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Twitter employees don’t ever have to go back to the office (unless they want to)

The company is letting any employees who want to work from home do it forever

Pedestrians pass Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco on Feb. 8. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

SAN FRANCISCO — It was one of the first companies to send its workforce home when the novel coronavirus started spreading. Now Twitter is going to be the first to make working remotely a permanent option.

Twitter announced Tuesday that employees who were able could continue working from home, or possibly anywhere else that makes them happy and productive, forever. The policy will not apply to employees who have to do things in person, such as maintain the offices or technology such as servers.

“Opening offices will be our decision, when and if our employees come back, will be theirs,” Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of HR, said in a blog post.

Managers turn to surveillance software to ensure employees are (really) working from home

Its main offices, including its San Francisco headquarters, won’t begin to open until September, and the company says there will be additional precautions in place when workers do return. All in-person events are canceled for the rest of the year, and it will revisit whether to have any 2021 events later this year. Business travel will also be on hold through September.

The company had 5,100 employees in more than 35 offices around the world, according to its most recent earnings report. Chief executive Jack Dorsey announced the plans to employees in an email Tuesday, according to BuzzFeed News.

Later in the morning, Dorsey accidentally started a live stream on Twitter’s Periscope tool, giving updates about the company, before saying, "Whoops, I just realized this is live.”

The company said in its blog post it was already set up to have a decentralized workforce before the pandemic, and that made the sudden transition easier. The last few months have been an unexpected test of that system, and Twitter says it has shown that it works.

“If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” Christie said. “If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves.”

What working from home has done to San Francisco

When the coronavirus first started spreading widely in the United States, companies were hesitant to be the first to switch to a work-from-home model. After Twitter made the decision to send office workers home on March 11, other companies quickly followed suit.

Now, as states and counties look toward loosening stay-at-home restrictions and allowing more businesses to open up, many are watching Silicon Valley’s plans to go back to their open offices. Facebook and Google recently announced most employees could continue working remotely through the end of the year but did not share any longer-term changes.

If and when tech workers do go back, their corporate campuses — once known for free food, communal activities, shared bikes and other perks — could look vastly different, making staying home more appealing.