One of the first steps toward getting back to "work as usual" is to figure out what that actually means in a world where what's usual may never look the way it did a few weeks ago. For many companies, that includes the possibility that their teams may never return to offices in the same way they did before.
Millions of Americans have been working remotely, and a little over half of them are now saying they'd rather keep it that way. That's something every business is going to have to consider--if it isn't already.
For example, Twitter was one of the first tech companies to send its employees home to work back in March. Now, according to a company email first reported by BuzzFeed News, it's the first to say things are going to stay that way permanently. At least, if that's what employees want.
Other tech companies, notably Facebook and Google, have said that employees can work from home through the rest of this year, but so far are planning to reopen their offices this fall. On the other hand, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, when asked about when workers will be back in the office, says, "I hope that actually we're weeks away from that."
Of course, Salesforce has bet on large office buildings across the globe, which now mostly sit empty, so it makes sense that Benioff would want them occupied again.
Twitter, on the other hand, is an important model because I think this is the direction most companies should consider when the work their employees do doesn't require physical proximity to customers or each other. I reached out to Twitter, which, through a spokesperson, pointed me to a statement on the company blog that says:
We were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and allow folks to work from home given our emphasis on decentralization and supporting a distributed workforce capable of working from anywhere. The past few months have proven we can make that work. So 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. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it's safe to return.
It's worth pointing out that Twitter attributes its success in transitioning to an entirely remote workforce to steps it took long before the pandemic required almost all but essential workers to stay home. That's an important lesson, but even if your company wasn't prepared, it isn't too late to think about what happens next.
I've worked remotely for years, and generally--despite the fact that our four young children are now home and we're responsible for school on a full-time basis--it's perfectly well-suited for most of the work many people have traditionally done in offices.
It's certainly fair to debate whether that's true across the board, but what's also true is that your employees may have a very different perspective on whether or not an office is the place they feel safest or most productive. That means it's probably time to start thinking about how you'll adapt your systems and structure to the work environment that best serves your team.
After all, that should be your goal--to create something that works best for your company, your team, and your customers. Understanding that might mean not going back to work as usual.