Yesterday, in an internal email to staff, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Twitter offices likely wouldn't open before September, and that there would be no in-person events through the end of the year — policies not unlike those of Google and Facebook. But he also said that employees would be allowed to work from home "forever."
For the typical open floor plan office employee, an invitation to work from home permanently might be a welcome reprieve from the cluttered ways of old, where securing the printer room was the only hope for getting enough privacy to take a call. But for big tech companies — known best for their lavish headquarters appointed with amenities like free food, health and fitness centres, and sprawling gardens, as well as generous benefits like ample paid time off, education stipends, and childcare — this new future of work means something a bit different. If most employees continue to work from home, what will it mean for the future of hiring in Silicon Valley? Can any job be done from anywhere, and will these incentivising and morale-boosting fixtures of tech campus life be somehow compensated for in this new, indefinite work from home model?
To start, Dorsey shared that each employee would get an increased budget of $1,000 (£800) for work from home supplies, while Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that Google will be giving employees the day off on 22nd May to help combat employee burnout. Google says its offices will begin reopening in June for certain employees, but that those who can work from home will continue to do so throughout the end of 2020. Facebook is cancelling all in-person events until June 2021, and will begin reopening its offices in July, while letting employees who can work from home remain at home through the end of the year as well. Amazon has extended its work from home policy through at least 2nd October.
While no one can predict the extent to which this will impact the future of office and work culture, what is true is that the value system of office culture has been consequently rejiggered as a result of this work from home mandate. With the once-important optics of who is first to arrive and last to leave rendered worthless, and nowhere to vacation but our living rooms leading to fewer employees taking time off, it seems a new system of office incentives and benefits is needed if companies intend to keep their employees engaged through this unprecedented transition.