Jul 25, 2022 - Business

An office lunch comeback for San Francisco

Front San Francisco tech company offices
Front's San Francisco office. Photo courtesy of Front

Front CEO Mathilde Collin recently tweeted a photo of a rare scene in San Francisco these days — tables full of tech workers eating lunch together in an office.

What’s happening: The customer service startup welcomed employees back into its Mid Market headquarters in late June. Moving forward, "Fronteers" — the nickname employees call themselves — will work in-person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, unless they receive an exemption.

  • Some 75% of Front’s 450 employees worldwide will adhere to the requirement, while the remaining 25% will either be in the office full-time, completely remote or mostly remote.
  • Front has around 220 employees in the Bay Area.
  • “Rather than getting a lot of pushback from our employees … 91% agreed it aligned with their personal preferences,” chief people officer Ashley Alexander told Axios San Francisco regarding the “future of work” plan the company unveiled last October.

Why it matters: Front represents a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish return to the workplace.

  • San Francisco’s percentage of workers back in the office — 38% as of mid-July — is among the lowest in major U.S. cities, according to the security firm Kastle.
  • Some large tech companies, like Salesforce, LinkedIn and Lyft, have reopened their offices, but haven’t set company-wide requirements for working in-person. Others, like Twitter and Block (formerly Square), have moved to remote-first models.
  • Nationally, companies are struggling to bring employees back as well. A Pew study from earlier this year found that 61% of remote workers are choosing to stay at home.

What they’re saying: “I see my teammates turning around in their chairs and having a huddle and discussing things,” Harper Casimiro, Front’s workplace experience manager, told Axios San Francisco. “It’s still so new that everyone comes out of those grinning [saying], ‘It's so much more efficient in person!’”

The intrigue: Perhaps aiding Front’s success in bringing employees back into the office is its Flexible Friday policy. Made official this year, Front employees need not take meetings, check-in with managers, or be online at all on Fridays adding it to a growing list of companies rethinking the 5-day workweek.

  • Some use the time for “heads down” work, while others unwind.
  • Front reports that 89% of its employees say Flexible Fridays are a reason they want to stay with the company over the next two years, while 63% of new hires say it positively impacted their decision to join.

Of note: When they are in-person, office manager Casimiro says she’s “invigorated” by meeting new colleagues, especially as Front’s workforce has doubled since the start of the pandemic.

  • As for the snacks, Casimiro says the candy goes fast. “They love having access to that here,” she said.
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