Facebook employees can work from home permanently, Mark Zuckerberg says

The social media giant expects nearly 50% of its employees to work remotely in the next five to ten years

This Oct. 25, 2019 file photo shows Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking at the Paley Center in New York. If you want a gauge for what the future of office work will look like, watch how the biggest tech companies are preparing for a post-pandemic world. During an employee town hall Thursday Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “We want to make sure we move forward in a measured way”. Facebook, which has nearly 45,000 employees, is looking five to 10 years down the line as it plans for more remote work, even when COVID-19 is no longer a threat that keeps its employees working from home. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company will allow more employees to work from home permanently and expects nearly 50 per cent of its 48,000 staff to work remotely in the next five to ten years.

“We are going to get there in a measured way,” said Mr Zuckerberg, adding Facebook will allow the company to “advance future technologies” that facilitate remote working and let it to “access talent pools outside of traditional tech hubs in big cities”.

“Facebook will be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale … we have been working on a thoughtful and responsible plan to do this,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

In an internal survey, more than half of the company’s employees said they are at least as productive as they are in the office. About 40 per cent said they are interested in full-time remote work, but more than 50 per cent want to get back to their office as soon as possible.

Of the people who want to work remotely, around 75 per cent said they might move home. This trend could potentially affect the costly housing markets in California and New York, where most of the Facebook’s full-time employees in the US are based.

“Since so much of what we build is around helping people feel connected no matter where they are - like our messaging apps, video chat and eventually virtual and augmented reality - living our values will help us accelerate the development of these technologies,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

“As the technology improves, the number of jobs that can be done fully remotely will likely increase … over time, location will hopefully be less of a factor," he added. "This is an important direction that the world is going to go after Covid.”

Mr Zuckerberg was interacting with his employees through a Facebook livestream on Thursday that suddenly disconnected after just under an hour. Facebook said the disruption was only to viewers outside the company and Mr. Zuckerberg was nearly done.

He admitted still there are many "open questions" that Facebook needs to address.

“How do we encourage creativity when we are seeing each other less, what's the best way to make sure everyone has equal opportunities … hiring remotely should help, but if remote work ends up being harder, how do we prevent that from affecting people.”

“Figuring all this out will take time, so we are going to start by focusing on remote hiring.

Over the past few decades, economic growth in the US has been quite concentrated, with major companies often hiring in a handful of metropolitan areas.

“That means we have been missing out on a lot of talented people just because they live outside a major hub. Creating opportunities beyond these cities could also be part of the economic recovery,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

(FILES) In this file illustration photo taken on March 25, 2020, a Facebook App logo is displayed on a smartphone in Arlington, Virginia.
 Facebook on May 19, 2020, reached out to businesses struggling to survive the pandemic with free tools for creating online "Shops" at the social network and Instagram. "The primary focus is to ensure small and medium size businesses have presences online and survive the current situation," Facebook director of product management George Lee said during a press briefing on the new product. / AFP / Olivier DOULIERY
To help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook has rolled out an e-commerce platform Shops. AFP

Facebook’s announcement comes at a time when other tech giants are weighing various options to manage their physical offices during the coronavirus crisis.

Twitter has also allowed its employees to work from home permanently. Whereas, Cupertino-based Apple is bringing back its staff to stores in different phases after it shut down its retail operations amid the virus outbreak.

Currently, the majority of Facebook employees are already working remotely.

“With social distancing, we expect to only be able to fit 25 per cent of employees back in the office for much of the rest of this year,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

“Eventually we want to enable many existing employees to become long term remote workers if they want.”

To help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the social media giant has also rolled out an e-commerce platform Shops.

The service will allow businesses - irrespective of size and budget - to list and sell products directly to consumers across Facebook’s apps for free.