Silicon Valley companies are global technology leaders. That makes it all the more surprising that, according to a recent study by CNN, nearly all major companies like to see their employees back in the office: Three years after Silicon Valley companies pushed remote work in the early days of the pandemic, the tech industry is now turning back the clock and asking employees to return to the office – sparking tensions with employees in the process.
Google announced last week it would more strictly enforce its policy requiring workers to be present in the office at least three days a week. According to internal memos, the updated policy includes recording office attendance via badge scans and potentially influencing them on performance reviews.
“Overnight, employee professionalism has been disregarded in favor of unclear attendance tracking practices associated with our performance appraisals,” Chris Schmidt, a software engineer at Google and member of the grassroots Alphabet Workers Union, told CNN in a statement. “The practical application of this new policy will lead to unnecessary confusion among employees and a disregard for our different circumstances.”
Tensions boiled over at Amazon last week when hundreds of office workers staged a strike to draw attention to their grievances, including the three-day return-to-office requirement that has been in effect since May. One current Amazon employee who spoke at the strike said she started an internal Slack channel called “Remote Advocacy” because she wanted to create a place where employees could discuss how the return-to-office requirement would affect their lives.
“Before I realized what was happening, this channel had 33,000 members,” the employee, who identified herself only as Pamela, told the crowd at the event. Pamela called the Slack channel promoting remote work “the biggest concrete expression of employee dissatisfaction in the entire history of our company.”
Meta, the company behind Facebook, also stepped up its efforts to bring employees back to the office last week. It announced that starting in September, employees currently assigned to an office will be required to return to work in person three days a week.
At least one technology company is taking a softer approach.
Salesforce is trying to entice employees with an offer that for every day an employee comes into the office from June 12-23, $10 will be donated to a local charity, according to an internal Slack message.
A Salesforce spokesperson told CNN, “Doing good is ingrained in everything we do, and we’re proud to introduce Connect for Good to encourage employees to raise over $1 million for local nonprofits.”
The battle between tech companies and their employees over returning to the office shows that the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. While companies are pushing to revive offices and emphasizing the benefits of face-to-face collaboration, employees are demanding flexibility and individuality.
It remains to be seen how this battle will play out and whether technology companies will be willing to address the needs and concerns of their employees. A balanced solution that meets both employees’ desires for flexibility and companies’ strategic goals may be the key to defusing this controversial situation. Hopefully, clear, transparent communication and open dialogue between employers and employees can lead to a solution that is satisfactory to all parties.