Many of the work-from-home policies launched or expanded due to the coronavirus pandemic are likely to remain indefinitely, according to a survey conducted by 451 Research, S&P Global Markets’ emerging technology research unit.

Nearly 80 percent of companies and organizations surveyed said they began or expanded work-from-home policies due to COVID-19 concerns. Of that number, 67 percent said they’d keep those policies in place permanently or at least for the long-term.

Social distancing might be one reason why – the practice of staying six feet apart from another individual in order to limit spread of the COVID-19 virus. According to the survey, just under 80 percent of organizations said that “social distancing will be the biggest challenge in resuming normal operations.”

Looking at the issue another way, the survey found nearly 19 percent of organizations planned to have employees return to the office “as local regulations allow.” But 25 percent said they’d wait a month or more, and 24 percent said they hadn’t yet determined any timeline to return.

According to 451 Research’s Liam Eagle, employer office changes in response to the pandemic must be measured to help gauge future trends.

“As organizations are heading back to the office in the wake of COVID-19, it is important to quantify what changes materialized during these past few months as a potential indication for the future of work,” Eagle, Head of Voice of the Enterprise Research at 451 Research, said in prepared remarks.

The Digital Pulse COVID-19 Flash Survey includes responses collected between May 29 and June 11 from approximately 575 IT decision-makers in a number of industries. As 451 Research noted, the survey collected a number of company-wide changes experienced so far during the pandemic, including operational impacts, changes to budgets, spending and pricing, adaptation of IT initiatives and new findings on how companies and organizations plan to return to the office.

Here are other survey highlights:

  • 85 percent of employers said they’ve implemented travel limitations, with the same number saying they’ve limited or banned face-to-face meetings.
  • 71 percent of respondents said they are converting hosted events into virtual ones, and 37 percent said they have expanded employee leave rules, among other changes.
  • Expect office space to shrink in the months ahead. About 47 percent of respondents said they will reduce their office space because of COVID-19. More than 20 percent said they’d slash their office space by more than 25 percent.
  • Work-related travel won’t be happening much for the rest of 2020. Approximately 34 percent of respondents said their work travel would be cut back by 80 percent or more in the 2020 fourth quarter. About 21 percent said they don’t know how much travel will resume during that period.
  • Companies and organizations are focusing more of their spending on IT resources (particularly security) spending, communications and collaboration technologies, employee devices and services, information security tools and network capacity.

Businesses are also seeking flexible terms for their leases, licenses and customer contracts.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence