Shopify CEO says employees to work remotely until 2021, sees end to ‘office centricity’

Shopify (SHOP) CEO Tobi Lutke on Thursday joined a growing number of companies embracing the broad shift to working remotely during the coronavirus lockdowns, telling employees they can work from home for the remainder of the year.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Lutke declared his web commerce platform a “digital by default” platform that was heralding the end of “office-centricity.” As a result, most of Shopify’s workforce would be remote “permanently,” the billionaire added.

As the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic gradually come to an end, a number of private businesses are allowing workers to tele-commute indefinitely. However, there is increasing doubt about the viability of companies maintaining large commercial office footprints, particularly with no viable coronavirus treatment or vaccine on the horizon.

“Until recently, work happened in the office. We’ve always had some people remote, but they used the internet as a bridge to the office. This will reverse now,” said Lutke.

“The future of the office is to act as an on-ramp to the same digital workplace that you can access from your [work from home] setup,” he added.

Sanjay Rishi, the CEO of JLL (JLL) America, told Yahoo Finance recently that companies and workers are actively trying to consider how to commute safely with the coronavirus spread still a factor, which means “re-imagining” office space.

By dint of post-coronavirus de-densification and social distancing, office buildings will likely have fewer workers, he acknowledged.

“People have become very comfortable with the idea of productivity. A month ago, people would worry about productivity loss when people were working from home.” Virtual work “really is functional and works just fine is something people have embraced,” Rishi said.

The tension between companies allowing companies to work remotely, and those willing to come in, will determine whether the two sides “balance out…but we’ll have to see. We’re in uncharted territory.”

Last month, Barclays (BCS) CEO Jes Staley told reporters that “the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.” And already, companies are reconfiguring existing offices to conform to the imperatives of preventing the spread of the deadly virus, and planning for more to work from home.

Javier David is an editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @TeflonGeek

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