ITE Journal - April 2021 - 30

Similar impacts can be seen in public sector staffing with 57
percent of respondents having experienced or expecting a hiring
freeze, 22 percent having experienced furloughs, and 22 percent
expecting a reduction in staffing.

Lessons Learned, Thus Far
While we are still in the midst of the pandemic and the lasting
impacts on both private and public sector operations are yet to
be determined, some insights can be drawn from the responses
provided to open-ended questions regarding factors that have
impacted members' work environment and lessons learned from
their remote work experience to date.
Overwhelmingly, the most positive response was with regard to
the time saved from commuting and the ability to provide a more
balanced lifestyle. Members appreciated the flexibility provided in a
work-from-home (WFH) environment.
The two biggest success factors, or conversely barriers, cited
regarding members' ability to quickly and easily transition to
a WFH setting were prior telework experience and technology.
Organizations who had previously implemented telework policies
and encouraged employees to WFH were highlighted in the
comments. Similarly, employees who were well-equipped technologically from a hardware, application, and connectivity perspective
were better able to work productively from home.
Unlike a typical WFH scenario, COVID-19 has introduced
additional complexities for those with school-age children. Distractions were frequently cited as a barrier for those working remotely
during the pandemic and attending to children's needs while trying
to remain productive.
Looking forward, many members commented on how the
pandemic has broken through old norms and accepted practices,
forcing organizations that were reluctant to embrace a WFH
environment to do so out of necessity. The general sentiment
was that this has demonstrated that many, but not all, of their
work functions can be successfully accomplished in a remote
environment. There was clearly an expectation that significant
flexibility would remain available in post-COVID-19 environment.
However, there was also the recognition that some aspects of
the in-person workplace cannot be easily duplicated or can be lost
in a WFH setting. Impromptu discussions and the ability to easily
brainstorm and problem-solve with colleagues was frequently cited.
While technology can fill some of this void, it was recognized that
it was hard to replicate the " watercooler " or the ability to " stick
your head in someone's office. " For some, being at home was a very
" isolating " experience where they felt distanced from their colleagues.
A particular area of concern was for new hires and younger
staff. The ability to effectively hire, develop, and integrate new and

30

Apri l 2021

i te j o urn al

younger staff into the workplace in a WFH setting was identified as a
significant challenge, and one that could limit the career development
of the individual and the effectiveness of the organization.
Respondents consistently cited communication as a key
ingredient in creating a successful WFH environment. Frequent
communication between employees and supervisors and
among colleagues is key. This communication must be more
intentional than in a traditional office setting, and a variety of
technological tools need to be employed to create the necessary
personal connections.
This is particularly true in the private sector. While many of
the comments were similar from public sector and private sector
members, business development and client relationships were cited
as a challenge by those private sector members working from home.
Relationships matter in business, and creating those relationships is
much harder in a remote work environment.

Conclusion
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 experience will leave a
lasting impact on our society and our industry for years to come.
Beyond the tragic loss of life and the direct impact this has had
on so many families, the pandemic will impact how we live,
work, and play. With vaccines now rolling out, there is hope
for some return to normalcy as we defined it in a pre-COVID
world, but it is clear that there will be no going back. Rather, we
must navigate a new future. A central element of this future will
be the workplace. Many questions remain regarding the degree
to which organizations will continue to operate remotely. The
idea of " hybrid " schedules with some structured office time
combined with more liberal WFH arrangements are likely to
become the norm in many organizations. The story of how these
types of arrangements impact organizational culture, commuting
patterns, transit systems, commercial office space, retail and
restaurant industries, and much more is yet to be written, but
we hope that the results of this survey provide a glimpse into the
impacts of COVID-19 and some of the permanent changes that
may be on the horizon. In the second phase, the Industry Council
hopes to provide additional insights and guidance on how organizations can successfully navigate this new future. itej

Acknowledgement
ITE extends thanks to former Industry Council Vice Chair Erin
Skimson (M) for her leadership, as well as the other members of
the Industry Council COVID-19 Task Force, for their efforts and
contributions that resulted in this article.



ITE Journal - April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ITE Journal - April 2021

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ITE Journal - April 2021 - 2
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