How Big Tech Is Setting the Work-From-Home Standard

Michael Calore: Don’t make fun of my swagger.

LG: I like it.

MC: It’s all of I’ve got.

[Intro theme music]

MC: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, a senior editor at WIRED. I am joined remotely by my co-host, WIRED senior writer, Lauren Goode.

LG: Hey, Mike. You know how on the past few weeks in the podcast we’ve been talking about how something’s really… they feel like the before times?

MC: Yes. As in like March?

LG: Yeah, as in pre-March. Today’s show is really going to feel like the before times.

MC: Why is that?

LG: That’s because we are bringing WIRED senior writer, Arielle Pardes, an original friend of the pod and co-host of the Gadget Lab podcast back on the show.

Arielle Pardes: Hey, all, it’s good to be back.

MC: It’s great to have you. Today, we’re going to be talking about how Silicon Valley often leads the way on certain trends. Sometimes, it thinks it’s ahead of the curve, but maybe it’s giving itself a little bit too much credit. Later, we’re going to be talking about Clubhouse, the hot, new social platform thing, that sort of a gabfest for the Silicon Valley elite. But first, we’re going to revisit a topic that we’re all intimately familiar with at this point, working from home. During the coronavirus pandemic, Silicon Valley tech companies are not only some of the very first to tell employees to work from home, but they were also giving some very conservative estimates for when people might be able to go back to the office.

In some cases, offices won’t reopen until 2021 at the earliest. Last week, Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, told employees that if their job allows for it, they would be able to switch to working from home full-time, even after offices reopen. Jack’s other company, Square, also announced the same policy this week. Other companies are similarly relaxing the rules about working from home, and overall, these kinds of changes could lead to a lot more flexibility in how and where people do their jobs, even after the pandemic is over. Arielle, let’s start with Twitter because you wrote a story about this new policy that ran on WIRED recently. So if you could, please bring us up to speed on the company’s plan.

AP: Right. So as you said, Twitter was among the first to close its offices back in March. The tech industry in general was way ahead of the curve in terms of asking people to work remotely. But Twitter is now the first to say that it’s workers never have to come back. So that’s radical for the tech industry actually. For a group of companies that makes products that are geared toward helping people do all kinds of things on their laptops and phones, the industry at large actually hasn’t been very friendly to remote work. So Twitter’s plan is very simple. It’s just saying that employees who don’t want to return to the office and are comfortable working either at their homes or remotely somewhere else are welcome to do so and employees who want to come back will eventually be able to return to offices.

LG: Arielle, what are some of the other companies that are also hopping aboard this trend?

AP: It seems like in general, the industry is trending toward more of remote work. So Shopify, for example, has just announced that it is going to be digital by default. Some of the other big companies in the tech industry are saying that workers can at least stay from home through the end of the year, potentially longer. Facebook is another great example of a company that has said very publicly that it intends to make more of its workforce remote going forward. So just this week, Mark Zuckerberg said that he intended to make tens of thousands of jobs permanently remote. There are some exceptions to this, of course.

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