Apple last week announced it wants employees to return to the Cupertino campus from September, three days a week. Some employees who had become accustomed to the flexibility of working from home pushed back.
Before the pandemic, with a few exceptions, most employees went to an office almost every day, but when COVID hit in March 2020 and workers were forced to return home, employers quickly learned that their staff could be productive even when they weren’t seated in the same building. Now it looks like it will be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle.
Finding the right balance between fully remote and how a given company defines hybrid – like Apple on some days in the office and some 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 smooth in the future.
Just to show how different companies are approaching this, we asked five other big tech companies besides Apple to see how they deal with the return to the office, and each looked at a hybrid form of working:
- Google takes a similar approach to Apple with three days in the office and two days at home. “We’re going to move to a hybrid workweek where most Googlers spend about three days in the office and two days where they work best. Since office time will be focused on collaboration, your product areas and functions will help you decide which days the teams will meet in the office. There will also be roles that may need to be on-site more than three days a week due to the nature of the work, “wrote Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet in a recent blog post.
- Salesforce gives employees a wide range of choices depending on their role. Most employees can work from home most of the time and can travel to the office 1-3 days a week to collaborate with co-workers, meet with clients, or for presentations. Others who do not live near an office may be totally remote and those who choose, or whose job to demand will be in the office, coming 4 to 5 days a week.
- Facebook expands remote working by telling employees, “Starting June 15, Facebook will open up remote working at all levels of the company, and anyone whose role can be performed remotely can request remote working.” The company wrote to employees.
- Microsoft leaves it to managers, but most roles will be remote at least some of the time. As they recently told employees in an announcement, “We recognize that some employees need to be on-site and that some roles and companies are better suited than others to work outside the workplace. However, for most roles, we consider working from home part of the time (less than 50%) to be now standard, assuming manager and team are aligned.
- Amazon originally envisioned a primarily office work policy, but 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 to be determined by your management team), leaving you with the flexibility to work remotely for up to two days a week,” the company wrote in a message to employees.
Big tech companies give most employees some level of flexibility in deciding when to come to the office, but how do startups view the job as we head into the post-pandemic? Most of the startups I talk to don’t plan for a desktop-centric approach, many taking a remote approach first. Andreessen Horowitz recently surveyed 226 startups in his portfolio and found that two-thirds of the companies in the portfolio are considering a hybrid approach similar to their larger counterparts. In fact, 87 were thinking about 1-2 days a week, and 64 were not looking at any desks at all, meeting just for company sites. In contrast, only 18 said they would not allow any homework.
Dion Hinchcliffe, an analyst at Constellation Research, who has studied distributed work for many years, says tech companies will be more likely to embrace flexible work models now that they’ve seen how it works during the pandemic.
“Most tech companies will retain some degree of flexibility when they return to the office, especially since it is popular with many of their employees. In addition, concerns about lost productivity have proven to be largely unfounded, ”he said. But he stressed that this would not be true for all companies.
“Some companies, especially those who think they have a lot of intellectual property to protect or exploit in other types of sensitive work, will be more reluctant to allow work from home to continue,” he said. This despite the fact that many of these companies have done just that in the last 15 months. Becoming a hybrid like Apple only further muddies this argument.
“This certainly includes Apple, which has long been known to discourage working from home. Their new three-day-a-week office policy probably makes them feel a little more secure, but doesn’t really accomplish it, ”Hinchcliffe said.
Sure, companies can set policies, but that doesn’t mean they won’t face objections from employees. Apple has certainly learned this. Workers seem to want to be the ones who choose where to work, not their employers, and it could very well be a competitive advantage to offer work-from-home options, especially in a tight labor market where power seems to shift to employees. .
It should be interesting to see where all of this is going and what power employees have to push their companies towards their ideal of more flexible work. For now, most businesses will have a much greater degree of flexibility than before the pandemic, but certainly not everyone wants people to be working from home all the time forever, and businesses will have to decide. what works best for them and their employees.