Clerical and administrative workers — a group previously not often included in telecommuting arrangements — will likely continue to work from home after the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, according to new research.
This trend could lead to significant savings in labor costs and expand recruitment opportunities without geographical constraints for employers, and it could attract more women to the labor market.
“A large majority of clerical and administrative workers are women, so a shift to remote working could help increase their rate of labor market participation, as it could allow more unemployed women with family responsibilities to work. be more connected to the labor 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 primarily affected women, so a change in the situation of clerical and administrative work could benefit those who have lost their jobs in other industries,” he said.
Brie Weiler Reynolds, career development manager and coach at FlexJobs, a Boulder, Colo.-based job and resource site for flexible and remote jobs, said the administration category in the database of the company has “historically had a fair amount of remote job postings, and advertisements for virtual assistants in particular have grown by leaps and bounds over the past two years.”
She added that many useful skills in retail and food service transfer well into office administrative roles, “so I’m optimistic that the shift to remote working will create new opportunities for people. [who were] fired to change careers in administrative work. »
[How have you adapted to the pandemic?
Share your story with SHRM’s Government Affairs Team as it educates decision-makers on crafting policies on work, workers and the workplace.]
Levanon explained that before the pandemic, the most flexible work arrangements were in high-skilled, salaried and white-collar occupations, with the fastest growth in IT-related jobs. Commercial, financial and management professions have also seen rapid growth in telecommuting since the early 2000s, he said.
“Clerical and administrative jobs were rarely done primarily from home,” he added. “Even in 2018, work-from-home rates in these occupations were much lower than in [higher-skilled] office jobs.”
But analysis of millions of online job postings year-to-date shows the biggest increase in the share of jobs that allow working from home are clerical and administrative jobs that don’t require baccalaureate. These jobs include office workers, legal support workers, finance clerks, and information and records clerks.
“There are specific skills that make remote workers successful, and many of those skills align with skills that office workers also need,” Weiler Reynolds said. “This includes being very detail-oriented and organized, having strong proactive communication skills, being self-disciplined, being excellent at managing and planning time and tasks, being adaptable, adept at problem solving and having intelligence high emotional.”
[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Flexible Work Arrangements]
Barriers to Remote Work
Levanon said there were several reasons why clerical 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 pay). , which creates complications in a remote work environment.
“Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to regularly document their non-exempt employees’ hours of work each day and total overtime hours,” he said. “Without formal policies or procedures in place outlining and tracking these hours of work and performance, employers can create employment law compliance issues or expose themselves to liability.”
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 had no policies and procedures in place. telecommuting programs for non-exempt workers. “Many employers were unwilling or unable to invest the time and money needed to effectively transition these workers to telecommuting,” Levanon said.
“The good news for any companies affected by 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 remote teams managers and teams succeed,” 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, as well as lagging innovation, may have been a barrier to working from home, a privilege often reserved for highly skilled workers,” he said. “COVID appears to have broken down these barriers as the shutdowns have forced businesses to grapple with these issues. This could be the start of a massive new shift to remote working for these jobs.”
Rise 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 may be the most influential legacy of COVID-19,” Levanon said. “We expect remote work to become the norm, or at least a widely practiced solution, for many employers.”
Weiler Reynolds added that “unlike before, when remote working was still seen as an advantage or an advantage for casual employees, in this situation companies have no choice but to so that remote work 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 rapidly creating remote work programs and learning best practices.”
She noted that many companies have announced that they are adopting long-term remote work “after seeing how well it can work, not only to keep people safe, but also in terms of productivity, savings cost, employee loyalty, environmental impact and many other benefits.”