Salesforce, San Francisco’s top private employer and the namesake of its tallest building, is pressing sales employees to return to the office at least three days per week as economic concerns mount and companies look to boost productivity.
Citing an internal memo, Bloomberg reported that sales staff living near company locations will be asked to work from the office from Tuesday to Thursday and hold at least half of their eight required weekly customer meetings in person.
On an earnings call on Wednesday, CEO Marc Benioff said that in-person work will be subject to a “rebalancing” with more people in the office, while acknowledging the number of remote workers will be higher than the roughly 20% of Salesforce employees who worked from home before the pandemic.
“I think even at Salesforce, we have what I would call factory jobs, folks that [are] required to be here, whether they are doing maybe very core work or even new folks who don't have maybe the tribal knowledge yet or need the mentorship or folks coming in from college who benefit from being in the office,” Benioff said. “But we're never going back to how it was. We all know that.”
Benioff had once been a major proponent of in-person work, but changed his tune with the pandemic. Salesforce announced a work-from-anywhere model in February 2021 and updated their policy last November giving more agency to team managers.
"We have a hybrid work environment that empowers leaders and teams to work together with purpose. They can decide when and where they come together to collaborate, innovate and drive customer success,” a Salesforce spokesperson said in a statement.
Brian Millham, Salesforce president and chief operating officer, said on the call that “being together drives more learning, better collaboration, better networking and better enablement.”
“I really like people coming back in the office. I like that connection that we have to one another. [...] I've asked my team recently to spend more time in the office,” Millham said.
Also on Wednesday, Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor said he was stepping down from his position on Jan. 31 in a move that blindsided shareholders. Taylor has served in the job since November 2021, and joined the company when his startup Quip was acquired by Salesforce in 2016. Taylor is the second co-CEO in three years to be appointed and then step down from the role; a former co-CEO, Keith Block, departed in 2020.
Salesforce isn’t the only big tech company asking employees to come back to the office.
Snap recently ordered employees to work from its offices 80% of the time by the end of February. Apple sent a notice in August asking employees to be in the office at least three days a week, a move that sparked internal consternation.
In San Francisco, the number of people working in offices has ticked up—albeit slowly. Data from Kastle Systems found that offices were about 42% full in the last week.
It remains to be seen whether economic turmoil, and mass layoffs in the tech sector, will drive more workers back to the office.
Last month, Salesforce conducted its own layoffs, cutting hundreds of positions in its sales division. The company has faced challenges that include declining revenue growth, increasing competition from Microsoft and pressure from activist investors. Salesforce’s share price is down more than 40% from the beginning of the year.
The company has continued to whittle down its real estate footprint, either by subleasing space or choosing not to renew leases.
One major exception is Trailblazer Ranch, a 75-acre property near Santa Cruz that has an outdoor amphitheater, fitness centers and conference rooms that the company has leased in an effort to help employees connect with one another.
Benioff said around 10,000 Salesforce employees are expected to use the ranch property for training and collaboration sessions this year.