Facebook Outlines Plan to Return Employees to Work, Cancels Planned Physical Events Through to June 2021

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has outlined a rough plan for getting Facebook employees back to normal operations, which will align with a staggered approach to get all regions back on track in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Right now, of course, we don’t know how long the lockdowns will persist, but Zuckerberg has provided some guidance as to Facebook’s plans, and how it will seek to work around other, more critical elements of society, especially given that the majority of Facebook’s staff are able to work remotely and don’t need, as such, to be among the first wave.

As per Zuckerberg:

“We will require the vast majority of our employees to work from home through at least the end of May in order to create a safer environment both for our employees doing critical jobs who must be in the office and for everyone else in our local communities. A small percent of our critical employees who can’t work remotely – like content reviewers working on counter-terrorism or suicide and self-harm prevention, and engineers working on complex hardware – may be able to return sooner, but overall, we don’t expect to have everyone back in our offices for some time.”

Facebook warned of delays in content reviews last month due to staffing shifts, and it’ll be looking to ease those as soon as possible, in order to better protect users, and also streamline ad approvals. 

Zuckerberg also notes that the current measures will impact more of Facebook’s planned events:

Even beyond this next period, guidance from health experts is that it won’t be advisable to have large groups of people get together for a while. Given this, we’re canceling any large physical events we had planned with 50 or more people through June 2021. Some of these we will hold as virtual events instead and we’ll share more details on that soon. Similarly, we’re extending our policy of no business travel through at least June of this year as well.”

Facebook canceled its annual F8 developer conference back in February, at the beginning of the global pandemic, but at the time, it did plan to hold “a combo of locally hosted events, videos and live-streamed content” in replacement. Now, it seems that those smaller physical elements will also not go ahead, till at least next year. Facebook will, of course, still be able to make any relevant product announcements via digital means.

And while it remains disheartening to see more physical events being canceled, and to see that more workplaces will remain closed, it is also somewhat encouraging to see a glimpse of light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Facebook is now looking at how it gets to the next stage, and for some employees, that will be relatively soon. More governments are now mapping the staged rollback of lockdowns – and while it’s not something that will see things go back to normal in weeks, it is a reminder that there will be an end to this. 

Zuckerberg also has a good understanding of what’s required here – he and his wife Priscilla been hosting various interviews with health experts and officials on the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to best respond to mitigate the broader risks and dangers. With work on vaccines accelerating, and signs that the spread of the virus is slowing, there are glimmers of hope.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty, and the broader impacts of the global shutdowns will be long-lasting. But maybe, sometime soon, we will be allowed out of our houses once again.   

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