Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a company-wide livestream call on May 21 to announce to its 50,000 person staff that Facebookers will be allowed to work from home indefinitely. With more staff requesting an ongoing remote option, and the future of work in the United States questionable as the economy begins to reopen in the wake of the first wave of coronavirus infections, Zuckerberg thinks that by 2030 more than half of Facebook staff will be working remotely.
The news may have been a relief for workers wishing to continue working from home, but the WFH option is conditional. Staff may qualify for permanent remote work if they are already part of a team that supports remote work, have approval from their group leader, and have strong recent performance including two meets-all expectations or above. It is unclear what it takes to attain a “meets-all expectations” rating when many employees are adapting to work from home conditions without home offices, and with children out of school.
Workers must report to Facebook by the beginning of calendar year 2021 whether they have moved, and to where. Zuckerberg said salaries would be adjusted according to median income, and cost-of-living in the employee’s new locale.
Zuckerberg claims that this situation presents an opportunity for Facebook to expand its workforce to a broader population of talent. “When you limit hiring to people who either live in a small number of big cities or are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, different backgrounds or may have different perspectives,” Zuckerberg said in the call.
Facebook’s headquarters are in Menlo Park, California in the Silicon Valley, where the median home price is $2.4 million. There are offices in 85 cities across 35 countries. Some of Facebook’s largest US offices are in the largest and most expensive metropolitan areas, including San Francisco Bay, New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Seattle.
The median staff salary at Facebook in 2018 was $240,000 per year. Zuckerberg has taken a base salary of $1 for the last three years, but collects “other” compensation from the company of $22.6 million, most of which is a security detail for him and his family.
Zuckerberg says the salary adjustments for remote workers based on location is for tax and accounting purposes. The additional motivation to open up employment opportunities at a large, high-paying tech company to a broader population feels like a step in the right direction to combat profound economic inequities, particularly in large cities that feel the distance between high- and low-income workers acutely.
However, it also feels like a convenient cover for cutting worker pay. Workers should be paid for the value and quality of their work, not their cost of living. If Facebook moves forward with this strategy, it will be telling if 1) Facebook actually hires anybody from the communities they claim to expanding their search to and 2) if those workers are hired at a reduced salary according to cost-of-living, thereby inherently devaluing the very diversity that Facebook claims it seeks.
Do better, Zuck.