We recently held a zoom conference with our CEOs to discuss reopening the office and to share what people were learning, thinking, and how they were preparing. 100% of participants are business-to-business software start-ups and almost 100% of employees are college educated with salaries averaging above $100k, so their perspectives will be very different from leaders in other industries.
Here are some interesting results:
We also had a broader, deeper, and unresolved discussion about the role of the office in the future of these businesses. Remote work was not foreign to our portfolio pre-COVID, with 28% of our companies reporting that less than half of their employees worked from the office pre-COVID. However, the role of the office was extremely important prior to the pandemic to most of the companies surveyed, with nearly every company having an office for at least a subset of their teams.
A general sentiment of the CEOs was that there would be a change for most companies in terms of the role of the office to their organization. More remote workers, more flexibility to work from home some of the time, more fluid use of video (Teams, Zoom, etc.) to enhance remote experience once offices re-open. The five-day-in-office work week is getting called into question as we all experience a different approach to productive work. Five years from now when CEOs are surveyed, I would bet more than half will answer that fewer than 50% of their employees work out of an office on any given day.
This shift to increased remote workers will accelerate the need for next generation technologies for managing remote people, recruiting talent remotely, engaging teams, fostering innovation, creating remote serendipitous “water cooler moments”, building and sustaining culture, collaborating, securing information and networks, productivity monitoring, mental health management, and many other opportunities.
Of course, if the current COVID trend of increased cases keeps rising and more states reverse their re-opening decisions or delay timelines for reopening, then close to 100% remote will continue for much longer than anticipated and by the time these companies are ready to re-open their offices in 2022, more than half of their employees in these high growth businesses will be asking: “hey – where is the office anyway and why do we need to go there?