- Tech companies are starting to reveal their plans for sending employees back to the office in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
- While many companies have said their employees can continue working remotely, others, like Apple, have had workers reporting to their jobs since May.
- Regardless of when tech companies return to full capacity, the open-floor-plan office and free snacks Silicon Valley is famous for seem like a thing of the past.
- Companies like Facebook and Google are eliminating all-you-can-eat cafeterias in favour of boxed lunches, and companies like Salesforce are adding glass dividers to employee desks.
- Elevators and conference rooms will have limited capacity, and perks like gyms and nap rooms will be shut down completely.
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As countries around the world begin gradually reopening businesses in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, tech companies have begun asking: what do offices look like after a pandemic?
While companies like Apple have had employees reporting to the office since May, others, like Twitter and Facebook, have assured employees that while offices may reopen, employees won’t be due back for the rest of the year – or longer – if they prefer staying home.
But the tech world still has to decide what to do about the hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space in their portfolios, particularly in places like the San Francisco Bay Area, where companies like Salesforce and Google are based.
In Salesforce’s case, the company wrote a 21-page handbook for reopening after closing its doors in March, according to The New York Times’ Natasha Singer. Its plan includes rethinking some of the materials inside the office, adding glass dividers, and mandating social distancing, even in elevators.
Here’s how major tech companies are thinking about the future of their offices and their plans for sending employees back to work.
Salesforce will eliminate its “huge jars of gummy bears” and institute temperature scans on every floor.
Salesforce is making sweeping changes to its offices around the world. Both the San Francisco Chronicle’s Roland Li and The Times reported on how Salesforce plans to reopen its offices and bring employees back to work:
- Salesforce will require employees pass a health screening by filling out a survey online and recording their temperature
- Employees will be scheduled in shifts and be sent an entry ticket for the lobby of the building
- Employees will be asked to wear masks and sit six feet apart
- Temperature checks will be added on each floor
- Social distancing markers will be placed on the floor outside and inside the elevators.
The company is also looking at adding glass dividers between desks and surfaces that kill microbes, like copper and brass, the Chronicle reported.
CEO Marc Benioff told The Times Salesforce’s offices would be more “sterile” and “hospital-like” and that more light-hearted touches like trinkets on desks and “huge jars of gummy bears everywhere” will be eliminated as well.
Apple will limit elevator capacity and offer nasal-swab testing for employees.
Apple started bringing employees back to Apple Park, its Cupertino, California, headquarters, in May. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the company put rules in place for how to make its offices safer, including:
- Having employees work from the office only a few days per week
- Mandating temperature checks and providing an optional COVID-19 test
- Limiting elevator capacity to two people at a time
- Closing employee kitchens and break rooms
- Asking employees to wear masks.
Facebook’s office reopening plans include limiting capacity to 25% and placing employees on shifts.
When Facebook begins allowing some employees to return to work on July 6, it will be at 25% capacity. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Kurt Wagner, employees who work in divisions like hardware and operations will be asked to return then, as their jobs are more difficult to do remotely.
Facebook is putting strict rules in place for employees returning to the office, including:
- A limit on the number of employees in a meeting room
- Work stations placed six feet apart
- “Grab-and-go” meals instead of a buffet-style cafeteria
- Closing down the employee gyms
- Banning outside visitors
- Masks for employees who are not able to social distance. (Some offices will mandate employees wear masks at all times.)
- Social distancing on employee shuttle buses.
Google will serve employees boxed lunches and eliminate perks like employee gyms and nap pods.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced last month that employees would start returning to Google’s offices on July 6 in a limited capacity. But Google’s offices will likely feel drastically different for employees.
Business Insider’s Hugh Langley reported on Google’s plans for sending employees back to work:
- Google will institute arrival slots for employees each day to reduce the number of people entering the building at one time
- The company will add temperature checks, potentially both at home and once employees arrive at work. COVID-19 tests may be offered as well
- Employees will sit six feet apart, both at their desks and in common areas
- Masks will be required in shared spaces
- Google will stop offering breakfast and dinner, and lunch will be served out of individual lunch boxes rather than buffet-style
- Google will eliminate access to gyms, sleep pods, and massages.