Canada markets closed
  • S&P/TSX

    20,138.35
    +88.88 (+0.44%)
     
  • S&P 500

    4,247.44
    +8.26 (+0.19%)
     
  • DOW

    34,479.60
    +13.36 (+0.04%)
     
  • CAD/USD

    0.8228
    -0.0041 (-0.50%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    70.78
    +0.49 (+0.70%)
     
  • BTC-CAD

    43,487.64
    -1,106.12 (-2.48%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    924.19
    -17.62 (-1.87%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    1,879.50
    -16.90 (-0.89%)
     
  • RUSSELL 2000

    2,335.81
    +24.40 (+1.06%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    1.4620
    +0.0030 (+0.21%)
     
  • NASDAQ

    14,069.42
    +49.09 (+0.35%)
     
  • VOLATILITY

    15.65
    -0.45 (-2.80%)
     
  • FTSE

    7,134.06
    +45.88 (+0.65%)
     
  • NIKKEI 225

    28,948.73
    -9.83 (-0.03%)
     
  • CAD/EUR

    0.6792
    +0.0003 (+0.04%)
     
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The future of work according to big tech

·Anchor
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

This article first appeared in the Morning Brief. Get the Morning Brief sent directly to your inbox every Monday to Friday by 6:30 a.m. ET. Subscribe

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Bigger offices, fewer people, more clouds

This week represents the apex of first quarter earnings season with Microsoft (MSFT), Alphabet (GOOGL), Apple (AAPL), and Facebook (FB) all having reported results in the last two days. 

Each of these businesses helps us think both narrow and broad about the state of the economy, the tech industry, and consumer behavior, among other things. 

But a top of mind concern these companies have also helped shape is what the return to office life is both looking like right now and might look like in the future. And some commentary that stood out to us came from Google CFO Ruth Porat on the company's Tuesday evening earnings call

Asked about capital expenditures and anticipated investment intensity around personnel and facilities, Porat said, in part, "We've been very clear we do value bringing people together in the office, and we're looking at a hybrid work-from-home, work-from-office model." 

But fewer people in offices less often doesn't mean there will be either fewer offices or even smaller ones.

"We are looking at less density per employee," Porat added. "So even with a hybrid work environment, we will continue to need [office] space, and so we're continuing to build out our campuses and office facilities." 

Given that consensus expectations for the future of work have become centered around some kind of hybrid model, it's not a total surprise to see Google thinking along these lines. A report from the World Economic Forum published earlier this week said 65% of those working remotely due to the pandemic would like to remain remote. These preferences are so firm that some 58% of workers working remotely said they'd find another job if required to return to an office with pre-COVID expectations. 

Microsoft, which like Google builds and sells software that helps enable a lot of these hybrid arrangements, noted that, "In market where employees have returned to the workplace, including Australia, China, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan, we have seen [Teams] usage continue to grow." 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also referred to the current environment as a "new era" of hybrid work. 

But we note Google's investment in its campus because of the influence it has had on multiple generations of companies and how they view the in-office experience. 

Earlier this week, tech commentator Ben Thompson explored the transforming relationship between employees and employers in the tech industry. A relationship that today works off the template set by Google's Mountain View campus, which Thompson notes, "became the standard for Silicon Valley companies, from Facebook on down."

"Employers didn’t simply offer free lunches, but also free dinners, and everything in between, from transportation to snacks to laundry services," Thompson adds. "Employees, meanwhile, were expected to bring their whole selves to work, by which founders meant a willingness to work long hours and accept lower salaries in exchange for stock options and the chance to 'do your life’s work.'"

Google's view, then, that a physical office will remain a part of — but only a part — of your professional identity represents a massive shift. Hollywood made movies that did little but showcase Google's modern corporate campus lifestyle. Companies like WeWork were founded to explicitly offer smaller companies a flexible way to approximate the perks of a Google-like office: free food, free drinks, low couches, common spaces. 

But Google and its leading tech peers now seem to believe employee expectations revolve not around the perks of going to work but the perks of staying home. And if that prior cultural moment asked workers to bring, as Thompson notes, their "whole selves" to work, one wonders if we're increasingly asked to keep most of ourselves at home. And what might we all think of work then. 

By Myles Udland, reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance Live. Follow him at @MylesUdland

Yahoo Finance Highlights

How stocks performed during Biden's first 100 days

Here’s how Warren Buffett’s top investments fared during the pandemic

Are investors hoarding cash?

Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance