Last week I listened in on a videoconference by Mercer: “The New Shape of Work: Flexing for the Future.” A group of national practice leaders with the human resources consulting firm provided some interesting insights gained from interacting with employers across the country as the pandemic continues to unfold. 

One of the most compelling takeaways came from a survey that Mercer recently conducted to gauge employers’ attitudes about the long-term effects of the pandemic on workplaces. Flexibility — a key element for employers now as they respond to the global emergency — is going to be an enduring value, say Mercer leaders. 

In addition to flexibility in where employees work, Mercer is working with clients to consider different dimensions of flexibility such as flexible work hours that enable caregivers to take care of their children, aging parents or ill members of the family. In the survey, 83% of employers polled said they plan to extend flexibility measures being offered now to post-pandemic operations. 

Additionally, the majority of employers — 72% — expect that more than 25% of their workforce will continue to work remotely after the pandemic. Those percentages of remote worker numbers are higher still in the tech, finance and insurance industries, Mercer found. Overall, employers have been convinced by workers’ track records in the past six months that employee engagement and productivity can continue with remote work. 

Mercer anticipates the future will favor a hybrid approach, with a mix of remote work and in-office days, with much greater flexibility in how workers get their work done. 

So it’s not surprising that 2 out of 3 organizations in the U.S. are either now creating or updating a flexible work policy, Mercer’s research has found. 

On a final note, working from home can literally be a pain in the neck — for employees, that is. As part of Mercer’s risk analysis of increased flexibility and working from home, it has seen a big upswing in musculoskeletal aches and pains, particularly related to neck, shoulder and back pain. 

Notably, younger workers are reporting more of these at-home aches and pains than older workers, which could have something to do with some of the non-ergonomic places people are working in their homes. 

According to Mercer’s survey, 42% of at-home workers said they’ve worked from their living rooms, while 33% have set up a home office. Another 33% of workers said they have worked in their bedrooms, and 10% from their kitchens. And OK, you know who you are — 1% said they even work from the bathroom. 

Mercer recommends that employers consider developing work-from-home agreements that include options for buying pre-approved office items such as ergonomic chairs and monitors from a pre-approved list, and tracking the return on those investments. 

A replay of the webinar can be found on Mercer’s website here: