Companies are studying what their highly paid and valuable employees want, using their own technology to facilitate remote work and looking to hire new workers outside of major city centers. It's a potentially huge change after years when companies like Amazon and Google chased after the scarce tech talent by opening or expanding offices in modern urban locations like San Francisco and New York.
Such a change could also amount to a rejection of the notion that creative work demands university-like corporate campuses, with free food, ping pong tables, and open office plans designed to encourage unplanned interactions.
The result could reimagine not just Silicon Valley but other cities as companies expand hiring in places like Atlanta, Dallas and Denver, where Facebook plans to open new “ centers & # 39; & # 39; for your new hires, mostly remote.
However, the change will not happen quickly. “ We want to make sure we move forward '& # 39; & # 39;' said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a town hall for employees that was streamed live on his Facebook page.
Facebook, which has nearly 45,000 employees, is searching five to 10 years down the road as it plans more remote work, even when COVID-19 is no longer a threat requiring most of its employees to work from home. Since the coronavirus has disrupted work and office life, even companies with fewer resources and slower-moving cultures are likely to follow.
"Many companies are learning that their workers are just as productive or more productive working from home," said Andy Challenger, senior vice president of personnel firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Zuckerberg said a Facebook employee survey found that about 20% of workers were "extremely or very interested,quot; in moving to full-time remote work after virus-related restrictions were lifted. Another 20% were "somewhat,quot; interested and the largest group desired flexibility, with some remote work and something in the office. Finally, Zuckerberg said, as many as half of Facebook workers could be working remotely. But he warned that this is years away, perhaps even a decade away.
Twitter went even further, announcing last week that it will allow some employees to work from home permanently, a CEO of the Jack Dorsey plan hatched before the coronavirus. His other company, Square, which like San Francisco-based Twitter, is doing the same. Some new job listings on Twitter for the US USA They offer the option for employees to work in cities like San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C., but also remotely full-time anywhere in the country.
It is too early to know whether remote work options will spell an exodus of high-paying tech workers from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where they have helped skyrocket rents and house prices. But the Facebook employee survey suggests that at least some of its employees would leave the San Francisco Bay area if given the option.
For companies that have built their empires by allowing people to communicate with remote friends and colleagues, moving toward remote work is not a difficult sale. But there are many challenges. Collaboration, spontaneity, face-to-face interactions that are not on a scheduled call – they all look different when people work alone from home.
There are also some works _ in the case of Facebook, the most difficult content review dealing with suicides, child abuse and other traumatizing material; sales; construction, updating and maintenance of data centers; lawyers who have to be in court and so on, that can't be done remotely.
Newer employees, especially recent college graduates or those with little experience and poor performance, could also fall into this group, Zuckerberg said. On Facebook, the CEO said that employees must meet certain criteria to be considered for permanent remote work. This includes seniority, high performance, and naturally being part of a team that supports remote work.
For now, workers at Facebook, Google, Twitter, and elsewhere can work remotely until 2020. At Microsoft, employees can work from home until October. But the company's flexibility from home work has been tailored to the software giant's broader effort to capitalize on what CEO Satya Nadella calls a change to “ control everything & # 39; & # 39 ;.
"Every organization will increasingly need the ability to control everything from manufacturing to sales to customer service," Nadella said this week at the company's Build Developer Conference.
The company's chief technology officer, Kevin Scott, had already been working hard from home, in part because he is based in Silicon Valley and most of the rest of the leadership team is in Redmond, Washington.
"We are all in this fast-paced timeline for discovering how to work from home … It is learning the culture and rhythms of interacting with colleagues via video conference and doing your work remotely," he said, speaking not only of Microsoft but of workplaces in general. "That is improving a lot so fast that I don't think I'm going to travel as often as before."