Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) recently told its employees they will have to return to the office three days a week, a move that greatly upset many of them. But's (NYSE:CRM) CEO Marc Benioff recently said, "The past is gone," and that as much as 60% of the business software provider's workforce will keep working from home.

In an interview on CNBC's Closing Bell on Monday, Benioff said at least half of his employees will continue telecommuting to their jobs once the pandemic is over, although it has invested heavily in real estate.

Woman at home on a videoconferencing call

Image source: Getty Images.

Last year, Salesforce took some $216 million in impairments to its real estate portfolio, but it plans to lease out its space as training facilities or for events. Benioff said, "We've created a whole new world, a new digital future, and you can see it playing out today." 

Salesforce was able to continue growing last year despite the restrictions the COVID-19 outbreak imposed on the company. Revenue jumped 24% year over year in 2020, in line with the multiples achieved over the preceding year. That indicated to Benioff that his remote staff could largely remain remote. "All of these things together make up the new way to work," he said.

But Apple's Tim Cook wants everyone back in the office. A group of his employees groused in an open letter to him saying he should have taken their feelings into consideration before making the unilateral decision to force them to return. They pointed to Apple's record earnings as proof that a remote workforce is successful.

Still, Salesforce's latest earnings report said the distributed workforce "adversely impacted productivity of certain employees, and these conditions may persist and harm our business, including our future sales and operating results."

Salesforce has over 56,000 employees, and it will add over 2,500 more once its acquisition of Slack Technologies is completed.

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