Clerical and administrative workers – a group previously rarely included in telecommuting agreements – are likely to continue to work from home after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study.
This trend could translate into significant labor cost savings and expanded recruitment possibilities without geographic limitations for employers, and it could attract more women into the workforce.
“A large majority of office and administrative workers are women, so a shift to remote work can help increase their labor market participation rates, as it could allow more unemployed women with family responsibilities to work. be more connected to the job market, ”said Gad Levanon, vice president of labor markets for the Conference Board, a New York-based think tank that conducted the research.
“Job losses in retail, food service and education have mainly affected women, so a change in the situation of clerical and administrative work could benefit those who have lost their jobs in other areas. industries, ”he said.
Brie Weiler Reynolds, career development manager and coach at FlexJobs, a Boulder, Colo.-Based resources and jobs site for flexible and remote jobs, said the administration category in the database of the The company has “historically had a fair amount of remote job posting, and advertisements for virtual assistants in particular have grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years.”
She added that many skills useful in retail and food service transfer well into office administrative roles, “So I am optimistic that the move to remote work will create new opportunities for people. [who were] dismissed to make a career change in administrative work.
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Levanon explained that before the pandemic, the most flexible working arrangements were in highly skilled, salaried and white-collar jobs, with the fastest growing IT-related jobs. The professions of business, finance and management have also experienced rapid growth in telecommuting since the early 2000s, he said.
“Office and administrative work was rarely done mainly at home,” he added. “Even in 2018, homework rates in these occupations were much lower than those in [higher-skilled] office-related jobs.
But analysis of millions of online job postings since the start of the year shows that the biggest increase in the share of jobs that allow you to work from home are clerical and administrative jobs that don’t require you to work from home. baccalaureate. These jobs include office workers, legal support workers, financial clerks, and information and records clerks.
“There are specific skills that contribute to the success of remote workers, and many of those skills match the skills that office workers also need,” said Weiler Reynolds. “It involves being very detail-oriented and organized, having strong proactive communication skills, being self-disciplined, being excellent at managing and planning time and tasks, having adaptability, problem-solving skills and high emotional intelligence. “
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Obstacles to teleworking
Levanon said there were several reasons office and administrative workers were less likely to work from home, but the main one was that many of them are non-exempt workers (eligible for overtime), which creates complications in a remote working environment.
“Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to regularly document the hours worked of their non-exempt employees each day and the total overtime earnings,” he said. “Without formal policies or procedures in place describing and tracking these hours of work and performance, employers can create employment law compliance issues or face prosecution.”
More than half of respondents to an employer survey conducted by WorldatWork, the global human resources association for compensation and benefits professionals, said their organization did not have policies and teleworking programs for non-exempt workers. “Many employers were unwilling or unable to invest the time and money necessary to effectively transition these workers to telecommuting,” Levanon said.
“The good news for all businesses involved in this is that there are many time tracking and compliance methods and programs available for remote teams to ensure they stay on top of all the details,” and there are more resources than ever to help managers and teams succeed remotely, ”said Weiler Reynolds.
Levanon added that a large percentage of clerical and administrative jobs are concentrated in traditionally more conservative industries such as government, law and insurance. “Workplace culture, along with lagging behind in innovation, may have been a barrier to working from home, a privilege often reserved for highly skilled salaried workers,” he said. “COVID appears to have broken down these barriers, as lockdowns have forced businesses to deal with these issues. This could be the start of a massive new shift towards remote working for these jobs. “
Increase in remote work expected to last
There is a growing consensus that the share of remote workers overall will remain well above pre-pandemic rates.
“An increase in remote working could be the most influential legacy of COVID-19,” Levanon said. “We expect remote working will become the norm, or at least a widely practiced solution, for many employers.”
Weiler Reynolds added that “unlike before, when remote work was still seen as an occasional benefit or perk for employees, in this situation companies have no choice but to make the work remote really works, because there is no alternative. Instead of ad hoc use, we are seeing the full deployment of remote work in many organizations, with managers and employees quickly creating work schedules remotely and learning best practices. ”
She noted that many companies have announced that they are embracing long-term remote working “after seeing how well it can work, not only to keep people safe, but also in terms of productivity, savings. , employee loyalty, environmental impact and many other benefits. “