Pinterest, Dropbox and More Companies Shifting to Fully Remote or Remote-First

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Nopparat Khokthong / Shutterstock.com

The global coronavirus pandemic caused massive unemployment and forced many of those who kept their jobs to work from home. Now that vaccines are being deployed and the crisis is slowly abating, many companies are realizing the benefits of a mobile workforce. In numerous cases, companies are adopting a “remote-first” worker policy, in which offices are available but employees are encouraged to work remotely. Others are going the full nine yards, with no physical workplaces and fully remote employees. Here’s a look at several major companies that are spearheading the charge towards a fully or primarily remote workforce in 2021.

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In late May 2020, Shopify founder and CEO Tobias Lütke announced that the company was shuttering all of its offices through the end of 2021, with most employees free to work remotely after that at their own discretion. According to Lütke, the era of “office centricity is over,” and the Canadian e-commerce company’s employees will primarily work from home.

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In late May 2020, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong wrote in a blog post to employees: “after the restrictions of quarantine are over, Coinbase will embrace being ‘remote-first,’ meaning we will offer the option to work in an office or remotely for the vast majority of roles.” The cryptocurrency marketplace’s policy is intended to be flexible, giving employees the option to either work remotely or to work in an office, depending on personal preference.

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As of November 1, 2020, insurer Nationwide transitioned to a hybrid model that made most of its workforce permanently remote. “Nationwide plans to shrink from 20 physical offices pre-crisis, to just four,” Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker told Fortune. Walker added, “We think the world is changing. We’ve got to take cost out of the system. We want to enable sustainable growth.” The four main campus locations for the Fortune 100 company will include central Ohio (including downtown Columbus and Grandview Yard); Des Moines, Iowa; Scottsdale, Ariz. and San Antonio.

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In June of 2020, the CEO of question-and-answer website Quora announced that the company would operate permanently on a remote-first basis. In the midst of the pandemic, CEO Adam D’Angelo noted his surprise at how productive his remote workforce was, observing that “There are a few factors that add up to the surprisingly high productivity and preference for remote work.” As a result, the CEO switched the company to a remote-first model nearly a year ago, noting that those employees who prefer to work in an office are still allowed that option.

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Hayden Brown, CEO of freelance job marketplace Upwork, announced the company’s remote-first work policy in a tweet: “Upwork knows firsthand the incredible outcomes that distributed teams can deliver. Building on our 20 years of experience as a remote work company, we are now permanently embracing a ‘remote-first’ model.” The company’s path in this direction was already set under the prior CEO, Stephane Kasriel, who noted back in 2018 that “the shift to remote work in America needs to happen faster.”

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Basecamp is a software company that provides project management solutions to businesses. The company has been able to take the pandemic-era trend toward working from home in stride, as it has utilized a fully remote workforce for the last 20 years. The company’s CEO literally wrote the book on working remote, titled “REMOTE: Office Not Required.” Going forward, the company doesn’t have any plans to create an in-office workspace.

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VMware isn’t shifting to an entirely remote workforce, but the pandemic has transformed the company into a “remote-first” empl0yer. Before the pandemic, about 20% of the VMWare workforce was remote. In May 2020, however, the company’s former CEO Pat Gelsinger announced that percentage would likely jump to 50%-60% after the pandemic.

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Social media company Pinterest was so eager to shift its workforce to remote-first that it was willing to pay a whopping $89.5 million fee to cancel a new office lease in San Francisco. According to the company’s chief financial officer Todd Morgenfeld, “As we analyze how our workplace will change in a post-COVID world, we are specifically rethinking where future employees could be based. A more distributed workforce will give us the opportunity to hire people from a wider range of backgrounds and experiences.” The company is maintaining its current San Francisco headquarters and office location.

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On October 13, 2020, Dropbox made the following announcement to its employees via a blog post: “Starting today, Dropbox is becoming a Virtual First company. Remote work (outside an office) will be the primary experience for all employees and the day-to-day default for individual work.” The company also endorses “non-linear workdays,” with employees creating overlapping collaboration hours for workers in different time zones, with flexible schedules beyond that.

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In September 2020, Brex founder Pedro Franceschi announced in a blog post that the company would be remote-first moving forward. According to Franceschi, “People can work from anywhere, and all of our processes, communications and culture will be designed remote-first […] We’ll have office hubs in major cities where employees can work from if they want to, but the vast majority of our team won’t be expected to be in an office.”

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