Tech

Salesforce: Forget the ping-pong and snacks, the 9-to-5 working day is just so 2019, it’s over and done with

Global CRM SaaS pusher Salesforce has told its staff and the wider world that the 9-to-5 workday is dead.

In his sweepingly grandiose missive, Brent Hyder, president and chief people officer of the San Francisco-based cloud biz, proclaimed that the devastating social and economic disruption wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic would mean “the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks”.

For readers whose offices are more like repurposed agricultural sheds than slick high-rise tech HQs, that means Salesforce’s 54,000 employees won’t be going into their work buildings anything like as much as they did before coronavirus. Maybe not at all.

Hyder foresees three options for the new normality greeting employees as virus lockdowns begin to ebb. The “Flex” option is for those who want to be in the office one to three days per week for “team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations” – yay! Presentations! Staff who don’t live near an office or have roles that don’t require an office can go fully remote. The smallest chunk of the Salesforce workforce who want to spend four to five days per week in its “immersive spaces” can do so.

The outcome of this shift in working will be positive, Hyder said, somewhat predictably: “This work-from-anywhere model will unlock new growth opportunities that will help us drive greater equality.”

Too bad the statement coincided with allegations of racial inequality from a former employee. Salesforce said it could not comment on the specific case but defended its record in racial equality.

Hyder’s statement is as much for the wider business community as it is for Salesforce employees, who would have seen the writing on the wall from other tech sector giants.

In July, Japanese IT services and hardware giant Fujitsu said it would permanently shutter one half of its office real estate in Japan and will ask 80,000 locals to work from home permanently. In August, the chief operating officer of hardware box-shifter Dell said the majority of his 165,000-strong workforce would not return to the office again on a regular basis. October saw cloud storage vendor Dropbox declare itself a “virtual first” company: for all of its employees outside an office remote working would be “the primary experience”. Microsoft has also told its workforce to expect work-from-home as standard, with a few caveats.

With grinding inevitability, there is something in this for Salesforce. It wants to promote the remote working/home working ethos as it plays to its strengths as a cloud-only vendor. Who needs office-based systems when you don’t need an office?

That opens the door to the creeping suspicion that all this home working and flexible hours might not be quite as healthy as they first sound. A survey of 5,556 employees recorded an opinion on Blind, an anonymous app-based forum, which found 57 per cent said the blend of work and play has been skewed since lockdown measures were introduced. The sample included verified employees from the godfathers of tech, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel, SAP, Oracle, Cisco, Adobe, IBM, Nvidia, and more.

“There used to be some delineation between work and home life, now it’s gone,” said an anonymous person at Google. “Not working from home, just living at work.”

The dream of flexi-home working could so easily turn into a nightmare – and not just for real-estate investors. ®


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