RALEIGH – Technology company executives were well positioned to respond to “stay at home” orders since many if not the vasy majority of their employees were already equipped with the technology needed to telework. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is satisfactory. They are worried.

For now, telecommuting and Zoom and WebEx and webinars rule. The pandemic force-fed us into a new world of work.

In the latest survey of NC companies from the NC Technology Association, executives say that more than 79% have 90% or more of their employees dialing in and another 74% expect “virtual” work to be more common even as the state opens up from COVID-19 restrictions.

Rick Smith, WRAL TechWire’s editor and a cofounder, writes The Skinny.

Yet in a slide from the survey highlighting execs’ concerns, look at how many involve work-at-home impact on their workforces:

  • “Lack of face to face (in person) interaction.”
  • “Heightened stress on parents working from home.”
  • “Keeping employee morale up.”
  • “Planning for what return-to-office looks like.”
  • “Keeping employee connectedness and culture intact.”
  • “Lack / delay of sales / contracts.”
  • “Keeping work from consuming employees while they work from home.”
  • “Re-forecasting / budgeting with so much uncertainty.”

These responses came in response to this question:

“Most difficult/challenging aspect as you navigate the impact of COVID-19 on your organization?”

NC TECH Association graphic

Then there are security concerns.

Interestingly, in a new survey from the World Economic Forum about business executives’ top worries post-pandemic, No. 9 is concern about hacking of their at-home workforces.

And what about hiring?

Tech companies continue to hire (some 46%) and some problems remain: Recruiting and retaining talent are huge challenges, according to periodic surveys from Duke University/CFO. How will telework impact the search for employees? (And do those virtual job interviews really work in screening potential hires? We’ll find out. Soon.) And what impact will a new work environment have on landing in-demand recruits?

In a recent report, Forbes touted the benefits of remote work:

“Working from home, research has found, can boost employee productivity, improve work/life balance and foster better mental health (not to mention reduce pollution from commuters).”

But the executives’ concerns cited in the NC Tech survey demonstrate that doubts remain about what a “new normal” work environment will be. They want employees back in the office – at least for facetime that isn’t via an iPhone.

Upfits mean changes at work, too

For employees called back to the office tower or coworking outpost, worklife will be different than before, adding to the physical and emotional adjustments workers have had to make already.

As TechWire has reported, businesses are going to adapt to social distancing in many cases by reverting to cubicles separated by partitions designed to protect health. Hand sanitizers will adorn walls. Reception areas and meeting rooms may still be bright with big windows but clear barries of plastic and glass will keep people apart.

No more fist bumps or hugs, either.

And masks with company logos …

So even when employees return to the office the environment won’t be nearly as warm or personal as before.

And what will the consequences of that be?

HR executives are going to be quite busy trying to sort out the “new normal.”

Related coverage of the “new normal:” A special series from WRAL TechWire

Triangle’s entrepreneurial economy gears up to lead in the new normal