People

Mark Zuckerberg: Remote work is the future of Facebook

Even as the company reopens offices, it's only going to operate them at about 25% capacity for the foreseeable future.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg said he wants Facebook to be "the most forward-leaning company on remote work, at our scale for sure."

Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than 95% of Facebook employees are working from home. On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg said that setup will be permanent for many of them.

In a live-streamed version of Facebook's weekly staff meeting, Zuckerberg told his team that even as the company starts to reopen offices, it's only going to operate them at about 25% capacity for the foreseeable future. And rather than try to force a return to normalcy, Zuckerberg said he wants Facebook to be "the most forward-leaning company on remote work, at our scale for sure."

Because COVID-19 is likely to be an issue for a long time, Zuckerberg told his team, there's no obligation to make sweeping changes immediately. But he made clear that Facebook is about to become a different kind of company. "This is fundamentally about changing our culture in the way we're going to work long term," he said.

The company's first step, he said, will be to immediately ramp up remote hiring, particularly for senior engineering roles in the U.S. and Canada, and to ease more existing staffers into permanently remote roles. "I think it's quite possible that over the next five to 10 years, about 50% of our people could be working remotely," he said.

He said that's not a goal or target, but simply reflects the trend. For now, Facebook is looking particularly for people within a 4-hour drive of an existing company hub, Zuckerberg said, and hopes to create mini-hubs of remote workers to build in-person communities even where there's no official office. The first of those hubs? Atlanta, Dallas and Denver.

While he cautioned repeatedly that this will be a huge change in how people work, Zuckerberg cited a few upsides to a more remote team. The company will be able to hire people who would never move to a big city to be close to a Facebook office and can retain people who move away for personal reasons. There are environmental upsides, too, with fewer people commuting.

As part of the change, Facebook announced some new products designed to facilitate remote work. It's bringing more video tools to Portal devices and adding video chat and video rooms to its Workplace feature, which Zuckerberg said now has 5 million paying users — up from 3 million in October. (Those numbers pale next to Microsoft, Slack and others, but are a sign Workplace is growing quickly.)

Zuckerberg also said in the meeting that Facebook is planning a series of hackathons for people to build internal tools for remote work, because all the necessary tools don't exist yet.

Facebook's not the only company to announce a shift to remote-first work — Twitter, Square, Shopify and others have done so in recent weeks. But with more than 40,000 employees, it's the largest tech company yet to begin this journey. For years, Facebook has been one of the most competitive, highest-paying employers in Silicon Valley, and its moves will likely prompt many others to follow.

But Facebook's shift alone could cause big ripples around the Bay Area. A company survey of its employees over the last few weeks found that if given the option, somewhere between 20% and 40% would choose to work remotely full time. Of those, up to 75% said they were thinking about moving, not only to new cities but even to new countries.

Starting soon, anyone at Facebook who meets four criteria will be able to apply to work from home full time. They'll need to be experienced, relatively senior employees; they'll need to have high ratings on recent performance reviews; they'll need to be on a team that supports remote work; and they'll need to have their group leader's approval.

At first, Zuckerberg said, remote work is for Facebook's best — for others, it might be too much of a change. Salaries will depend on where people live, Zuckerberg said, and may be adjusted even for existing employees.

There are plenty of open questions for Facebook. One big one: Is all-remote work better than a hybrid of in-office and remote? As some employees go back to the office, Zuckerberg said, the company will face a challenge in sorting out schedules and meeting rules, as well as ensuring that macro-level initiatives like employee growth and career development are shaped so that everyone gets the same opportunities, no matter where they are. It's still not even clear how offices themselves will work, Zuckerberg said, though he's committed to keeping the company's physical footprint going forward.

A central question is how to train employees, particularly young ones. Initially, Zuckerberg said, Facebook will still do training in its offices before figuring out what remote work looks like for new employees.

