The Sustainability of Distributed Work Models

How People and Processes Have Transformed to Accommodate Remote Teams

Executive Summary

Managing a remote workforce at scale is challenging. Many companies weren’t prepared for this abrupt and mandatory switch to distributed work. To sustain this working model, companies need to consider how their people and processes strategies enable employee success.

How many employees are working from home because of COVID-19?

A vast majority of knowledge workers shifted to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic. Estimates differ because of several factors: when the surveys were taken, where respondents were geographically located (and when their regions planned to reopen), and what each respondent’s role and type of company were.

What are the main challenges when working from home?

Each employee has a unique set of challenges based on their at-home circumstances. Despite hardships, day-to-day work must continue. Survey data indicates that productivity hasn’t been hindered, but many workers are struggling with communicating and collaborating in this distributed environment. Employees are looking to company leaders for clearer updates and streamlined information-sharing, as well as for resources beyond the typical scope of benefits.

Are companies using more collaborative tools?

Adoption has surged. Our October 2020 forecast estimates that 69.0% of US companies with over 100 employees will use communication and collaboration tools in 2020. That’s an increase of 15 percentage points from 2019, when 54.0% of companies employed such tools.

What is the future of work after the coronavirus?

Workplace transformation is unfolding at a rapid pace and will shape the corporate world for decades. The future will likely be a hybrid model of remote and in-office work in which employees have increased flexibility and the office is reserved for occasional check-ins and meetings. Some companies are already running pilot programs to see what a return to the office might look like.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? The coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to move to a distributed employee model very abruptly. This report will detail the best people and processes strategies for making remote work sustainable.

KEY STAT: Across various facets of the employee experience, there was more than a 30% gap between how many executives worldwide said they were supporting their employees and how many employees worldwide reported feeling supported by their companies, per IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics research from April to July 2020.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. A New (Distributed) Way of Working
  3. New People Policies
  4. Refining Collaborative Processes for Information-Sharing and Expectation Alignment
  1. Looking Ahead
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. eMarketer Interviews
  4. Read Next
  1. Sources
  2. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Ricky Abbott
President, Americas
Interviewed August 19, 2020
Lars Asbjornsen
Senior Vice President, Marketing
Interviewed September 23, 2020
Stephen Bailey
Founder and CEO
Interviewed September 21, 2020
Brooke Burdge
Senior Vice President, Marketing
Interviewed August 21, 2020
Jay Choi
Executive Vice President and General Manager, Employee Experience Business
Interviewed August 2, 2020
Jennifer Christie
Chief Human Resources Officer
Interviewed September 24, 2020
John Furneaux
Interviewed April 28, 2020
Jason Hayman
Market Research Manager
Interviewed May 11, 2020
Isaac Golino
Wunderman Thompson
Vice President, Strategy and Analytics
Interviewed August 31, 2020
Stacy Greiner
Dun & Bradstreet
Interviewed September 12, 2020
Kate Gulliver
Global Head of Talent
Interviewed September 30, 2020
Michael Haske
President and COO
Interviewed September 17, 2020
Emily He
Senior Vice President, Marketing, HCM
Interviewed August 31, 2020
Lance Hill
Global Head of Commercial Marketing, Personal Systems
Interviewed September 3, 2020
Karin Hurt
Let’s Grow Leaders
Interviewed August 18, 2020
Graham Johnson
FCB Health
Chief Product Officer
Interviewed September 1, 2020
Ben LeDonni
Creative MMS
Founder and CEO
Interviewed August 21, 2020
Robert LoCascio
Founder and CEO
Interviewed September 16, 2020
Virgil Palumbo
Regional President
Interviewed August 19, 2020
Brie Reynolds
Career Development Manager
Interviewed September 23, 2020
Tyrrell Schmidt
TD Bank
US CMO and Head of Global Brand
Interviewed September 11, 2020
Arthur Shectman
Elephant Ventures
Founder and President
Interviewed April 24, 2020
Oscar Trelles
Chief Revenue Officer
Interviewed September 1, 2020
Vetri Vellore
Founder and CEO
Interviewed September 9, 2020
Lauren Weinberg
Global Head of Marketing and Communications
Interviewed September 30, 2020

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Jillian Ryan


Jim Davis
Principal Analyst
Mark Dolliver
Principal Analyst
Lucy Koch
Junior Analyst
Melissa Rosenberg
Senior Researcher
Tracy Tang
Senior Researcher

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