Revealed: The Tech Companies Abandoning Remote Work

The Tech Companies Abandoning Remote Work
Some tech firms are allowing hybrid work, while others are bringing staff back into the office. What does this means for the future of work?
  • Google, Apple and Amazon want staff in the office three days per week, while Spotify and Facebook are letting managers or staff decide where they work. 
  • Some tech companies are embracing 100% remote work – while others are giving ‘special treatment’ (and annoying other team members in the process). 
  • Tech writer Gemma Church asks: If technology is the mass enabler for flexible working, why are tech companies leading the charge back into the office? 

It’s difficult to see how the world of work would have survived over the last year without the likes of Zoom, the cloud, and a host of other technologies we’ve come to rely on. 

So, if technology is the mass enabler for flexible working — why are tech companies turning their backs on 100% remote work? And what does this mean for the future of work? 

Google appears to be at the centre of the issue. In April 2021, the company reportedly announced staff wanting to work from home for more than 14 days would have to apply to do so.  

In May, further plans for a “hybrid” work environment were unveiled by CEO Sundar Pichai — where staff had to work from their offices at least three days a week beginning in September.  

“We’ll move to a hybrid work week where most Googlers spend approximately three days in the office and two days wherever they work best. Since in-office time will be focused on collaboration, your product areas and functions will help decide which days teams will come together in the office. There will also be roles that may need to be on site more than three days a week due to the nature of the work,” Pichai wrote in a recent blog post

Now, senior executive Urs Hölzle has reportedly announced he’s moving to New Zealand and will work — you guessed it — remotely, in what some workers consider special treatment.  

But Google isn’t the only tech giant that wants to get staff back into the office in some capacity. Speaking in a statement, Amazon recently said: “Our new baseline will be three days a week in the office (with the specific days being determined by your leadership team), leaving you flexibility to work remotely up to two days a week.” 

Apple also reportedly wants staff to return to its Cupertino campus for three days a week in September. 

According to a company blog post, Salesforce is giving staff three choices. One option is to “flex,” which Salesforce states is: “When it’s safe to return to the office, most of our employees around the globe will work flex. This means they’ll be in the office 1-3 days per week for team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.” 

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    Staff can also be fully remote if they “don’t live near an office or have roles that don’t require an office” or may be office-based working from an office location “4-5 days per week if they’re in roles that require it.” 

    Microsoft is also letting managers choose the right approach for their team. 

    According to a company statement: “We recognize that some employees are required to be onsite and some roles and businesses are better suited for working away from the worksite than others. However, for most roles, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as now standard – assuming manager and team alignment.” 

    Fully remote 

    Of course, not every tech company is following the same path. 

    Twitter was one of the very first to jump on the remote working bandwagon with its CEO Jack Dorsey saying staff could work from home “forever” in a company statement back in May 2020.  

    Spotify also launched its “working from anywhere” policy in a company post at the start of 2021.  

    The post states: “Our employees will be able to work full time from home, from the office, or a combination of the two. The exact mix of home and office work mode is a decision each employee and their manager make together… we will also introduce more flexibility when it comes to what country and city each employee works from.” 

    Facebook has extended its remote working plan to all staff indefinitely. A recent company blog post states: “As of June 15, Facebook is opening up remote work to all levels across the company. Anyone whose role can be done remotely can request remote work.” 

    Reports in The Wall Street Journal also claim that Facebook had approved about 90% of remote working requests. 

    Dropbox is also becoming (what it calls) a “virtual-first” company with reportedly “non-linear workdays” where staff work core collaboration hours that overlap between time zones, with employees encouraged to design their own schedules beyond that. 

    If one thing’s clear about remote work in tech, it’s that everyone is trying to work out what works for them. While some tech companies are slowly pushing for staff to go back to the office, others are happy for as many people to stay at home as possible. 

    Either way, the future of work is still uncertain. But the future of tech is assured as workers and managers alike continue to demand flexible working initiatives — and the technology that allows them to do so. That’s something that the tech giants may want to bear in mind — flexible working, for many, is the enabler for their own future survival. 

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