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Tech Leaders on the Future of Remote Work


Dozens of top leaders and thinkers from the tech industry and beyond recently joined us for a series of fireside chats commemorating Cloudflare’s 10th birthday. Over the course of 24 hours of conversation, many of these leaders touched on how the workplace has evolved during the pandemic, and how these changes will endure into the future.

Here are some of the highlights.

On the competition for talent

Stewart Butterfield
Co-founder and CEO, Slack

The thing that I think people don't appreciate or realize is that this is not a choice that companies are really going to make on an individual basis. I've heard a lot of leaders say, “we're going back to the office after the summer.”

If we say we require you to be in the office five days a week and, you know, Twitter doesn't, Salesforce doesn't — and those offers are about equal — they'll take those ones. I think we would also lose existing employees if they didn't believe that they had the flexibility. Once you do that, it affects the market for talent. If half of the companies support distributed work or flexible hours and flexible time in the office, you can compensate for that, but I think you’ve got to pay a lot more or something like that because that optionality is valuable to people.

Watch the full interview

On the harnessing the benefits of remote work

Hayden Brown
President and CEO, Upwork

I think a lot of these things are here to stay. What's fleeting is this idea that we have our children home from school and we don't have a social system around child care and things like that, because that's not sustainable.

What's here to stay are really companies finding, and workers finding, a new balance. It's not about, “let's all lock ourselves in our homes forever.” This is about being very intentional. How can we be intentional to really recognize the benefits that a distributed, more work from home-oriented culture and set of practices can give workers and businesses?

Those benefits include some very powerful tools towards addressing some of the diversity challenges that all of our companies face, because it suddenly opens up pools of talent that we can tap into, outside of the places where we've traditionally hired, and we can tap into those people — and they're not second class citizens, because they're not the only ones working remotely while everyone else is back at the office.

Watch the full interview

On capturing the serendipity of in-person meetings

Brett Hautop
VP of Global Design + Build at LinkedIn

That might be the single hardest thing to figure out. Because the big decision that's made right after the meeting, after you heard everything but you wanted to say it to one person and not everybody else. Or the thing that happens serendipitously on the way into a meeting, just because you're talking about your weekends and then you remember something — that is really unfair to the people who are on the team (working remotely).

And unless you go back to technology like the telepresence person driving around, or each of us having our own drone in the office that follows people around serving as my ability to see — these creepy things — it's really hard to recreate. So it's about changing a cultural norm and getting people to be more thoughtful about how to include people who aren't there, to go out of their way to include them. And that's something that could take years for us to teach ourselves.

Watch the full interview

On securing a hybrid work environment

Chris Young
Former CEO, McAfee

We saw a huge rise in phishing attacks that were directly correlated to the move to work from home. Cyber attackers understand that all of a sudden you've got probably millions of workers across different organizations that are not supervised in the same way — new systems, new protocols for how they work. And they preyed upon that very quickly… there's a whole litany of attacks that have been levied against the work from home model.

It's prudent to make sure that if you're going to have people working from home, that you take some steps to protect the home networking infrastructure because we could find ourselves in a situation where, if we don't pay attention to that over the long run, you start to see an uptick of attackers going after the home networking infrastructure. We always know the attackers will find the path of least resistance. It's like water on a roof: it will find the hole and go right there.

And I think it means a few things for us in a cybersecurity landscape. I think it's going to continue to shift and put a premium on the identity based architecture. The zero trust model authentication is going to be key. It's really the combination of: can I trust the user and can I trust the device in order to make a decision of do I trust this session? Do I trust this transaction?

Watch the full interview

On the opportunity for digital transformation

Bret Taylor
President and Chief Operating Officer at Salesforce

I hear across every industry that people aren't going to come back to the office full time. Maybe they'll come in a couple days a week. But that means our offices are probably going to be a little bit more for on-sites than they are for desks. And I think about: how does that change the shape of our employee engagement? And more importantly, how does it change the shape of our business models?

I think that the companies who were treating their digital initiatives as something sort of on the side are probably suffering right now. And there's an urgency around these shifts now that is more powerful than ever before.

I think a lot of these trends will remain. And that’s where the opportunity is for great companies, whether it's technology companies or other companies, who will lean into these changes and transform themselves. I think the ones that do will benefit from it. And I think there's going to be a lot of business model disruption and technology disruption coming out of this.

Watch the full interview

*Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Want to watch more interviews and catch up on all of the announcements from Cloudflare during Birthday Week? Visit Cloudflare Birthday Week 2020

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Jason Kincaid |@jasonkincaid
Cloudflare |Cloudflare

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