Back to the office? Here’s how tech company Salesforce thinks that might look

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Gavin Patterson, President and Chief Revenue Officer, Salesforce


  • Business must prepare for the ‘great reopening’ of recovering economies in vaccinated markets, while aiding the COVID-19 response in those countries still suffering.
  • Return to workplace strategies will see future employee experiences likely to be more empowering through more flexible working arrangements and more immersive with reimagined workspaces.
  • This isn’t just about the future of work. This is about the next evolution of business culture and of society – helping to build positive change and growth.

Last year I wrote that business needed to learn from the early pandemic disruption and get ready to reimagine operating models and strategies, not only to drive a digitally-led economic recovery but also to help bring us closer to an inclusive, fairer, more sustainable society.

Since then, the pace of new coronavirus outbreaks, upheavals in economic activity and weak consumer confidence has reinforced the need for maximum corporate agility.

As COVID-19 disruption enters its second year, businesses in several of the world’s leading economies are facing a variety of new challenges.

Business must prepare for and aid the ‘great reopening’ of recovering economies in vaccinated markets. This includes restarting office life in a safe and effective manner that heeds the cultural shifts, which have redefined how people want to work. But business must also allocate its IP, technology and services to aid crisis-management in healthcare, medical equipment and logistics for those countries, like India, which are still in a COVID-19 vortex.

The global work from anywhere

The way we live and work has changed dramatically. At Salesforce, we’re now operating and working more sustainably, and delivering customer and employee success — all from anywhere. In recovering markets beyond the curve of infections, such as the US and UK, we have an opportunity to create a workspace and an employee experience that makes us even more connected, healthy, innovative and productive.

We’ve already opened 26 offices across the globe and throughout the pandemic, we’ve safely had business-critical employees onsite to keep our operations running successfully. We’re using those lessons to inform our return to the workplace strategy.

As companies rethink what agile teams and ways of working look like, future employee experiences will likely be more empowering through more flexible working arrangements and more immersive with reimagined workspaces. —Gavin Patterson, President and Chief Revenue Officer, Salesforce

Since reopening, the pace of recovery in some economies has been quicker than many had predicted. According to the International Monetary Fund, Australia for example, open since last year, has outperformed all major advanced economies over the past year.

In particular we are seeing new working patterns emerge in the country’s commercial capital Sydney where we welcomed back hundreds of employees starting in August 2020. Employees tell us that more flexibility has led to more productivity and balance. The office has become a greater place for human connection and a hub for collaboration. For instance, we’ve seen 64% of collaboration spaces like lounges and conference rooms utilized, in comparison to 24% of desk space.

Remote work: most C-suite executives see an increase in productivity Image: McKinsey & Company


Where Australia is pioneering, other markets are likely to follow. The millions of people who have adjusted to remote working will not return to their offices with the same regularity. However, we’ve learned that 80% of our employees, hungry for the connection, camaraderie and innovation that comes from gathering in-person, do want to maintain a connection to a physical space.

As companies rethink what agile teams and ways of working look like, future employee experiences will likely be more empowering through more flexible working arrangements and more immersive with reimagined workspaces.

Re-educating employees about office life

Employers will need to persuade their teams that offices and other places of work are not just safe but stimulating and rewarding environments. They will need to re-educate employees about office life, demonstrating that workspaces have been redesigned safely. Desks converted to shared spaces where employees can reconnect with colleagues, touch-free handles and sensors, plexiglass between workstations, temperature screening and testing stations and air purifiers will all become commonplace.

The expected surge in infrastructure and servicing demands that will accompany our ‘great reopening’ will also require organizations to update policies, protocols and safety measures. Having the digital tools and services to co-ordinate this activity will be crucial.

Ultimately, the companies that will emerge stronger from the pandemic are the ones that can embrace change.

Ultimately, the companies that will emerge stronger from the pandemic are the ones that can embrace change. —Gavin Patterson, President and Chief Revenue Officer, Salesforce

And change brings wider benefits beyond employee satisfaction and productivity. Companies that do embrace flexible working and remove the barrier of location can reimagine their recruitment strategies – broadening searches beyond city centres and welcoming talent from new, diverse communities and geographies.

Companies might also consider the future role of hybrid offices as both industrious workplaces and community hubs. Before the pandemic, we installed ‘Ohana’ floors in several of our offices for interacting with employees, partners, customers and stakeholder communities. As we return, we will consider how to make under-utilized office areas available to charities, government initiatives and environmental groups.

This isn’t just about the future of work. This is about the next evolution of business culture and of society – business helping to build a resilient platform for positive change and growth.

The changing role of business

The role business plays in ensuring the safe and successful reopening of workplaces and wider communities should also align with what is one of the world’s largest mass vaccination campaigns in history.

Agile digital partnerships between the private and public sectors will be essential as we overcome the complexities of global vaccine management and distribution. Partnerships can ensure that vaccine manufacture is scaled up quickly enough to control the expected further waves of the virus. They can also ensure greater efficiencies in the supply chain, to avoid disruption and, importantly, drive more equitable distribution.

