Farewell to Gummy Bear Jars: Tech Offices Get a Virus Safety Makeover

“There’ll be a sign outside that room that says: ‘Hey, everybody, this meeting room now has a capacity of no more than four people. Please respect that,’” she said. “That will be part of the new normal.”

Salesforce will also use scheduling software to limit the number of people working at each office. It will not be an entirely automated process.

Executives said they would give a scheduling priority to employees who needed to go in because, say, they had to work on a specific project or because cramped family quarters made working from home difficult. Another factor: federal guidelines recommending that employers encourage employees to avoid crowded mass transit.

“Proximity to the office probably will be important, the ability to walk, ride bikes, take a taxi, drive your car when typically you would just get on the train,” said Brent Hyder, Salesforce’s chief people officer. He added that employees who lived closer to one of the suburban offices may decide to work there instead.

The biggest workplace change may be cultural. Until there is a coronavirus vaccine, or at least better medical treatments, Salesforce employees will find their formerly fun-loving office life more managed by rules and tech tools.

In other words, they may get a taste of the kind of top-down infrastructure that is more common for retail and warehouse workers — with one huge difference: If Salesforce employees would rather not fill out daily coronavirus-symptom surveys, or don’t like the new office rules, they can keep working from home.

Employees will still want to go into the office, Ms. Pinkham said, only less frequently and for more specific reasons. To adapt, the company plans to schedule certain teams for the same shifts so they can see their colleagues and whiteboard ideas together, she said, albeit while wearing masks in more sparsely populated conference rooms.

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