Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a status in his verified Facebook account regarding remote working on May 22.
I just spoke with our employees about what we’ve learned about remote working and how we’re planning to support it moving forward. I know many other organizations are thinking about this too, so I’m sharing this summary in case it’s helpful.
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. There are still a lot of open questions about how this will work, so we’ll need to keep learning and improving as we go.
There are some very clear benefits to remote work. It lets us access talent pools outside of traditional tech hubs in big cities — and that should help spread economic opportunity much more widely around the country and world while also helping us build a more diverse company. It should be better for the environment because of reduced commuting. Since many people feel more productive outside the office, it should help us better serve our community. For us specifically, it should help us advance some of the future technology we’re developing. Since so much of what we build is around helping people feel connected and present with others no matter where they are — like our private messaging apps, video chat, Workplace, Portal, and eventually virtual and augmented reality — living our values will help us accelerate the development of these technologies.
We asked our employees about their experiences working from home. More than half of them say they’re at least as productive as they are in the office. About 40% are interested in full-time remote work, but more than 50% want to get back into the offices as soon as possible. Of the people who want to work remotely, around 75% said they might move to another place — and of those, 38% said they’d move to a big city while the rest said they’d live elsewhere.
It’s not all positive. Having kids home from school has been tough for parents, and people living on their own have struggled too. It can be hard to find the right work life balance without a clear boundary between work and home. I’m also concerned about weaker social bonds between colleagues, especially new hires, and there’s an open question about whether groups of people are less creative when they’re not together. I think most of us would really like to just see one another in person again as soon as possible.
There are lots of open questions that we can’t answer right now and will have to figure out over the coming years. How do we encourage creativity and maintain our culture when we’re seeing each other less? What’s the best way to make sure everyone has equal opportunities for career advancement and feels equally connected to the work, whether they’re remote or not? Hiring remotely should help us build and retain a more diverse workforce, but if remote work ends up being harder, how do we prevent that from disproportionately affecting people from underrepresented groups? How can we design great career ladders for ambitious people who would normally thrive in an office environment? What about new college graduates who need more training?
Figuring all this out will take time, so we’re going to start by focusing on remote hiring. We’re going to start by focusing on hiring experienced engineers within 4 hours of a city where we have an engineering office (which includes places like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Diego). We’re also setting up new hubs in Atlanta, Dallas and Denver.
This is probably overdue. Over the past few decades, economic growth in the US has been quite concentrated, with major companies often hiring in a handful metropolitan areas. That means we’ve been missing out on a lot of talented people just because they happen to live outside a major hub. Creating opportunities beyond these cities could also be part of the economic recovery, especially if more companies hire remotely as well.
For our existing employees, our guiding principle is figuring out what will enable us to serve our community best and unlock the most innovation. My own thinking on this has changed over the past few months. I’ve always felt that our teams worked better when they could physically be together. We even designed our offices so there are places where people can walk freely and have those serendipitous conversations that can lead to really good ideas. But I think that technology can help us overcome this, and the lockdown has shown us what’s possible with the tools we have today.
Right now, the vast majority of employees are already working remotely and that will likely continue for months to come. We’ve already announced that anyone who can work from home is welcome to do so at least through 2020. Eventually we want to enable many existing employees to become long term remote workers if they want, but we’re going to roll this out in a measured way so we can learn as we go.
Approaching this thoughtfully and methodically will help us strengthen parts of our culture that are really important. We’ve invested a lot of our time in developing programs that help every individual grow their career and help teams execute together effectively and we’re going to need to bring that same care and commitment to our remote work programs too. Products can get built in months, but culture is built over years, so we’re taking a long term approach.
At the same time, we know a lot of people also want to get back in the office as soon as possible. Our priority is people who can’t productively do their work from home — those who work on hardware, some of our content reviewers, data center technicians, and other specialized roles. Part of keeping these folks safe in the office is giving them space and keeping others away until it’s clearly safe for more people to return, so we’re going to continue managing our overall office load and figuring out how to space out desks and equipment. With social distancing, we expect to only be able to fit 25% of employees back in the office for much of the rest of this year.
Read more on Zuckerberg here
As a tech company we’re fortunate that a lot of our work can be done remotely. Not everyone has that flexibility. But as the technology improves, the number of jobs that can be done fully remotely will likely increase across the rest of the economy. Over time, location will hopefully be less of a factor in how many people work and we’ll have the technology to feel truly present no matter where we are. I think this is an important direction that the world is going to go in after Covid, and that’s why we’re building products to help more organizations find ways to work remotely, as well as more ways for people to connect and feel present socially.
It’s going to take time to make this work for everyone. We’re going to learn a lot from this, and we’ll have more updates and details to share in the months ahead as we figure this out.