Tuesday 5 May 2020

Working from home

It certainly can't work for everyone, but I wonder how many companies will be finding that they didn't really need nearly as much office space after all. 
Software firm OpenText is permanently closing about half of its offices and shedding up to five per cent of its workforce as it responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We believe it is better to be decisive and clear, not slow and incremental," chief executive officer Mark J. Barrenechea said during an earnings call on Thursday afternoon.

A shift to remote work by more than 95 per cent of OpenText employees as the pandemic spread has been "amazingly productive" and as a result, approximately half of its physical offices around the world will not reopen, Barrenechea said.

Those offices are smaller and house about 15 per cent of OpenText's total workforce, which was approaching 15,000 employees in 35 countries earlier this year. Specific locations weren't identified in a release announcing the move, but a spokesperson confirmed that its offices in Waterloo — the company's headquarters — and Toronto are remaining and will reopen to employees when a return to work is possible.

"Our corporate offices, our centers of excellence, innovation centers and country head offices will reopen when we are able to do so," the company said.

About 2,000 employees at the affected offices will move permanently to remote work. Separately, a restructuring program will see the total workforce cut by up to five per cent, or roughly 750 people. Cost savings once restructuring is complete are expected to be in the US$65 million to $75 million range.
Remember those little experiments that Tim Harford talked about, where sometimes a road closure would lead people to discover an even better commuting route than they'd had before?

A lot of companies would have been rather reluctant to trial work-from-home options, whether because they didn't think the managers could properly keep an eye on things, or because they expected too great a loss in communication among workers and consequent discoordination issues. But they've all now had to try it.

I'm sure some people cannot wait to get back to their offices. I guess we're all wired a bit differently. It'll be interesting to see how many more folks are allowed to work from home once this passes though.

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