Facebook, Shopify and Spotify extend remote work policies

22 May 2020

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Image: kobbydagan/Depositphotos

Over the course of the next decade, Facebook aims to have half of its workforce working remotely, while others are extending their work-from-home policies.

On Thursday (21 May), Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he wants to continue embracing remote work, even after the coronavirus pandemic ends. Looking ahead, Zuckerberg said he expects 50pc of the company’s employees to work from home over the next five to 10 years.

On the same day, two other tech players announced plans to extend their remote work policies. Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke announced that the days of “office centricity” are now over, while Spotify told employees that they can work from home until 2021.

The news comes just over a week after Twitter told its 5,000 employees that they are free to work from home “forever”, as long as they are in a role and situation that allows this arrangement.

Facebook’s announcement

In an interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg said that Facebook is aiming to be the “most forward-leaning company on remote work” at its scale. The company is beginning its plan by “unlocking remote hiring” before asking existing employees if they want to request to work from home permanently.

The Facebook CEO said that these initiatives will focus on experienced employees, rather than college graduates, who Zuckerberg thinks “need to be in the office more, for training”.

“We need to do this in a way that’s thoughtful and responsible so we’re going to do this in a measured way. But I think it’s possible that over the next five to 10 years – maybe closer to 10 than five, but somewhere in that range – I think we could get to about half of the company working remotely permanently.”

Zuckerberg added that there is a practical element to this decision, as many offices won’t be able to exceed more than 25pc capacity in the near future with social distancing measures in place. Earlier this month, the company said its offices will start to reopen in July.

“Even with social distancing, we think that the offices are going to be at about 25 percent density,” he said. “So, that just means that we’re going to have a lot of people who want to go back to the offices but aren’t going to be able to.”

He also said that, for now, the move will not allow employees to just go buy a house anywhere they want to work from. “That’s not really the approach,” Zuckerberg explained. “If you’re experienced, if you’re at a certain level within the company, if you have good performance ratings, if you’re on a team that’s going to support remote work, and if you get approval, then you’ll be able to know now that you’ll be a permanent remote worker.”

Shopify’s move to permanent remote work

On Thursday evening, Shopify informed workers and the public of plans to extend its remote working policy indefinitely. The Canadian e-commerce business said that its offices will be closed until 2021 and most employees will be allowed to work remotely on a permanent basis after that.

‘Office centricity is over’

Shopify boss Lütke tweeted: “As of today, Shopify is digital by default. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. Office centricity is over.”

After publishing its most recent earnings at the beginning of May, Shopify became the most valuable public company in Canada. The company has been thriving as retailers move online due to coronavirus restrictions.

An extension of Spotify’s remote work plan

Meanwhile, Swedish music streaming platform Spotify informed employees in all territories that they can work from home until next year if they wish to do so.

A spokesperson for Spotify said: “We announced the extension of our work-from-home arrangement for all Spotify employees globally. We will continue to track local government guidelines city by city, and take a phased approach of opening our offices when we deem it is safe to do so.

“Our employees’ health and safety is our top priority. No employee will be required to come into the office and can choose to work from home through the end of the year.”

Similarly to Shopify, the music platform’s latest earnings showed a surge in subscribers as more people turn to streaming while working from home. In its earnings report, Spotify said that it plans to slow down hiring for the rest of the year.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Image: kobbydagan/Depositphotos

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic