It’s time to go back to work
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

It’s time to go back to work

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Good morning! In December, we wrote about how we’re probably never going back to the office. My, how quickly things change. I’m Meg Morrone, and I once (or maybe even twice) hugged Steve Wozniak.

The return-to-office tipping point

I spent this past week working in the office with a group of my Protocolleagues. (Better than Metamates, amirite?) What a relief to be back in person to see people’s 3D facial expressions and to know that some of your co-workers’ personal brands have nothing to do with what they say on Twitter and everything to do with the fact that they wear novelty socks.

But all that in-person stuff made me mentally and physically exhausted, and I’m an extrovert! I never mastered the hybrid meeting. I talked to too many people and drank too many Diet Cokes. I somehow accomplished less, but it felt like so much more. Mostly, I missed my sweatpants.

In-person office life is coming fast, especially for Big Tech. If you, too, miss your sweatpants when you’re away from them, you might want to start brushing up on your in-office etiquette.

Does that mean Zoom town’s dead? Lots of folks left their NYC/SF/DC bubbles in favor of a life with a slower speed and a lower cost of living.

  • This migration away from cities (especially among young people) always happens, but the pandemic sped up the process for many and the proliferation of remote work caused an unprecedented growth of towns designed for telecommuting.

If the Zoom town is located near a big city, this phenomenon is far from over. Stanford researcher Nicholas Bloom is part of the founding team at WFH Research where he studies the patterns of the workplace for professionals.

  • His data (and many surveys we’ve seen) found that most tech workers want a hybrid plan, meaning two to three days in the office per week, and that’s exactly what the big tech companies are offering.
  • This means that most people will have to stay near the big cities where their offices are located, but they can move out a little farther if they want (and if they haven’t already). He calls this the “The Donut Effect.”

Once you’re in the office, not everyone will be masked up. It took the CDC until July 2020 to officially announce that masks would help stop the spread of COVID-19, and masks still do this.

  • But as of Feb. 25, 2022, the CDC revised its guidelines: At least 70% of Americans can stop wearing masks in most places, including the office. Shortly after the announcement, Amazon and Apple lifted mask mandates, and Google did, too, with the exception of its office in Santa Clara County, where masks are required until the spread slows down to meet the CDC guidelines.

Eventually, things could go back to some sort of “normal,” even though nobody’s sure what that is anymore. According to Bloom’s research, there might finally be a little certainty in the uncertainty, saying that he thinks the return will be gradual, but steady.

  • “You want to give employees an initial period to encourage them back, say starting shortly, and an end period when they have to be back on a regular basis, say three-two hybrid,” he said.
  • “That end period tends to be three to six months as it is hard for employees to suddenly move if they have been fully remote for two years. Some can easily return but others have changed state so need to change apartment leases, move possessions, etc.”

But as we’ve seen for more than two years, flexibility is everything. Workers have said time and again that they value flexibility in the workplace. And they will leave if they don’t get it. Tech professionals (like most professionals) want their bosses to trust them to know where and when they do their best work, within reason. That might mean letting managers decide how often workers come into the office and it might mean letting the employees decide, but it rarely means instituting a one-size-fits-all policy for everyone at the company.

— Meg Morrone (email | twitter)


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People are talking

Elon Musk thinks we need more oil and gas, even if it hurts Tesla:

  • “Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine will get more Starlink satellite internet terminals after talking with Musk:

  • "I'm grateful to him for supporting Ukraine with words and deeds.”

Mykhailo Fedorov sees Twitter as a crucial weapon in winning the war with Russia:

  • “Twitter has become an efficient tool that we are using to counter Russian military aggression. It's our smart and peaceful tool to destroy Russian economy.”

Brian Armstrong said Russians won’t be banned from Coinbase:

  • “Some ordinary Russians are using crypto as a lifeline now that their currency has collapsed … That said, if the U.S. government decides to impose a ban, we will of course follow those laws.”

Making moves

Apple’s “Peek Performance” event is Tuesday. Expect to see a new iPhone, new iPad Air and maybe even a new Mac.

Sunny Balwani’s trial is expected to begin Wednesday. It’s been delayed a couple times leading up to this week.

Legalweek NYC also starts Wednesday, and will include talks about data privacy, the future of law and more.

Thursday is the Pinterest Presents global summit, where it’s expected to announce product updates at the global summit.

SXSW kicks off on Friday and will go through March 20. It will once again be a mix of in-person and virtual events.

In other news

Tech companies continue to pull out of Russia. To name a few: TikTok suspended livestreaming and new uploads in Russia; Google stopped advertising in Russia; Netflix shut down its service in Russia; PayPal, Mastercard and Visa cut off their services there; and Samsung Electronics halted shipments to the country.

Russia blocked citizens’ access to Facebook, the latest instance of the country trying to cut off independent information.

Apple shareholders approved a civil rights audit, citing employee unrest, privacy and safety concerns.

Amazon's Delivery Service Partner program isn't working out for some businesses. Many drivers and owners said they can't keep up with Amazon's impossible standards and ever-changing rules.

Is BBBY the new GME? Ryan Cohen, the GameStop chairman, disclosed a big new stake in Bed, Bath & Beyond. The meme-stockers are already getting excited.

Zelle is reportedly a hotbed for financial crimes. Millions of people have been scammed out of their money, but it's not clear what the banks can or will do about it.

Disney+ is introducing a cheaper, ad-supported subscription tierin the U.S. later this year, with plans to introduce the plan internationally in 2023.

Bobby Kotick is leaving Coca-Cola’s board, which he said will help him focus on Activision’s merger with Microsoft.

The money platforms are offering creators is like “lunch money,” some of them say. TikTok, Instagram and others are wooing people with new ways to make money on the platform, but creators said they’d much rather learn how to set rates with brands.

How to avoid getting ghosted

We’re not talking about the person you went on a first date with. We’re talking about that job candidate you really liked but never heard back from. Talent firm Robert Half recommended a few ways you can ensure candidates get back to you:

  • Move fast. Alexandra Von Tiergarten, the Los Angeles-based regional director for Robert Half, said you shouldn’t wait more than a day to follow up with a good candidate.
  • Get your job description right. Make sure the hiring manager and HR professionals are on the same page about the job description.
  • Offer above-average compensation. The firm recommended that you go above and beyond on compensation, flexibility and perks, like a sign-on bonus.


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