Thepandemic has upended daily life, changing how we interact with loved ones, colleagues and strangers at the grocery store. When the crisis subsides, it’ll remake the workplace too.
Tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have begun sharing plans about how they’ll adapt their work cultures to adapt to the post-coronavirus world. Offices will be the most visible examples of these changes, with many occupied far below capacity as some employees permanently transition to remote work. That may prompt Silicon Valley companies to rethink the amenities that have become synonymous with their sleek offices: cafes stocked with free food, valet parking and sleep pods.
Employees don’t seem to care that much about the lost amenities though. A May survey by the anonymous employee messaging app Blind found 66% of 2,800 respondents across Silicon Valley, New York City and Seattle said they’d be willing to work remotely, relocating outside those metro areas. Among respondents, 20% of San Francisco area respondents said they’d be willing to accept a pay cut up to 20%. And 75% of New Yorkers said they wanted to leave.
Here’s how big tech companies are handling the changes:
The social networking giant, whose buses ferried thousands of employees from around the San Francisco Bay Area to its Menlo Park, California, headquarters and back, said it expects as much as half its staff to transition to working from home within the next five to 10 years.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the new changes to his company’s 48,000 full-time employees in a livestream and blog post on May 21. He also acknowledged that there would be “a lot of nuances” in how the policies would work in practice.
Employees will be eligible to work from home permanently if they’re experienced and have strong job performance, he said. They also have to be part of a team that’s allowing for remote work, and they have to get approval from one of their leaders.
Facebook will also hire remote workers, though only people with experience. Entry-level employees need to work with their teams in the office in order to learn the ropes, Zuckerberg said.
The company wants to keep a team atmosphere even though it’s more remote, and so it’s planning to build up hubs of work-from-home employees in Atlanta, Dallas and Denver.
Facebook doesn’t plan to reopen offices until July 6 at the earliest and will require employees to go through temperature checks, wear face masks and practice social distancing. The company, which seats employees close to one another in open office layouts, will also limit workplace capacity to 25%, Bloomberg reported.
In the meantime, Facebook will allow most employees to work from home through the end of the year.
Google plans to begin reopening its offices starting July 6. The company will keep building capacity low, starting at about 10% of staff, and gradually increase the number of people in its offices over time. The search giant will allow employees to expense $1,000 for equipment while telecommuting.
The search giant hasn’t shared much else of its remote-work plans, but it has said most of its 120,000 employees will be allowed to work from home through the end of the year.
The iPhone maker hasn’t publicly discussed its post-coronavirus office plans, but internal communications reported on by Bloomberg indicate the company will begin bringing employees back to its headquarters this summer.
In the meantime, Apple has also begun reopening its retail stores, albeit with new social distancing guidelines limiting the number of people who can be in the store and requiring masks. The company’s also following local guidelines, which is part of why it’s only opened about 100 out of its 271 US stores so far.
The retail giant said on April 30 that corporate employees can work from home until October, though that could be extended.
The company will also spend at least $4 billion on COVID-19 related costs. That spending includes higher wages for workers and more safety gear like face masks. Also, Amazon’s internal development of COVID-19 testing capabilities will cost $300 million in the second quarter and could cost $1 billion for 2020. The $4 billion in spending is a huge jump from the $600 million Amazon already spent in the first quarter on coronavirus-related costs.
Amazon’s moves come amid criticism over the way it’s handled coronavirus outbreaks in its facilities and safety of employees. Among the complaints: Amazon hasn’t disclosed how many coronavirus cases it’s had in warehouses.
Six employees were fired this year after publicly criticizing the company, leading nine US senators to raise concerns about Amazon’s treatment of them.
The tech giant plans to let employees continue working from home through at least October, unless they’re in an essential role.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent an email to the company’s 4,900 employees on May 12 saying many of them would be allowed to work from home permanently, even after the coronavirus lockdown ends.The policy wouldn’t apply to employees whose jobs require a physical presence, such as maintaining computer servers.
“We were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and allow folks to work from home given our emphasis on decentralization and supporting a distributed workforce capable of working from anywhere,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “The past few months have proven we can make that work.”
With few exceptions, Twitter offices won’t open before September, the company added.
Dorsey also runs Square, so it’s not surprise the payments platform is following the same approach. Square, whose headquarters is a short walk from Twitter’s in San Francisco, hasn’t shared a timeline for when it will reopen its offices to its 3,835 full-time employees.
The business communications company, whose namesake app has become a verb in offices around the world, told The New York Times in May that it hasn’t set a timetable for when it’ll return to the office yet. “It’s easier to manage a company that is 100% remote than one where employees are 50% remote and 50% in the office,” Robby Kwok, Slack’s senior vice president for people, told The Times.
Box, the California-based online storage company, told employees in May that they can work remotely at least until 2021 and is preparing to allow many of them to work from home after the crisis subsides as well.
“We know different employees have a preference for different approaches,” CEO Aaron Levie wrote in May. “That is why our future is a hybrid one, capturing the best of both worlds, with a digital workplace stitching the physical office and virtual office all together.”
The computer giant, already known for its flexible work rules, said it expects more than half its employees to permanently work remotely by the time the crisis ends.
The Seattle-based online realty service said it will allow employees to work from home through the end of 2020 and possibly beyond. “My personal opinions about WFH have been turned upside down over the past 2 months,” Zillow co-founder and CEO Rich Barton tweeted in April. “I expect this will have a lasting influence on the future of work … and home.”
Coronavirus reopenings: How it looks as lockdowns ease around the world
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