Chief executive officers worldwide consider their remote workforce as a top priority for this year and expect telecommuting to become a “permanent fixture as part of a hybrid workforce that blends in-person employees with virtual colleagues,” according to a survey by IBM.

This result is a shift in organizational cultures that require new management approaches and “upgraded executive capabilities,” said the survey, which polled 3,000 CEOs from about 50 countries and 26 industries.

CEOs labelled as “outperforming” by the study, or those who were in the top 20% for revenue growth, also cited managing a remote workforce as a “critical challenge.”

“The leadership component of big business is going to be stressed (by remote work) at a level that I don’t believe most executives appreciate,” Jeff McElfresh of AT&T Communications, said in the survey published on IBM’s website.

“It’s unclear to me that anyone has cracked the code on how to operate the distributed workforce model that COVID has accelerated us into,” he added. “Not all leaders are comfortable managing in a distributed model. You have to be more precise about each role and the kind of leader that best fits. We’ve got work to do to unlock the potential.”

In addition, outperforming CEOs also are more focused on employee well-being than underperforming counterparts, with 97 percent more of supporting workforce health and wellness even if it dents near-term profitability.

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