Over the last decade, the tech sector has – in many ways – set the tone for the global workplace. After big tech names made headlines with their WFH policies in the wake of the pandemic, many have actually expanded their global footprint. Here’s why.
It’s no exaggeration to say that technology has been the greatest influence on the global workplace in the last decade – for four reasons.
Firstly, the emergence of tech taints has fuelled office demand, both directly and indirectly across the world. Secondly, the workspaces that these titans have designed and delivered (inclusive of allotments, granny flats for workers to relax in, hammock desks, table football and more), represent a significant step-change in what we define as best-in-class workplaces.
Thirdly, the hardware and software created by these titans have revolutionised how we work, where we work, and indeed, what we work on – never more so than over the past twelve months, as our working world moved entirely online. Fourthly, new technologies, such as AI, VR, AR, automation and robotics will continue to force structural change within businesses and across the global labour market.
And so, unsurprisingly, the ‘death of the office’ debate was most palpable when tech giants announced their work from home strategies. Google, Facebook and Salesforce announced that all its staff would work from home for the rest of 2020, and Twitter took it one step further by declaring employees could WFH forever should they wish to.
But behind the headline-grabbing was a more nuanced narrative. For starters, many of us worked from home during most of 2020; this was a collective necessity rather than a ground-breaking assertion. And secondly, while employees were working from home, major tech companies were actually busy expanding their office space, with Facebook, TikTok, Netflix, Apple and Microsoft all completing significant deals in major markets.
In fact, in our global occupier survey, 39% of businesses we spoke to who anticipated an increase in the size of their global footprint over the next three years identified as Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) businesses.
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In May 2020, founder Mark Zuckerberg took to camera to explain that in the next five to 10 years, about 50% of Facebook’s staff could be working remotely. Other senior staff members discussed a future where both remote and in-person working would be recognised for its value.
But in what seems like a U-turn, Facebook is “betting on an in-person future” and expanding its office footprint to become one of New York City’s largest corporate tenants.
To accommodate the needs of staff and maintain effective working habits, Facebook’s creating an ‘urban campus’. In fact, according to Becca Foy, Facebook’s Global Business Director, the tech giant’s urban campus comprises Hudson Yard, which is set to be a creative, collaborative hub with plenty of event space, while Farley Post (just a 13 minute walk away) is set to be a dedicated tech hub for its engineers.
In going down this route, Facebook is sending a strong signal to local talent: “Companies go where the people they want to hire are,” says Julie Samuels, Executive Director of Tech:NYC, and that certainly seems to be the case here.
Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, has also recently stated that they will invest some US$7 billion to expand and build out both data centre and office space across 19 US states. Interestingly, he maintains that this investment is at the heart of Google’s strategy to diversify the business both racially and geographically, with additional office space procured in markets such as Atlanta and Chicago, as well as new office openings in Texas and Mississippi.
Despite initially saying its staff won’t return to the office until September 2021, Google’s new Global People Operations Lead, Fiona Cicconi, recently announced the ‘return to office’ timetable was moving forward – and if employees wanted to work from home for more than 14 days, “they’d have to apply to do so.”
Amazon also announced its plans for an “office-centric culture” as a way to “invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.”
Ultimately, the past year has been a learning curve for all – including the tech sector. Carolyn Everson, Vice-President of Facebook’s global business group even admitted when discussing working policies: “We’re making this up on the fly.”
To explore what the future of work means for your business and understand how you can optimise your real estate strategy, step into (Y)OUR SPACE, or get in touch with a member of our team at www.knightfrank.co.th/commercial/occupier-services