Mark Zuckerberg is moving Facebook toward a substantially remote workforce over the next decade, making changes permanent that began in the past few months.
Within 10 years, Zuckerberg told The Wall Street Journal he expects as many as half of Facebook’s employees — who currently number more than 45,000 — to work from home.
There are also many other examples of working from home becoming the norm: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently told employees they could work from home permanently. Other smaller tech companies have announced similar proposals.
Q: Will other major corporate players eventually shift away from offices?
Gary London, London Moeder Advisors
NO: At least not over the long term. Until a vaccine is applied, certainly liberal work-at-home options will be all the rage. Post vaccine, I expect that much of the work force will return to their office, albeit in different ways. I think we will see a great prevalence of flex hours, shared or ‘hoteling’ space and other innovations in our work space and time. This will translate into somewhat lower levels of demand for office space. But I do not expect that most companies will abandon the office, where ideas and networks are hatched and enhanced, for the isolation of the home, Zoom or no Zoom.
Phil Blair, Manpower
YES: It has been quite an eye opener to most employers how quickly and successfully their entire staffs have transitioned to working remotely. And now that the technology is in place it is very easy to reinvent what their workforce should look like. But there is a broad range of working remote options. From jobs where eye contact with the client is essential to workers, to staff being based anywhere in the world, and everything in-between. What combination is right for what businesses will be finessed over the next several years.
Alan Gin, University of San Diego
YES: Many companies are finding out that they can be successful even with their employees working at home. Allowing employees to work from home reduces the need for costly office space and will be beneficial to workers who want the flexibility that working from home allows. There are negative ramifications for the economy in terms of businesses that cater to people who work in offices, such as restaurants and clothing stores. There is also some worry about the impact of social isolation.
Reginald Jones, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation
YES: The shift to employees working away from offices ushered by COVID-19 has accelerated an already emerging trend. Measuring outcomes, companies are likely to cite operating savings, reduced employee commuting (helping the environment, too), and more time on tasks that yield increased productivity. Companies probably will not have a 100% away from office policy, but some periodic teaming in the workplace. Employers must be conscious to maintain innovative thinking with increased use of virtual platforms.
Lynn Reaser, Point Loma Nazarene University
YES: The pandemic has demonstrated that remote and decentralized workforces can operate effectively, although more for some than others. Employees may be able to stay in parts of the country closer to family members with lower housing prices, while firms can save on the high wage costs of large cities. Firms may allow employees to work some days in the office and other days from home. Giving workers more options should raise job satisfaction and their productivity.
Austin Neudecker, Weave Growth
YES: Remote work has long been a trend and the pandemic only accelerated its adoption. I have worked remotely (including with co-founders) for the past eight years. There is a limit, as only certain types of work can be done remotely, and even then, important aspects of team rapport, happenstance, cross-team conversations, etc. can be lost. It will be interesting to see the impacts as more companies get comfortable with the distance. Reliance on tech to communicate and monitor seems obvious, but how will this impact urbanization?
Bob Rauch, R.A. Rauch & Associates
YES: Working from home is popular with today’s employees as it provides for a better work/life balance. Technology companies will default to this remote option more than others but office interactions are critical to productivity. Naturally, this will be a blow to office space if it happens too quickly but this virus has jump-started lots of changes. Many of the changes will occur due to financial considerations as we enter a fairly deep recession.
Norm Miller, University of San Diego
YES AND NO: Some firms can easily transition to working at home like call centers for airlines or computer support, or when most workers are in sales, out and about. Many back-office functions such as book keeping and admin support can be done remotely. But, where innovation, collaboration, team work, mentoring, and escaping from kids at home matter, not to mention the serendipitous meeting, then these functions will be better served in the in-person office, at least for now.
James Hamilton, UC San Diego
YES: There are big set-up costs in figuring out how to do things online. But once you’ve worked out the details, it’s an option that can be used even when we return to normal. There will be pressure to hold down expenses for some time, and cutting back on business travel is one way to do that. For the time being, I’m not sure we have any alternative but to try to minimize face-to-face interaction.
David Ely, San Diego State University
YES: Multiple factors will drive the transition of work away from traditional offices for some businesses. These include demand to work remotely by employees who prefer to live in less expensive locations and want to avoid long commutes. Businesses can recruit employees from anywhere and save by renting less office space. Organizational ability to use tools to work remotely will increase rapidly during 2020 and will improve even more once 5G technology becomes the norm.
Ray Major, SANDAG
YES: Although not all jobs can be done remotely, the biggest lesson learned from the pandemic is that technology has enabled many people to be productive without being in an office. Companies big and small will likely start to reconsider office space costs and the approach to hiring new talent. The definition of the “best” fit candidate will no longer be determined by geography.
Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health
YES: Telecommuting has proven itself a practical, beneficial option for many companies, including Scripps. As a result of COVID-19 requirements, Scripps has about 2,700 employees working remotely, which is 18% of our workforce. In addition, we have conducted 100,000 patient televisits, 56% of which have been video visits. Almost all of our meetings now are virtual. While health care will never be completely virtual, I don’t believe we will ever return to a pre-COVID state — much of our telecommuting will continue and even grow.
Kelly Cunningham, San Diego Institute for Economic Research
YES: The trend toward work conducted remotely was ongoing, especially as technology advances made it more possible and efficient to being done. The shutdown pandemic only accelerated this through necessity and demonstrating the capacity of doing work from home. Top companies offering this will become even more talented attracting the best workers wanting the flexibility. Talent will therefore leave major cities to areas with more appealing lifestyle, vibrant culture, and lower costs and stresses of living.
Jamie Moraga, IntelliSolutions
YES: Many employers are seeing work from home (WFH) as a viable option; there’s a cost savings to reduced office space and workers are demonstrating during this pandemic that they can remain productive. There are many tools and applications now available (and will continue to be developed) to be able to foster virtual collaboration, communication, and innovation without having everyone gather face-to-face (F2F) in an office. There will be companies that will continue to stick with traditional offices due to the nature of their business or they prefer F2F interaction, but many will now give WFH serious consideration.