IBM's CEO predicts a hybrid remote-work model for 80% of employees post-pandemic

IBM's CEO predicts a hybrid remote-work model for 80% of employees post-pandemic
Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired
  • IBM expects 80% of its employees to work in hybrid remote roles post-pandemic, Bloomberg reported.
  • CEO Arvind Krishna also said IBM will likely scale back its office space significantly.
  • Some tech companies take a flexible approach to work; Amazon and others want workers in the office.

IBM is joining the growing list of tech companies planning to take a flexible approach to remote work even after the pandemic, though it does have concerns about how the strategy could impact its company culture.

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Bloomberg's Emily Chang on Wednesday 80% of the company's employees may stay in hybrid roles indefinitely, spending "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."
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Krishna said 10% to 20% of employees could potentially stay fully remote, but that he worried "about what's their career trajectory going to be."
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"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?" Krishna told Bloomberg.

IBM's HR chief, Nickle LaMoreaux, had told Insider in February that most employees would need to come into the office "from time to time," but that few would need to come in five days a week.

Currently, Krishna told Bloomberg, IBM has around 15% of its global workforce coming into the office "some" of the time, while "about 5% never went home."
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Regardless, Krishna added, the transition to a long-term hybrid model "is not going to happen overnight," adding that parents can stay fully remote until schools reopen.

IBM is also planning to scale back its brick-and-mortar footprint as it plans for employees spending less time in the office, cutting a significant portion of the 70 million square feet of office space and 1,000 locations it had before the pandemic, according to Bloomberg. "I would imagine that we will get rid of tens of millions," Krishna told Bloomberg, referring to square feet of office space. "Are we going to go toward zero, absolutely not. Will we have over half of what we had, most likely."
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IBM was a pioneer in the work-from-home revolution before it largely abandoned the policy in 2017, but the company is pivoting again as others in its industry rethink how and where people will work post-pandemic.

Twitter and Salesforce are among some of the tech firms embracing a more remote workforce for the foreseeable future, while Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Uber recently announced plans to start bringing employees back to their corporate headquarters (though many of these companies' frontline workers were never granted permission to work from home or faced disparate healthcare and paid leave or remote work policies that prevented them from doing so).

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