Steve Jobs, perhaps the most revered of tech visionaries, disliked the idea of working from home.
The Apple cofounder preferred to maximize in-person collisions between colleagues. He believed rubbing elbows cast sparks of creativity, and he obsessed over architectural minutiae in the headquarters of Pixar Animation Studios to encourage that “serendipitous” friction—including, famously, the layout of toilets.
How the times change. Today, the scions of Silicon Valley are flushing the faith of their forefathers down the loo. Prompted by shelter-in-place measures designed to thwart the coronavirus pandemic, some of the tech industry’s most recognizable companies—from Facebook to Twitter—are reconsidering their office policies.
Forced to let their employees work from home, businesses are beginning to adopt that as the new norm. Some companies are even encouraging their employees to remain remote, sweetening the deal with $1,000 bonuses.
Companies have good reason to do so. Having fewer employees in the office means less need for real estate, less overhead cost. The trend could translate to reduced wages for employees who seek to live in cheaper areas, such as outside major metropolises like San Francisco and New York City.
Here are some of the companies doling out money to help people set up home offices.
Twitter kicked off the trend. In mid-May, CEO Jack Dorsey said many employees could shift to working from home permanently, accelerating plans already in place for the company to become more “distributed.” The micro-blogger site is providing teleworkers an allowance of up to $1,000 to buy home-office supplies.
Like Twitter, Facebook is offering employees a $1,000 cash bonus to work from home. The company expects half of its employees to be working remotely by the decade’s end. But there might be a catch: CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a virtual chat this week that employees who choose to live in cheaper neighborhoods may receive reduced pay.
The digital storage service is dipping into its cashbox to help employees shift to telework. In a recent blog post, Box’s CEO, Aaron Levie, said the company would hand employees who work from home a stipend of an unspecified amount. Kait Conetta, a Box spokesperson, clarified in an email to Fortune that this will consist of $300 on top of another $300 stipend offered earlier this year, yielding a total of $600. “We will be evaluating increasing this as we hear more from Boxers on what they need to remain productive,” she said.
E-commerce hotshot Shopify is another tech company providing work-from-homers moolah to stay home. The company is giving a $1,000 stipend to ease the transition for teleworkers and helping them to set up home offices.
The cryptocurrency giant has currency up for grabs for employees who favor a virtual setup. Brian Armstrong, the company’s CEO, declared in May that Coinbase “will be a remote-first company.” Elliott Suthers, a Coinbase spokesperson, told Fortune that Coinbase offered a $500 stipend when the lockdown started.
Companies encouraging work from home with payouts is an apostasy of the Steve Jobs way. But it’s a welcome measure for the homebound. By the way, if you work from home, you can also possibly get a tax write-off for your home office.
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