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Technology & Leadership

Most of our Portfolio CEOs Say “See You at The Office in 2021”

Nate Lentz
July 14, 2020

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:

  • Two thirds of our CEOs have no current plan to open the office or do not expect to open their offices until 2021
  • 85% expect to operate at less than 50% capacity when they do open and almost 60% expect to open at less than 25% of capacity
  • Interestingly almost 90% of CEOs indicated that to-date, their people were as productive as being in the office (50%) or somewhat more productive than being in the office (39%)
    • Engineering productivity, go-to-market productivity, and, surprisingly, maintaining and building team culture were identified as being better as a remote team
    • Interviewing and assessing new talent and onboarding talent were both viewed as more difficult as a remote team
  • CEOs expect all areas to see a decline in productivity if teams remain remote for another six months, with the deepest decline in building and maintaining culture
  • Going to the office is almost universally viewed as voluntary in early opening stages and most CEOs expect a limit on outside visitors (100%), enhanced cleaning (86%), office redesign (86%), limitation on in-person meeting attendees (86%), mask requirements (71%), limited kitchen and public space use (71%).

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?