IT firms cautious about ending work-from-home under 'Living with COVID-19'

Seen above is a night scene of Pangyo Techno Valley at around 9 pm, July 12. Korea Times photo by Lee Hae-rin

By Kim Bo-eun

With the government preparing to ease social distancing measures starting next month, companies are mulling over how they will adapt to the impending "Living with COVID-19" policy.

The government is aiming to ease most distancing regulations as the percentage of vaccinated people is projected to reach 70 percent by the end of October.

Companies are in the process of devising how they will deal with the return to normal. This is a complicated matter, given that firms have been able to function with employees telecommuting, and therefore they may not see the need to spend unnecessarily on renting office space.

Conglomerates such as Samsung Electronics have already gone back to in-person meetings and overseas business trips.

But IT companies such as game developers have not yet decided how they will deal with the eased distancing measures. The three major game developers here ― NCSOFT, Nexon and Netmarble ― plan on maintaining their telecommuting policy for all workers at least through the end of this month.

Game companies will likely see more developers return to the office, given heavy, high-performance equipment is needed in developing games. The launch of new games has been affected this year as developers faced limitations in bringing the needed equipment to their homes.

"Game companies have seen the new releases being delayed due to telecommuting, so developers will likely return to the office," an industry official said. "But support divisions may continue to have employees work from home. Employees have become increasingly accustomed to online meetings."

Tech giants Naver and Kakao have decided to extend their telecommuting policy through the end of this year.

The three telecom companies ― SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus ― are set to maintain their telecommuting status quo for the time being.

Tech firms are expected to allow employees to keep telecommuting, given their flexible work cultures. SK Telecom set up regional offices to which employees could commute last year, amid the pandemic.

"We used to have a rigid culture that required employees to be at the main office by 9 a.m. But COVID-19 has reshaped our working culture, and we won't be going back to the way things were before COVID-19," a company official said.

"The specifics have yet to be decided, but we will likely maintain the regional office system as well as telecommuting, provided that working outside the office does not affect productivity."

Kim Bo-eun

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