Hopefully, soon, collaboration between companies, governments and health agencies will lead to the creation of secure, and ethically responsible digital health credentials that usefully highlight key COVID statuses and accelerate office and business reopenings across every part of the planet.

The role business plays in ensuring the safe and successful reopening of workplaces and wider communities should also align with what is one of the world’s largest mass vaccination campaigns in history. —Gavin Patterson, President and Chief Revenue Officer, Salesforce

This reopening will be uneven. Each market has unique socio-economic and cultural traits that could impact the pace. Long COVID could prove to be more than a lasting medical malaise. It could become an institutional and economic malaise if not treated carefully.

The lessons of COVID-19 clearly extend from the practicalities of what we are seeing in Australia to the crisis-management efforts underway in Brazil and India.

At each end of this spectrum, digital technologies are playing a vital role in managing the multiple challenges – that range from new flexible working practices to new ways of saving lives.

If business can learn from this crisis and help apply digitization and operational flexibility to mitigate future threats, then the seismic shocks of the early 2020s may yet deliver a better long-term future for us all.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

This farmer used an age-old technique to save his soil and now his farm is prospering

Stronger partnerships with post-conflict countries needed to ensure ‘path towards durable peace’: UN chief

EU consumer rules: Airbnb cooperates with European Commission and EU consumer authorities improving the way it presents offers

Assembly President launches new initiative to purge plastics and purify oceans

To feed 10 billion people, we must preserve biodiversity. Here’s how

Fragile countries risk being ‘stuck in a cycle of conflict and climate disaster,’ Security Council told

State aid: Commission approves €1.4 billion Swedish scheme to support uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

Women’s rights: MEPs call for action to fight backlash against gender equality

Tax crimes: MEPs want EU financial police force and financial intelligence unit

Reusable packaging: 6 benefits beyond sustainability

Our present and future tax payments usurped by banks

Aviation Safety: Commission adopts new EU Air Safety List

This is how COVID-19 is affecting informal workers

Eurozone stagnates after exporting its recession to trading partners

Juncker Plan reaches almost €410 billion in triggered investment across the EU

Technology can transform clinical practice – here’s how

Knowledge management and entrepreneurship: short term vs. long term perspective

The Cold War had an unintended side effect: It created a European wildlife paradise

‘Counter and reject’ leaders who seek to ‘exploit differences’ between us, urges Guterres at historic mosque in Cairo

MWC 2016 LIVE: Xiaomi looks to revive growth with flagships

How our food system is eating away at nature, and our future

Medical workforce migration in Europe – Is it really a problem?

Four things workers want implemented by their bosses post-pandemic

‘Unlock opportunities’ and pave the way for sustainable development, UN chief urges on World Population Day

This Japanese experiment shows how easily coronavirus can spread – and what you can do about it

EU and Georgia sign Financing Agreements for COVID-19 Recovery worth €129 million

Security Council urges countries to factor child protection into conflict prevention efforts

Peer-to-peer learning: a way to develop medical students’ trainings

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is driving Globalization 4.0

MEPs demand safe and clean travel

3 ways to stop COVID-19 from drying up start-up talent pools

European Business Summit 2015: In search of a vision for the future

Apple® logo (copyright: Apple)

Apple takes further step into music: EU Regulators formally approve its planned Shazam acquisition

How do we upskill a billion people by 2025? Leadership and collaboration will be key

Palliative care: an indispensable component for a better quality of life

Idea of ‘homogenous’ Polish culture is a myth: UN human rights expert

Unity, regional cooperation and international support needed for Horn of Africa to develop sustainably

How we can work together in the fight against NCDs

The first-ever climate telethon has raised $2.6 million for new forests

Parliament approves seven-year EU budget 2021-2027

Anti-terror measures against youngsters’ online posts ‘linked to spike in child detention globally’

Hiring more female leaders is good for profits. Here’s the evidence

More than nine in ten children exposed to deadly air pollution

How the world’s best teacher is changing lives in Africa

Coronavirus: Commission approves contract with BioNTech-Pfizer alliance to ensure access to a potential vaccine

Mindfulness: a freedom we can still have in the pandemic

Obama turns the G20 summit into warmongering platform

Cheese energy could power hundreds of UK homes

COVID-19: MEPs fear impact on justice system and threat to rule of law

Greek citizens to pay the price again but Tsipras risks losing next elections

5 lessons for community-focused planning during a pandemic

The challenge to be a good healthcare professional

Mental health In Times of a Pandemic: What can each Individual to lessen the Burden.

WHO and UNICEF in campaign to protect 1.6 million in Sudan from cholera

UN ready to rise above political fray and help Venezuelans based ‘on need, and need alone’

Commission notifies the Republic of Panama over the need to step up action to fight against illegal fishing

This man is helping explorers carry out scientific research at the ends of the Earth

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Cows, coffee and sustainable farming

“Smoking steam instead of tobacco, are the E-cigarettes a safer alternative?”

Wages are flatlining around the world – is automation to blame?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s