And what will this all cost? How much might it save both Facebook and its employees? That's hard to say. "A lot of people feel like this hasn't really been a big cost-savings," Zuckerberg said. Companies with remote workforces have told him that supporting employees with remote-work tools and increased travel requirements can offset other savings.

Zuckerberg stressed that these transformations won't happen all at once — and don't have to. And he said he's working hard to make sure Facebook doesn't lose the culture it built over nearly two decades. But, he said, this is clearly the way forward.

"We're not doing this because this is a thing that employees have asked for," Zuckerberg said. "We're here to serve the world, and to serve our community, and to try and unlock as much innovation as possible." Going forward at Facebook, that means beginning to leave the office behind.

Before he could finish the staff meeting, Zuckerberg's livestream cut out. It appeared he was right: The tools are getting good, but they're not there yet.

Fintech

Election markets are far from a sure bet

Kalshi has big-name backing for its plan to offer futures contracts tied to election results. Will that win over a long-skeptical regulator?

Whether Kalshi’s election contracts could be considered gaming or whether they serve a true risk-hedging purpose is one of the top questions the CFTC is weighing in its review.

Photo illustration: Getty Images; Protocol

Crypto isn’t the only emerging issue on the CFTC’s plate. The futures regulator is also weighing a fintech sector that has similarly tricky political implications: election bets.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has set Oct. 28 as a date by which it hopes to decide whether the New York-based startup Kalshi can offer a form of wagering up to $25,000 on which party will control the House of Representatives and Senate after the midterms. PredictIt, another online market for election trading, has also sued the regulator over its decision to cancel a no-action letter.

Keep Reading Show less
Ryan Deffenbaugh
Ryan Deffenbaugh is a reporter at Protocol focused on fintech. Before joining Protocol, he reported on New York's technology industry for Crain's New York Business. He is based in New York and can be reached at rdeffenbaugh@protocol.com.
Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Enterprise

The Uber verdict shows why mandatory disclosure isn't such a bad idea

The conviction of Uber's former chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, seems likely to change some minds in the debate over proposed cyber incident reporting regulations.

Executives and boards will now be "a whole lot less likely to cover things up," said one information security veteran.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If nothing else, the guilty verdict delivered Wednesday in a case involving Uber's former security head will have this effect on how breaches are handled in the future: Executives and boards, according to information security veteran Michael Hamilton, will be "a whole lot less likely to cover things up."

Following the conviction of former Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan, "we likely will get better voluntary reporting" of cyber incidents, said Hamilton, formerly the chief information security officer of the City of Seattle, and currently the founder and CISO at cybersecurity vendor Critical Insight.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Climate

Delta and MIT are running flight tests to fix contrails

The research team and airline are running flight tests to determine if it’s possible to avoid the climate-warming effects of contrails.

Delta and MIT just announced a partnership to test how to mitigate persistent contrails.

Photo: Gabriela Natiello/Unsplash

Contrails could be responsible for up to 2% of all global warming, and yet how they’re formed and how to mitigate them is barely understood by major airlines.

That may be changing.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol covering climate. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.

Entertainment

Inside Amazon’s free video strategy

Amazon has been doubling down on original content for Freevee, its ad-supported video service, which has seen a lot of growth thanks to a deep integration with other Amazon properties.

Freevee’s investment into original programming like 'Bosch: Legacy' has increased by 70%.

Photo: Tyler Golden/Amazon Freevee

Amazon’s streaming efforts have long been all about Prime Video. So the company caught pundits by surprise when, in early 2019, it launched a stand-alone ad-supported streaming service called IMDb Freedive, with Techcrunch calling the move “a bit odd.”

Nearly four years and two rebrandings later, Amazon’s ad-supported video efforts appear to be flourishing. Viewership of the service grew by 138% from 2020 to 2021, according to Amazon. The company declined to share any updated performance data on the service, which is now called Freevee, but a spokesperson told Protocol the performance of originals in particular “exceeded expectations,” leading Amazon to increase investments into original content by 70% year-over-year.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Latest Stories
Bulletins