Society’s collective Work-from-home (WFH) experience has traced a curious path. What started as a welcome convenience during a time of great uncertainty, quickly progressed to a state of high anxiety as people struggled to balance an incessant stream of video conferences, homeschooling and domestic chores amidst the soul-crushing isolation of societal lockdown and home confinement.
However, for those in IT and other digitized occupations that can readily be done from anywhere, online life has been highly productive, with business proceeding mostly as usual. Indeed, in many industries, the lack of significant business disruption — as $90-per-square foot offices have stood vacant — has not gone unnoticed by executives. Last month, Morgan Stanley’s CEO said the Coronavirus lockdowns have demonstrated that the company can operate with “much less real estate,” adding that:
We’ve proven we can operate with no footprint. Can I see a future where part of every week, certainly part of every month, a lot of our employees will be at home? Absolutely.
More recently, the perma-WFH trend has gained momentum in the tech industry as companies extend, some indefinitely, WFH policies, including:
- Amazon extending optional WFH until “at least October 2.”
- Microsoft allowing WFH for all but “essential” workers through October.
- Salesforce giving all employees the option to work from home for the rest of 2020.
- Google also extending WFH through the rest of 2020, although in a memo to employees, CEO Sundar Pichai said that the company is studying new policies for remote work and employee relocations, concluding that “ultimately these insights will lead to more flexibility and choice for employees as they consider how to work in the future.”
- Zillow likewise making WFH universally available through the end of the year with its CEO tweeting, “My personal opinions about WFH have been turned upside down over the past 2 months. I expect this will have a lasting influence on the future of work”.
- Twitter saying that employees can WFH permanently if they wish.
Saying goodbye to the office
Of all the WFH announcements, none was more significant than Facebook’s. After initially extending WFH through December, Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to make remote work and area-adjusted salary schedules part of his long-term HR strategy. In an interview following a live stream announcement to employees, Zuckerberg said (emphasis added):