Facebook sets reopening date for S.F., Bay Area offices, with no free food and no transit

Facebook will open at 10% capacity as long as health data continues to improve; workers can choose whether to come back. Its Fremont offices are scheduled to reopen May 17, Sunnyvale on May 24 and its two downtown San Francisco towers on June 7.

Employees had been allowed to work from home until July 2, and will now be able to stay remote until one month after offices reach 50% capacity. That will likely be after Sept. 7 for large sites, Facebook said.

Facebook is also reopening offices in Seattle in April and is in the process of reopening offices in Asia.

The company will eliminate some of its key perks for health reasons: There will be no free food and no buses delivering workers to campuses, which could bolster demand for nearby restaurants and public transit. There’s no timeline when food and buses will come back, but Facebook is offering commuter benefits to workers who return. It will not offer food stipends. Facebook has continued to pay more than 4,000 service contractors including food and transit workers despite closed offices and said it will continue to do so.

“As we return to the office, we have a number of protocols in place that include testing, physical distancing, wearing masks and other best practices. We continue to work with experts to ensure our return-to-office plans prioritize everyone’s health and safety,” said Chloe Meyere, a Facebook spokeswoman.

The company won’t require employees to get vaccinated to return to offices. It will have weekly testing requirements for some offices.

Uber will open its Mission Bay headquarters next week at 20% capacity, on a voluntary basis, becoming the first major employer to return since restrictions lifted. San Francisco is restricting office occupancy to 25% of capacity.

“As cities will carefully return to a new normal, so will we,” Uber said in a statement to The Chronicle.

Uber drivers, who are classified as independent contractors, have been allowed to operate throughout the pandemic, but office workers were allowed to work remotely until Sept. 13.

Workers will be required to take daily health screenings including temperature checks at home to qualify. The company is increasing cleaning services and requiring face coverings in its four-building complex with over 1 million square feet, enough space for around 5,000 workers before the pandemic.

Uber has around 22,000 global employees and is one of San Francisco’s largest employers. Offices in New York have also reopened.

SAP, the German software company, plans to reopen offices in the next few weeks, Silicon Valley Business Journal reported.

Bret Taylor, Salesforce’s president, said the company would reopen offices soon during a talk on the Clubhouse app on Thursday. A spokeswoman for Salesforce, San Francisco’s largest private employer, said there isn’t currently a time frame.

Wells Fargo said most workers would continue to stay home until at least May 1.

The absence of in-office meals at Facebook could help local restaurants and shops slowly recover. In San Francisco, Facebook leases all the office space at 181 Fremont, a major hub for its Instagram division, and nearby Park Tower in the Transbay neighborhood.

The area, along with the rest of downtown, has been devastated during the pandemic. Facebook said the public coffee shop in 181 Fremont, Andytown, will remain closed for now.

The owner of Andytown, Lauren Crabbe, told The Chronicle last month that she was eager to return. “I miss being around tall buildings, the hustle and bustle of people walking all around you,” she said. “I hope when everything starts to open we can all get back together.”

But 10% office occupancy, rising gradually, may not be enough for downtown restaurants to reopen soon, said Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, San Francisco’s main industry group.

“Is there going to be enough volume and buying power? I’m not sure it’s a turning point. It’s certainly exciting, positive news,” she said. “We are very concerned about the downtown corridor. Without customers for our cafes and services … we’re kind of dead in the water.”

Thomas is urging companies to share information on how many workers will be in the office and on what days to help restaurants plan their reopenings. “Those kinds of data points are what we need now to work as a team,” she said.

Workers will return as the Bay Area’s coronavirus case numbers improve and vaccination efforts accelerate. Californians who are 50 and older are set to become eligible for vaccines on April 1, and everyone 16 or older will be eligible on April 15. More than 40 states have said they will meet or beat President Biden’s May 1 goal of making all adults eligible.

Some Facebook workers will never return. The company is hiring some fully remote workers as some of the pandemic’s disruptions become permanent. The broader recruitment area will also help feed its voracious growth: The company had 58,604 global employees at the end of 2020, a 30% increase in one year.

“I think Facebook will be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale, and we’ve been working on a thoughtful and responsible plan to do this,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote last May. “It lets us access talent pools outside of traditional tech hubs in big cities — and that should help spread economic opportunity much more widely around the country and world while also helping us build a more diverse company.”

He said half the company’s workers could be remote within a decade.

The shift to remote work across all businesses is expected to outlast the pandemic. A survey of 103 executives at 72 companies found that 66% plan to have a hybrid work model where workers stay remote part-time. Only 12% of respondents expect to have workers at the office five days a week after the pandemic, according to the survey by Vocon, a New York architecture firm.

Facebook has been one of tech’s biggest winners during the pandemic, with 2020 net income jumping to $29.1 billion, a 58% increase from the prior year. Unlike smaller tech companies that have cut office space and marketed sublease space, Facebook hasn’t reduced any of its Bay Area real estate despite remote work expansion plans.

The company has new offices opening this year in Burlingame for its Oculus virtual reality division and in Sunnyvale. It expanded last year in Fremont. Last August, Facebook leased 730,000 square feet in Manhattan near Penn Station.

Fellow tech giants Google and Amazon have also continued relentless expansion as business boomed during the pandemic. Google said it plans to spend over $1 billion on California real estate this year as part of its $7 billion U.S. growth. Google said employees can stay remote until September and hasn’t scheduled office reopening dates. Amazon bought a San Francisco site for $200 million, where it is proposing a new last-mile delivery station.

The industry faces obstacles to continued dominance. Congress, states and regulators are cracking down on big tech, filing numerous lawsuits alleging antitrust behavior and other abuses, which the companies have denied.

On Thursday, Zuckerberg and the CEOs of Google and Twitter testified remotely in front of Congress on misinformation and tech’s role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The independent Facebook Oversight Board will decide whether to permanently ban former President Donald Trump.

Still, with workers coming back to city centers, Thomas of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association said the return of major companies and vaccination progress are major signs for optimism.

“It’s spring. It’s rebirth,” she said. “It’s great.”

Roland Li is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: roland.li@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @rolandlisf

Article source: https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Facebook-sets-reopening-date-for-S-F-Bay-Area-16055743.php

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