Is the Remote Party Over?
April 15, 2022
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by Stephen Kanyi

When the pandemic hit many companies were quick to tout how remotely friendly their policies were. There were blog posts written by top executives extolling the virtues of remote work and some even promised to make the remote model permanent. The days of the ‘office’ were over, they said.

A few months down the deadline and with the pandemic dying down a lot of these ‘remote friendly’ companies are performing a complete u-turn on their promises. Sure, there are explanations and promises to keep a semblance of remote work at their institutions for those who want it but that is just corporate speak to buttress a glaring fact: executives want employees back at the office!

Many of them (as I have covered in a previous piece) have been touting some form of a hybrid model. This according to them seems to be the middle ground between employees who may be squeamish about getting back to the office and executives who definitely want their employees back at the office.

However, on closer inspection, these policies appear to be just platitudes to appease their employees who have already gotten used to working from home. I mean sure, even when most executives recognize the benefits of remote work to the company as a whole, with employees showing no loss in productivity while cutting down in costs in terms of transportation and office space, most executives don’t trust their employees that much. They would rather have them in their office where they can ‘keep their eyes on them.’

Here is a brief look into how some of these companies are trying to lure their employees back to the office.

The Straight Shooters

Goldman Sachs

The world’s most notorious investment company (to its credit) has been forthright about its desire for its employees back at the office. CEO of Goldman Sachs David Soloman has certainly not minced words with this. Speaking in a Bloomberg interview he states, “I certainly would expect a lot of Goldman Sachs employees back in full by the end of the year.”

This of course comes with mandated vaccinations as all employees are expected to be jabbed to be allowed back at the office. The London Goldman Sachs office however has taken a little different approach as employees do not necessarily have to be ‘vaxxed’. They are however required to wear masks at all times while inside the office; this is despite government restrictions easing in June.

Netflix

CEO Reed Hastings was one of the most outspoken businesses stating many times his objections against the model because apparently, he doesn’t “see any positives” to working from home. Talking in an interview with the WSJ he said: “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative.”

It comes as no surprise then that he will try to have his employees back in the office as soon as possible. He however is still waiting until it is safe to do so joking that his employees will return “within 12-hours after a vaccine is approved” last September.

While Netflix workers are not required to show any proof of vaccination all cast and crew members will need to be fully jabbed to work at their studios.

The ‘Hybriders’

The ‘hybrid’ camp is the most popular. This comes as no surprise as most executives, as stated earlier, is using the word ‘hybrid’ as a gimmick to cox workers back to the office.

Amazon

The first culprit was guilty of going back on its promise. After initially opting for a hybrid scheme that allowed employees to work from home two days a week founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos said that its employees would return to the office full time this autumn.

The initial reopening date was set for September 7th but was soon extended to January 2022.

Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been a little more open to remote work than his peers. But just a little. Remote positions, despite promises to increase them, have remained minimal and decided on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.

He however has implied in his blog posts that the company’s success during the pandemic could enable more flexibility to work remotely in the future.

In June last year, he sent a letter asking his employees to come back to the office for three days a week – Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate,” he said.

This policy has remained despite plans to fully return to the office having been ditched time and time again due to the omicron variants.

Google

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has stated in a number of blogposts his desire to introduce more flexibility into the company’s working practices. His actions have however indicated that he wants his employees back at the office. He told employees that they’ll still be expected to work in the office at least three times a week—meaning they’ll still be required to live near their office.

Remote-First

Grammarly

This is one of the few companies to implement a ‘remote-first’ strategy. All workers are allowed to work remotely with CEO, Brad Hoover, outlining the plan in a blog post, stating that their offices will transform into “hubs” whereby teams can work or hold face-to-face meetings if need be.

Twitter

Twitter has been one of the most remote-friendly all through the pandemic period. After pilot runs during the early months of COVID-19 the company now has a fully remote work policy with workers allowed to work at home forever or come to the office if they preferred.

And just as you may have predicted most workers prefer to work at home. So much so that Elon Musk in his Twitter tirades joked that the social media giant should convert its HQ to a homeless shelter since they don’t use it anyway.

Overall, it seems that most executives want most of their employees back at the office. We should expect more aggressive policies in the near future to achieve this goal. Fortunately, there are a few standouts that are proving that the remote model can actually work.

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