June 11, 2020
Canadian e-commerce company Shopify recently announced that it will be moving forward as a “digital by default” company, allowing more than 5,000 of its employees to work from home through the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future. Spotify’s announcement puts them in step with prominent tech companies that have made similar decisions, such as Twitter and Square. As many companies have adopted video-conferencing and other digital solutions by necessity to continue operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, these announcements signal a move towards establishing remote working arrangements beyond the pandemic.
It remains to be seen how widely and quickly this trend will spread in the tech sector and beyond. Critics of the work from home model raise concerns, including that companies will face reduced team cohesion and collaboration, while employees will display decreased productivity, reduced morale, and mental health impacts. The Montreal-based artificial intelligence firm Element AI has announced that they will not give up existing office space, which they claim facilitates the company’s collaborative culture.
Such announcements from Spotify and other prominent tech firms have raised concerns among real estate developers and commercial landlords. While Shopify has committed to repurposing its physical offices, other companies such as Waterloo-based OpenText have decided they no longer need the same physical presence. In April, the cloud-based software developer announced that it will permanently close approximately 50% of its offices globally.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to adapt operations and devise creative solutions to survive and thrive in a drastically altered business environment. It will be interesting to monitor going forward how many companies share the view of Spotify and OpenText that work from home is the way of the future, and how many view it as an inconvenient reality that will come and go with the pandemic.
Author: Eran Rubman