Survey: 97% of NC execs optimistic; 81% plan to boost hiring; but 29% to reduce office space

Date Published:

by Jason Parker — June 9, 2021

Executives of technology companies based in North Carolina are optimistic about the future of their business, including the short-term performance of their companies during 2021, according to the results of a new survey. But changes are coming – companies plan to continue hybrid work and more than 29% plan to reduce office space.

The North Carolina Technology Association’s NC TECH Pulse survey finds that 96.8% of respondents said they’re optimistic about business prospects for 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic fades.

How positive? More than 80% plan to boost hiring even though right now more than 9 million open jobs nationally are going unfilled. Many of those are in the south.

And how people will work is changing with more companies continuing hybrid work-from-home/in the office going forward.

In fact, 29.2% of respondents will shrink their overall office space.

Also, 72.3% of respondents also reported that their business has improved compared to where the business was in March 2020, with 23.1% noting that their business is about the same.  Only 4.6% of respondents shared that they believe their business is worse off than it was in March 2020.

The poll results were discussed on a panel facilitated by Brooks Raiford, president and CEO of NC TECH, or the North Carolina Technology Association, and are available on the NC TECH website.

The panel covered how companies across North Carolina, including those with footprints in other states or countries, are thinking about the future of work, and how to structure their policies, think about collaborative space, and other factors pertaining to how companies are planning to “work forward,” the term that Raiford said he heard from a local business leader that prompted him to shift how he’d been thinking and describing the decisions companies are making during the coming months.

Hybrid: the way forward

“We’ve seen the economy really coming back, the credit markets coming back, so business has been good for us,” said Andrew Jenkins, a vice president of engineering at Credit Karm. He’s based in Charlotte, where the company will expand its workforce and office footprint as it officially announced that Charlotte will become its east coast technology hub earlier this year, which will include hiring about 600 employees.

“Hybrid is going to be the way forward,” said Jenkins, noting that the company conducted a fair amount of recruitment in late 2019 and early 2020, such that many employees hired haven’t ever physically been in the Charlotte office.

“We’re kind of testing the waters right now,” said Jenkins.  “Summer is going to be a time starting to get people back to the office, getting people to experience the hybrid work experience.”

Credit Karma is among the companies who reported in the NC TECH Pulse survey that they’ve expanded their workforce compared to March 2020. Nearly half (47%) of respondents said they’ve hired additional employees, and 43.1% reported that their headcount is about the same as it was in March 2020. Only 9.2% said their workforce is smaller.

Further, 81.5% of respondents said they expect their workforce to grow in 2021, and 18.5% said it would stay stable.

Where will that work occur? 84.6% said they’re considering a hybrid work model, and 64.7% reported a belief that work-from-home policies of competitors could increase competition for hiring talented employees.

58.5% of respondents in the NC TECH Pulse survey, which was conducted in early June 2021, reported that at least three-quarters of their workforce will be allowed to work remotely, at least some of the time.  21.5% will allow at least three-quarters of their workforce to work remotely, permanently, and only 7.7% of respondents said that no employees would be permitted to work remotely on a permanent remote-work basis.

The state of commercial real estate

When it comes to commercial real estate, companies are shifting how they’re planning, but not necessarily in the ways that you would think, said Matthew Cooke, vice president at Davis Moore Advisors, a commercial real estate firm.

“Culture and collaboration and relationships are very critical right now for all the business leaders that we’re talking to right now,” said Cooke. “What clients want is a place where people can go get coffee together, get lunch together, get drinks after work,” he said.  “A huge emphasis on what amenities are placed close by.”

Greg Boone, the co-CEO of Blue Acorn iCi, oversaw the renovation of a new office space, specifically designed to increase collaboration for employees and the company’s clients.  It opened April 1, 2020.  Many people haven’t even seen the facility, yet, he noted.  “We’re not fully open yet,” he said.  “We want to do what’s right, not just on will people feel safe, but also what childcare will look like.”

The company will operate with a hybrid model, but it has not yet established policies around this, said Boone.  “we’re going to be informed by the data, not just from the CDC, but also from our employees.”

The challenge they’re facing, said Boone, is how to incorporate the employees that they’ve hired during the period where the office has been closed, including folks who are not in close geographic proximity to their office facility.

But the company is definitely keeping their footprint, and could even expand it to accommodate the future they’ve planned.

“Part of the reason why we’re keeping the footprint, and could potentially grow the footprint, is not just for our employees, but also for some of our clients, so they could potentially use the space as well, for collaboration,” said Boone.

The NC TECH Pulse survey data shows that nearly 14% of respondents expect to expand their office space, 29.2% will shrink their overall office space, and 57% plan to remain stable with regard to their footprint and office space.

Original Source: WRAL TechWire