A worker enters a building in the financial district of San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, May 9, 2022. From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, companies fearful of losing talent are tweaking or scrapping dictates around how often workers need to be at their desks. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Return-to-office policies are a ‘very soft mandate’

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Tomorrow marks the first full week that Apple and some other tech companies have asked their workers to come back to the office (at least part of the time). Today, even hybrid companies don’t want to enforce RTO, Gen Z does not want to be a cog in your corporate wheel, and the data behind sustainability in the workplace.

Meg Morrone, senior editor (email | twitter)

No one gets fired for WFH

Firing employees for WFH? In this economy?

Apple called its employees back to the office as the company’s three-day-per-week hybrid schedule finally began. Many tech companies have eased up on requiring office work, making Apple somewhat of an outlier when it comes to RTO.

Another outlier, Google, has been in hybrid mode since April, reportedly leading to outbreaks of COVID-19 at the office. Yet for all the talk about Google’s three-day-a-week RTO policy, two workers who spoke to Protocol anonymously say it’s not much of a mandate. An employee and a contractor both told Protocol that the hybrid policy doesn’t seem to be imposed across the board.

“The impression I have is that it’s basically not enforced,” the employee said. The Google contractor said attendance varied across different teams, noting that while some of their teammates go to the office three days a week, most only go in once. (Neither Google nor Apple returned emails inquiring about how their hybrid policies are enforced.)

Sundar Pichai’s plan to make Google “20% more efficient” may lead nervous workers to choose to go to the office more often. (An August survey found that CBRE tenants were “evenly split” on whether a recession would drive more workers to the office out of anxiety for their job security.)

As of now, most companies’ hybrid requirements are only enforced as a “very soft mandate,” said Brian Kropp, distinguished VP of research at Gartner.

About half of companies with a hybrid mandate are tracking office attendance, Kropp said, but even those that are doing so “have no real plans to fire people for not coming to the office, as long as they’re getting their work done.”

More than 40% of HR leaders surveyed by Gartner last month said they weren’t tracking office attendance. Thirty-five percent said they were gathering attendance data from key fob or badge swipes, while 22% said managers were tracking their teams’ attendance. Another 10% said employees were self-reporting their attendance.

Companies that selectively enforce attendance requirements may wind up with unfair outcomes, Kropp said.

“If you have a mandated set of days where you have to come to the office, but it’s unevenly enforced across the company, then you run into issues of fairness,” Kropp said. “That just creates more variability across the company, which then creates more risk as well in terms of that inconsistency.”

And while flexibility puts companies at an advantage when it comes to competing for talent, it also requires more sophisticated management, Kropp said.

“The question you should really be asking is: Does our managerial population, on average, have the capability to manage much more flexibility, or not?” Kropp said. “If the answer is ‘yes, they do,’ you should push for as much flexibility as you can.”

To run high-performing teams in a flexible environment, managers need to be “half social worker, half engineer,” Kropp said. That means more empathy and more capacity for planning and organization.

While companies may seem settled into their hybrid ways of working, many leaders are leaving policies open to change with time rather than overcommitting themselves. The world is unpredictable, as we’ve learned in the last 2.5 years.

“A lot of these executives — the way that they’re framing it now is, ‘This is our hybrid strategy for now, and it could evolve and could change,’” Kropp said.

Amazon falls into that category. As Andy Jassy put it at the Code Conference on Wednesday, Amazon doesn’t have a plan to force employees back to the office: “We’re going to proceed adaptively as we learn.”

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Gen Z is still a mystery for managers

Meagan Loyst wants you to know that Gen Z does not hate remote work.

“It is truly the norm for us,” said Loyst, who runs the global collective Gen Z VCs outside of her work at VC fund Lerer Hippeau. “One to two days in the office isn’t a bad thing. But you just have to understand that from the perspective of a Gen Z employee, we did not grow up in a world where you had to be in an office five days a week.”

In addition to questions about where Gen Z wants to work, Loyst gets asked about balancing face time and mentorship with flexibility, what certain TikTok trends mean and what remote work actually looks like for Gen Z employees.

Loyst said the answers to these questions, like Gen Z workers themselves, are complicated.

Read the full story.

Sponsored content from DataRobot

DataRobot's AI Cloud for Financial Services Unlocks the Art of the Possible: DataRobot continues to attract clients in financial services who want to de-risk their AI investments and rapidly scale AI to almost every part of their operations, resulting in improved productivity and higher customer satisfaction.

Read more from DataRobot

Sustainability at work

Adobe surveyed 1,400 U.S. employees about their thoughts on implementing more environmentally sustainable practices at work. Some key findings:

  • Around two-thirds of hybrid and remote employees said they are willing to eat homemade meals, unplug or shut down devices when possible, use more energy-efficient devices and be more aware of heat/air conditioning.
  • Millennials are more likely to encourage others to be sustainable compared to boomers.
  • Around 40% of employees think their company will spend between $100,000 and $1 million on sustainability in the next five years.

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬇️ A former Patreon engineer says the entire security team has been let go.

⬇️ Meta just killed its program designed to make its products more responsible. Former members of the team “aren’t guaranteed new jobs.”

⬇️ Uber is closing its engineering office in Vilnius, Lithuania, impacting 60 engineers.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

Sponsored content from DataRobot

DataRobot's AI Cloud for Financial Services Unlocks the Art of the Possible: Banks need to secure a competitive advantage in an increasingly tight race to harness best-in-breed technology. Decision makers need to not just plan a future-ready strategy, but also recognize the value of AI that could boost not just their performance in-house but also their reputation among their global customers.

Read more from DataRobot

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Just days before he publicly accused Twitter of lying about its security problems, Peiter Zatko received a settlement from Twitter worth around $7 million. (The Wall Street Journal)

Scam: fake Chinese SpaceX engineers on LinkedIn (MIT Technology Review)

Need to boost your productivity? Try a body double. (Refinery 29)

Instead of quiet quitting, try this: “Don’t do the job you want to tell other people you do. Do the job you want to do.” (The Atlantic)

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com.

Recent Issues