Coronavirus Responses Like Remote Work, Increased Wages Not All That Common

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

February 18, 2022

Since 2020, there has been a great deal of talk about remote work, hazard pay, vaccination requirements, alternative work schedules and other responses to the coronavirus pandemic. But a majority of businesses have not taken these measures, as a new report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows.

Based on a survey of about 82,000 US establishments, the BLS found the following:

  • Remote work - About 35% of businesses have increased remote work for some or all employees since the start of the pandemic. Of those, 60% expect the increase to continue when the coronavirus pandemic is over.
  • Workplace flexibility - Some 25% of businesses started flexible or staggered work hours, 12% started compressed or alternative work schedules, and 11% started voluntary reductions in hours worked (a change to part-time or reduced hours).
  • Changes in pay - About 15% of businesses increased base wages (straight-time wages or salary), 6% paid a wage premium/extra hourly amount for working during the pandemic (hazard pay, hero pay, or hourly bonus) and 9% paid one-time special monetary awards/appreciation bonuses for working during the pandemic.
  • COVID-19 workplace requirements - While 58% of businesses required some or all employees to routinely wear a face covering or any protective gear while they were on site, only 24% required employees working on site to have a temperature screening prior to entering their place of work, and 18% required some or all employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination before coming to work.

Larger businesses were more likely to take these responses, so the percentage of US employees affected by a given response was generally higher than the percentage of businesses taking that response. For example, while only 35% of businesses reported increasing remote work, those businesses employed about 51% of employees.

The survey also found that the vast majority of businesses:

  • Neither increased nor decreased their square footage, but rather kept the same amount of space;
  • Have not relocated since the start of the pandemic;
  • Did not start or increase their use of independent contractors, freelancers or consultants; and
  • Do not use self-service kiosks, voice recognition, robots or other forms of automation.

The BLS conducted a similar survey in 2020, but year-over-year trends could not be inferred because the questions were slightly different.