Maybe we're never (ever, ever) going back to the office
Photo: Ali Mokhtari/Pixabay

Maybe we're never (ever, ever) going back to the office

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Good morning! This Friday, let’s stop kidding ourselves about office reopenings, a Facebook investigation uncovered groups of "cyber mercenaries," and give a crypto gift card to the crypto lover in your life this Christmas.

It's March 2020 again

Less than a month after omicron was flagged as a “variant of concern,” it may seem like everyone you know has COVID. The virus is spreading rapidly, and well-educated, vaccinated journalists are paying special attention. Early data indicates that severe disease is unlikely for people who are fully vaccinated and have had a booster. Nevertheless, its spread is still frightening for the vulnerable and unvaccinated, and reminiscent of March 2020.

So what about the ongoing debate over “return to office” plans? Return-to-office dates are really starting to sound like pipe dreams, having been pushed back so many times that Workplace reporter Allison Levitsky often updates Protocol’s “Return to Work” calendar a few times a day. As an Instacart employee told her: “The concept of ‘return back to office date’ doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Nobody’s going back to work anytime soon. As we’ve said before: Stop setting reopening dates. The pandemic is impossible to predict.

  • The most important thing to focus on is company culture, not reopening dates. Reynaldo Ramirez, co-founder of Thrive HR consulting, told Protocol “a lot of organizations think their facilities really enhance their culture. The pandemic has shown that the culture is really driven by how employees are treated on a day-to-day basis, whether they’re in the office or not.”
  • Some experts recommend “if, then” statements that set out pandemic scenarios and the appropriate office plan. Ramirez said that approach is trickier for large corporations that want to put employees at ease. And he agrees that confidently setting reopening dates is also bad. “I think organizations that have said, look we don’t have all the answers, but when we do, we will let you know — that’s a much better message from an employee perspective,” he said.

Maybe nobody even wants to go back in full time. And if that’s the case, then forced return-to-office would be bad news for worker retention.

  • Tech recruitment is already more brutal than ever, and many workers prioritize companies that will allow indefinite remote work. “Remote work is highly productive for organizations,” Ramirez said. “And I don’t think employees want to give up the flexibility of having to go into the office on a regular basis.”
  • Why face long commutes, constant distractions and bras when you can do your job just as well at home?

Of course, there are still parts of the office we miss dearly. “I don’t think it’s going to be the nail in the coffin for return to work,” Ramirez said. There’s still value in meeting in-person and forming relationships through fun banter or chance encounters.

  • Peter Chin-Hong, a UCSF infectious disease expert, said with vaccines, masks, all that good stuff, it will be possible to build a safe office environment. “At some point, we will not be afraid of COVID,” Chin-Hong said. “You don’t want to get it but you won’t be walling yourself in at home.”

When that day comes, and we do get back together, things will look very different. It will make sense to come in for work activities like team collaboration, feedback sessions and pingpong tournaments. But getting together for a long, boring project update? As Ramirez puts it: “Nobody liked that to begin with, and you can do that with Zoom.”

— Lizzy Lawrence (email | twitter)


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People are talking

Prosecutor Jeff Schenk said Elizabeth Holmes chose to mislead investors and patients:

  • “[That choice] was not only callous, it was criminal.”

Intel’s EUV chips are coming, but Intel’s Sanjay Natarajan said the company first needs to ensure they’re reliable:

  • “Then it's the ongoing work to make the transistors go faster.”

Managers should be patient and prepared heading into salary talks, Justworks’ Allison Rutledge-Parisi said:

  • “If you can’t meet the employee’s concern with an actual change the employee is requesting, explain why.”

Making moves

Larry Babbio is Afiniti’s next CEO. Babbio is a former Verizon Communications president and chair of Afiniti’s board.

Amit Jhawar and Sara Varni joined Attentive as president and CMO, respectively. Jhawar is Venmo’s former CEO, and Varni most recently worked at Twilio.

Instacart CEO Fidji Simo joined Shopify’s board. She's been leading Instacart since August.

Abhay Parasnis is leaving Adobe. He’s the company’s EVP and CTO.

Dan Ammann is leaving Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company owned by General Motors. Kyle Vogt, Cruise’s president and CTO, will take over as interim CEO.

Meron Colbeci is's new CPO. He was a product exec at Meta for the last few years.

Omid Kordestani will lead Pearson’s board. He’s the former executive chair of Twitter’s board and held top roles at Google, Klarna and Netscape.

Sidewalk Labs is folding into Google. Dan Doctoroff, who’s led the smart city project for years, is leaving after a likely ALS diagnosis.

Apple is hiring engineers for a new office in Southern California. The company wants the team to help build wireless chips.

Spotify bought Whooshkaa, a podcast company that focuses on the tech that helps radio broadcasters turn their content into podcasts.

In other news

Tens of thousands of Facebook and Instagram users were targeted and surveilled. Meta discovered the groups after an internal investigation, and the company began alerting users yesterday.

The FTC is looking into Meta's metaverse buying spree. It's specifically concerned with the company's acquisition of Within, the VR fitness company behind Supernatural, and what it could mean for competition in VR.

TikTok wants users to see less of the same content. The platform is adjusting its algorithm so one topic doesn’t get surfaced more than others, and it’s working on a feature that would give people more control over their feeds.

Several female journalists in India were victims of an online hoax. The woman thought they got jobs at Harvard University, but Harvard had never heard of the women — nor the job offers.

A slain Uber driver’s family wants the company to pay. Ahmad Fawad Yusufi’s family said he was shot and killed in his car while driving for Uber, but the company insists he wasn’t on the clock at the time of his death.

All they want for Christmas is crypto? Good news: Starting next week, Robinhood will let customers gift crypto to friends and family.

Block is being sued over its name change. H&R Block is suing the company formerly known as Square, saying its new name will make it hard for customers to differentiate the two.

Crypto scammers made bank in 2021. The amount of money lost in crypto fraud this past year grew to almost $8 billion, up more than 80% from last year.

If at first you don't succeed

Marc Ostrofsky invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Theranos. When the company folded, his stock certificates became worthless. Now, Ostrofsky is raffling off one of his two stock certificates as an NFT called “Rise and Fall of Theranos NFT.” That’s certainly one way to recoup an investment.


Whether you work on the top floor or the shop floor, Workplace celebrates who you are and what you can bring to your business. Discover the place where you can be more you.

Learn more

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