Korn Ferry: Retailers permanently changing corporate work-from-home policies

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Korn Ferry: Retailers permanently changing corporate work-from-home policies

By Marianne Wilson - 08/20/2020

The pandemic will have a lasting impact on corporate retail employees.  

That’s according to a survey by Korn Ferry, which also had mixed news for retailers as they look toward this year’s fall and holiday season. 

Forty-three percent of respondents said their companies are permanently changing remote working policies. Nearly half (45%) said they expect remote employees will work from home three to four days a week, with 10% saying their remote workers will work virtually 100% of the time.  
One-fifth (20%) said they will allow remote workers to move away from the city where corporate headquarters is located, and 65% are considering implementing the measure. (Earlier this month, REI announced it is looking to sell its nearly completed, eight-acre corporate campus in the Seattle area and will “lean into” a remote work model.”

Half of respondents said they will reimburse remote workers, with 30% saying their company will pay for equipment only, 5% will reimburse for equipment and monthly supplies, and 15% will offer fixed monthly reimbursements/lump sum amounts.  

“We are already seeing retailers working to reduce the size – or even shed completely – large corporate campuses,” said Korn Ferry senior client partner and retail expert Craig Rowley. “As remote working increasingly becomes the norm, employers need to ensure they make accommodations to help employees succeed.”  

More than three quarters (82%) of retail respondents said business was better than anticipated when they first re-opened after state-mandated closures, according to a survey by Korn Ferry. But 29% said even though business was initially better when they re-opened, it has now flattened off. 
Near-term, 70% of retailers said they are currently hiring in-store workers. But 33% anticipate they will have fewer seasonal and full-time employees this fall/holiday season than they had last year. 
Retailers are mixed on what the holiday season will bring in terms of sales. Thirty-nine percent predict this season will be better than last year, 33% said they expect holiday sales to be down, with 19% saying they expect sales to be down more than 10%.

The retailers surveyed seem to be cautiously optimistic about rewarding employees in 2021. Only 4% said they do not expect there will be merit increases next year, with 46% saying they expect merit increases to be the normal average of 3%. Nearly all (92%) said the merit increase schedule for 2021 will be similar to years past. 

The Korn Ferry survey of more than 50 major U.S. retailers, with annual revenues between $50 million to more than $20 billion, took place in late July 2020.