If you have a job that can be done mostly by phone and internet, working from home has possibly been an option for you for a long time (especially if anyone could get a hold of you at any time on that Blackberry device before iPhones and other smart phones became mainstream on the market.) Many workers quickly discovered how to work from home (aka telecommute) full-time in March of this year. Now, many companies are sorting out if and when to bring employees back to the office – some have started to do so, and some larger tech firms are looking at bringing people back in phases.
Since the global pandemic known as COVID-19 has pushed many to work from home indefinitely instead of it being a once a week or more sporadic occurrence, it begs the questions for the pros and cons of office spaces. There are several tech companies that when they decided to go to full-time work from home, they were actually helping to create a large impact of people not having to commute (less people packed in to buses or trains) as well as less people in downtown areas where it’s nearly impossible to socially distance. The hope is that this largely contributed to flattening the curve and stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the Washington Post, “Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google owner Alphabet and Facebook…collectively employ nearly 1.3 million workers”. Granted, some headlines can be misleading as Twitter and Square announced that their employees can work remotely indefinitely. Some other tech giants have said they are letting employees know that they can work from home until 2021.
Here are some highlights at what they are looking to do:
Facebook – Many will continue to work from home, but content creators have been asked to come back soon (with some receiving incentive pay).
Amazon – Warehouse employees have had to continue to work, and there has been some backlash on the health considerations. HQ workers have been told they can continue to work remotely until at least October.
Microsoft – They plan to bring people back starting in October and continue in phases, but will also allow employees to voluntarily return.
Google – They have emailed employees letting them know to consider staying away from campus until 2021.
We can all agree that there is a lot of value in working, and being in person so it almost seems like we are trying to make the best of the situation. This can be grappling for many leaders on when and how to bring back their employees to protect their safety as well as productivity. It seems that productivity has been fine “from home”.
As you can imagine, many of these office spaces (or “campuses”) provided lots of perks so that employees felt welcome, rewarded, and often accommodated for working long hours (free lunches, treats, yoga, coffee bars, ping pong, nap pods, etc.). Some are considering how to provide some of those perks to their employees while they work at home (whether it’s special coffee orders or what).
Ideally, they’d like to see people back working together and collaborating (some of the best ideas may come up in a hallway conversation), but it looks like data shows they are willing to allow more flexible schedules. Many smaller firms are also looking to these larger tech giants to see what their plans are.