28 May 2020
American technology companies are looking ahead to the future of office work after the coronavirus crisis. Some are considering whether to permit employees to keep working from home, as most have been required to do for the past few months.
Companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Twitter were among the first to send their employees home as the coronavirus spread to the United States. Now, some of their employees might never go back.
The companies are studying ways to give their highly valued employees what they want. They are seeking to use their own technology to make remote work easier. They are also looking to hire new workers who live outside of big cities.
Silicon Valley has long operated by establishing large work centers in major cities to appeal to high-quality workers. But the lasting effects of the pandemic could change that.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently discussed the issue of full-time remote work in a company meeting broadcast live on his Facebook page. He said a company survey had found that about 20 percent of workers were "extremely or very interested" in moving to full-time remote work after virus-related restrictions are lifted.
Another 20 percent said they were "somewhat" interested in the possibility. The largest group favored a work situation including both remote and in-office work. In the future, Zuckerberg said, up to half of Facebook's workers could be working remotely.
But he noted that the changes are likely years away. "We want to make sure we move forward in a measured way," Zuckerberg said at the meeting.
For now, employees at Facebook, Google, Twitter and others have been given permission to work remotely through the rest of the year. Microsoft has told its employees they can work from home until October.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently announced the company plans to permit some employees to work from home permanently. Some of the company's new U.S.-based job listings give the choice for workers to either be based in one of several major cities or work remotely full-time from anywhere.
Andy Challenger is a vice president at the private employment company Challenger, Gray & Christmas. He told The Associated Press that companies have gotten the chance to see the benefits of having employees work from home. "Many companies are learning that their workers are just as or even more productive working from home," he said.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also spoke about the issue at a recent developer conference. "Every organization will increasingly need the ability at a moment's notice to remote everything from manufacturing to sales, to customer support," he said.
Microsoft's chief technology officer, Kevin Scott, had already been working a lot from home before the virus hit. He is based in Silicon Valley, while the rest of the leadership team is mostly based in Redmond, Washington.
Scott said the experience of the last few months had sped up the process of employees trying to find the best methods and technology to successfully work from home. He added that the process requires learning the "culture" of keeping in touch with co-workers remotely.
"That is getting so much better so quickly, he said. "I don't think I'm going to be commuting nearly as frequently as I was before."
I'm Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
remote – adj. far away in distance
pandemic – n. a contagious illness that spreads from one country to another
survey – n. an examination of opinions created by asking people questions
benefit – n. to be useful or profitable to
at a moment's notice – phr. with little warning for time for preparation
customer – n. a person who buys goods or services from a business or shop
commute – v. regularly travel between home and work
frequently – adj. often; on a regular basis