Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook spent billions on sparkling new offices. Now they’re nearly empty


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Apple CEO Tim Cook, at work, at Apple Park.


Apple reportedly spent $5 billion building its Cupertino, California, “spaceship” Apple Park campus. Uber will spend at least $1 billion over the next decade on the two San Francisco buildings now serving as its headquarters. And Microsoft is in the process of rebuilding its 500-acre campus in Washington, which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There’s one thing these sites all have in common: They’ve been pretty much empty most of this year. 

But thanks to the coronavirus vaccine, workers should be able to stream back within the next year.

What companies don’t know yet is what that’ll look like. Property management firms and the companies themselves are weighing how the new normal will take shape.

For many tech workers, that’ll likely mean a mixed work environment — being able to come in part of the week, and work from home the other part. Assigned desk spaces may also disappear as companies embrace a “hot desk” approach, where you get work done wherever you find space. Hardware companies will also likely expand their labs, where working machinery and the collaborative atmosphere will be why some people need to come in.

Companies will likely experiment for a while, as they figure out what works. But when the pandemic is over, it’s unlikely things will return to how they were before.

“It’ll be difficult to put the cat back into the box after this,” said Kasey Garcia, a senior manager at real estate services firm CBRE, who helps companies figure out their work environment. “I think it would be such a missed opportunity if we did.”

For many tech companies, whatever this new normal becomes will likely shape how…