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IBM's CEO cautions against making 'plans' for a return to work

·2 min read
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The future of work at IBM (IBM) isn’t in the office or remote, but a combination of both.

CEO Arvind Krishna told Yahoo Finance Presents that he expects 80% of IBM’s 350,000 employees to choose a hybrid model, meaning they’ll come into the office two or three days a week and work remotely the rest. He expects the remaining 10% to 20% of IBM's workforce to go fully remote and never return to the office.

“The last year has proven to us we can be productive, even when we are at home, and remote,” said Krishna.

But he cautions that “nobody should make firm plans for another two or three months.”

Krishna said return to work at IBM will play out differently in different parts of the world, depending on how successful various geographies are in combating the pandemic.

“As we have seen, if you're a global company, the rate of the pandemic, when you look at certain countries in South America and certain countries in Asia, it shows that this thing is going to come back and back,"he said. 

"You’ve got to be aware of the context, as the pandemic is sort of rolling its way across the globe, which unfortunately, I think is going to be with us for another year.”

IBM joins a growing list of companies planning for a shift to hybrid work in a post-vaccine workplace, including Citigroup (C), Ford (F), Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), and Slack (WORK).

IBM headquarters in Armonk, NY.
IBM headquarters in Armonk, NY.

In anticipation of that workplace shift, Krishna said the tech titan is reducing its physical office space by “tens of millions” of square feet.

Krishna said he wants to offer employees flexibility when it comes to where they work, but he estimates 30% to 40% of IBM’s employees will ultimately want to return to the office five days a week including, “people in inner cities, people with maybe an environment at home that is not so conducive to work and others who just love the [in office] environment,” he said. 

Krishna said there is no substitute for the in-office experience “that allows creativity, culture building, learning from other people, the serendipitous 'hallway conversations' all to happen.”

Alexis Christoforous is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.