The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the landscape of office work in the United States and the rest of the world. As fears of the virus grew early last year, many companies sent their employees home to work remotely. What was extremely novel at the time has since become commonplace.
People have grown used to working from home, participating in video calls, and collaborating with colleagues from afar. Since things have continued to run smoothly for most companies, many people have started speculating if office work will ever return to being the norm.
Although it’s safe to say that remote work is here to stay, at least to some degree, a return to in-person workplaces may be inevitable.
According to Bloomberg, several Big Tech companies are now planning to start bringing their employees back to physical offices. Facebook is the latest to join that group. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company will start reopening some of its California offices and gradually ramp up their capacity.
Facebook isn’t alone. Companies like Uber and Microsoft have also recently outlined plans for a return to in-person work. Others are less certain. However, it’s clear that the technology sector is at least starting to think about moving on from the pandemic as vaccines roll out around the world.
Back to Work
Nobody knows what “normal” will look like a year or five years from now. However, it’s a safe bet that it won’t resemble life prior to the pandemic. Part of that is due to the fact that most companies weren’t prepared to handle a mass shift to remote work.
While many, including Facebook, have promised employees that remote work will be a possibility in the future, planning for that takes time. At the start of the pandemic, Facebook told its workers that they would be able to work remotely at least part of the time within the next five to 10 years.
However, the company will require employees to come back to work in-person until then. That’s because it needs time to plan what a full shift to remote work looks like.
Prior to the pandemic, many tech firms were in the midst of building massive campuses not only to give their employees room to work but also to attract the best talent. Now, it is starting to appear that remote work may be more attractive than even the most luxurious campus.
A survey conducted by FlexJobs found that 65 percent of respondents wanted to work remotely on a permanent basis even after the pandemic is over. Another 31 percent wanted a hybrid work environment. Those are significant numbers that could leave Big Tech firms in an uncomfortable spot as they prepare to bring employees back into their offices.
That’s why some are still playing it safe. Google is one of the most noteworthy firms to stay quiet. It hasn’t yet outlined a plan for when (or if) it will require employees to return.
This will be a trend worth watching as the pandemic draws nearer to its end and the year progresses. The world of tech may look a lot different than how we left it in 2020.