Empty chairs and empty desks in darkened rooms,
A hundred thousand fingers on ten thousand distant keyboards,
As many people all over the world have been forced to deliver their effort to employers in new ways, tech companies are leading the way in terms of both acceptance of telework, and adaptation to it’s unique challenges. Facebook began their 100% telework policy on 05 March, while most large businesses closed down in response to the pandemic after 17 March. Facebook’s offices will reopen for those who are required to be there (these positions have yet to be identified) on 06 July, but Facebook has also canceled all events larger than 50 people until June of 2021.
Other tech giants such as Amazon have implemented 100% telework until October, and Slack until September. Google has just announced telework until January 2021.
A period of teleworking this long will no doubt make a lasting impact on the organizational cultures of each company, and certainly the industry as a whole. I personally believe this will be the end of the “normal-office-environment” for both open floor plan companies and the older cube farm format. As an intermediate measure, many offices will soon be exploring hotel-ing or hot desk setups for workers to use on days that they must report in person to the office. It is possible that health screening, similar to security screening will takes place at entry control points, and that temperature and vital statistics may be recorded.
Collaboration that previously took place across the table or face to face is now taking place via various conferencing apps, or being converted into multi step workflows with documented approvals to account for schedule differences. I believe this will allow employers to collect additional process metrics where previously it might have been considered a hassle, or overly burdensome to require their employees to document each step.
Another impact of teleworking is that employees who enjoyed perks such as free lunches and fitness centers- and conceptualized this as part of their compensation- are now unable to enjoy such benefits. Because events are canceled, budgeted travel is also not taking place. This is actually delivering a significant reduction in operating costs to the companies while they still expect and obtain the same amount of labor and effort from the employee. After a long stretch of telework, this will present difficult inertia against converting back to the old model.