Dropbox goes 'virtual-first' with permanent remote working

The Dropbox logo and website displayed on a smartphone and laptop, respectively

Dropbox has told its staff that permanent remote working will become the norm, joining a string of the world’s biggest tech companies in abandoning physical office spaces in favour of working virtually.

The existing working from home policy the company has adopted will continue until at least June 2021, in line with policies adopted by the majority of tech companies due to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has, however, also outlined plans to establish at least four Dropbox Studios in sites across the world when it’s safe to do so, starting with San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and Dublin, for employees who prefer to work in-person.

“We believe the data shows the shift to remote work, though abrupt, has been successful overall,” the company said in a blog post. As a company, we’ve continued to serve our customers without interruption and shipped new products and features.

“But things aren’t perfect. Back-to-back video conferences, constant notifications, and isolation from peers can be overwhelming. In our study with the EIU, workers also say company culture suffers with no in-person interaction, risk of miscommunication is higher, and it’s harder to start new projects with multiple collaborators. There are many things people miss about the office.”

Becoming a virtual-first company means remote working will become the default for all employees and the day-to-day default for individual work.

The remote experience will go one step further with “non-linear workdays” too, meaning core collaboration hours will be set up with overlap between time zones, with employees encouraged to design their own schedules beyond that.

Dropbox will also invest in a holistic ecosystem of resources, including a dedicated team, to support employees and track progress by measuring impacts on productivity, engagement, and culture so the firm can continue to adapt.

The company’s Virtual First Toolkit, comprising guidance about supporting the remote workforce, is also being open-sourced, meaning any learnings picked up along the journey will be shared with the wider industry.

Managers also hope the virtual-first approach will give the firm an opportunity to build an even stronger, more diverse workforce as it hires from increasingly varied backgrounds and perspectives.

News of Dropbox's new "virtual first" approach comes just days after Microsoft announced that staff will be given the option to work remotely on a permanent basis.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.