Silicon Valley defined modern office culture. Now it needs to learn to live without it - CNN
(Source: cnn.com)

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(Original link: cnn.com)

Tech companies such as Google ( GOOGL ) and Facebook ( FB ) have long been revered as vanguards for office culture — attracting top talent with free gourmet meals, onsite massages, and even laundry services. Some of those flashy perks were quickly emulated by businesses eager to replicate the culture of innovation that helped catapult tech companies to the top of the S&P 500.
But now, after spending billions on fancy digs and convincing workers to move to some of the priciest real estate markets in the country, these same tech companies must adapt to a sudden and potentially prolonged shift to telework. The overnight change was sparked by the pandemic, but the newfound flexibility could persist long after the current global health crisis ends. On Thursday, Facebook said it plans to allow some of its tens of thousands of employees to work remotely full-time, and will also begin ramping up remote hiring for certain roles. Within five to 10 years, as many as half of all Facebook employees could be working remotely, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. This is the question me and my friends are all talking about at the moment. There are a lot of interesting cities where you could have a really enjoyable lifestyle.
a Google employee, speaking on condition of anonymity
Facebook is far from alone. Twitter ( TWTR ) said last week it would let eligible workers continue working remotely "forever" if they choose. Coinbase, the cryptocurrency startup valued at $8 billion , said Wednesday it will become a fully remote-first company after the pandemic. Other startup executives and industry experts told CNN Business that tech companies are downsizing their physical footprints, or looking to more short-term office space. The shift to extended telework policies could have far-reaching consequences for the tech industry, affecting everything from wages to commercial rents, and even the way new companies are born, according to interviews with human resource execs, real estate professionals and venture investors. It'll create new challenges for both companies and their workers, from how best to foster collaboration to questions of who should shoulder which costs. Some in the industry, from hardware engineers to cafeteria workers, may not be able to benefit from the change — and could be hurt by it if their employment dries up or their home prices drop in the event of an exodus. And it could make Silicon Valley as we know it — a regional cluster of tech offices where people flock to work and network — seem like a thing of the past. Read More Even before the pandemic, more than a third of San Francisco residents were considering leaving, according to research by city officials. And nearly half of Facebook employees who expressed interest in working remotely said in internal surveys they'd probably seek to move elsewhere, Zuckerberg said. "This is likely a tipping point that'll accelerate some trends that have been bubbling for a while," said Steve Case, the investor and former CEO of AOL, who for years has been advocating for technology hubs outside of New York and the Bay Area. "And some of that is about how work is organized, but it will also hopefully result in more of a dispersion of talent, and ideas, and job creation, and economic growth to cities that have started rising." Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters, which opened in 2015, occupies nine acres and has its own network of walking trails. At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the office's open floor plan as the largest in the world, "a single room that fits thousands of people." Tech comes under pressure to pivot to telecommuting Silicon Valley's flashy perks were never just for fun. They reflected a massive arms race in tech hiring, where convincing the right autonomous car engineer to work for you could mean the difference between your next big breakthrough or having to follow a rival's lead. Amid that constant competition for talent, Twitter and Facebook's remote-work announcements raise pressure on other tech companies to consider supporting permanent telecommuting, experts say. The calculation is far from simple: It calls for a decision in the face of tremendous ambiguity about Covid-19 that could have long-term impacts on a company's culture, brand and long-term costs. Companies will likely take a range of approaches, according to labor economists and HR executives. But collectively, they say, employers will increasingly be expected to provide some form of added work flexibility. The pandemic was a turning point. An option that was once limited to roughly a third of the workforce is now here to stay — particularly if highly sought-after job candidates make it a demand. "There's a subset that says, 'Can we please come back to the office?'" said Fran Katsoudas, executive vice president and chief people officer at Cisco, which expects only 15% of workers to be back at their desks this fall. "There's a subset that's discovered really how much they enjoy working fro...