In 2018, Facebook signed the largest office lease in the history of San Francisco in Park Tower, a testament to the relentless growth of the giant in social media, digital and physical. Late last year, the company signed a deal for a New York office for twice as much space.
But with offices closed worldwide by the coronavirus, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that up to half of the company’s 48,000 employees can work remotely within 10 years.
The number is not a goal, but is the company’s recognition that concentrating employees in a large office, such as Menlo Park headquarters, may not be possible for a long time. Almost all Facebook employees can work from home for the rest of 2020, and the company now allows some employees to seek permission to work remotely indefinitely.
Facebook will also start hiring for remote roles, starting with experienced engineers who live within four hours of an existing Facebook office. The company will set up new office centers in Denver, Dallas and Atlanta, where real estate costs are part of the Bay area.
The changes, along with smaller companies such as Twitter, Square and Coinbase approving remote work for almost all employees, could shift the Bay Area̵
“I think Facebook will be the most targeted remote work company on our scale, and we’ve been working on a thoughtful and responsible plan for that,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page. “It allows us access to talent pools outside the traditional technology centers in big cities – and that should help spread economic opportunities much wider in the country and the world, while helping us build a more diverse company.”
Zuckerberg said last year that he expects real estate growth on Facebook to be largely outside the Gulf region, as the region struggles with traffic congestion and high costs. The coronavirus accelerates this trend.
“It’s probably overdue. Over the past few decades, economic growth in the United States has been fairly concentrated, with large companies often hired in several metropolitan areas. That means we’ve missed a lot of talented people just because they happen to live outside a big center, “he wrote on Thursday.
The company still has huge plans to expand Bay Area real estate, such as its Willow Village project, which has been running since 2017. This week, Facebook reduced office space by nearly a third to 1.25 million square feet and increased affordable housing from 15% to 20% of 1735 homes under the project. A Facebook spokesman said the changes were based on community feedback, not changes in remote work.
According to an internal poll, more than half of Facebook employees want to return to the office as soon as possible, while about 40% are interested in working full-time, Zuckerberg said. Of the group interested in remote work, 75% said they wanted or would like to move elsewhere.
Workers moving to cheaper locations in the Gulf region will see pay cuts, Zuckerberg said.
For now, Facebook only allows applications for remote work from experienced employees with strong recently. They must also work in a team that maintains remote work, which excludes content inspectors who remove illegal content from the service; hardware engineers; data center technicians; and people who work close to customers in sales, policies and partnership roles.
Zuckerberg wrote that there is a lot of uncertainty about less human interaction, especially with the introduction of new employees on board. The company could incur more costs for remote work equipment than traditional offices, he said.
“It will take time to do this work for everyone. We will learn a lot from this, “he wrote.
Roland Lee is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @rolandlisf