Majority of businesses worldwide preparing for remote work as “the normal” - Belgian companies are doing the same

PwC’s 2020 Future of Remote Work survey

  • Over 50% of companies globally have already set up domestic and international remote work arrangements (or are in the process of doing so)
  • Of those companies without a remote work policy, 55% plan to implement one, and a further 15% are exploring how to do so
  • Over 80% of businesses anticipate adopting remote work as the new norm

Brussels - 17 September 2020 – The pandemic and the ensuing social distancing measures have resulted in a major shift in how we work. To understand how companies are planning their remote work arrangement policies and adapting to the changing needs of their workforce, in late July and early August PwC polled over 300 companies worldwide in ​ PwC’s Future of Remote Work 2020 survey.

 Remote work - various definitions, work in progress

Almost half of survey respondents (46%) define remote work arrangements as employees working outside of their home office or work location, without any cross-border movement. Just over one third (35%) of companies include international movement in the concept of remote work.

 Although the majority of companies surveyed do currently have some form of remote work arrangement policies in place (54%), it’s worth noting that the rest do not yet have a policy in this regard. Of those, over half expect to implement a remote work arrangement policy by the end of 2020. 15% are still reviewing remote work arrangement options. It is worth noting that 30% of respondents without a policy say they do not intend to implement a remote work policy, although they will accommodate requests on a case by case basis. At the same time, many of the businesses polled are active in sectors such as health industries, energy and utilities, mining, and industrial products and services - all domains in which many activities must be performed on site.

Implementing new ways of working requires preparation. “The crisis has limited the physical proximity of people, but many systems and processes have remained the same,” explains Sandrine Schaumont, Partner, People & Organisation Consulting, PwC Belgium. “It’s important to consider on a case-by-case basis which groups of employees can work remotely, how frequently, which ‘rules of the game’ are applicable (e.g. about being reachable) and what the impact is on the rest of the organisation. In some sectors the options are much more limited; in the health sector for instance, human interaction is required to deliver products and services, and many people will not be able to effectively work remotely.

 Employee wellbeing above all

Although increased remote working can be a way for companies to cut costs during the economic slowdown, e.g. by reducing their real estate footprint or transport costs, the primary focus is clearly the wellbeing of staff, whether it be to protect them from the spread of COVID-19 or to enable a better work-life balance. Two thirds of respondents (67%) anticipate providing their remote workers with access to an office, with 46% not requiring employees to go into the office at all, and 21% anticipating a hybrid approach, working remotely from an office.

Remote working may also bring new costs: equipment, contributions to expenses such as internet access, electricity, heating, water, printing, etc. However, over 80% of the companies surveyed are not making any salary adjustments during the remote work arrangement period, and over half of the respondents are not providing any allowances, reimbursements or mobility support (including tax and immigration support) for a remote work arrangement.

 Belgian companies lead the way

Recent research by the National Bank and employer organisations already indicated that 36% of Belgian businesses intend to expand remote working. All the Belgian companies PwC polled have a remote working policy in place, and are for the most part following government guidelines when it comes to determining the allowable duration for temporary work arrangements, similarly to the rest of the world (59%). Half have adapted their policy to accommodate remote working on an indefinite basis (compared to only 15% worldwide), 25% for temporary remote working only (similar to 30% worldwide) and the remaining 25% have adapted their policy for a hybrid setup (temporary and indefinite) compared to 55% worldwide.

 “We see that Belgian businesses have clearly adopted swiftly to the new reality of COVID-19 and have given preference to remote working on an indefinite basis. The tax authorities have also facilitated this with ‘fast track’ approvals for allowances related to remote working,” states Sandrine Schaumont, Partner, People & Organisation, PwC Belgium. “This willingness to commit to a new way of working over the longer term is driven by the same concern for employee safety as well as work-life balance; commute times by car are notoriously long in Belgium. And clearly companies think their employees will embrace less physical presence in the office over the long term: one third of Belgian businesses expect reduced real estate cost in future.


Erik Oosthuizen

0474 56 42 76

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