The long-term impact of Covid-19 is likely to include more employees working from home, a significant reduction in business travel and more businesses considering whether to employ staff who live and work from home in other jurisdictions.

Those are among the findings of polls of senior HR professionals and business leaders at Walkers' three-day virtual employment conference on "Covid-19 and the Evolution of the Workplace", which featured sessions from the firm's employment law teams in Jersey, Guernsey and Dublin.

The key findings included that:

  • 79% say that when borders reopen business travel will reduce significantly and will be just for key meetings
  • 54% will offer flexible working after the pandemic is over (36% will require a minimum numbers of days in the office and 17% will be fully flexible)
  • 51% would consider employing someone working remotely in a foreign jurisdiction, provided it was a suitable person in a suitable role
  • 60% would consider recruiting someone who would, from the start of their employment, be working in a foreign jurisdiction
  • 62% consider employee well-being the biggest challenge of Covid-19 (more than IT, regulatory risk, recruitment and travel restrictions combined)

Sarah Ash, senior counsel in Walkers' top-tier ranked Guernsey employment law team, said that the results of the survey supported the idea that Covid-19 would have an ongoing impact on the workplace, even after restrictions had been lifted.

She said: "The conversations that we have been having with clients and the nature of the matters that we are being instructed on all suggest that workplaces will not entirely return to how they used to operate - and the results of the polls that we ran in our conference would support that.

"It is interesting to see how open many businesses are to reacting to that and to changing the way that they work to accommodate the new expectations and requirements both of staff and of clients or customers."

Daniel Read, senior counsel in the Jersey employment law team, added: "We are getting close to the point at which there will be a moment for employers of all kinds to pause and reflect on the experience of the last 12 months, to consider what worked well and what worked less well, and to update the way that they undertake planning, communication and their working practices."

The conference saw between 145 and 167 attendees at the sessions over three days at the end of February. The sessions delivered by the Jersey, Guernsey and Dublin teams focused on navigating ongoing risks for employers, remote working from overseas, and the lessons learned from Covid-19.

Victoria Pratt, senior counsel in Walkers' Guernsey employment law team, said: "The feedback that we are seeing from HR professionals and business leaders is that in rising to and in some cases embracing ways of working brought on by Covid-19, some of those new working arrangements are proving not just possible but desirable for the longer term.  They are seeing opportunities to learn from the experience and to work better, with opportunities from improvements in cyber-security arrangements, and from considering taking on staff who will always work remotely in a foreign jurisdiction.  The silver lining to the Covid-19 cloud."

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