In March, analysts, lawyers, sales reps, journalists, graphic designers, music producers, engineers, bankers and CEOs alike dug up desktop monitors from their basements and pushed their button-ups in the back of the closet. Working from home presented both challenges and advantages. Companies that had never allowed employees to work from home found they could do so more or less seamlessly. Others noticed a loss in creativity, collaboration and morale. Whether you’re ready to get back to the office or loving the sweatpants meeting life, the last six months' work may fundamentally change how industries operate.
Thanks to increased demand from employees and new trust from managers, consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, predicts that within two years, 25-30% of the US workforce could be working from home. Tech may be the first to take the plunge, thanks to the nature of their work. Fully remote tech companies, like Zapier, Gitlab and Auttomatic, have existed and thrived for years. Industries may follow. It’s sensationalist that Whether or not companies make the switch completely, now that they know it works, it seems inevitable that remote work will be a part of most companies’ futures.
Here are the remote work policies of top companies. The policies are changing all the time, but these companies are the ones to watch, to see how their industries will proceed over the next few years, as coronavirus remains a threat.
Google workers were initially told they’d return to the office early in January. However, in July, the tech giant announced its 200,000 employees across its parent company Alphabet would be working from home until at least June 30, 2021. The purpose of the year-out forecast, according to CEO Sundar Pichai, is to “give employees the ability to plan ahead.” Beginning in July, they brought back some workers on a rotating basis, puting their offices at about 10% capacity. They “conditions allow” they’ll bring that number up to 30%, allowing additional employees who would like to return starting in September. To help things run soothly, the company’s given each employee $1,000 for WFH expenses.
Amazon taking a less cautious approach: employees were told in July that they’ll be remote until January 8, 2021. (This all only applies to Amazon’s corporate employees: fullfillment workers never stopped working, sometimes even in warehouses with outbreaks). While some companies are re-considering their need for offices at all, Amazon recently leased new offices for around 3,500 employees in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York City, Phoenix, and San Diego. Even if these buildngs won’t be full for a while, Amazon clearly sees a future in the office.
Offering the most progressive WFH policy in tech so far, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey shocked the world in May when he said that his his 5,100 employees would be allowed to work from home “forever” if they want to, even after the pandemic subsides. This policy isn’t surprising as Twitter has long had remote employees, but some believe it could lead the way for an officeless tech industry (see the New York Times’ “Twitter Could End the Office as We Know It”). The company has yet to announce plans to shrink or nix its office space. Twitter’s been on a hiring spree, adding 700 employees to its LinkedIn count since January. Let’s hope those new employees weren’t banking on enjoying the roof deck on Twitter’s luxurious Market Street office in downtown San Francisco.
Facebook, too, is considering the benefits of a remote workforce. Mark Zuckerberg said he plans to permanently shift “about half” the company’s 48,000+ employees to remote work over the “next five to ten years.” However, they also see a future in in-person work — and New York City as a tech hub. Although Facebookers can work from home until July 2021, the company recently closed on 2.2 million square feet of office space in Manhattan. The lease, in the historic Farley Building near Penn Station, adds to the emerging “tech corridor” on Manhattan’s west side, where Amazon, Apple and YouTube all have offices. Facebook has added nearly 16,000 employees to their headcount since January. These team members can expect to be split between offices and remote positions.
Following Twitter’s lead, Zillow is considering a fully remote future. The apartment rental app will allow 90% of its 5,400 employees to work remotely indefinitely, reports Geekwire. The decision came from CEO Rich Barton after he said he “debunked” old stereotypes about working from home.
Thousands of employees were supposed to return to work at Epic Systems’ Wisconsin campus, but the company sent a letter to employees delaying the move. According to CNBC, 4,000 of its 9,000 employees have been working at its campus voluntarily during the pandemic. The company will now have an optional WFH policy through the end of the year.
Finance & Banking
To the delight of Brooks Brothers and Loft, Goldman Sachs — and Wall Street in general — has been eager to get their starch-suited minions back to their desks (David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, never stopped going into work during the pandemic). While Goldman was “early” to embrace WFH, according to New York Times, Solomon sent Asia and European offices back to work in May and brought the first wave of US employees back on June 22. The bank hasn’t confirmed when it will bring all workers back, but has invited employees that want to return to the office to do so. Goldman Sachs currently employs around 60,000 workers, according to LinkedIn.
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
America’s largest bank brought 50% of their staff back to the office in mid-July, trading from a socially distant floor plan. Desks are marked with color-coded stickers and some hallways are one-way, a source told Bloomberg. This is the plan “for the foreseeable future.” Fortune reports that, at first, traders felt pressure to keep going into the NYC office early during the outbreaks in the spring. But when the company found that traders were able to handle “as much as three times the normal trading volume” as normal according to Bloomberg, co-President Daniel Pinto said the firm was considering the benefits of having staff work remotely on a rotational basis.
The credit card industry is being remarkably flexible when it comes to remote work. Mastercard’s nearly 20,000 employees around the world will have the green light to work remotely “until they are comfortable,” senior executives told Reuters in May. As such, the Westchester, New York-based credit card company is also considering downsizing or consolidating its real estate footprint. In May, 90% of its staff were working from home.
