The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated remote work capabilities of many companies (including Otten Johnson), but is this a permanent change? Here are some major companies that provide a glimpse into the future of working from home:

  • Tech giants Facebook, Twitter, and Square publicly announced that they will allow many employees to work remotely on a permanent basis. Facebook stated that it anticipates up to half of its workforce will remain remote. Nevertheless, Facebook recently leased 23,000 square feet at 1900 16th Street in the LoDo district of Denver, and also leased 730,000 square feet at the Farley Building in Midtown Manhattan.
  • Online retailer Amazon announced that it will invest $1.4 billion for new office space in several U.S. cities, including Denver. Amazon recently leased an additional 20,000 square feet at 1515 Wynkoop in LoDo, where the company already occupies three floors.
  • Outdoor equipment co-op REI built a brand-new, eight-acre campus in Bellevue, Washington, only to announce its sale before employees ever moved in. CEO Eric Artz stated that “[r]emote work will move from a temporary solve to a more engrained, supported, and normalized model.” REI will continue to have smaller satellite office locations throughout Washington.
  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some large companies, such as IBM, Bank of America, and Yahoo, implemented remote work policies and subsequently rolled them back. Lagging innovation and lack of employee accountability were seen as the main driving factors. However, the COVID-19 era of remote work may have some distinguishing features; companies have better virtual communication tools, such as Zoom and Slack, and the all-encompassing nature of the remote work environment likely encourages more thoughtful communication, management, and policies.

Remote work, which was a mandatory response to the COVID-19 pandemic, may be evolving into a permanent model for where and how we work. Companies will consider numerous factors, such as overhead costs of physical office space, technological security and connectivity, company culture, talent attraction and retention, and overall productivity. Some intangible factors, such as communication, collaboration, and innovation, will be more difficult to measure in the short term. As the “new normal” of our work environments continue to change, companies and employees alike will find new and effective ways to get things done.