CEO Insights Brief #4 During COVID-19

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On May 12th MassTLC hosted our fourth video conference with more than a dozen tech CEOs who discussed how they are thinking about physically returning employees to the office, resuming customer visits, participating in conferences and trade shows, and corporate travel, as well as culture and risk associated with a return to the workplace.

Read the summary of our first CEO meeting here

Read the summary of our second CEO meeting here

Read the summary of our third CEO meeting here

The CEOs discussed questions such as: What is a safe office environment? Would people would want to experience it? And, how will companies re-engage their employees? They placed employee risk tolerance at the top of their list of enablers, noting a wide range of employee attitudes, with some not productive working remotely and others who preferred staying away. CEOs generally want to be responsive to individual situations and comfort levels, and favor flexible guidelines over blanket policies.

CEOs are also thinking through the calculation of expense regarding real estate square footage. With social distancing, most offices can only hold 30-40% of their workforce so companies would need to rotate people through or expand space to accommodate the entire workforce. Those with leases coming up in the next few months are considering going quasi-virtual and rethinking their near-term space needs.

When it comes to culture, remote work is more challenging for some than others. Younger
workers often have challenging living situations with multiple roommates in cramped space and are anxious to get back to the office. Collaborative groups that engage in frequent brainstorming, like engineering teams, struggle with the ability to whiteboard with remote technology. Many acknowledge that Zoom fatigue is real and are having managers check in on fatigue and burn out.

The call ended with thoughts on whether things will change when we get a vaccine. Will it swing back and normalize how we work?