Back in February and March, large corporations quickly responded to the threat of COVID-19 by adopting work from home arrangements. As time goes on, it appears that this type of remote work will continue long after the threat of coronavirus finally ends.
Many of America’s largest corporations, especially finance and tech companies, are now considering new working models that allow employees to work from home more than ever before. These potential changes would have significant implications on office real estate, especially in hot spots like San Francisco and New York City.
Tech Companies Adopt New Work From Home Models
A number of tech giants, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, recently announced plans to allow employees to work from home until 2021.
Twitter was the first tech company to announce its decisions regarding the future of remote work, weeks before others chimed into the debate. During the first week of May, Twitter made the bold decision to allow employees to work from home as long as they wanted- even permanently, if they so choose. The same goes for CEO Jack Dorsey’s other tech company, Square, also based in San Francisco.
Google and Facebook have taken a slightly different approach by limiting office capacity to less than 25% or 30% when they reopen in the coming months. As a result, most employees will be granted permission to work from home through the end of 2020 or longer.
According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as least 20% of employees were “extremely or very interested” in moving to full-time remote work after virus restrictions are lifted. Another 20% were “somewhat” interested, while the largest group of employees requested a flexible arrangement of mixed remote and in-office work hours. As a result, it’s possible that up to half of Facebook’s workforce could work remotely in the future, even long after COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
As Zuckerberg explained, “We know that most people can’t work from home as easily as many of our employees can. We also know that when society does eventually start re-opening, it will have to open slowly in staggered waves to make sure that the people returning to work can do so safely and that we minimize the possibility of feature outbreaks.”
Amazon, meanwhile, announced employees who can work from home will be allowed to continue doing so until at least October 2, 2020.
A Changing Landscape in Silicon Valley?
Before the coronavirus pandemic forced the American economy into a new manner of existence, tech companies rarely questioned their presence in Silicon Valley. But now, with more employees working from home than ever before and the high likelihood that the “WFH” model will stick around permanently, some companies are considering a big move.
Palantir CEO Alex Karp, for example, stated that he’s considering shutting down his company’s Silicon Valley headquarters and moving operations east to Colorado. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced similar musings during the shutdown, though nothing is official.
The companies who do reopen are under immense pressure to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks among employees. As a result, Amazon and fellow tech companies are employing solutions ranging from thermal cameras and one-way corridors to staggered working hours to reduce the transmission of infection.