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Press Release

Dutch workers stay resilient and productive during huge shift to working from home for COVID-19

Future of Work|Health and Benefits|Retirement|Talent|Total Rewards|Integrated Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

May 15, 2020

AMSTELVEEN, 11 May, 2020 — The drastic rise in home working driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has not significantly damaged staff productivity in the Netherlands, according to research by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking, and solutions company.

In a survey of Dutch businesses, 12% of employers said that new working arrangements have actually increased productivity, 12% said there had been no change, while 38% said there was only a small negative impact on productivity. Just 8% said their productivity drop was ‘moderate’, and 2% labelled the fall ‘large’.

The move from the office to working from home during the pandemic is a major shift in business practices in the Netherlands. Two thirds of employers (62%) now say that over 75% of their workforce is working remotely. Before COVID-19 half (49%) said less than 10% of their workforce worked remotely.

Asked when they were thinking of stopping their new flexible working arrangements, 67% said they have no end date planned. Because working from home is generally working well, Willis Towers Watson does not believe there will be a push by businesses to get staff back to the office, especially with concerns about social distancing.

Angel Hoover, Head of Benelux, Willis Towers Watson, said: “The pandemic has forced us into a massive experiment in working from home, and many employers are relieved at how well staff productivity has held up, or even increased. Technology like fast broadband has been a huge enabler, and workers have been quick to switch to tools such as video conferencing.

“Employers have seen that staff can be just as productive away from the office, and that may spark a greater shift to more agile working options, which could have implications for office real estate and the wider economy.”

The survey also looked at what employers are doing to help staff cope with the pressures and changes caused by COVID-19, and found:

  • 45% of employers have increased staff access to counselling services, with a further 19% planning to do so.
  • 82% are running virtual social engagement initiatives for teams and departments, to help people stay in touch and socialize, with a further 8% planning to do so.
  • Although all (99%) of companies are regularly communicating with staff to keep them updated, most are not doing enough to listen to their workforce at this critical time. Since the COVID-19 crisis started, only 15% have surveyed their staff to ask them about their benefits views and needs, and 24% have run focus groups.

Angel Hoover added: “While this is a challenging time for businesses, it is also placing huge stresses and pressures on individual people. Good employers are thinking of ways to help their staff navigate the pandemic, through better communication, more flexible working, and improvements to benefits packages.

“This is a game-changing leadership moment for many companies. Those that put their people first will be best placed to emerge from the crisis with higher employee wellbeing, morale and engagement, which will all be essential for the future success of any business.”

About the survey

Willis Towers Watson surveyed a diverse range of employers across Europe for its 2020 COVID-19 Pulse Survey, which was conducted during April 2020. The 109 Dutch respondents employ about two million employees globally.

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