64,000,000 people are working from home today. That’s 40% of the US workforce.
The pandemic has brought dramatic change. Football games are played in nearly empty stadiums. Temperature checks and symptom questionnaires are part of the daily routine for many employees. Terms like social distancing, essential worker and PPE are now part of our vocabulary. Someday, though, our sports heroes will play to cheering crowds again. Temperature checks and social distancing will be unbelievable stories of the frightening times told to children. But, the sudden shift to a much more remote workforce could be a permanent legacy of the virus.
By: Ric Neeley
Consider this. The US Census bureau has been tracking a steadily rising trend in working from home for over twenty years. In 2000, about 3.3% of Americans worked full-time and permanently from their homes. By 2017, that number had grown to 5.2%. In 2018, about 8 million people worked from their homes. But nearly overnight, after the outbreak of the virus, remote work skyrocketed by 800% to the 64 million we see today.
A Blip or a Trend?
Loyalty marketers must always be on the lookout for trends to keep their offerings relevant and to continue addressing the evolving needs of their customers. The trick for marketers has always been to catch the wave of a lasting trend and avoid following short-lived fads down the rabbit hole.
So, the question becomes, has the pandemic created just a short-term spike in remote workers or has it accelerated a trend to a tipping point?
In May 2020, E2E Group surveyed over 500 human resource executives and managers from a wide range of industries and company sizes to learn how COVID-19 had impacted corporate operations and future planning. The report called, Trendicators: The Path Forward, revealed remote workers had nearly doubled in a just a matter of weeks since the outbreak of the virus. However, the HR pros surveyed expected most of their site-based workers to return after state-mandated stay-at-home orders were lifted in late spring.
The ongoing pandemic and subsequent surge in cases this summer and more recent spikes this fall have led companies to mitigate disease spread by limiting on-site workers. This meant providing more tools and allowing more staff to work remotely. Organizations have embraced online meeting and event platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and GoToWebinar. Last summer, Google announced their employees would not return to any of their facilities until July 2021. About the same time, Facebook and Twitter said their employees may never return to an office.
This could simply mean the virus has extended a short-term solution. After all, there are benefits when people are working together face-to-face. Communications are enhanced when people can see those important non-verbal cues. Brainstorming may come more easily when people are together and can feed on the excitement in a room. Relationship building is simpler, and teamwork develops more naturally with those nearby. Humans are social animals and need interaction with others to be truly happy and fulfilled. So, there’s strong reasons to have everyone back in corporate facilities just as quickly as possible.
The economic benefits to both the company and the employee could outweigh other benefits and lead everyone to adapting to a world of remote work:
- Inc. Magazine reports that remote employees save $2,000 – $7,000 annually in transportation, clothing, food and childcare.
The past nine months have demonstrated the benefits of remote work to both employers and their people. So much so, that in their most recent Trendicators report on Rethinking Remote Work, E2E Group uncovered that 43% of current remote employees wish to continue working remotely post-COVID-19.
How does Remote Work Help Create Loyal Customers?
Identifying a trend doesn’t create loyal customers. But understanding the needs of those impacted by the trend and addressing them can. Rethinking Remote Work found four key challenges among newly remote employees.
So, how can loyalty marketers help address these challenges?
Building a new addition onto a participant’s home to create a dedicated workspace is probably out of the question but offering small desks to fit into virtually any space can maximize existing space and turn just a corner of the bedroom into an office. You may not be able to send over a nanny, but you could offer educational and entertainment options to engage children. Hours of staring at a computer causes eye strain. Suggesting products that can help reduce this or upgraded monitors that can be networked to laptops could provide relief. Or how about offering a Bluetooth headset with a microphone to make those online meetings clearer and more comfortable for your valued customer? There’s certainly no shortage of award offerings you can add to help address the needs of your participants who are now working from home.
Sharing helpful advice on working from home is another approach. This takes a little time and research but can be well worth the effort by demonstrating your understanding and engagement with remote workers. Create communication pieces with pertinent ideas on working from home and featuring reward offerings dedicated to simplifying and improving the lives of remote workers. Offering short 10 or 15-minute webinars, videos or e-newsletters with suggestions on working effectively from home can draw even great participation. These could be promoted with sign-ups for participants to identify themselves as remote workers allowing future target marketing efforts.
The pandemic accelerated remote work to the point where even when we do return to offices things will be different. Employers, once skeptical about remote worker productivity, will be open to more of their people working for home after witnessing the benefits. Employees will look for the greater flexibility to work remotely as well as ideas and products to help them. Find your place to catch this wave and create loyal customers who look to you for help and answers as they transform their homes into their workplaces.
Ric Neeley is a Director of Marketing for Hinda Loyalty Group, a US-based loyalty solutions provider that helps engage, inspire, and reward the people most important to your business.