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What is the future of the workplace for consumer-facing companies?

Consumer markets findings from PwC's US Remote Work Survey

As shelter-in-place mandates swept the nation in the wake of COVID-19, consumer-facing companies were among the hardest hit. While consumer behavior continues to morph — in both anticipated and unexpected ways — so does the workplace for consumer-facing companies. In PwC’s June 2020 survey about remote work, employees and executives alike underscored the importance of virtual collaboration and connectivity as they adjust to new ways of working — ways that might settle into a permanent flexible workweek.

More remote work = more productivity

Almost 79% of employees at consumer markets (CM) companies who worked remotely reported being equally or more productive than they had been before the COVID-related shelter-in-place mandates — despite juggling health and family obligations. CM executives agreed: 77% said employee productivity was either the same as or higher than it was pre-COVID, versus 69% across all sectors.

Productivity on the upswing

Much more productive
More productive
About the same
Less productive
Much less productive

Q: During the COVID-related shelter at home, how has average employee productivity changed (compared to pre-COVID)?
Employers: Base 118; CM base 35
Source: PwC US Remote Work Survey, June 2020

Executives anticipate more remote work

Given these positive productivity outcomes, the majority of CM executives — 74% — anticipate that at least half their workforce will work remotely at least one day per week going forward.

Remote work gains traction with employers


Q: Going forward, what percent of your overall workforce do you anticipate will work remotely at least one day per week (compared to pre-COVID)?
Employers: Base 118; CM base 34
Source: PwC US Remote Work Survey, June 2020

Best of remote and in-office options

Given the choice, nearly half of employees surveyed would prefer to work remotely four or five days a week. However, they do recognize the benefits of going into the office: 47% reported that pre-COVID, they collaborated in person with team members at the office or worksite.

Employees prefer remote work

About one day per month
2-3 days per month
One day per week
Two days per week
Three days per week
Four days per week
Five days per week

Q: Going forward, in a typical work week, how often would you want to work remotely (if you could decide and if COVID-19 was not a concern)?
Employees: Base 1,200; CM base 135
Source: PwC US Remote Work Survey, June 2020

More productive remote work

To be more productive, CM employees want flexible work hours above all else. They also want more connectivity and collaboration, as well as clear rules for when they need to be available — all of which CM executives are already planning to provide. Remote work typically offers variations from a traditional 8-hour workday, allowing workers more control of their time for improved work-life balance.

Making remote work more productive*

Greater flexibility in work hours
Better mobile experience for work applications and data
Better hardware/equipment (e.g., laptop, monitor, printer, chair)
Help in building networks and relationships
Clear rules for availability

*Highest-ranked choices from a list of 10 options
Q: Looking forward, which of the following would help you be more productive when working remotely?
Employees: Base 1,200; CM base 135
Source: PwC US Remote Work Survey, June 2020

What space needs do CM executives foresee?

The trend toward remote work will likely influence office-space decisions, according to 80% of CM executives. To keep up with growth, as well as anticipated physical-distancing needs, 51% expect they will need more space, while 30% expect to need less.

CM executives anticipate 2023 office footprint

How do you anticipate your total office space needs will be different 3 years from now?
Employers: Base 118; CM base 33
Note: Numbers do not add up to 100% due to rounding
Source: PwC US Remote Work Survey, June 2020

The future of work is here

Consumer preferences are continuing to evolve even as states lift shelter-in-place orders. Some shifts may last well beyond a recovery, affecting how workers at consumer-facing companies engage with customers — while also experiencing significant changes in the way they work. The following questions can help CM executives design a more effective workplace for the future:

  • Will remote work reduce office space needs?
    Think about how you may need to remodel your existing offices to enable more effective connectivity and collaboration.

  • Which roles are best suited for remote work?
    Establish guidelines for how many days a week employees in each role should work remotely — based on equipment, systems and collaborative work.

  • What do your employees want?
    Personal circumstances may lead some employees to want to work remotely more or less frequently than guidelines allow. Use surveys and discussions to discover what would work best for them.

  • Which technologies work best?
    To enable employees to work remotely productively, provide collaboration tools and access to data. Assess and close any security gaps in your remote work set-up.  

  • What new practices can you adopt?
    Set new expectations regarding meetings and collaboration within a virtual-first mindset. Coaching, development and related metrics are particularly important for remote workers.

Contact us

Tyson Cornell

Private Consulting Solutions Leader, Chicago, PwC US

Dr. Deniz Caglar

Principal, Strategy&, PwC US

Tom Puthiyamadam

Transformation Consulting Solutions and Products Leader, PwC US

Josh Peters

Partner, Strategy&, PwC US

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