Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in a ‘Conversation on Free Expression” in Washington, DC on October 17, 2019.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images
“A lot of people felt, ‘Hey, if I don’t have to come in, and I don’t have meetings then I’m going to be more efficient if I don’t have to commute into the office that day,'” Zuckerberg told “Squawk Box” co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin in an interview that aired Thursday morning.
Zuckerberg was discussing Facebook’s plan to start allowing existing employees to work remotely full time and to ramp up its recruitment of remote workers. Zuckerberg said he predicts as much as 50% of Facebook’s workforce could be working remotely in the next five to 10 years.
Because of the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders, more than 95% of Facebook’s workforce is working remotely now, and the company will allow them to stay home through 2020. Certain experienced employees will be allowed to request approval to shift to full-time remote work for 2021.
Remote work also comes with other challenges. Facebook will need to figure out how to make sure employees don’t feel their career will be hurt if they work remotely.
“People are going to need to feel like they have the same opportunities to do their best work remotely in addition to being in the office,” he said. “Those are things that we’re going to have to be very intentional about how we engineer these processes, how meetings work, what opportunities people have in order to make sure that ambitious people who really care about their career know that it’s still a good decision to work remotely.”
But Zuckerberg also highlighted the benefits of moving to more remote work. Notably, Zuckerberg expects more remote work will help the company improve employee retention.
“One of the top reasons when people leave the company, they tell us that they are leaving us because they want to move to a place, maybe to be with their family, but we don’t have an office there,” he said. “So we’ll now be able to keep more of those folks in the loop, which will be in some ways even more valuable than recruiting new people.”
He also said that allowing people to work from anywhere would bring more economic opportunity to areas outside of big cities, and help the environment by lessening commutes.
Finally, he noted, a lot of what Facebook does is related to making people feel connected even though they’re physically separated, and having a lot of remote workers will help the company better understand how to solve those problems.
“So much of what we do is just building products that help people feel connected and present together, no matter where they are. So whether that’s the main kind of feed product that we offer, or things like video chat, Workplace for enterprises, our hardware with Portal, or the longer term bets around virtual and augmented reality that are really about helping you feel present, I just kind of feel like moving in a more remote direction and requiring our employees [to] rely on these tools more will help advance some of that future technology development as well.”