affordable area
  • 87% would work at a company where they never meet their coworkers in person 

Of the insights in the report, we chose to highlight these three for a reason as they’re of particular importance to HR. People are unhappy about being geographically tethered to an office, so much so they don’t even necessarily like the city they are asked to live in, nevermind their home. And for all the belief in our organizational cultures and the work that’s been done to create collaborative environments, many people don’t feel the need to have face-to-face interactions anymore, something that was different just a year ago when the largest remote work experiment ever conducted began.

What all this points to is a shift in perception about work and, in particular, using technology rather than location to work together. As has been noted several times, there is no putting this genie back in the bottle and here we see some data to support that.

Zooming In on DEI

Every organization has a diversity stance now, but what are their actual objectives for DEI? According to a report from Harvard Business Publishing’s Corporate Learning Division, L&D and HR leaders believe the objective to be one of the following:

  • Alignment with organizational values – 53%
  • Competitive talent recruitment and retention – 18%
  • Achievement of business results – 13%

Organizations are focused on certain aspects of diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB). The report shows that leaders view race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age as the top aspects of a DIB strategy, and in that order.

To provide a bit of context around these priorities, the report asked a few specific questions. For example, 80% of respondents have conducted employee training aimed at reduction of bias and increasing inclusion. Why DIB is a priority was fairly obvious, with more than three quarters saying it’s more important to their organizations now than at this time last year.

The New Benefits

COVID has changed what employees want from their benefits package and what employers need to offer to ensure they have a healthy workforce capable of making the business successful. A recent survey from the Harvard Business Review showed that 98% of leaders say they plan to offer at least one new or expanded benefit in the coming year.

The top priorities were child or senior care benefits, flexible work hours and expanded mental health coverage. While the pandemic has thrown mental health into a new light, creating more stress and a mental health crisis unlike anything seen previously. The cost will come to programs that offered commuter benefits and things like tuition assistance, all of which now seem like a bit of a luxury.

 The most severely impacted group from the pandemic has likely been women. Over the course of the pandemic, nearly 3 million women have been forced out of the workforce, many due to competing priorities around family. As a result 63% of leaders said they were planning to expand existing childcare assistance policies, while 57% said their organizations were placing a greater need on care benefits.

While there is still a long way to go on helping people bring the best version of themselves to work each day and giving women the resources they need to succeed, there appears to be recognition of the issue at the highest levels. So often, the first step on the road to recovery is acknowledging the problem.

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