AmEx hasn’t been quite as generous as Mastercard, but says employees will work from home until January, 2021, according to Reuters. Employees that need to go to the office have meant some offices are at about 10% occupancy, but the company doesn’t plan on any office going above 50% for the rest of the year. AmEx is planning a slow return back to the office after the new year. "The key here is that returning to location will not happen all at once," CEO Steve Squeri said on Linkedin. "[We will reopen on a] location by location, floor by floor and colleague by colleague basis."
Citibank has explicitly said they don’t see remote work as a permanent solution, reports Bloomberg. They tried to return a small percentage employees to offices in 13 states in July, but pulled back on the plan. They’ve returned around 5% of employees to offices in the Northeast, but haven’t given a tentative date. At an investor conference in May, CEO Mike Corbat said "Our goal is to get our employees back."
New York Times
In May, New York Times officially closed their headquarters until September. They have yet to update their policy publicly, but there’s no reports that 41 Park Row is about to reopen. In places like Manhattan where most people commute by public transit, companies are hesitant to ask any employee to take the subway. Their decision affects around 8,500 employees. Thanks to rapid subscriber growth during the pandemic, unlike most media companies, the New York Times has expanded their staff by 2,370 employees based on LinkedIn listings.
In May, CNN stated that it would try to bring around 15% of its employees back to the office in June, but says the majority of the staff won’t go back until 2021 at the earliest. At the time, CEO Jeff Zucker also said they would attempt to bring back another round of employees in September.
International newswire Reuters has told employees they’ll tentatively return to work in January, 2021.
The latest Condé Nast employees have heard is that they won’t be back in the office before 2021. This deadline will likely be extended, according to a current employee and based on the fact that the media empire is considering breaking its lease on its iconic 1 World Trade Center headquarters, according to Variety. The pandemic has been brutal for print media, so an office-less Condé is looking increasingly like a possibility.
Even as Fox News hosts push for the reopening of schools and businesses, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch says non-production staffers will continue to work from home for the rest of the year.
Siemens, Fortune 500 company and the largest maker of appliances and electronics in Europe, is leaning into WFH. 140,000 Siemens workers may now permanently, work from home 2-3 days a week, reports Forbes. Inc called their new strategy, which promises to “trust and empower employees” and “focus on outcomes rather than hours,” brilliant.
The Japanese electronic giant is following their competitor’s lead. Hitachi has committed to having 70% of its employees work from home permanently, according to Business Insider.
Honeywell, an industrial technology giant, hasn’t taken such drastic measures, but they have been pushing forward software innovations to protect frontline workers. President and CEO Que Dallara told CNBC that they’ve implemented “factory-floor safety protocols everywhere” and are pushing forward technologies to let factory workers “remote in” for certain kinds of tasks.
Netflix slowly resumed filming and production this summer on a case by case basis, with boxed lunches, ample hand sanitizer and required masking on sets. (California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the green light for TV production to resume in accordance with local regulations in June). They haven’t offered an official policy on their corporate offices, based in Los Gatos, California, but employees are WFH until further notice. To keep up with the quarantined masses streaming demands, despite the several month production halt, Netflix has about 1,500 employees since January.
Disney has yet to release a set of policies for their corporate office or the frontline employees who run their amusement parks, TV studios, Disney+ streaming service, hotels, or licensing, merchandise and publishing business. They controversially reopened Disney World in July, despite spiking COVID-19 cases in Florida, and have resumed production on some films and movies. Office employees are WFH indefinitely. Some theme park employees are back at work, with safety protocols.
After a five month hiatus, Universal’s Jurassic World: Dominion is one of the first major Hollywood studio films to resume production. The New York Times’ report on the film’s production indicates the studio will bring far fewer people to set and instead have all crew members who don’t have to be on set, like construction and props teams, do their work from afar. Office employees are WFH indefinitely.
Spotify employees will run the Stockholm-based streaming company from the comfort of their homes for the rest of the year, reports TechCrunch. The company, which has added over 1,000 people to its LinkedIn employee count, has team members in 79 countries around the world. Each office will open on a city-by-city basis, according to local guidelines.
Sony Music, headquartered in New York, has asked employees to work from home until January 2021, reports Rolling Stone. “at this point, it’s our best judgement [to] not have a widespread return to our U.S. offices at least through late January, 2021, if not longer,” read an internal memo. With tours for their acts like Lil Nas X and Doja Cat postponed and cancelled, this isn’t too much of a challenge for the record label. Employees who need to go to the offices for business reasons are permitted.
Universal Music Group
2021 has become the standard for the music industry. Santa Monica-based Universal Music Group, home of Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, has also said, according to Rolling Stone, that employees will work remotely until the new year.
Warner Music Group
NYC-based Warner, which has Bruno Mars and Cardi B on their roster, is on the January 2021 bandwagon. “As we’ve all shown what’s possible when we work remotely, it means that we can see how things develop, rather than needing to be among the first to return,” Warner told employees in a memo via Rolling Stone.
Nike asked its US employees to work from home starting in March. They haven’t given a public update on their WFH plans, but some employees won’t ever be coming back — the fashion giant announced it was laying off 500 workers last month. Nike’s also cut down on their hiring during the pandemic. In October of last year, the company was hiring for over 1,300 positions, while today there are only about 350 job openings listed online.
Before the pandemic hit, REI employees were slated to move into a brand new, state-of-the-art, 8-acre campus in Washington State this summer. They’ll never use it. Becoming one of the first retail companies to pivot to permanent remote work, it’s selling the facility and instead, leaning “into remote working as an engrained, supported, and normalized model" for employees.