Twitter HQ campus in downtown San Francisco. Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking servic

Twitter HQ in San Francisco. Source: Shutterstock

Tech giants make remote working permanent — is Asia ready to follow?

  • More tech companies are leading the way in remote working, and there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic is driving this movement
  • Dozens of companies are taking it one step further — making work from home a permanent thing

The transition to working from home was quick for a lot of organizations, many of which some six months later are figuring out that working remotely is the future of work — pandemic or not.

Dozen of companies, including Shopify, Mastercard, Microsoft, and Facebook have extended work-from-home policies, with some even deciding to allow employees to work from home indefinitely.

Dual CEO of both Twitter and Square Jack Dorsey informed his employees at both companies that they can continue working from home “forever.” Facebook, on the other hand, said it will transition tens of thousands of jobs out of the office over the next decade. E-commerce giant Shopify— which employs 5,000 workers — said it will allow employees to continue working remotely after its offices reopen in 2021. CEO Tobi Lutke said the organization is “digital by default,” and believes office-centricity is reaching its end. 

Meanwhile, Google extended its work-from-home policy by an entire year on July 27 — employees won’t have to return to the company’s San Francisco Bay Area campus until June 2021. Uber also made a similar commitment.

Outdoor retailer REI just announced a plan to work remotely for good— and sell the company’s new, unused 8-acre campus. 

Worldwide transaction, payment-processing, and consulting company Mastercard allows its employees to work from home until the Covid-19 fears subside, and people feel comfortable coming into offices.

Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer stood apart from the crowd by terminating the Internet giant’s work-from-home program, stating, “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussion, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

But with some of the world’s biggest tech leaders laying down the gauntlet, others are questioning the implications. One point of debate is whether salaries should reflect that of the employee’s place of residence, not that of their company. Others have questioned whether businesses should begin subsidizing rent or mortgage costs for employees who work remotely.

“People will need a dedicated workspace at home and it seems fair that employers would cover that additional cost, as well as that of work-level internet access and other work-related needs that were previously part of the office environment,” said Attention Span Media CEO, Josh McHugh, via LinkedIn. 

AWS senior operations program manager Joe Alustiza said that positive impacts of a widespread move to remote working could include a positive impact on “traffic patterns, real-estate prices, carbon dioxide emissions, highway safety” but added that the real impact would be on work-life balance: “Removing my commute would give me back 520 hours a year. That’s 21 days a year of additional productivity. Imagine the improvements that we could make to both our personal and professional lives. Although I would miss the face-to-face workplace interaction, I imagine that the technology around virtual communication and collaboration would drastically improve very quickly.”

Is Asia ready to work from home?

Job postings across key APAC markets show an uptick in remote job postings and applications. Singapore turns out to be the country with the largest growth in the share of applications for remote-working positions.

This is followed by India, Australia, China, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Philipines.

Morgan Stanley had predicted that office tenants across Asia will permanently give up between 3% and 9% of their existing office space, which would result in a rent decline of between 10% and 15% over the next three years.

The investment bank estimated that big tenants from the financial and IT industries, which have well-established business continuity plans or work-from-home infrastructure, could give up even more office space — at 10% over the next three years. The report projected rental impact between June 2020 to December 2022, and Singapore is expected to experience the largest decline at -10%, followed by Tokyo -9%, Hong Kong: -7%, and Sydney: -5%.

Morgan Stanley also noted that across Asia, desk space per person has been declining for some time, the firm also expects that to remain flat or grow if social distancing requirements are adhered to for longer.