This is something I wrote about in the Atlantic last year: that the pandemic and our grand experiments with working remotely would have a permanent effect on work rhythms when we came back. The Guardian reports:
Salesforce has become the latest tech company in San Francisco to signal a transition away from in-person work, declaring the “9-to-5 workday is dead”.
The city’s largest private employer announced on Tuesday it would permanently allow many employees to work from home, even after it becomes safe to return to offices following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Salesforce said that after polling employees on their preferences, it would transition the majority of workers to a “flex” situation in which they come into an office just one to three days per week. Only a small part of the workforce will continue to work from an office location four or more days per week. Employees who do not live near an office are free to work remotely indefinitely.
According to Forbes, about 40% of the company’s San Francisco employees were working from some at least one day a week before the pandemic, and Salesforce expects that percentage to rise to about 65%. So it’s a big change in how they work, but it’s an acceleration of a trend, not a dramatic turnaround.
Chief People Officer Brent Hyder has a pretty good explanation of what they’re doing. For one thing, they envision three kinds of work:
Flex – When it’s safe to return to the office, most of our employees around the globe will work flex. This means they’ll be in the office 1-3 days per week for team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.
Fully Remote – For employees who don’t live near an office or have roles that don’t require an office, they will work remotely full-time.
Office-based – The smallest population of our workforce will work from an office location 4-5 days per week if they’re in roles that require it.
They’re also talking about changing their workspaces:
To start, we’ll be redesigning our workspaces over time as community hubs to accommodate a more hybrid workstyle. Gone are the days of a sea of desks — we’ll create more collaboration and breakout spaces to foster the human connection that can’t be replicated remotely.
I’ve written a bit about how offices are turning into studios, and it’s clear now that this is happening along two fronts. First, the home office is becoming a broadcast studio: people are redesigning their own spaces to look more professional, and to make hours online less of an ergonomic nightmare. Second, common workspaces are going to move from being generic offices to more specialized spaces. We’re going to see fewer meeting rooms that are generic long tables and a whiteboard at one end, and more spaces customized to support more the more particular needs of groups.
This bit feels a tad worrying, as it could become a way for working hours to stretch out:
In our always-on, always-connected world, it no longer makes sense to expect employees to work an eight-hour shift and do their jobs successfully. Whether you have a global team to manage across time zones, a project-based role that is busier or slower depending on the season, or simply have to balance personal and professional obligations throughout the day, workers need flexibility to be successful.
I wonder what what’s going to happen to the perks like free food and commuter buses, not to mention the empty space on big corporate campuses? Will they just stay empty, or will companies look for new uses (or tenants) for the space?