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Remote Work Becomes the 'New Normal'... but for How Long?

AlphaSense Staff

In March, tech companies (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Facebook) led the initial charge toward a fully-remote workforce amid the spread of COVID-19. Since then, management teams across sectors have grappled with the “new normal,” waiting to see if a remote workforce is productive and cost-effective.

This week, corporate leaders noted in Q1 earnings calls that their teams have quickly adapted to remote work environments.

Rather than talking about shifts back to physical offices, leadership teams are discussing how to optimize their remote businesses for long-term operational success (especially considering that some companies have extended their WFH policies until October 2020 or later). 

Employees are seeing an upside too. According to an IBM study released on May 1st, “more than 75 percent [of workers] indicate they would like to continue to work remotely at least occasionally, while more than half - 54 percent - would like this to be their primary way of working.”

How will perspectives on remote work change? We've compiled an overview of all companies discussing remote work in earnings call transcripts, press releases, or other company documents.

Takeaways

  • eBay and Upwork say that their employees are working remotely for “an indefinite period of time,” while Facebook, Google, and Microsoft offer flexible remote work options for the rest of 2020.
  • Goldman Sachs notes that 98% of their workforce is currently remote.
  • Metlife says that they have “been able to maintain service levels with 95% of all customer calls, claims and other transactions successfully handled by employees working remotely.”
  • Fidelity National Information Services is reevaluating its real estate as a part of the COVID-19 backdrop, primarily thanks to a very successful transition to remote work.
  • SEC Filings reflected companies’ uncertainty about employees working from home--including potential risks to productivity, collaboration, and retention.

AlphaSense can track management commentary in real-time across the entire market, by industry, or watchlist. We expect this to be an interesting theme to follow throughout earnings season. Start your free trial of AlphaSense now or login to your account. 

 

Metlife (Earnings Call Transcript - 5/7)

It starts with our people, which means making their health and well-being our top priority. We've done that in a variety of ways. We rapidly moved employees to a work-from-home environment, expanded benefit to help cover COVID-19 testing and treatment, enhanced mental health support to help employees cope with stress and deployed tools and resources to keep people connected. I am proud of the level of engagement and motivation our people are showing, they know they are making a difference.

Since we do business in many markets, MetLife got an early look at how the pandemic could affect societies and our own operations. Our experience in Asia gave us a running start on the activation of our business continuity plan globally. Across our enterprise, 92% of our 38,000 non-agent employees are now working from home, including 98% in the United States.

Of course, the true test of our business continuity plan was not merely whether employees could log on from home but whether they had full functionality to be able to deliver for our customers. On this front, we are very pleased that we've been able to maintain service levels with 95% of all customer calls, claims and other transactions successfully handled by employees working remotely. This includes our group insurance business, where even in this highly disrupted environment, MetLife still expects to meet or exceed its performance guarantees.

 

Insulet Corp (Earnings Call Transcript - 5/7)

There is much work to be done to realize our vision. And in 2020, we will continue to make significant progress. This year, we are focused on driving 4 key initiatives forward: one, deliver consumer-focused innovation; two, ensure the best global customer experience; three, expand our global footprint; and four, drive operational excellence across the organization. Our team has done a remarkable job quickly adjusting in the face of COVID-19. And despite the challenges of working remotely, we do not expect an impact of more than a couple of quarters on our execution time lines. Engineers are finding creative ways to innovate in their newly virtual teams. Sales calls are happening via Webex, and our manufacturing and supply teams are ensuring we meet our growing customer demand without missing a beat.

 

Fidelity National Information Services (Earnings Call Transcript - 5/7)

Early on, we executed company-wide crisis management measures to protect our colleagues' health and safety. This included transitioning over 95% of our employees to work from home, expanding our employee benefits to include extended sick leave related COVID-19 and enhancing our telemedicine benefits globally...

...Reevaluating our real estate as part of COVID-19 as a backdrop. We're so successful at working from home. 

 

Upwork (10Q - 5/6)

In connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also implemented measures to protect the health of our workforce, including by requiring all employees to work remotely for an indefinite period of time. This and other policies may negatively impact workforce productivity and may cause disruptions to our business.

 

T-Mobile US (Earnings Call Transcript - 5/6)

We were one of the first to take bold steps to do our part to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 with wide-scale temporary store closures and transitioning employees to work remotely, including 14,000 U.S.-based care employees from T-Mobile and Sprint. We utilized our digital capabilities to enable things like virtual retail, and we introduced curbside and mobile fulfillment. Through all this transition, our frontline employees have stepped up big to support our customers and continue to deliver the industry-leading customer service that makes us different. And that has translated into record-high NPS satisfaction scores.

