Almost a year after the pandemic made remote work a necessity, TMT executives are looking ahead to bringing employees back into the office. In fact, more than a quarter (27%) told us in a January 2021 survey that about half their employees are already back at least half-time, and almost 80% expect that to be the case by July.
This despite the overwhelming success of remote work, as detailed below. As a result, by design or default, nearly a third (32%) of TMT leaders plan to continue offering employees limited remote-work schedules.
An equal share say they will continue evaluating how much work can be done outside the office before they make any final decisions. A hybrid model seems most likely to be the future for TMT companies.
Some nine months after the forced inception of remote work, it chalks up high praise from TMT employers and employees alike: 78% of employers and 75% of employees touted its success in our survey. And productivity has certainly not suffered: 81% of employees and 80% of employers told us remote work has proved as productive or more productive than pre-COVID times.
In fact, 65% of employers said it’s proved more productive, up from 51% in June 2020. While only 45% of employees agreed, their ranks have also swelled since June 2020 when only 30% agreed.
Employees likely have a different perspective than employers because those who are used to more convenient — often serendipitous — in-office collaboration with colleagues now have to make a more concerted effort to connect. Employers meanwhile, are likely assessing overall metrics, which have proven sound.
Implications: TMT companies are already ahead of other sectors in establishing policies, providing tech tools and offering resources to manage remote work successfully. Productivity is on the upswing, by all accounts. Continually updating secure-connectivity tools will be essential to ongoing remote work success.
When we originally asked TMT employees about their remote work habits in June 2020, more than half — 55% — told us they already worked remotely at least one day a week before the pandemic struck, substantially more than other those in sectors (43%). Already ahead of the curve, TMT companies continued to nurture remote productivity with a variety of policies, resources and tools, both digital and analog, as reported by their employees.
From empowering flexibility and setting clear boundaries to ensuring employee well-being, TMT companies doubled down on the policies necessary for effective remote work. They also provided employees with tools and resources ranging from mobile apps for work to supporting mental health and extending childcare benefits.
Implications: While TMT companies are ahead of other sectors in providing the tools and resources required for a successful remote work environment, TMT leaders and employees don’t always agree on outcomes. For example, 93% of TMT executives say they’re extending childcare benefits, while only 55% of employees agree. Similarly, 100% of TMT executives say they are establishing clear rules about working hours, while only 77% of employees agree. Employee feedback is essential to a successful remote work environment.
Remote work has been good for innovation, customer service and project management according to upwards of 80% of employees who say these areas have fared as well as or better than pre-pandemic times — likely because TMT companies already have robust innovation and product-development processes in place, along with tech tools for remote collaboration.
Relationships with new and existing customers are progressing along the same path they were in pre-COVID times, according to almost 60% of employees. Again, tech tools for remote collaboration, which many TMT companies have pioneered, probably make a difference here. Activities that require sustained personal interaction, however, such as onboarding and relationship-building haven’t fared quite as well.
Implications: Plan ahead and set goals to accomplish the right mix of remote and in-person options for all aspects of work, from innovation and project management that can be accomplished remotely to onboarding and relationship-building, which both executives and workers agree requires face-to-face communication.
The vast majority of TMT executives — 98% — told us they believe a physical office will be essential to sustaining their company’s culture and providing a collaborative environment for employees. Employees have similar reasons for being in the office, with relationship-building being the primary reason, whether with colleagues, managers, direct reports or clients.
While executives and employees are not in complete agreement on how much time employees need to be in the office, some overlap does exist.
Implications: While TMT employees say they enjoy the flexibility of remote work, they also told us they miss in-person options to build relationships with colleagues, managers, direct reports and mentors/mentees. More spaces for teaming are in order, which TMT executives are already folding into their plans.
Despite the overwhelming success of remote work, heralded by both TMT executives and employees, more than half of TMT executives — 54% — see a need for additional real estate over the next three years.
They also envision needing a lot more space. When we asked TMT leaders about their space needs in June 2020, a scant 6% projected a 25% or greater increase in real estate footprint by 2024. Now, 27% anticipate that level of growth.
In anticipation of increased headcount and a desire to reduce density in existing locations for COVID-related public-health reasons, the vast majority of TMT companies plan to open additional locations in the next 12 months (83% versus 58% for all sectors).
Implications: Near term, employees may want to work in less densely configured space and seek assurances of health checks. TMT companies are already planning for this eventuality by expanding to satellite suburban offices as appropriate.
The shift to a hybrid model will require new ways of planning for the right office space model; scheduling teams; evaluating performance; attracting, training, and retaining talent; forging client relationships; and sustaining a robust corporate culture.
Already, many TMT companies have seen professionals relocate from high-cost metropolitan areas, either for financial or personal reasons. We recommend articulating what role offices will play so you can best identify optimal locations for headquarters and regional offices.
Most managers have had to improvise during much of 2020. Developing targeted training to address the challenges of a hybrid work arrangement will require managers to learn new ways of measuring progress.
While a return to the pre-pandemic office model is untenable, crucial employee relationships — the essence of corporate culture — require at least some measure of in-person connection. Flexibility from both executives and employees will be essential.