Tech for years Companies have attracted talent with sweet perks in the office: lavish lunch buffets, draft beer and wine, on-site massage therapy and chiropractic. Working for Apple, Google, Facebook, or Salesforce doesn’t just mean: job, but to get access to some of the best places for Silicon Valley members only: Apple Park or Googleplex or 1 Hacker Way. There are not only offices – they are campuses as large as theme parks, which were built to enroll and entertain their workforce en masse.
Now that the pandemic has moved employees out of the office into their own four walls, some technology companies are offering a new kind of perk: the option of never returning to those offices.
On Tuesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey emailed employees that if they so wanted, they could work from home forever. Twitter closed its offices in early March just before orders for accommodation in the Bay Area declined. Since then, the company has offered to reimburse all employees, including hourly workers, for the cost of the home office, including “desks, desk chairs, and ergonomic chair cushions,”
“If our employees are in a role and situation that allows them to work from home and want to do it forever, we will make it possible,” wrote Jennifer Christie, VP of People at Twitter, in a blog entry about the decision.
The pandemic has launched an unprecedented experiment in remote work. The tech industry was full of early adopters, but a March poll by the Society for Human Resource Management showed that two-thirds of US companies “took steps to enable employees to work from home without doing so normally.” to do”. The mass exodus from the office is likely to change the way the teams work in the long term. It also raised the question of how much of the future of work will ever happen in the office.
Nowhere is this future ready to accept this future as in Silicon Valley. Technology companies invented the tools for remote work – file sharing via the cloud, video conferencing platforms and digital tools for sharing calendars, notes and chatting with colleagues. However, in the past, some of the largest players in the remote work industry have resisted their own employees. Under the leadership of Marissa Mayer, Yahoo banned telework in 2013 and justified this in an internal memo that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”. IBM, once an evangelist for remote work, has had its teams work “shoulder to shoulder” in the office since 2017. Because of the company’s culture of secrecy and emphasis on the individual, Apple has rarely allowed people to work from home. Even Slack had few full-time remote employees – maybe not as many as you would expect from a company that produces a digital communication tool for the workplace.
After a large company like Twitter announced the option not to return to the office, this is likely to “boost the momentum in the industry,” said Aaron Levie, CEO and co-founder of Box. “Other companies see these events as a signal of what they should do in their organization.”
As a cloud computing company, Box was well positioned to move work from its San Francisco headquarters when the pandemic hit. “We use box, we use zoom, we use slack,” says Levie. “It was easy for us to change the way we work.” Instead of the productivity drop feared by Yahoo seven years ago, engineers are pushing ahead faster, according to Levie Releases. Reaching customers was also easier. Previously, face-to-face meetings were the expected practice, which often meant wasting a day on an airplane or adjusting to a new time zone. Now you just set up a video call. People who are stuck at home have given companies like Box the license to try something different because “everyone has to work like this at once,” says Levie. “They solved the normal challenge with network effects, which might take years to resolve, and compressed in a matter of weeks.”