What if... Working from Home Is the 'New Normal'?

May 4, 2020 Peter Bentley

Over 80% of organizations taking part in our recent global survey of nearly 2,000 organizations reported that they are reviewing their working models in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Firms are now carrying out their return-to-work planning and are seeing this recent test of agility and resilience as an opportunity to accelerate workforce change.

What if not everyone returns to the office to work?  
Could this save money?
Could we build employee value at the same time as economic value?


Return-to-work planning requires some tactical considerations - one of which focuses on who do you bring back to the office first. The analysis required to identify who needs to be back in the office also identifies those roles which do not need to be there.

This could be considered workforce planning: understanding pivotal roles, their impact and how to enable them to be productive.

There are clear roles that need to be in the office to achieve optimal performance. But there are also roles that do not require team interaction or system access that could be based remotely. Perhaps the hours are not 9 to 5, or Monday to Friday?

Working from home and remote working are not new and yet not all organizations embrace this way of working. Why? Because we often believe it is harder to manage someone remotely, we think that teams and individuals work better and are more productive in workplace environment.

But what if we could identify the roles that can work remotely – and still be productive? What if we knew who are those that are ‘digitally ready’ – who are agile and curious? What if we knew the leaders that could manage remote teams?

If we could capture this information and combine it with the outputs from our return-to-work analysis then we would be able to start to align different worker types (e.g., the agile worker, the digitally-ready worker, the digital-capable worker) with different working environments.

Why would we want to do that?

  • Reduction in office space needed. Fewer people in the office means less office space is needed – and office space is a substantial cost for most firms, albeit a long-term saving.
  • Reduction in infrastructure requirements. Fewer people in the office means a reduction in the demand for water, heating, electricity - carbon footprints may decrease.
  • Higher retention and engagement. Skills and knowledge are retained, and savings made from avoiding future recruitment fees.
  • Greater productivity. People are aligned with the individual environment that best suits them.

A Rare Opportunity

While it may be an oversimplification, COVID-19 presents a rare opportunity for us to begin looking at driving economic value and employee value at the same time. Simply by extending the analysis we are already doing as part of our return-to-work planning to include an understanding of the individuals within our teams would provide us this information.
Given that most firms believe that intellectual property is generated by their people, perhaps understanding our people is a great place to start if we want to look forward to a new and enhanced ‘normal’.

This article was published on May 4th, 2020.

Disclaimer: This document has been provided as an informational resource for Aon clients and business partners. It is intended to provide general guidance on potential exposures, and is not intended to provide medical advice or address medical concerns or specific risk circumstances. Due to the dynamic nature of infectious diseases, Aon cannot be held liable for the guidance provided. We strongly encourage visitors to seek additional safety, medical and epidemiological information from credible sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. As regards insurance coverage questions, whether coverage applies or a policy will respond to any risk or circumstance is subject to the specific terms and conditions of the insurance policies and contracts at issue and underwriter determinations.

About the Author

Peter Bentley

Peter Bentley is the global commercial officer with Aon’s Human Capital Solutions practice and focuses on building workforce agility. Peter has worked with firms on their approach to client strategy, distribution and how they leverage digital solutions to empower their workforce for the future. He has developed and built a number of data / digital platforms aimed at augmenting workflow, aiding decision making and transforming client engagement.

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