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Returning to the workplace: 'flexibility is the future': Envoy CEO

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi speak with Envoy CEO Larry Gadea about how employees feel about returning to the workplace.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: As the US struggles to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, more companies are delaying their return to the office. In fact, most recently, big names like Microsoft and Target have announced they're going to extend working from home until at least next summer. But how do workers feel about not getting back to the office?

A new survey from the workplace tech company, Envoy, is shedding some light on that. And joining us now is Envoy CEO Larry Gadea. Larry, thanks so much for being with us. I found this survey to be really enlightening. Talk to us about how employees feel about getting back to the workplace. Are they itching to get back in the office?

LARRY GADEA: Hey, thanks for having me. Yeah, it's really mixed. It's mixed across the board. And it's really about what is it, it's like 73% of people really want to go back in some form. But the problem is, that they really feel like it could be a little bit risky, and they're a little bit concerned about it. It's really not an easy thing for them to do. And what is it, 75% of people have said that they will literally quit their job if their employer downplays the risks of COVID-19.

So you can really see that people are concerned and they want others to take it really seriously as well. And then 94% have said that they want to go back in some form, be it like one or more days, and on their own terms. So it's pretty incredible. I was really surprised, and so's the rest of our company.

BRIAN SOZZI: Larry, what specifically are they concerned about?

LARRY GADEA: Excuse me?

BRIAN SOZZI: What specifically are some of their concerns with going to work? Is it the lack of social distancing, that their desks you're still close together? Is it the air filtration systems?

LARRY GADEA: Yeah, the real concern is that they just don't know what to expect. Like they know that there's this risk, they know that whenever they go somewhere, they don't want to be too close to people. They want to make sure that everybody around them is doing these different measures. Like they have their face masks on, they are staying away from each other. They want make sure that desks are far apart from each other, and that they're not put beside each other.

What is it, 43% of people feel like their workplace has done measures that weren't right. Like they were basically putting people, they were telling people to do things that they figured were ineffective. And it's kind of like these employees are hoping from their employer, hey, help me get on, in my workday safely. And that's something that's really tough for a lot of these folks, because they want to believe in that, like all the different measures are being done correctly for them and the latest and greatest is being considered.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: But I mean, an overwhelming number of people, I think something like 90% said they actually miss the workplace. And it's not the work they necessarily miss, but it's the social interaction, it's the perks that some offices give you, like lunch and snacks, right?

LARRY GADEA: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, it's some of these things, it's this top of mind for them, like they don't want to have to worry about cleaning things, they don't want to have to worry about like, where am I going to get coffee, where am I going to get food, where am I going to get like all these people together. And it's incredible. 94% have said that they want to stay at least one day a week in the workplace.

And some of the numbers are just absolutely incredible. It's something like 20% of people have gone back in some capacity, but 40% never left. 40% have never left their workplace. These people work in factories, they work in different warehouses, they work in all these different kinds of companies that you don't really have a choice. Like, you have to be back. And they want to make sure that they're being thoughtful about how their situation environment is around them.

BRIAN SOZZI: Yeah, you work with a lot of big name tech companies. Slack, Okta, two companies we know very well here at Yahoo Finance. How are they thinking about reopening?

LARRY GADEA: They basically, I mean, they want to, it's really mixed. Like there's a lot of people that are just like, hey, we can work remotely. Like if right now, a lot of them are making it work 100% remotely. And then a lot of them are saying, hey, we're going to do it permanently remote as well. But all of them have some sort of stipulation that like, hey, we'll see how it goes. And maybe it won't be permanent forever or maybe like if people start moving, there'll be different location, different like kind of compensation stuff changes.

But it's a very interesting thing that's totally developing right now. But basically, these tech companies that can do it, they're all working remotely right now, because it's the safest thing. But even in those companies, the people are just feeling it. They want to get a little bit more social time. They want to be able to see their team in person.

And I think the biggest thing is going to be when they all go back, hybrid, how is it going to work? How is it going to be fair for the people that are at home, working from home, because they are still concerned about COVID versus the people that are back? How are they going to be able to both communicate and have it be fair?

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Larry Fink from BlackRock talked about this very topic the other day. And he was saying how really, the pandemic hastened a trend that was already underway with companies moving more to working from home. Do you believe that? I mean, it's hard for me to believe it would have happened to this extent.

LARRY GADEA: I think a lot of companies are realizing that this is a good thing, and that it's helping them. And a lot of people like, they've always had these circumstances. They had to pick up their kids at 3:00 PM. They had to do these different things. And they'd have to go home early. They wouldn't get to do the rest of the day. I think that there's some positives for the companies as well to really think about. It's like this flexibility is the future. And I do think that the technology is there. It can get better, that's for sure. But it's kind of, it's enough for people to really start thinking about this as a practical thing.

Do I think the whole world's going to be remote? No. And I don't think the rest of the survey takers either thought the same thing. Like it's, they feel that like they want at least one day a week. What is it? Almost half the people in the survey, they want at least, they want five days a week. Half of the employees. These are not managers, these are not company executives, half of the survey takers want five days a week. Now this is spread over a lot of different industries, but it's pretty incredible to hear these kinds of numbers.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And also, what about the workplace as a sanctuary? I mean, you asked folks about that in the survey. And there's that little bit of, hey, I used to go to work to get away from the craziness in the house. How much of that is playing into all of this?

LARRY GADEA: It's a little wild for some folks. Like I mean, there's kids running in the background, there's jack hammering outside, there's a highway beside them, there's all sorts of issues at home. Like people kind of want a way to, they want their work life balance split. And some companies, maybe like this is not assumed. And most companies though, it is assumed. And you have to really consider that kind of thing.

And some people literally do want to get away from their spouses for a few hours a day. And it's like totally reasonable. Everybody needs their space. And sometimes they want to go to work to get away from things. This is not really possible anymore. And people are looking at different options, but a lot of co-working spaces and stuff still remain closed. So yeah, it's a real issue that folks are thinking about a lot.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, I think a lot of people can relate to this survey from Envoy. Larry Gadea, thanks so much for being with us.

LARRY GADEA: Absolutely, thanks for having me.