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Work From Home Forever? Some Tech Giants Are Considering It

Alphabet, Facebook, Salesforce and others have given many employees the option of working from home until 2021 or even indefinitely, and others are readjusting to onboarding new hires virtually.

Companies of all sizes are adjusting to a new normal, and that includes some of the largest tech employers in the world.

Several major tech firms have given corporate staff the option of working from home through the end of the year, or indefinitely in some cases. Others are assessing ways of doing business in light of the pandemic.

San Francisco-based Salesforce  (CRM) - Get, inc. Report, which operates dozens of offices around the world, said in a blog post on Thursday that employees will have the option of working from home through the end of the year, regardless of whether their own office has reopened. The software giant plans to reopen offices on a by-city-basis in keeping with health and government guidelines.

Alphabet  (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report and Facebook  (FB) - Get Meta Platforms Inc. Class A Report adopted similar policies, telling employees that many will be permitted or encouraged to work from home through the end of this year. In a memo to staff, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that some of its offices in Asia were operating at 30% capacity, and offices elsewhere could reopen to staff using a rotating approach.

Meanwhile, Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Twitter, Inc. Report took working from home one step further, writing this week that if employees are "in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever," they can do that. Twitter may reopen some offices as soon as September, on an office-by-office basis, but has cancelled the vast majority of travel, and all in-person events for the rest of the year. 

The sea change has some tech leaders re-evaluating how much in-person contact is really necessary to keep a company running successfully. 

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"In the crisis, where we’ve all been participating by videoconference and where everybody just gets a square, it’s a real leveling of the playing field," said AWS CEO Andy Jassy at a virtual summit this week.

"I think it also changes for me where I think that all of us, including myself, can get our work done, and where we’ll hire people," Jassy added. "I think we’ve historically had this thesis that you want a critical mass of people in a certain location, but I think we’ve learned through this process that you can have smaller groups of people who, if they’re committed to working with their teammates, can very capably participate no matter where they are in the world."

The retail and cloud giant plans to spend as much as $4 billion this quarter on its COVID-19 response, which includes training up new employees, protective equipment, enhanced cleaning of facilities and other efforts.

AWS is among the divisions at Amazon hiring aggressively this year. Jay Shankar, AWS's VP of global talent acquisition, said the division is hiring in 20 countries currently in response to increased demand for cloud services, and onboarding most new hires virtually.

"AWS is continuing to hire at a rapid pace as our cloud computing services continue to be in demand during this critical time; but we’ve moved to doing so completely virtually via Amazon Chime," she said. "We’ve adapted our processes and behaviors in order to keep up with demand and so we can continue to recruit at a high velocity across the business globally during this time.”

AWS is giving employees the option to work remotely until at least Oct. 2, and will reevaluate and adjust on an ongoing basis.