Tech giants embrace permanent remote working | Information Age

Tech companies big and small will be embracing remote working beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Coinbase announcing plans to allow employees to work from home permanently.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week he expects half of the tech giant’s near-50,000 employees to be working remotely within the next 10 years, with a big chunk of its team given the chance to do so from next year.

Nearly all of Facebook’s employees are currently working from home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The company recently announced plans to slowly reopen some of its offices in July, but its team will have the option to continue working remotely for the rest of the year.

Zuckerberg has now taken things even further, announcing the company will “aggressively open up remote hiring” and give the option to a large number of employees.

The announcement came just after Twitter and Square, both helmed by Jack Dorsey, announced they would be allowing staff to work remotely permanently.

Smaller tech firm Coinbase will also allow its employees to work from home permanently, with its CEO Brian Armstrong signalling a shift to a “remote-first” policy.

Tech companies around the world have been forced to accelerate the move towards remote working due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and many have found that switch easier and more useful than previously thought.

This has led to many firms announcing they will continue to allow staff to work from home permanently even once the pandemic is over.

Facebook staff will be given until the start of next year to tell the company if they wish to work remotely and what location they will be based in.

This option will be given to existing employees that are experienced, have had strong recent performance, are on teams that support remote working and have the approval of their group leader. The option will not be open to recent graduates.

Internal Facebook surveys found that 40 per cent of its entire workforce were extremely, very, or somewhat interested in full-time remote work. Of these people, 75 per cent were either pretty confident or they might move to a different city if they had the option of remote work.

Half of Facebook employees surveyed said they were as productive working from home as they were in a physical office.

In a livestream with employees, Zuckerberg also announced that the company will soon start hiring people in locations where the company does not have offices, starting with the US with a specific focus on engineering talent.

The company plans to hire 10,000 engineers and product employees this year – and will be sticking to this despite the global pandemic.

This will help improve diversity at Facebook, Zuckerberg said.

“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 livestream.

“It’s somewhat of an unfortunate and unsustainable setup for people to have a lot of these jobs they have to move to a small number of big cities.

“We’re going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale.”

But Facebook employees who do opt to work remotely full-time may see their pay cut, depending on what location they move to.

“We’ll adjust to your location at that point,” Zuckerberg said. “There’ll be severe ramifications for people who are not honest about this.

“That means if you live in a location where the cost of living is dramatically lower, or the cost of labour is lower, then salaries do tend to be somewhat lower in those places.”

At financial services company Square, the majority of its 3,000 employees will also be given the option of never returning to the office in a full-time capacity.

“We want employees to be able to work where they feel most creative and productive,” a Square spokesperson said.

“Over the past several weeks, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes for people to effectively perform roles outside of an office, and we will continue to learn as we go.”

Twitter will also be letting its team work from home “forever”.

“We were one of the first companies to go to a work from home model in the face of COVID-19, but [we don’t] anticipate being one of the first to return to offices,” the company said.

If Twitter employees are in a position and situation that allows them to permanently work from home, the company will “make that happen”.

Coinbase’s policy will likely see it make use of smaller offices across more cities instead of one large physical space.

“I believe that the work we do through this process will essentially generate a playbook for other companies in their transition to become remote-first, and that what we do in this moment could influence many companies’ paths forward,” Armstrong said in a recent note to employees.