The global pandemic has launched a bullet train into offices around the world, with employees hopping on board and speeding off into their remote-work, stay-at-home shelters. Brian Armstrong, chief executive of leading Bitcoin exchange Coinbase, says it’s the beginning of a permanent trend. He joins a chorus of leaders, particularly in the tech sector, who now believe that the outbreak has changed the future of work forever.
Work life may now become a mix of working from home, working from the office or never heading into an office at all.
In a memo to employees, Armstrong, whose mission at Coinbase is to transform the financial landscape through the use of digital assets, argues that the “six feet apart” mandate has definitively and physically narrowed the company’s options. With government health officials stressing the importance of social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, Armstrong is embracing the new normal.
“On a practical level, as countries around the world have emerged from quarantines, we’ve seen broad direction to adopt measures like six feet of separation between people in offices. This is likely to be our reality soon. To be concrete: with six feet between all employees in an office, even if we moved into every floor of our SF HQ, we wouldn’t have enough space to bring all current SF employees back, let alone hire more.”
Adaptation means hard decisions, and Armstrong is backing a new plan for Coinbase that gives employees the option of choosing where they want to work.
“Anyone who wants to, can continue to work from an office. That won’t change. What is changing is that (almost) any employee who prefers to work outside of an office, can.”
For Coinbase, which is building blockchain-based infrastructure to decentralize global finance, Armstrong is calling the radical shift “a huge opportunity”.
Last week, tech entrepreneur and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also announced that his employees at the social microblogging platform can opt to leave office life behind – long after coronavirus loses steam and life returns to its next iteration of normal. Like Armstrong, Dorsey is a Bitcoin advocate and champion of decentralized systems, imagining how new social and financial systems built without a central hub can shift the status quo and prompt a more equitable playing field.
While Google has stopped short of an all-out “you choose” work option, the tech giant will allow most of its employees to work from home until 2021, joining Facebook and Microsoft which are both extending stay-at-home orders to its employees for months.
Armstrong expects many more companies to follow. For some, it may mean the end of the dreaded hour-long commute and for others it may require carving out a sustainable quiet zone at home.
“I believe that the work we do through this process will essentially generate a playbook for other companies in their transition to become remote-first, and that what we do in this moment could influence many companies’ paths forward.”
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