In 2013, Yahoo’s then-chief executive officer Marissa Mayer took aim at the company’s work-from-home policy in a leaked internal memo that sent shock waves through Silicon Valley.
She wrote at the time, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”
Her emphasis on in-person collaboration threatened to reverse years of loosening work policies across the sector, and made legions of executives at tech firms and other companies reconsider flexibility as less of a recruitment perk and more of a business risk.
Seven years later, and remote work has become a way of life in the valley and beyond, thanks to the coronavirus. By Mayer’s point of view, the white-collar work world should have imploded by now. It hasn’t.
And now other tech giants are mulling over what the world of work will look like, and not just in the near term.
In an email to employees that was leaked this past weekend, Google revealed that it’s considering a permanent flex workweek structure that would let staffers split their time between office and home.
It’s imperative for fashion companies to keep an eye on such trends. If nothing else, 2020 proved how changes in in-person and remote work policies impact how people shop, with effects that have been direct and extreme. Just ask the denim business.
As homebound workers eschewed jeans for loungewear, companies in the fashion sector have seen numerous bankruptcies and store closures, along with plummeting revenues. In the quarter ending in August, Levi’s clocked a 27 percent drop in total sales, compared to last year — although it recovered in the third quarter.
The pandemic has buoyed the ath-leisure category, while undercutting blazers, heels and other work-appropriate attire.
The shift looks severe, though not necessarily permanent. A lot depends on what employers do once health restrictions are lifted, likely in the spring or summer of 2021, by which time health officials believe vaccinations will be more widespread.
According to Sundar Pichai, ceo of Google-parent Alphabet, the remote work policy will be extended to Sept. 21 and, presumably some time after that, there will be a pilot program that would allow employees to work three days a week onsite for so-called “collaboration days” and the rest of the time from home.
“No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid work force model — though a few are starting to test it — so it will be interesting to try,” he wrote.
The casual tone belies the high stakes for a massive employer like Google, which has more than 100,000 employees. Like most firms, it paused recruitment earlier this year, but a regular influx of tech talent is the lifeblood for the company. That probably won’t go away, particularly as the status of H1B visas remains murky.
Google used to consistently rank at or near the top as one of the world’s most coveted employers. But this year it slid off of Glassdoor’s top 10 Best Places to Work ranking, landing at number 11. That’s bad news in the hyper-competitive world of tech recruitment, offering plenty of motivation to try new policies.
And if it works, expect others to follow suit. That could be Google partner Walmart, rival Amazon — the largest and second-largest employers in the U.S., respectively — or companies in other sectors.
It underscores the likelihood that onsite work, and the accoutrement that go with it, will continue on beyond the pandemic. At least in some form.