Jun 16, 2020 - Economy & Business

What offices might look like as America returns to work

An illustration of office chairs covering in measuring tape
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

We're starting to see glimpses of what going back to work in offices after months at home will look like.

The big picture: It'll be a long process to return to the reality that America's workers knew before the pandemic. Some of the work-related changes triggered by the coronavirus will last a few weeks, and others will be permanent.

What's happening: Several big companies have released their plans for bringing employees back — and, taken together, these blueprints help us picture how working in a post-pandemic office will feel. To start, most companies are still maintaining that employees should work from home unless they have a compelling reason to go to the office.

  • Salesforce will have employees fill out health surveys and, if they have good enough reasons to use the office, they'll be allowed to do so in set shifts — and they'll get regular health screenings, reports the New York Times.
  • Cloudflare is soliciting petitions from employees who want to return and it's picking the direst cases.

And a slew of companies are going to reopen, but with emptier, lonelier offices — and without perks that employees have grown to love.

  • Facebook is capping capacity at 25%, per Bloomberg.
  • Facebook, Salesforce and Apple are all asking employees to wear masks and maintain social distancing in the office.
  • There'll be no more giant jars of gummy bears at Salesforce and no more massages at Google.
  • Google and Facebook are both closing gyms and changing their cafeterias from buffet-style dining to grab-and-go boxes, per Business Insider.

But even with all the extra precautions, companies are nervous about moving too quickly.

  • In a recent PwC survey, 59% of CFOs — from a pool that represented every major industry in the country — said a second coronavirus wave was their top business concern.
  • Without widespread testing or a vaccine, executives are leaning toward extending their work-from-home timelines for employees, Amity Millhiser of PwC said during a call with reporters Monday.

Worth noting: The survey also found that a greater acceptance of remote work has been one of the clearest changes in the U.S. since the pandemic began. 54% of CFOs said they wanted to make telecommuting permanent in this June survey, up from 43% in early May.

The bottom line: Things at work won't be the same for a long, long time. As Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff put it on a call describing his company's plans, “It’ll be more sterile. It’ll be more hospital-like.”

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