98% of Companies Institute Work From Home

As of Monday morning, the coronavirus outbreak has infected nearly 143,000 Americans and caused 2,489 deaths. Another 2,970 Americans remain in serious or critical condition and more than 135,000 are suffering from COVID-19. For the rest, life is much different.

Stay-at-home recommendations and orders have changed the way many Americans go to work and those changes could become more widespread. According to the results of a new survey of 254 U.S. companies from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 98% have instituted work from home policies.

Nearly half (49%) of the companies say that they are very or somewhat likely to lay off employees in the next three months and 11% have already done so. Another 7% have conducted temporary layoffs.

More than a quarter (28%) have adopted policies that allow all their employees to work from home and another 6% are testing the practice.

Senior Vice President Andrew Challenger commented: “In order to alleviate the pressure on their workers, companies are offering paid leave options and flexibility for working parents who now find themselves homeschooling in addition to working. It’s clear that the way companies treat their workers right now will have a long and serious impact on company reputation in the future.”

A third of companies now offer additional leave options, with 11% offering paid sick leave. Nearly three-quarters (75%) are specifically addressing childcare, and two-thirds of those say that they are “being more flexible” with balancing employees’ work and home lives.

Last week’s record-shattering 3.29 million new claims for unemployment benefits indicate how quickly companies have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. Among the companies surveyed by Challenger, Gray, 14% have already furloughed employees and 37% are likely to do so in the next three months. Employers, who have faced a tight labor market for months, are reluctant to let people go.

More than half of companies (56%) have been hiring new employees, but nearly 10% are either postponing or revoking job offers until the crisis is over. Half are just hoping that the prospective new hires will still be available later.

While just 2% of surveyed companies say that they have not implemented any changes, another 9% say they have adopted a wait-and-see attitude before taking action, and more than 6% said they would only take action if a “presumed positive” case is reported by one of their employees or someone with whom an employee has had close contact.

Some 94% of companies surveyed have operations in multiple regions and half are complying with state and local policies. Andrew Challenger noted, “Standardizing the company’s approach to a situation like this in all locations is a fairly common compliance technique to ensure company standards are being met across operations. More states and regions are implementing stay-at-home orders, which may standardize how companies react to the outbreak in the coming weeks.”

Little wonder, then, that the U.S. consumer sentiment dived last month by the fourth largest amount in 50 years.