— Internet News

Silicon Valley finds remote work is easier to begin than end

SAN FRANCISCO — Technology companies that led the charge into remote work as the pandemic unfurled are confronting a new challenge: how, when, and even whether they should bring long-isolated employees back to offices designed for teamwork. “I thought this period of remote work would be the most challenging year-and-half of my career, but it’s not,” said Brent Hyder, the chief people officer for business software maker Salesforce and its roughly 65,000 employees worldwide. “Getting everything started back up the way it needs to be is proving even more difficult.”

That transition has been complicated by the rapid spread of the delta variant, which has scrambled many tech companies’ plans for bringing back most of their workers near or after Labor Day weekend. Microsoft has pushed those dates back to October, while Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and a growing list of others have already decided to wait until next year.

Given how they set the tone for remote work, tech companies’ return-to-office policies will likely have ripple effects across other industries. Employers’ next steps could redefine how and where people work, predicts Laura Boudreau, a Columbia University assistant economics professor who studies workplace issues. “We have moved beyond the theme of remote work being temporary,” Boudreau says. She says the more extended the pandemic has stretched, the harder it’s become to tell employees to return to the office, particularly full-time.

Silicon Valley

Most tech jobs are tailor-made for remote work because they typically revolve around digital and online products. Yet, most prominent tech companies insist that their employees should be ready to work in the office two or three days each week after the pandemic is over.

The main reason is: Tech companies have long believed that employees clustered together in physical space will swap ideas and spawn innovations that probably wouldn’t have happened in isolation. That’s one reason tech titans have poured billions of dollars into corporate campuses interspersed with desirable common areas meant to lure employees out of their cubicles and into “casual collisions” that turn into brainstorming sessions. But the

concept of “water cooler innovation” may be overblown, says Christy Lake, chief people officer for business software maker Twilio. “There is no data that supports that happens in real life, and yet we all subscribe to it,” Lake says. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle and tell people, ‘Oh, you have to be back in the office, or innovation won’t happen.’ “ Twilio isn’t bringing most of its roughly 6,300 employees back to its offices until early next year at the earliest and plans to allow most of them to figure how frequently they should come in.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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