Stay in touch but Keep your distance!

Steven Hunt
Star Participant

How employees are reacting to remote work: insights from 70000+ companies


In the last few weeks, millions of employees made a sudden and unexpected adjustment to remote work. To help manage this change, SAP Qualtrics created a free online tool called Remote Work Pulse to support employees making this shift. This tool allows companies to ask employees about their experiences working remotely and uses embedded analytics to aggregate and synthesize responses so organizations and managers can take targeted action to improve the remote work experience. The tool was recently enhanced to also support employee who cannot work remotely   


Remote Work Pulse has been used by over 7000 organizations since its launch in mid-March. My colleague Dr. Benjamin Granger and his coworkers at Qualtrics recently gathered information from 117 of these companies to learn what employees are telling them about the experience of working remotely.  Here are some of the highlights:


Remote employees like being asked how they are doing.  Simply asking remote employees how they are doing can improve morale. Organizations are seeing very high response rates typically exceeding 70% participation. And many employees are expressing thanks for being asked about their experiences. 


Remote employees face some unique challenges. Employees note a variety of challenges associated with moving to remote work. Many are tied to the broader COVID-19 crisis such as having children at home due schools and childcare facilities being closed, feeling socially isolated, and concerns about mental health and anxiety. Others are more about adapting to remote work itself including adequate space at home for work activities, reliable remote work technology, and developing work habits and social norms reflective of working in virtual environments. The latter include remembering to take breaks from work and finding ways to keep an element of playfulness and personal connection in work conversations even though they are online instead of in-person.  


Many employees prefer remote work.  It varies across organizations, but some companies reported more than 40% of newly remote employees do not want to go back to the traditional in-office work format. Employees particularly appreciate not having to commute and having greater ability to integrate work and non-work time commitments.


Effective communication often starts with listening. Most corporate communication programs tend to be outwardly focused. The company tells something to employees and then asks them for feedback. Remote work pulse is different because it started with asking employees what they want to tell the company. Companies said this triggered a much richer form of communication centered around interactive channels such as virtual town halls, daily morning meetings, and online resource centers and chat rooms. Companies are using these new communication methods to discuss information about all aspect of work, not just COVID-19. Almost every company said they are going to continue using employee listening tools like Remote Pulse after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

Many people have commented that the world will be forever changed by COVID-19.  Based on the data gathered through Remote Work Pulse, it seems one of the long-term results of the current crisis could be much greater adoption of remote work structures. And perhaps even more important, much greater appreciation by companies toward the value of actively listening to their employees.  

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Please find additional COVID-19 experiences posted here.