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“I don’t think that you can put the genie back in the bottle,” said Scott Siegert, the chief operating officer at Buildertrend, a company in Omaha that makes software for residential contractors and acquired three small companies during the pandemic, none of which are nearby. “I don’t think that that’s what workers expect, and I don’t think that’s best for the company.”
Mr. Fuller said he wasn’t disappointed that completely returning FreightWaves to the office seemed implausible. His business improved when the company shifted to a virtual office, he said, and he hasn’t had trouble filling jobs, even if it has meant paying higher salaries and hiring a recruiter for the first time.
“Every metric that you would care about actually increased,” he said. “Sales increased, momentum increased.” Most of his employees continue to work from home, even if they’re based in Chattanooga.
Robert Hatta, a partner at the venture capital firm Drive Capital, which is in Columbus, Ohio, and invests in companies outside coastal cities, said that before the pandemic, about 20 percent of the firm’s about 70 portfolio companies allowed remote work. Now, about 90 percent have added some form of logging in virtually to their permanent office plans.
But he’s not convinced that remote work will remain the default.
“I think most people would agree, all things considered equal, the co-located team beats the distributed team, even in tech, and this continues to be sort of the default belief in the start-up world,” he said.
Mr. Hatta said it was too early to say which model would become the new normal. “Right now, we’ve got over 60 companies, each running 60 different versions of an experiment on what will work from a work force perspective,” he said.