As more businesses begin to look to the future, and a return to regular operations after the COVID-19 lockdowns, Twitter has announced that it will let its staff work from home indefinitely - forever if they like - even after the restrictions are lifted.
As per Twitter:
"We were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and allow folks to work from home given our emphasis on decentralization and supporting a distributed workforce capable of working from anywhere. The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return."
Of course, not all staff will be able to operate from home. Facebook recently outlined its plans to bring its staff back, which included specific provision for moderation employees, many of who can't fulfill their roles via remote connection. Twitter, you would think, would be facing similar challenges, but for the most part, a lot of Twitter workers can viably continue to work outside of the office.
Twitter says that it's aiming to re-open its offices in the coming months, but "when and if our employees come back will be their decision".
Twitter doesn't plan to re-open its physical offices before September, while it will also have additional precautions and measures in place to ensure staff safety. It's also canceled all in-person company events for the rest of 2020, with 2021 events to be assessed later this year.
For comparison, Facebook has canceled all of its physical events with 50 or more attendees through to June 2021.
It's an interesting approach from Twitter, though while it's somewhat unique now, it may actually become increasingly common as more businesses assess their own capacities, and map out their own pathways to recovery from the crisis.
One of the more interesting considerations of the COVID-19 lockdowns has been the longer-term implications of the remote work shift, and whether that will lead to permanent changes in approach from organizations.
Up till now, shifting to remote work has remained off the table for many, with traditionalists aligned around face-to-face meetings, being in front of the right people, and having the capacity to get things done by walking to the office cubicle down the hall. There's also been a question of capacity, and whether our data networks can handle such demand - but the lockdowns have shown that it is possible, and that productivity can be maintained, and in many cases, increased, through remote work.
So where does that leave us, in a broader socioeconomic sense? Crowding people into confined cities, clogging highways and increasing house prices, doesn't make a lot of sense when you have vast areas that are not populated, and could just as viably be used by your employees. You could live at the beach, on the snowfields, you could live on a boat at sea, avoiding the 'rat race', and you could still be a productive member of society, while also contributing to local economies and fueling new revivals in business activity.
It makes a lot of sense. The idea of centralized cities is largely outdated, based on systematic and infrastructural requirements of times past. We're not confined in the same ways as we once were, we don't need to be in the same place. And now, we know that, unequivocally, it's been proven, through necessity.
Twitter, under the more future-leaning leadership of Jack Dorsey may actually be leading a broader charge here, and we could all be in a similar situation in the near future.
Maybe that's something worth considering in your own business, because you can bet that politicians are looking at the opportunities of decentralized models, and how they can benefit the regions that they represent.