Last week, Apple announced that it wants employees to return to the Cupertino campus three days a week starting in September. Some workers who had become accustomed to the flexibility of working from home pushed back.
Before the pandemic, with few exceptions, most employees went to an office on most days, but when COVID hit in March 2020 and workers were forced to go home, employers quickly learned that their employees were still can be productive when they are not sitting in the same building. . Now it seems it will be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.
Finding the right balance between being completely remote and though a given company defines hybrids — like a few days at the Apple office and a few days at home — will never be easy and there will never be a one-size-fits-all answer. In fact, it’s probably going to be fluid moving forward.
To show how different companies are approaching this, we asked five other big technology companies besides Apple to see how they were treating the return to the office, and each with some form of hybrid work. was looking at:
- Google is taking a similar approach to Apple with three days at the office and two days at home. “We will move to a hybrid work week where most Googlers spend about three days in the office and two days wherever they work best. Since time in the office will be focused on collaboration, your product areas and tasks will help decide that. which days the team will come together in the office. There will also be roles that may require being on site for more than three days a week due to the nature of work,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet Recently wrote in a blog post.
- Salesforce is giving employees a wider set of options based on their role. Most employees can work from home most of the time, and may come to the office 1-3 days a week to collaborate with coworkers, visit clients, or make presentations. Others who do not live near an office may be away altogether and those who choose, or whose jobs require it, will be office-based, commuting 4-5 days a week.
- Facebook is expanding remote work by telling employees, “As of June 15, Facebook will open up remote work at all levels across the company, and anyone whose role can be performed remotely can request remote work, The company wrote to the employees.
- Microsoft is leaving it up to the managers, but most of the roles are going to be remote, at least for the time being. As he told employees in a recent announcement, “We recognize that some employees are required to be onsite and that certain roles and businesses are better suited to working away from the workplace than others. For this reason, we now see working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as the norm – assuming manager and team alignment.”
- Amazon was originally looking at a mostly in-office policy, but it announced this week that it has decided to offer employees a more flexible work schedule. “Our new baseline will be three days a week in the office (with specific days set by your leadership team), allowing you to work remotely two days a week,” the company wrote in a message to employees.
Big tech companies are offering most employees some level of flexibility in deciding when to come into the office, but how do startups look at work as we head into the pandemic? The startups I talk to don’t expect an office-centric approach, with many taking a remote-first approach. Andreessen Horowitz recently surveyed 226 startups in his portfolio and found that two-thirds of portfolio companies are seeing the same hybrid approach as their larger counterparts. In fact, 87 were thinking about 1-2 days a week, 64 were looking for no office, only congregating for company offsites. In contrast, only 18 said they would not allow any work from home.
Dion Hinchcliffe, an analyst at Constellation Research who has been studying distributed work for several years, says tech companies will be more likely to adopt a flexible work model now, because they’ve seen how it works during the pandemic.
“Most tech companies will retain some degree of flexibility when returning to the office, especially since it is popular with many of their employees. Also concerns about loss of productivity have turned out to be largely unfounded,” he said. Stressed that this would not be true for every company.
“Some companies, especially those who believe they have too much IP to protect or operate in other sensitive types of tasks, will be more reluctant to allow work from home to continue,” he said. This despite the fact that many of these companies have been doing the same for the past 15 months. Going hybrid as Apple’s only takes that argument further.
“This certainly includes Apple, which has long been known to discourage work from home. His new policy of being in office three days a week maybe makes him feel a little more secure, but doesn’t really fulfill it,” Hinchcliffe said.
Of course companies can set policies, but that doesn’t mean they won’t run into employee objections. Apple certainly learned this. It appears that workers want to be where to work, not their employer, and it may very well be a competitive advantage to offer work from home alternatives, especially in a tight labor market. Where power appears to be transferred to employees.
It should be interesting to see where this all goes, and how far employees have to move their companies towards their more flexible working ideal. For now, most companies will have far more flexibility than in the pre-existing pandemic, but certainly not everyone wants people to always work from home, and companies will need to decide what they and their employees are doing. What works best for