Twitter has just made a groundbreaking move, announcing that the company will allow workers to choose whether they want to return to the office after the pandemic ends. Twitter’s offer for employees to work from home indefinitely is the first in what is sure to be a line of similar announcements, as the world of business operations undergoes a fundamental shift.
Twitter Responds to Changing Tides
Several of the earliest companies to shut down physical offices in response to the covid-19 pandemic were part of California’s big tech industry. In addition to closing its doors early into the crisis, Twitter was one of the first corporations to ban work travel amid the national outbreak. Fellow tech giants Google and Facebook have already announced that their employees will be working from home for the duration of the year, but Twitter is the first to confirm that there will be no mandatory end date for remote work.
Jack Dorsey, the tech tycoon who founded both Twitter and Square, said that a small handful of Twitter employees would be required to return to the office once lockdowns are lifted because of the nature of their work. But for the vast majority of his company’s workforce, what started as a temporary work-from-home order has proven unobtrusive to the daily operations of the company.
“If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” wrote Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s Vice President of People, in a statement. “If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.” The statement continued, “Opening offices will be our decision. When and if our employees come back, will be theirs.”
Twitter also noted that the company’s eventual reopening would be done gradually and cautiously. The restart will happen on an office-by-office basis and even then, business will not be quite the same, given that the company will adjust for physical distancing. The gradual restart is not set to roll-out until at least September.
Maybe that meeting could have been an e-mail.
Twitter’s move provides a hint of how the business landscape could look in a post-pandemic world. The spread of covid-19, and the safety measures related to it, have proven to business leaders just how productive people can be from home. And while the adjustment for employees may have been difficult or uncomfortable on an individual level, many companies are reporting no significant change in productivity.
This collective realization could drastically change business organization as we know them. The ability for people to work remotely and meet virtually could greatly decrease operational costs, limit expensive business travel, lead to savings on commercial real estate and reduce the drive-time commute for those who still have to show up.
The cultural impact of the move to remote work could be equally seismic. Dynamics within households with multiple remote workers are sure to change and the secondary contributions that physical workplaces make to the economy by supplying customers to nearby restaurants and passengers on public transit, will likely change.
For the time being, it looks like Twitter is taking a proactive leap to embrace a new economic reality. It will be interesting to see which companies follow their lead.