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MBR's Competitiveness Task Force
 

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Findings: Future of Work & Massachusetts Competitiveness
Press Release: Future of Work & Massachusetts Competitiveness

Competitiveness
The Roundtable believes that industry, government, and education play a critical role in establishing the conditions for regional economic growth. Balancing important investments in education, workforce development, transportation, housing and other areas—with fiscal responsibility—forms the foundation of the state’s competitiveness in the global economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to provide an opportunity for Massachusetts to
re-imagine
our state’s competitiveness, rethink the implications of public policy, and use the innovation it sparked to create a more equitable and competitive Commonwealth. 

Future of Work & Massachusetts Competitiveness
In the spring of 2021, the Roundtable surveyed and interviewed its members on pandemic and post-pandemic planning, providing the latest insight within the Board and among large employers in the Commonwealth. This effort is driven by the Roundtable’s Competitiveness Task Force. While the future of work continues to evolve, this data underscores trends and takeaways the Roundtable will continue to monitor as it contemplates potential public policy implications.

Key Takeaways from the Massachusetts Business Roundtable’s Future of Work & Massachusetts Competitiveness Survey

  • Timing: Most employers are awaiting local public health guidance or are unsure when they may return to the office. Among MBR respondents, 35% anticipate returning to the office this calendar year, with an additional 60% either unsure of their timing or as soon as it is safe to do so. Even with these predictions, returning to the office will look different (see next takeaway).
  • Hybrid: A significant majority of MBR respondents plan to shift to a hybrid working model post-pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, among respondents, 90% of offices maintained all or mostly in-person operations whereas during the pandemic, 81% of offices have been all or mostly work-from-home. Post-pandemic, the survey found that 79% of offices will shift to a hybrid working model, a dramatic shift in how people will work. What hybrid means remains to be seen.
  • Office Real Estate and Design: Employers are rethinking the purpose of in-person work, re-designing the office for increased collaboration when employees are actually in the office. About 38% of MBR respondents said they plan to decrease their Massachusetts footprint (because of the shift to hybrid, not necessarily a decrease in headcount). Additionally, 65% of respondents will be decreasing office density, and 50% said they’d be eliminating personal workstations, as companies consider new office designs and layouts to support in-person collaboration.
  • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: 92% of respondents indicated they would champion measures to advance DEI in their organizations with 88% claiming there will be a visible commitment from executive leadership. As an indication of the level of commitment, 85% of respondents said they intend to increase funding of DEI initiatives from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Out-of-State Considerations: 88% of respondents said they plan to maintain, relocate, or expand their presence in Massachusetts in the next 12-24 months, primarily because of access to talent.  Those who said they are considering reducing their presence here (8%), would do so primarily because of the cost of living/cost of doing business. Employers are also seeing anticipated trends in out-of-state work post-pandemic but are working through the tax implications. Among MBR respondents, 5% of the workforce from Massachusetts based operations worked out of state pre-pandemic; 21% during pandemic; and 15% anticipated post-pandemic.
  • Digitization & Automation: Employers have increased adoption of digital tools for employee interaction and customer outreach. Not surprisingly, 90% said they will increase adoption of digitization tools in the next 12 to 24 months. Yet, only 33% anticipated an increase in automation with 58% predicting no change in automation. (It is possible that companies have already put automation tools in place so the degree of increasing automation post-pandemic is not as high). 
 

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