Offices after pandemic: Tech companies look for flexible work models

For the Cupertino campus, Apple made an announcement last week to hire people. This will be starting in September and will be for three days a week. Employees who are flexible with working from home rejected this opportunity. The employees, before the pandemic, went to their offices with fewer expectations. But when in March 2020, we faced the COVID pandemic and workers were asked to work from home, the employers realized that the workers could be equally productive even when working from different buildings. Now it has become a head-scratcher to get things back again. There should be a balance between a fully remote and hybrid company such as Apple, the concept of working a few days from the office and a few days from home will never be easy. So, its never just one thing that will satisfy everyone at the same time. It’s all about moving forward with the flow. Apart from Apple, we approached the other five huge tech companies to see how they are deciding between returning to the office into consideration. Also, we understood that these companies were looking for a good amalgamation of work.

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  • Like Apple, Google also considered the same approach of two days of work at home and three days from the office. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, said they would be opting for a hybrid work week where the employees will be working three days a week in the office and two days at home. The time the employees will spend in the office will be put to use for collaboration, and they can also decide the days when the entire team will meet and work together in the office. Seeing the nature of the work, there will also be situations when few of the employees need to work more than three days a week.  
  • Salesforce has provided its employees with a wide range of options which will depend on their roles. Employees can work from home most of the week, and when it is required, they can come to the office for 1 to 3 days and discuss work with their colleagues, for presentations, or meet customers. Those who live a significant distance from their office places can choose to work at home and the ones whose roles demand their work to be office-based can come 4 or 5 days a week.
  • Facebook is encouraging remote work, and it will be promoting remote work for its employees in the company, and the ones whose jobs can be done from home will be provided with the choice of remote work. 
  • Microsoft has left the choice to its managers, but they are considering remote work for its employees. They also said to their employees in a recent announcement that they realize how some of the roles are more office-based and how the other roles are suited more for working at homes away from the worksite. 
  • Amazon initially set up its policy primarily favoring in-office, but they have decided to provide employees with a favorable flexible work model. The leadership team will decide the specific days to be worked from the in-office, with the baseline being three days and flexibility is given for the remaining two days per week. This was conveyed as a message to the employees by Amazon.   

The tech companies that are big in stature do provide a certain degree of flexibility about office timings, but the post-pandemic has raised some questions, especially on how start-ups will look at work. The majority of the start-ups prefer a remote-first approach and not an office-centric one. Based on a survey of 226 start-ups done by Andreessen Horowitz, a hybrid approach is favored by two-thirds of the surveyed companies. Out of the 226 companies, 64 favor no office with only off-site gatherings, and 87 companies looking for 1-2 days per week. Only 18 of them don’t want any work-from-home involved in their office settings. 

Tech companies will mostly be comfortable with the flexible work types since they have seen it all function during the pandemic times, according to a Constellation Research analyst, Dion Hinchcliffe, who has been researching distribution work models for some time. Distributed work models with a certain degree of flexibility will be incorporated by tech companies as it has been quite a hit with the workers, and productivity chants being made have had no basis or evidence. This will differ from company to company.

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Many companies may have issues regarding safety as their work involves a lot of sensitive information, and IPs to protect and work from home sabotage their safety protocols to some extent. Companies have been doing work from home for the past 15 months. Apple is one of the companies reluctant with hybrid models, and they have to discourage this for quite some time. They have a days-per-week model, which satisfies their need to feel secure, but still, it is not foolproof. 

There have been tight labor conditions, and employee objections and needs have become paramount. The power is shifting to the employees as they select where they want to work and not the employers telling them. Policies can be in place, but employee satisfaction becomes critical, and Apple learned it the other way. So, the companies offering work-from-home models will likely have a competitive advantage over similar sector companies.

The power that the employees exert on the companies to provide flexible working models has made for an interesting turn of events. Most tech companies have provided work from home-with a much higher degree of flexibility than in pre-pandemic times, but that doesn’t mean that all companies love the idea of working from home indefinitely. They will have to come to a middle ground as to what works for them and their employees.