The lengthy Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has given software and online service companies the perfect window of opportunity to fully embrace the virtual workplace, both for their employees and as a focus for future product development. It is no coincidence that file-sharing mainstay Dropbox announced its first profitable quarter two months into a widespread work-from-home mandate. If online businesses follow the money, the “cyber cubicle” could be here to stay, for better or worse.
Dropbox, the 14-year-old brainchild of two MIT students, recently announced the layoff of 315 employees and exit of COO Olivia Nottebohm. Cutting roughly 11% of staff and losing an operational executive three short years after going public might raise an eyebrow in a different context. As often as the term streamlining is bandied about in a corporate atmosphere, in this instance it’s a logical long-term move.
Remote work will be the company’s across-the-board standard in a post-pandemic workplace. This revelation came in October, and a month later Dropbox reported a 14% increase in total revenue.
The “Virtual First” initiative was initiated to prioritize brand development, focus on developing new solutions for distributed workforces, and avoid wasting energy on in-office tasks. “We're scaling back that investment and redeploying those resources to drive our ambitious product roadmap," said Dropbox CEO and Co-Founder Drew Houston. The physical offices will become “Dropbox Studios,” a workspace designated for future collaborations with clients and community outreach services.
Dropbox isn’t the only SaaS company rethinking its distribution of resources. Google has pushed back its return to office space until at least September. Pandemic aside, Facebook also aims to have at least half of its staff working remotely in the next few years. It was Twitter that truly broke the ice in May of last year, though, extending the option of permanent remote work to all employees. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, “We’ve learned a lot about what it takes for people to effectively perform roles outside of an office.” He allowed the same flexibility for his payments company, Square.
A Bay Area Council survey revealed that 20% of companies are banking on a future filled solely with cyber cubicles, and a whopping 90% are on board for some level of remote work implementation. Beyond the prospect of COVID-19 safety concerns, companies can take advantage of the online workspace to pick from a wider talent pool—an east coaster is now a couple of “clicks'' away from working for a San Francisco-based organization. There’s also huge savings to be found by avoiding office space leases and day-to-day expenses.
This shift seems to be beneficial to the bottom line for online service providers and the wellbeing of employees, but the transition will especially favor those with their eye on the long game. Dropbox and other companies are wise to set up success in the post-pandemic marketplace by not only reducing their expenses but also by reprioritizing their corporate strategy to focus on developing software and solutions that will support the growing trend of remote operations.