How Google, Apple, Facebook Plan Returns to the Office Post COVID-19

As states across the country try to figure out how and when to lift their stay-at-home orders, companies are also determining the best time to bring employees back to the office. It seems that the largest tech companies are taking an incredibly cautious approach.

Google, for example, plans to reopen its offices in June, according to a leaked internal email by Google (and Google’s parent firm, Alphabet) CEO Sundar Pichai. However, that reopening will be extremely incremental, with only 10-15 percent of employees returning at first; the bulk of the company’s workers may end up working from home though 2021.

Twitter has taken a somewhat different approach: Now virtually all of its employees will work from home permanently, with the exception of a few (such as those who maintain servers) who must head into a physical workspace in order to do their jobs. At the other social network, Facebook, some employees will venture back into the office in July, but most of the workforce will likely operate from home through the end of 2020

Apple’s phased approach to reintroducing employees to the office may be complicated somewhat by its enormous hardware divisions, which may require more teams to actually operate in-person. “The first swath of employees returning to offices will likely focus on hardware development,” Bloomberg stated in a report about Apple’s plans. “Apple’s labs for future major hardware initiatives, such as planned virtual-reality and augmented-reality headsets, have been dialed back during the work from home period.”

In broad strokes, though, Apple’s plan mimics that of the other big tech firms. “We don’t envision, at least today, everyone going back at the same time,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during a virtual employee meeting, again according to Bloomberg. “It may be different teams go back at a different time, it may be people within a team go back at different times.”

(It’s worth noting that Daring Fireball takes issue with the angle of Bloomberg’s reporting, while suggesting that Apple’s timeline for reopening hasn’t been firmed up: “Apple Park is so sparse right now that the employees who are on campus often see no other humans while there.”)

Handling Home Lockdown

When it comes to COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s not just the biggest companies; a huge percentage of technologists might end up working from home for many months to come. Fortunately, Dice’s latest polling suggests that technologists are becoming increasingly used to getting work done while isolated at home. The number of those who most intensely disliked working from home decreased from 3.6 percent to 2.1 percent (that’s a 40.6 percent drop) between the two reporting periods of our survey (which were two weeks apart). 

Technologists have been generally impressed with how their companies have responded to the COVID-19 crisis; on a scale of 1 to 5, some 35.6 percent reported being at a 5, or “extremely impressed” with their company’s response. Some 35.4 percent said they were at a 4. On the other end of the scale, only 6.1 percent said they weren’t at all impressed. 

Future editions of Dice’s COVID-19 Sentiment Survey will show whether these trends sustain over more months of stay-at-home orders. In the meantime, though, technologists generally seem to be okay with how their managers have been navigating through this crisis. 

Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center, which aims to provide the tech community with the best, most up-to-date information on the novel coronavirus.