Salesforce to allow remote or flexible work for most employees, with big implications for S.F.


Salesforce, San Francisco’s largest private employer, will permanently allow most workers to stay home for two or more days a week, a major shift that could dampen downtown’s economic recovery well beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

The cloud software company, which has over 9,000 San Francisco workers, said most staff will be in the office for one to three days per week. Workers who don’t need to be in an office can be fully remote, while a minority of workers will be at desks four or five days a week.

The move could lead to a reduction in its office space, but the company said it didn’t have immediate details on that. It’s a sharp reversal from the years of real estate growth both in San Francisco and around the world. Salesforce and many of its tech peers pushed San Francisco’s office prices to record highs, with many cramming employees into densely filled benches and desks.

With numerous tech companies like Twitter, Pinterest, Dropbox, Yelp and now Salesforce embracing remote work programs beyond the pandemic, the Bay Area’s status as the premier tech hub, along with its urban economic vitality, is in doubt. Empty streets and shuttered storefronts may linger even as some workers are vaccinated and return to offices if others stay home or leave the region entirely.

The reassessment of office-space needs is broader than tech. Gap Inc. told employees Monday that it would consolidate its San Francisco offices and close a separate headquarters building for Old Navy in Mission Bay. San Francisco office vacancy rose to a 16-year high of 17.8% in January, according to real estate brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. The only significant new lease signed last year was an expansion by life sciences firm Vir Biotechnology, which took a portion of Dropbox’s headquarters.

Salesforce is one of the city’s biggest office tenants. It leases nearly two-thirds of its namesake Salesforce Tower, the Bay Area’s tallest building. It also owns 50 Fremont St. and leases all of 350 Mission St., along with 546 Howard St., an unbuilt tower a few blocks away. Salesforce is buying Slack, which is headquartered at nearby 500 Howard St.

Salesforce said it was rethinking its workplaces and culture to give employees more flexibility and attract new hires from a broader geographic area. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also said that the tech giant will be able to recruit from more diverse areas as it increases remote work. Google is also testing a flexible policy that requires employees to be in the office only three days a week.


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