CEOs say a remote workforce will last past the coronavirus pandemic

Executives also say a shift to the gig economy will intensify

Coronavirus has forced businesses to embrace new ways of working, and some of the adaptations may stick around long-term. A remote workforce may be one of those things that last, as 78% of CEOs globally say that remote collaboration will be an enduring part of their company culture, according to a new survey by the accounting firm PwC.

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To make remote work possible, executives say they plan to make their companies more digital and virtual. Nearly half of CEOs, 44%, ranked digitizing their operations as one of the top two priorities for their long-term business model.

When the coronavirus pandemic first swept the globe earlier this year, a primary concern of executives was how productivity would be affected when people work at home. Several months into the pandemic, many of those fears have been allayed.

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A PwC poll in mid-April found that nearly half of financial executives were worried about a productivity drop due to remote work, but when that same poll was taken two months later, only 26% said they anticipated a drop in productivity.

As remote work expands, the classification of employees could also change due to newfound flexibility, which could have big implications for both workers and bosses. The PwC survey this week found that more than half of CEOs, 54%, believe that the trend towards the gig economy, which is comprised of Uber, TaskRabbit, Airbnb, and other innovative companies, will continue.

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Gig economy companies usually classify their workers as independent contractors, which gives them much more flexibility on when they work and for how long, but less stability because they don’t get many of the benefits, like health insurance, that traditional employees enjoy.

There is an ongoing battle in the nation’s largest state over the gig economy right now. A California judge ordered Uber and Lyft on Monday to classify their drivers as employees with benefits. This follows a law passed in the state last year, AB 5, that makes it much harder for companies to hire workers as independent contractors.

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While many people see California’s ruling as a win for workers, it will also increase prices for consumers and decrease available jobs for gig economy workers. Uber claims it will need to increase prices between 25% and 111% depending on what part of California a rider is in, and that 158,000 job opportunities will be wiped out each quarter for drivers.

Regardless of what happens with the gig economy, PwC’s UK Chairman Kevin Ellis said Tuesday that it will be essential for companies to focus and invest in their employees to get through this pandemic.

“Leaders recognize the importance of a healthy and motivated workforce,” Ellis said. “With many businesses under pressure on so many fronts, the challenge will be ensuring that this focus continues. Investing in employees, their safety, their wellbeing and their skills, is absolutely key to economic recovery.”

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