In 2017, many companies made headlines for doing away with remote working arrangements, including IBM, Aetna, and Best Buy. While working remotely had previously been seen as a driver of employee satisfaction and better business results, these high-profile flexible work program cancellations caused many companies to question their work from home policies.
Then came 2020. The business world experienced a significant shift toward remote work because of COVID-19. The data we’ve seen a year into the pandemic reinforces what studies have suggested for the past decade: yes, remote work can boost productivity.
But does this mean that companies will continue to embrace flexible working arrangements even when offices reopen?
Tech Companies Signal Hybrid Work Futures
Increasingly, leading companies are introducing policies supporting a hybrid work future, where in-person and remote work opportunities are blended at the company. Some roles will need at least some in-office time to complete critical tasks but otherwise enjoy greater degrees of flexibility than before—and employers are making lasting decisions about their office spaces because of it.
Throughout 2020 and into 2021, brands made significant moves that signal it will become increasingly uncommon for a company’s entire team to work under one roof:
- Cloud computing trailblazer Salesforce announced in February 2021 that it will offer three ways of working going forward. The company even went as far as to say the 9-to-5 workday is dead, and only a small subset of the Salesforce team will work in the office four to five days per week.
- Internet staple Google will keep its employees remote until September 2021 and then experiment with a new hybrid work model giving employees the flexibility they desire.
- Trillion-dollar company Microsoft announced that the majority of its employees can work from home half of their time (or permanently, with manager approval) and that its US offices won’t reopen until early this year at the earliest
- Tech giant Pinterest paid $89.5 million to terminate its lease with a soon-to-be-built complex near Pinterest’s existing San Francisco HQ
- Retailer REI announced its plans to sell a newly finished corporate campus in Washington, which was once called “like summer camp for grown-ups.”
- Nationwide will work out of four main corporate campuses, exiting most of its other buildings and workly entirely remotely in all other areas.
- Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman expressed uncertainty about the future of work but noted that the bank would need “much less real estate.”
- Siemens, one of the largest companies in the world, recently announced it would “focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office” in measuring worker performance.