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Facebook to shift permanently to a more remote workforce

Facebook plans to shift towards a more remote workforce, becoming the latest tech group to permanently overhaul its working practices as a result of the pandemic.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told staff via a livestream on Thursday that the 45,000-strong social media network company was “aggressively opening up remote hiring”, and estimated that half of its staff could work remotely in the next five to 10 years.

Sharing the plans externally in case it was “helpful to other organisations thinking about what the future of work looks like”, he said: “We’re going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale.”

“I’m . . . very excited about the potential to spread economic opportunity around the country more, and over the long term potentially even around the world,” Mr Zuckerberg added.

The new policy could have far-reaching consequences for the local economies and real estate markets in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. It would initially be offered to experienced and high-performing staff in the US who had approval from their managers, he said. It would also be available to certain new hires starting from July 1.

The shift comes a day after San Francisco-based Twitter and Square, both led by Jack Dorsey, announced that staff would be allowed to work from home permanently if they so chose.

Ecommerce group Shopify also made a similar announcement on Thursday, with chief executive Tobi Lutke tweeting: “As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company . . . Office centricity is over.” San Francisco cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase this week said it would become “remote-first”.

In his announcement, Mr Zuckerberg indicated that if staff decided to move to areas with a lower cost of living to work remotely, they could have their pay reduced. While the company would make no immediate changes, as of January 1 the company will “basically adjust salary to your location at that point”, he said.

For those who do return to the office, life will be different. The company plans to reopen offices starting July but only at 25 per cent capacity in order to respect social-distancing guidelines. Staff will be required to wear masks at work and undergo temperature checks, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Other tech groups, including Los Angeles-based Snap, have also been weighing the introduction of health screening and other modifications for those returning to the office, such as revamped floor plans and getting rid of communal canteens.

Facebook is also ramping up its efforts in the workplace communications market, pitting itself against Zoom and Slack as it seeks out new revenue streams beyond advertising.

Separately on Thursday, the company announced the rollout of new features for its subscription-based enterprise software product, Workplace by Facebook, including a video conferencing tool and updates to its live broadcasting tool.

Workplace reached 5m paying subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, up from 3m in October last year. It was initially launched to focus on connecting mobile employees without an office, but has since added collaboration tools.

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