Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has announced that almost all of its 48,000 employees will work from home until July 2021, almost a year from now. The decision adds to an army of at-home workers who have, in many cases, not benefited from the situation. (A much smaller benefit is that Facebook workers will get up to $1,000 to improve their home offices.) For those who have to take care of children who will not be in school and aged relatives, the decision presents problems.
Facebook can implement the policy because most of its workers are not employed on the “front line” of America’s workforce. They are not public service employees. Add to those more people who work at construction sites or in the country’s faltering retail sector. They cannot work from home and make money. Facebook workers will receive some protection from exposure to COVID-19. That is the primary reason for the new rule.
A drawback of work-from-home plans is the problem of isolation, which has troubled many of these workers. It has become a widespread problem, as many Americans become shut-ins. In some parts of the country, they cannot eat out or go to sports events or movies. They cannot see family or friends. Their interaction with other people has been almost completely eroded.
One of the better-known troubles that those who work from home face is children who will not go to school for several months or more. These children are part of distance learning programs. That means they are marooned at home with their parents. These parents end up taking on more childcare duties, some of which can take up hours a day.
People who are sick or elderly also need regular care. Many of them cannot be put into eldercare facilities, where many people have died. Some need round the clock attention. Many who work from home end up with more time devoted to helping myriad family members.
Facebook and many other companies have set plans to keep their workers safe. These companies could not accommodate most of their workers anyway. Social distancing can turn a room that once held 100 people into one that can only house 20 or 30.
Facebook employees will work from home for at least another year. However, they may not want to.