Home / Companies / News /  3 days a week in office...: IBM plans new working setup for employees post-covid

International Business Machines Corp expects 80% of its employees to work in a hybrid model after the pandemic, a setup that offers flexibility but also poses challenges for community-building and upward mobility for staff in a virtual workspace.

The majority of workers “will spend at least three days a week, maybe not all eight to 10 hours, but at least some fraction of those three days, in the office," Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna said Wednesday in an interview during the Bloomberg Future of Work seminar.

As vaccines are administered across the U.S. and pandemic restrictions loosen, companies are trying to chart a path forward. In a recent report by Zoom Video Communications Inc., some 65% of surveyed U.S. companies said they were considering a “flexible remote working model."

Krishna said that he could see 10%-20% of employees staying entirely remote, but he’s concerned about how that would impact building company culture. “When people are remote I worry about what’s their career trajectory going to be," Krishna said. “If they want to become a people manager, if they want to get increasing responsibilities or if they want to build a culture within their teams, how are we going to do that remotely?" He added that parents will be allowed to work entirely remotely until schools reopen.

To accommodate these workplace changes, Krishna said that some of IBM’s 70 million square feet of office space will likely be closed, though the company will probably keep more than half of its current capacity. The remaining space will be reconfigured to facilitate collaboration, as solitary work will likely be done from home, Krishna said.

About 10% of IBM employees in the U.S. have returned to the office, Krishna said. That’s higher than in Western Europe, where “almost nobody’s in the office," but far lower than in Australia or China where many employees have returned. IBM has more than 345,000 employees in 175 countries. Inc. expects most of its U.S. employees to return to the office “by early fall," the company said in an internal memo this week.

“In the U.S., as vaccines become broadly available in the next few months, we expect more people will start coming into the office through the summer, with most back in the office by early fall," Amazon said in a note to employees dated Tuesday, later posted on a company blog. Workers in some European countries may return later owing to vaccine distribution setbacks, the company said.

Amazon is the second-largest U.S. private-sector employer behind Walmart Inc. and the biggest employer in hometown Seattle. Most of the company’s white-collar staff have been working from home since the pandemic began, but its warehouse employees and delivery drivers were deemed essential workers and stayed on the job.

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