CFOs Seriously Looking Deeper Into Remote Working Long Term

A recent Gartner survey of chief financial officers indicates that the shift to working from home may become permanent for portions of the workforce.

The survey of 317 CFOs and other finance leaders indicated that nearly three quarters (74 percent) expect to move at least 5 percent of their workforce to remote positions once the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

For some companies, the number of employees shifting to remote work situations may be much higher. Among survey respondents:

  • 27 percent said 5 percent of the workforce would remain remote
  • 26 percent indicated 10 percent would remain remote
  • 17 percent said 20 percent would remain remote
  • 4 percent said 50 percent would remain remote
  • 2 percent said more than 50 percent would remain remote

Twenty-six percent reported that no employees will remain remote.

Those numbers are staggering but reflect the realities of the shift to working from home and the challenges of managing a public health crisis that may require social distancing for an indeterminant length of time. Those realities mean financial leaders need to prepare new models for workforces.

“Most CFOs recognize that technology and society has evolved to make remote work more viable for a wider variety of positions than ever before,” said Alexander Bant, Gartner’s practice vice president for research.

When Will Businesses Consider Bringing People Back to Workplaces?

In a separate survey, Gartner asked finance executives about the conditions necessary to begin allowing employees back to work. They included:

  • Clearance from state and local authorities (81 percent)
  • Appropriate social distancing measures in place for workspaces (47 percent)
  • Clearance from federal authorities (46 percent)
  • Enhanced cleaning standards can be maintained (26 percent)
  • Clearance from the World Health Organization and/or national health officials (19 percent)
  • Employee testing or COVID-19 (11 percent)

How employees will be brought back is still unclear, however, with 44 percent saying they are unsure of which processes will be used. A third (34 percent) will allow employees to return to offices voluntarily or continue to work remotely for a time, while 17 percent will work from home or in offices on a rotating schedule. Only 4 percent expected to require all employees to return to normal office schedules.

Creative cost-cutting means some companies are reducing their spending on technology. Twenty percent of CFOs said they were deferring on-premises technology spending with another 12 percent expected to do so. Thirteen percent had already reduced real estate expenses and 9 percent expected to do the same.

similar survey by PwC showed 49 percent of finance executives planned to make remote work a permanent option for some roles, while 26 percent planned on a reduced real estate footprint.

What Opportunities Are Apparent Due to the COVID-19 Crisis?

Despite the uncertainty, Gartner’s research indicates that some CFOs see opportunities emerging due to the pandemic. Several of these opportunities leverage technology to drive new business models or emphasize certain business components. Among the technology-related opportunities cited were:

  • Shifting from an in-field sales force to an e-commerce model
  • Leveraging the speed and pace at which employees have adapted to the new model of work when considering future opportunities
  • Securing more talent with technical and digital skills to drive future process improvements and virtualization
  • Rethinking processes and identifying new revenue streams
  • Using workforce agility and faster digitalization

The PwC poll showed companies thinking about technology in a post-COVID-19 world differently, too, with 40 percent planning to accelerate automation.

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James Forbis
Written by James Forbis
Posted on: May 16, 2020