Salesforce announced Monday that it will start bringing U.S. employees back to its San Francisco headquarters on a voluntary basis beginning in May.
The company will also open its offices in Palo Alto and Irvine, California, with more locations expected to reopen in the coming months. However, Salesforce will also extend the option for employees to continue working from home through at least the end of 2021.
As part of its reopening strategy, Salesforce will allow groups of 100 or fewer vaccinated employees, dubbed Volunteer Vaccine Cohorts, to be the first to return to the offices.
The employees will work on designated floors with safety protocols and health mandates in place, such as onsite COVID testing twice per week and health officers to assist employees and ensure safety measures are being followed.
Depending on COVID case rates and local guidance, Salesforce will gradually transition to its second "phased reopening" stage, where office capacity will increase from 20% to 75%. Employees who are not vaccinated will be welcomed back to the office during this time in addition to those who are vaccinated. About 17 of Salesforce's offices have entered the phased reopening stage — most of which are in the Asia Pacific region.
The third and final stage will be a full reopening with up to 100% capacity, with vaccinations encouraged and testing available where possible. The company currently has five offices open in this stage, including in Sydney, Australia.
Salesforce employees who return to the office will see a redesigned office space, which features rearranged furniture, new signage, touch-free handles and sensors, plexiglass between desks, temperature screening stations and hand sanitizer. Conference rooms will also be equipped with air purifiers.
Additionally, employees will be required to complete a daily required health check on the company's Work.com platform in order to schedule time to come into the office. The platform will manage capacities to account for physical distancing and elevator bottlenecks.
"Nothing is more important than the trust of our employees, customers, partners, and communities, and our reopening strategy is centered around trust and transparency," Salesforce president & chief people officer Brent Hyder said in a blog post. "We’re prioritizing health and safety, and taking a science-based staged approach to ensure all of our stakeholders feel secure, supported, and safe in our offices and surrounding communities."
As offices have reopened, Salesforce has collected data on how its employees are working. For example, Salesforce found the most popular day for employees to work in the office was Thursday. On Wednesday and Thursday, collaboration spaces were 80% used compared to about half being used earlier in the week. In Salesforce's Sydney office, 4% of collaboration spaces like lounges and conference rooms were utilized, while only 24% of desk space was used.
Salesforce also found that employees were more likely to agree that they (16%) and their teams (13%) were more productive at home and were more likely to integrate well-being breaks into their day (20%) compared to employees in the office. About 19% of employees working in the office were more likely to have connected socially with a colleague compared to those working at home, leading to a stronger sense of belonging.
Going forward, the company plans to make work life more flexible, noting it will be easier for employees to work between the office, customer sites or cafes.
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Salesforce joins a growing list of companies who have outlined their return plans, including Wells Fargo, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon. The company has also created a playbook offering companies a step-by-step guide on how to safely reopen.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 189 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to date, with 36.4% of the U.S. population receiving at least one dose while 22.3% of the population has been fully vaccinated.