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May 30, 2020, 1:52 p.m. EDT

Work-from-home productivity pickup has tech CEOs predicting many employees will never come back to the office

Silicon Valley leaders tell MarketWatch they agree with Twitter’s stance on allowing workers to stay at home forever if they wish

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By Jon Swartz

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“Our salespeople meet five to eight customers a day now [via videoconferencing] versus the one it took them three days [to see in the past] because of travel,” he added.

A major reason for improved productivity is that people have had little else to do during the shelter-at-home directive and felt pressure to produce to retain their jobs, countered Shane Metcalf, chief culture officer at 15Five, an enterprise technology company.

“One of the shadow side effects is that employees are working longer hours, and feel as if they’re always on call,” he said. “They are stressed.”

See also: Cisco profit continues to flow amid pandemic despite revenue slowdown

To be sure, not everyone will follow Twitter’s lead. Some, like Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.76% , Nvidia Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200467500/composite NVDA +1.05% and Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.09% , have devoted billions of dollars to sparkling new facilities that will always house thousands of employees. And some people want to return to an office, pointed out PagerDuty’s Tejada.

Added Butterfield: “Some employees are going insane [because they] are cooped up alone in an apartment or have kids and want to go back to work. The majority want to be in the office.”

“We don’t believe that ‘office-less globally’ is in our company’s best interest to build strong company culture or long-term productivity. Like most things in life, the best answer is typically something that moderates between two extremes,” Vonage Holdings Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209119823/composite VG -0.53%  CEO Alan Masarek told MarketWatch via email. None of the company’s 2,400 employees will be required to come back to the office “until they are comfortable doing so.”

Record traffic usage of Zoom, Microsoft Corp.’s /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT -2.08%  Teams, Slack Technologies Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/212180539/composite WORK -0.33%  enterprise messaging, Cisco Systems Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite CSCO +0.12%  Webex and other services underscores the always-on workplace.

“Some elements of this work-from-home scenario will not go away,” Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said during a conference call with analysts Wednesday following the company’s quarterly earnings announcement. For example, Webex hosted more than 20 billion meeting minutes in April, compared with 14 billion in March and 7 billion in February.

“The pandemic has created a permanent shift in the way people are working, and while not every organization will go 100% work from home forever, there will certainly be more support for virtualized environments,” Masarek said.

One company going all-in virtually is Dialpad because, quite simply, it can. CEO Craig Walker, who helped develop Google Voice technology, was leaning that way before the pandemic forced most of the economy to shut down. He wants the communications-software firm’s 400 employees to work from home four or five days a week, he said, and he plans to halve office space to accommodate a staggered work schedule.

No matter what path companies take, they agree it will not be the same. Some employees will exclusively work from home, while others will opt for the office. And others may do both.

“It’s back to a whole new way of work — like back to the future,” says Quick Base CEO Ed Jennings, who took over the $1 billion, 500-person company this week, but has yet to visit headquarters.

Still, he’s already re-imagining what it will look like in the future — with more open space, partitions and collaboration spaces.

“It is hard to create depth of relationship when you communicate strictly via virtual meeting,” Jennings said. “Employees say these days they get things done so much faster at home. The question is whether that is sustainable.”

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$ 439.07
+3.32 +0.76%
Volume: 27.51M
Aug. 4, 2020 1:08p
P/E Ratio
33.41
Dividend Yield
0.75%
Market Cap
$1863.11 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.98M
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/zigman2/quotes/200467500/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 445.03
+4.62 +1.05%
Volume: 4.61M
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P/E Ratio
82.98
Dividend Yield
0.14%
Market Cap
$270.85 billion
Rev. per Employee
$882,428
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/zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 3,114.67
+2.78 +0.09%
Volume: 2.81M
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P/E Ratio
119.57
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N/A
Market Cap
$1558.71 billion
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/zigman2/quotes/209119823/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 12.24
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Volume: 1.30M
Aug. 4, 2020 1:08p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$3.02 billion
Rev. per Employee
$466,540
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/zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 212.04
-4.50 -2.08%
Volume: 28.53M
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P/E Ratio
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Dividend Yield
0.96%
Market Cap
$1638.70 billion
Rev. per Employee
$902,473
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/zigman2/quotes/212180539/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 30.40
-0.10 -0.33%
Volume: 4.48M
Aug. 4, 2020 1:08p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$17.19 billion
Rev. per Employee
N/A
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/zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 47.22
+0.06 +0.12%
Volume: 6.05M
Aug. 4, 2020 1:08p
P/E Ratio
18.74
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3.05%
Market Cap
$199.12 billion
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$684,933
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Jon Swartz is a senior reporter for MarketWatch in San Francisco, covering many of the biggest players in tech, including Netflix, Facebook and Google. Jon has covered technology for more than 20 years, and previously worked for Barron's and USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @jswartz.

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