Big Tech Makes a Big Bet: Offices Are Still the Future

Smaller tech companies, given their financial constraints, might have to choose whether to invest in physical spaces or embrace a more flexible strategy. Twitter has continued to add offices in Silicon Valley, and video game developers like Electronic Arts and Epic Games have expanded in places like Canada and North Carolina. But others have cut back.

Zynga, a gaming company, offered up its 185,000-square-foot San Francisco headquarters for sublease last summer because it decided that shrinking its physical office and moving would make life easier for employees, said Ken Stuart, vice president of real estate at Zynga. Its new building in San Mateo, Calif., will be less than half the size.

“The reality is that people are frustrated by the commute and getting into the city, and also people feel like they can do better work by being hybrid,” Mr. Stuart said.

By contrast, the largest tech giants “have so much money that it doesn’t matter,” said Anne Helen Petersen, a co-author of “Out of Office,” a recent book about the remote-work era. Because of their huge budgets, Ms. Petersen suggested, such companies can continue constructing offices without worrying about how much money they stand to lose if the buildings become obsolete.

“They’re hedging their bets,” Ms. Petersen said. “If the future’s going to be fully distributed, ‘we’ll be setting up an apparatus for that.’ If the future’s going to rubber-band back to everyone back to the office, the way it was in 2020, ‘we’ll go back to that.’”

In Tempe, the two-floor WeWork co-working space at the Watermark, one of the premier office spaces, was buzzing with activity on a recent afternoon. Upstairs, Amazon has rented an entire floor.