Labor Day snuck up on me this year. Between working 100 percent remotely and everything else going on, I barely know what day of the week it is without thinking, never mind one of the Big Six holidays in the United States.
It's an interesting time to think about labor and work, to put it lightly.
So, I dug deep into the archives of 2020 (longest year on record, for many of us) to find 17 smart, inspiring, insightful, though-provoking, or just-plain interesting quotes about how work has changed already this year, and what it looks like for the future.
These aren't just the typical "inspirational quotes for Labor Day." I think they're more immediate and insightful--and they show that some of the most powerful voices in our business world simply don't agree. Here's the list.
- "There's a natural pull, even in these times, not to figure out how to operate in this new world but how to replicate the old world in the new conditions. The longer this goes on, my optimism increases because I think people are being forced to figure out innovative ways." --Leslie Perlow, professor of leadership, Harvard Business School.
- "The ability to connect with people, the ability for teams to work together in an ad hoc fashion--you can do it virtually, but it isn't as spontaneous. We are looking forward to returning to the office." --Ardine Williams, vice president of workforce development at Amazon
- "As we've moved to virtual work, we haven't just coped, we've actually thrived. We are more focused on the things that have the greatest impact for our customers, associates and the business. We are making quicker decisions and acting. Meetings are now more inclusive of people regardless of location, level or other differences. We have great momentum and need to figure out how to carry it forward." --Suresh Kumar, Walmart's global chief technology officer
- "Twitter was one of the first companies to go to a work from home model in the face of COVID-19, but we don't anticipate being one of the first to return to offices." --Jennifer Christie, vice president, People, at Twitter
- "We've been desperately looking for trends to identify ways in which the future would be different from the past, and frankly we haven't come up with any. ... We'll be watching this closely. Obviously, it will be very interesting for us to see if people aren't going to commute as much as they did in the past. My belief, however, is that if they move from a big city to smaller city, well, we're going to expand into the smaller cities." -- Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber
"We'll be keeping our offices closed for the remainder of 2020, redesigning our spaces for a new future and reducing our office footprint. This means that most of our employees will work remotely on a permanent basis and leverage our office spaces when it makes sense. This also represents an opportunity for Shopify to open up and further diversify our talent pool unconstrained by physical location." -- Amy Shapero, CFO, Shopify
- "[H]ere in the United States the majority of our population will continue to work from home until the end of the year, and then we'll see. I mean, we've taken an approach that we try to understand how the virus is evolving over time. We've taken a very cautious approach of both with our corporate facilities and with our retail stores." --Luca Maestri, CFO of Apple
- "[W]hat we're looking at is really how to reimagine what the workplace will look like. We continue to be very much focused on the fact that place and space are important. We believe in collaboration. Serendipity is key to innovation. So we do view space in office as important and are very focused on what does that mean over the long term." --Ruth Porat, CFO at Google and Alphabet
- "During the Second World War--at what, in retrospect, was the dawn of electronic telework--American and British military commanders regularly exchanged telegraph messages and held secure phone conversations. Even so, with surprising frequency, high-level officials undertook risky transatlantic crossings to meet in person. Military planners realized that being physically together mattered." -- Cal Newport, The New Yorker
"Hopefully we can go back to business customers after this. But the good news--if we can learn the hard lessons and become better and stronger and we can win users back, in one or two or three years, it may have been worth it.... But the journey is so painful." --Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom
"We have long had a policy of not allowing employees to use unapproved apps for work that are outside of our corporate network." --Jose Castanda, spokesman for Google, explaining the company's decision to ban Zoom from company devices
"If you're a consumer looking to buy [a house] in this market, you may have the most freedom you've ever had to look. Perhaps because your employer has said you can work remotely or maybe you can come in a bit less frequently." -- Ryan Gorman, CEO, Coldwell Banker
"Working from home, our connection to the office weakens, and our connection to the world outside the office expands. At the kitchen counter, hunched over your computer, you are as close to the people and communities on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram as you are to the Slack messages and chats of your bosses and colleagues." -- Derek Thompson, The Atlantic
"At a time when every retailer is facing increased uncertainty and unforeseen challenges, we have chosen to continue investing in our business, and particularly in our team, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in team investments in the first quarter. In June, we announced that beginning July 5th, we would permanently raise our starting wage for U.S. team members to $15 per hour."--Brian Cornell, CEO and Chairman of Target
"Over the next 5-10 years, I think we could have 50% of our people working remotely, but we're going to get there in a measured way. I think Facebook will be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale, and we've been working on a thoughtful and responsible plan to do this." -- Mark Zuckerberg
"Even if remote work turns out to be less productive on some metrics than others, reducing carbon-based emissions or the improving work-life balance could make up for it. Or not. It's possible that what works for Twitter and Facebook won't work for you, at least initially. Your struggles with it may point the way towards deeper changes that you have to make." --Mark W. Johnson and Josh Suskewicz, Harvard Business Review
"There's sort of an emerging sense behind the scenes of executives saying, 'This is not going to be sustainable.'" -- Laszlo Bock, chief executive of human-resources startup Humu and the former HR chief at Google.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of Shopify's CFO. Her name is Amy Shapero.