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Press Release

Three in four employers adjust workplaces in response to COVID-19, Willis Towers Watson survey finds

Future of Work|Talent|Total Rewards
COVID 19 Coronavirus

May 21, 2020

Percentage of full-time employees working from home is expected to remain significantly above last year’s level

ARLINGTON, VA, May 21, 2020 — U.S. companies are making a series of workplace adjustments as they prepare to operate in a post-COVID-19 environment, according to a new survey of employers by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. Moreover, employers expect that the percentage of their workforce who are full-time employees working remotely after the pandemic will be three times as many compared with last year.

The survey of 681 employers, conducted during the week of May 11, found nearly three in four respondents (74%) made adjustments to work to reflect the new post-pandemic protocol. Some examples include installing touchless payment systems, offering services via video rather than in person, creating more space on assembly lines or in distribution centers, and changing work schedules to limit employee contact.

Almost three in 10 respondents (29%) moved work to different jobs while nearly a quarter (23%) made changes to reflect work that was being done in-house versus by third parties. Some employers started outsourcing work or using gig talent for work that was typically done by full-time employees.

“The pandemic is clearly creating new challenges for virtually every employer as to how work will get done when employees return to the workplace,” said Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director and global leader, Work and Rewards, Willis Towers Watson. “Physically, many workplaces will look different as companies seek to create safe working environments for their employees. And we expect to see some companies accelerate their use of automation and use it in different ways, such as a substitution for repetitive or dangerous tasks.”

Indeed, among the 22% of companies that have made adjustments to their use of automation, 18% of work is currently being done through automation, up from 16% last year. These same organizations expect that 23% of their work will be done by automation after the pandemic.

Employers report just over half (53%) of their workforce are full-time employees currently working remotely or from home. While that is expected to drop to 22% after the pandemic passes, it would still be up significantly from last year's 7%. Conversely, employers expect two-thirds of their workforce to be full-time employees working in person or onsite post-COVID-19, up from 37% currently, but still below last year’s 82%.

“Although the economy is still in upheaval, one thing is clear: Remote working is here to stay,” said Adrienne Altman, North America head, Work and Rewards, Willis Towers Watson. “One of the many challenges facing employers is to what extent do they keep remote working policies in place and how do they support employees who make the shift permanent. Each employer will need to determine if this is a long-term strategy that is right for them.”

About the survey

A total of 681 employers participated in the COVID-19 Returning to the Workplace Survey, which was conducted during the week of May 11, 2020. Respondents employ 7.1 million workers.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.

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