ViacomCBS is looking ahead to a post-coronavirus world, one in which approximately 70% of its more-than-20,000 employees will work at least partly from home, according to an internal memo from CEO Bob Bakish that Variety has obtained exclusively.

The move toward a hybrid work model allows staffers more flexibility, but it also has financial advantages. Following the merger between Viacom and CBS, the combined company is looking to reach an ultimate goal of $750 million in annualized run-rate synergies over the next three years.

A part-remote work environment will help “to reduce our real estate footprint and keep our costs controlled so we can continue to deliver on our strategic priorities and achieve our business goals,” per the email that went out to staff Thursday. ViacomCBS has been public about its desire to offload certain commercial properties, and is still exploring a sale of its Black Rock building, which serves as headquarters to CBS.

Most ViacomCBS employees in the U.S. and globally will wind up spending some of their time in the office — where most will share desks — and part of their work week working remotely. Of course, when the company will be able to enact this plan is still a question mark, and will not happen until at least sometime in 2021, or whenever the COVID-19 crisis is under control. Bakish emphasized that Thursday’s news “in no way signals an imminent return to our offices.”

Read his internal memo from ViacomCBS to staff in full:


With our return-to-office planning efforts ongoing, we wanted to update you on our approach to a post-COVID-19 workplace. ViacomCBS Chief Transformation Officer Jose Tolosa updated us on this topic at today’s BOB LIVE…FROM HOME so I’d also encourage you to check out his presentation if you haven’t already. We’re still early in this process but thought it was important to share what we know now and will continue to update you as our planning progresses.

In particular, we’re focused on reinventing how and where we work post-COVID-19, including how much time we spend in the office versus working remotely, and the spaces, tools and resources that will keep us productive, agile and effective. And, as we plan toward an eventual safe return, we’ll continue to evolve our operations by bringing together the best aspects of remote and in-office work.

This approach offers multiple benefits. It will provide our teams greater flexibility, and create a more balanced and engaging employee experience, which, in turn, will help us attract and retain the best talent. It will also enable us to reduce our real estate footprint and keep our costs controlled so we can continue to deliver on our strategic priorities and achieve our business goals.

To inform our strategy, we’ve partnered with leaders across the organization to understand the diverse needs of our teams and individual roles. We also incorporated your feedback from our first ViacomCBS Global Survey, which showed that most employees would prefer a balance of remote and in-office work and would trade a dedicated workspace for this flexibility. As a result, we’ve developed three models of work that we plan to implement across the company globally:

  • Hybrid: For the majority of employees (approximately 70%), we’ll split our time between remote and in-office work to benefit from the balance and flexibility this model provides.
  • Our remaining workforce will follow two different models: 
    • On-Site Only: For employees whose roles require them to be working on-site every day (e.g. production staff that need access to our physical infrastructure).
    • Remote Only: For employees whose roles are best suited for an entirely remote work setting (e.g. certain Technology roles that were already performed remotely pre-COVID). And, although these employees will be following the “remote-only” model, we expect there will be instances when they’ll be coming into the office (e.g. all-team gatherings).

Additionally, although these models will be rolled out across our domestic and international organizations, we’ll be tailoring our workplace strategy based on local market needs and regulations, and therefore our timeline for implementation may vary depending on geography.

As we evolve how we work, so too will our spaces. We envision that “hybrid” employees will be able to schedule space for their days in the office, while those in “on-site only” roles should expect to have dedicated workspaces. Employees considered “remote only” will also have available space for when they’re visiting the office. An early priority is to prepare our existing facilities for these new models of work, and we will be updating you about our plans in the new year. As part of this, we will ensure a safe process for removal of personal belongings from current workspaces.

Supporting our technology needs will be critical to this effort. ViacomCBS Tech will partner with each of our teams to ensure everyone has the tools and equipment to collaborate and work effectively. We also recognize that some of us require additional support to work remotely. To address this need, we’re working on a policy to provide eligible employees with a one-time allowance to set up their home offices.

In the meantime, we have begun to work with senior leadership to map our teams to the model that works best for their roles, using consistent criteria to ensure this process is fair and thorough. We want to emphasize that this process is focused on considering the needs of specific roles and not based on individual employee or manager preferences. We expect to have this done over the next few months, and you’ll hear more from your leaders on this in 2021.

I want to stress that we’re still in the early stages of this planning, which in no way signals an imminent return to our offices. We do not expect a significant return in the early part of next year, and any announcement of a return will be made well in advance to ensure that everyone has adequate time to prepare.

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