 

Equinix (Earnings Call Transcript -5/6)

Also, our greater than 2,500 IBX employees received a onetime cash bonus to help them address personal needs, given the shelter-in-place requirements in their communities while all other employees were provided a stipend to help support their work-from-home requirements. As a result, for the first quarter, the COVID-19 impact to revenues and adjusted EBITDA was $3 million and $14 million, respectively. On a constant currency basis, and absent the COVID-19 adjustments, both revenues and adjusted EBITDA were above the top end of our guidance range and AFFO and AFFO per share were above our expectations.

 

Gartner Inc (Earnings Call Transcript - 5/6)

In response to the pandemic and local government directives, we closed our offices during Q1. Because we had a strong infrastructure in place, associates were able to make a smooth transition to working from home. Of course, not everything went as planned. For example, some associates have relatively slow Internet connections. And some managers had to adjust to managing their teams remotely. Our most immediate challenge has been an increased difficulty bridging prospects and some clients in their remote environments rather in their offices.

We continue to make a significant global impact to our research insights, tools and advice. We're agile with our research content. We continuously adapt our risk agenda to ensure we're riding on topics that support our clients' current mission-critical priorities.

Q1 was no different. When news of the pandemic broke, we added comprehensive content for every major functional role across the enterprise on critical topics, such as what steps to take in response to COVID 19? What to do so that employees are productive working from home? And how to make smart cost reductions across the organization? In addition, we took the best cross-practice content and made it available to all clients. Findings from our expanded coronavirus coverage and real-time surveys are being widely used by our clients. These insights have also been cited by well-known media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, The Economist and more. During Q1, we significantly increased the number of webinars and other virtual events where we deliver content to our clients. These have been highly valued.

 

Jack Henry and Associates (Earnings Call Transcript - 5/5)

Early in March, our human resources team enhanced our health care program to cover 100% of COVID-19 related medical treatment for all employees.

We announced that we were offering full-time work-from-home status on March 16, and our corporate technology services team successfully transitioned 96% of our employees by the end of that week, the other 4% are required in a Jack Henry location every day to manage one of our data center operations. Those employees began receiving bonuses immediately after we moved to a work-from-home status.

 

Phillips 66 (Earnings Call Transcript - 5/1)

Our business is essential, and we're focused on providing critical energy products and services for our customers. The safety and health of our workforce is our top priority. Phillips 66 has implemented appropriate steps to protect our workforce that are consistent with CDC, national, state and local directives. We've limited our operating facilities to business-critical staff and implemented strict protocols to prevent introduction and spread for the coronavirus.

In our Houston and Bartlesville offices, over 95% of our employees are working remotely.

 

eBay (10Q - 4/30)

The COVID-19 pandemic could decrease consumer spending and have an adverse impact on our sellers through reduced consumer demand for their products and availability of inventory, which could in turn negatively impact the demand for use of our platforms. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to require employees to work remotely for an indefinite period of time, which could negatively impact our business and harm productivity and collaboration.

 

Emerson Electric Co (8K - 4/21)

The Recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak Has Adversely Impacted our Business and Could in the Future Have a Material Adverse Impact on our Business, Results of Operation, Financial Condition and Liquidity, the Nature and Extent of Which is Highly Uncertain

The global outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has significantly increased economic, demand and operational uncertainty. We have global operations, customers and suppliers, including in countries most impacted by COVID-19. Authorities around the world have taken a variety of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including travel bans or restrictions, increased border controls or closures, quarantines, shelter-in-place orders and business shutdowns and such authorities may impose additional restrictions. We have also taken actions to protect our employees and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including embracing guidelines set by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on social distancing, good hygiene, restrictions on employee travel and in-person meetings, and changes to employee work arrangements including remote work arrangements where feasible. The actions taken around the world to slow the spread of COVID-19 have also impacted our customers and suppliers, and future developments could cause further disruptions to Emerson due to the interconnected nature of our business relationships.

 

State Street Corp (10Q - 4/9)

More than 85% of our ~39,000 employees are now working from home and we have strict safety protocols in place for those working on site.

 

FactSet Research System (10Q - 4/9)

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we instructed employees at many of our offices across the globe (including our corporate headquarters) to work from home on a temporary basis and have implemented travel restrictions. We have also incurred additional expenses in connection with our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including costs related to enabling our employees to support our clients while working remotely. These additional expenses were not material to our second quarter fiscal 2020 results. 

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