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Survey: How COVID-19 is Changing the Workplace

Employers Struggle with Remote Work and Drastic Changes to Hiring, Firing, Benefits, Policies, and More

ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 20, 2020 – Following unprecedented reports of unemployment, new research released by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) sheds light on how the coronavirus is disrupting workplaces. The survey polled more than 2,200 human resource professionals to understand the top challenges employers are facing and examine the actions workplaces have taken to adapt to today's evolving economic climate. 

(Full findings here.)

The top challenges include:

  • Seventy-one percent of employers are struggling to adjust to remote work
  • Sixty-five percent of employers say maintaining employee morale has been a challenge
  • More than 1/3 of employers are facing difficulties with:
    • Company culture
    • Employee productivity
    • Leave regulations

Even as employers struggle with new challenges, many have had to close or change to stay solvent. The coronavirus has prompted 40 percent of employers to shut down certain aspects of the business, and 83 percent of employers to adjust business practices. Of those:

  • Half are no longer hiring;
  • Thirty-one percent have laid workers off, while 15 percent have permanently cut headcount with no intent to rehire;
  • Thirty-eight percent have decreased employee hours and 19 percent have reduced pay rates;
  • Fourteen percent have hired more employees, while ten percent are considering it;
  • Thirty-two percent are offering additional paid leave for employees, while another 18 percent are considering it.

"Business is not as usual," said SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. "Markets are down, companies are closed, and millions are working from home. It's a time of change, challenge, and uncertainty. But it's also impermanent—it will pass. The economy will recover, business will bounce back and, soon enough, workers will return to work."

Taylor added: "While I believe in the resilience of the U.S. economy, it will not rebound on its own. This new data underscores the importance of the public and private sectors collaborating to repair our damaged economy. And it's going to take business and HR leaders on the front lines of workplaces to be strong, innovative, and agile as we all fearlessly face this hardship together."  

Assessed by industry type, the survey also found food and accommodation services sectors have experienced the most significant setbacks. Eighty-two percent are shutting down certain aspects of their business (average of 40 percent), 76 percent are laying off employees (average of 31 percent), and one third are cutting headcount with no intent to rehire (average of 15 percent).


Media: Contact Julie Hirschhorn at and 703-842-5152 or Cooper Nye at and 703-535-6447.


A sample of 2278 HR professionals from SHRM's membership were surveyed between April 1 and April 7, 2020. Respondents were invited by email, with a response rate of approximately 5.4 percent. Due to stratified sampling methodology, overall margin of error for the study is unavailable.

About SHRM

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM.



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