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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Consumer Markets Industry Leader, PwC US
Digital Products & Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, PwC US
Partner, PwC US