One of the questions which has lingered over the last few weeks is whether the COVID-19 enforced digital transformation will persist in the long-term, though the answer is becoming a bit clearer.
Twitter is one of the first of the technology giants to break the silence and make a commitment. Offices will be opened at some point after September, though the decision as to whether to come in or not will be left entirely to the employees.
“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,” said Jennifer Christie, Chief HR Officer at Twitter.
“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.”
Twitter embracing the work-from-home dynamic is hardly surprising. This is a digital native company which attracts the interest of a certain demographic. This is also a company where the necessity to work within an office is very low, as it is a platform business; product design is virtual not physical after all.
On the other end of the scale, there are companies and professions where work-from-home is not an option. There are obvious categories, construction for instance, but also others which are less so. Due to regulatory and compliance issues, those who work in a company’s treasury department or conduct high-profile trades in the financial markets might find it difficult to work from the living room.
Another factor to consider is the creation of products, such as smartphones.
According to Bloomberg, Apple has already begun the process of reintroducing employees to some offices around the world. Senior managers are reaching out to employees to explain who will be working from home and who will have to come back into the office, but those who are creating new products, such as the flagship 5G smartphone to be launched in a few months, will not be able to work from home as it is highly unlikely each of these engineers have a cleanroom at their residences.
Other parts of the Apple business could work from home. Sales and marketing, for instance, or the developers who work from the software and services unit could very feasibly continue. As one of the Silicon Valley fraternity, Apple would presumably embrace the idea of mobility but it does also have to justify the $5 billion which has been spent to construct the new doughnut-shaped headquarters in Cupertino.
These are perfectly understandable answers to the longevity of the work-from-home question, but the most interesting developments will be around the companies who can function remotely, but probably don’t want to.
There are numerous industries which have resisted digital transformation programmes. This is because of a lack of vision, ‘lifers’ in middle-management roles who have no desire to evolve or executive management teams who were brought up in a different era and have no concept of digital. Despite what many would claim, the FTSE 100 and Dow Jones is littered with such organisations.
These are the companies who are spending money on the cloud currently, but only because they have been strong-armed through a digital transformation programme. They are thousands of companies who lack the foresight and imagination to realise the importance of evolution and many of these will revert back to pre-coronavirus operations.
But here is the question; how many of these luddites are there?