When are Philly tech companies going back to the office? Well, it depends - Technical.ly Philly

Company Culture

When are Philly tech companies going back to the office? Well, it depends

From an 11-person startup to a corporation that employee thousands locally, in-office plans seem to run the gamut.

Inside Piano's offices in The Bourse, where CEO Trevor Kaufman said employees will return to work in person soon.

(Courtesy photo)

Is the future of work here?

As of June 2, the City of Philadelphia has lifted all of its “safer at home” restrictions to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including capacity limits on office buildings.

In the last 16 months, as the region has dealt with the pandemic’s effects, many tech companies and others that can operate remotely have done so. Through Technical.ly’s reporting during the pandemic, we’ve explored maintaining workplace culture during that time, what it means to be a Philly-based company in a remote world and checked in with those who can’t wait to return to the office.

And thanks to the new call by the City, that wait is over — maybe.

When checking in with a handful of local companies about where their “back-to-the-office” plans stand, we found that they ran the gamut, from Piano CEO Trevor Kaufman saying yes, definitely, employees are coming back to the office sometime soon, to CareAlign leadership planning for its 11-person company to stay fully remote for now.

Kaufman, who closed a round of fundraising from existing investors Updata Partners last month, told us that everything from hiring to mentorship to fundraising is harder in a remote world. He’s excited to bring folks back to the Philly HQ — which houses about 55 people and is growing — in The Bourse.

“We consider collaboration an extremely important part of our culture and feel like we’ve been at a disadvantage with remote work,” Kaufman said of the B2B software biz.

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But for others, remote work has been going well enough to not see a necessary return to offices. Mark Switaj, founder and CEO of on-demand patient ride-booking platform company Roundtrip, said its offices on Fifth Street near Spring Garden are open if any of their 41 full-time team members would like to go in. But the company currently has “no plans to require regular in-office presence.”

Those who do choose to head into the office can only do so after they’ve given proof of vaccination to the company’s HR department and if they agree to wear their mask when not seated at a desk, Switaj said in an email. The shift to distributed work has allowed the company to hire throughout the U.S., and leadership has added a monthly “home office allowance” that gives team members some extra cash to upgrade equipment or services to make their WFH setups comfortable.

“To continue to keep our culture and connections alive, we anticipate a future where team members might travel to convene in person a few times per year,” he said. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’ve built an incredible team that we can trust to get the job done no matter where we all are.”

Members of the Roundtrip team as of early 2020. (Courtesy photo)

Global software company SAP, which has its North American headquarters based in Newtown Square with more than 3,000 local employees, is planning a “flex” work style moving forward. The company called this “an inclusive environment in which people can work from home, at the office, or remotely, so everyone is empowered to run at their personal best, driving success for SAP’s customers,” it said in a recent announcement.

The company arrived at this decision with input from an internal survey that found that more than 80% of employees wanted a mix of remote and in-office work. Industry surveys also showed that women and recent graduates particularly desire and benefit from a flexible work environment, SAP said.

Because the company is global, specific work arrangements and requirements will be made in accordance to local guidelines and in alignment with an employee’s manager, an SAP spokesperson told Technical.ly. The company isn’t a stranger to remote work, and already does so with multiple offices around the world, it said. It sited its SAP SuccessFactors software, an end-to-end experience management software, in its remote work success.

And Comcast, one of the city’s largest employers with more than 17,000 local workers, sees some return-to-office plans eventually, a company spokesperson said in an email.

“We’re approaching our return to office planning with the health and safety of our employees as our first priority,” they said.

For now, that means an optional soft opening this summer for a “small number” of senior leaders in select locations, including the company’s towers in Center City, and Comcast will use this time to test its office protocols and arrangements “as we prepare our workplaces for a broader return this fall,” the spokesperson said. Those plans will begin in a phased approach some time after Labor Day.

Tell us about your return-to-office plans, if you have them: philly@technical.ly.

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