Protocol | Workplace Tech Employee Survey

Who gets to work from home? Some aren’t waiting to find out.

More employees are leaving for fully remote companies as organizations put forth inconsistent remote policies.

A masked person working in an office.

According to a recent survey by Glassdoor, 17% of employees said they would consider quitting their jobs if told they needed to return to the office for the work week.

Photo: Bloomberg / Contributor via Getty

Last month, Urs Hölzle, a senior vice president at Google, said he would work remotely from New Zealand following the pandemic. What followed was a backlash from workers in and outside of the company calling out the inconsistency of a move that stood in contrast with a company that was requiring most of its employees to go into the office at least three days a week starting in September.

According to Protocol's recent survey of tech workers, in partnership with Morning Consult, 39% of workers strongly agree it's important for their company to let them work remotely indefinitely. The survey also found that high earners are more supportive of returning to the traditional office setting than low earners. Workers have flocked to a number of online forums and social media outlets to express their frustration with companies that are discouraging fully remote work while some executives are afforded more flexibility.

For some, this means the possibility of leaving for companies with more flexible remote policies. According to a recent survey by Glassdoor, 17% of employees said they would consider quitting their jobs if told they needed to return to the office for the work week.

Rebecca Ryan APF, an economist and futurist who has looked at the future of work, told Protocol that the inequity fashioned by leadership in the conversation of who gets to work from home full time strikes her as "tone deaf," and has been detrimental to the trust some companies have been working to build with their workers.

"That takes years to develop and minutes to destroy," she said. "So I think there's just a little bit of chaos right now in the minds of business leaders because they haven't had to sit down and have a good think about the entire employee experience, and if they have broken trust with people, if they haven't given people a reason to be loyal to them, they're gonna have a harder time of it."

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Research from McKinsey also revealed an incongruence between what employers and employees want following the pandemic. According to McKinsey, over 52% of executives plan to return to the physical office alongside their employees at least four days a week. But as leaders are gearing up to go back to the office, the organization found 40% of workers do not prefer a full return and some are even prepared to leave if such becomes the case.

A former Amazon corporate employee who asked to remain anonymous said the company's return-to-work policy was the final straw in convincing them it was time to move on to a new company that was fully remote. At the time, Amazon had told employees that they were expected back in the office at the end of June. The former employee told Protocol that a week after they left, Amazon announced its intentions for a more hybrid strategy.

Amazon updated its return-to-the-office policy in June, announcing employees would be in the office at least three days a week with the opportunity to apply to work from home more days if they saw fit.

Another employee who has spent over 15 years working in the digital and technology space in user experience and user interface design told Protocol that they are now actively looking for a role at a company that offers full-time remote work. They also asked to remain anonymous because they are looking for a new job. The client-facing agency where they work recently updated their return-to-work policy to encourage employees to come into the office two days a week. Though it is an improvement from a prior policy, the employee said they will continue to look for a new role because they don't believe the changes will be permanent.

Some employees at the agency said they feel their trust was broken following unclear and inconsistent messaging.

Indra Sofian, the co-founder of an online high school, said employers should remember workers are not a monolith. As a young founder himself, he has pushed back on the idea that young workers want to be in an office. Sofian and his co-founders have chosen to let their employees work fully from home.

"We decided early on that if we could build a world-class high school online we could build an online company working remotely," he told Protocol. The company has been remote since 2019 and he said it has allowed employees to do their best work.

"This is not a genie that gets put back in the bottle," said Ryan. "We have to stop using our energy to figure out what's the right balance of how many days we should have people in the office. If you're still having that conversation you're missing the future."

Protocol | China

Beijing meets an unstoppable force: Chinese parents and their children

Live-in tutors disguised as nannies, weekday online tutoring classes and adult gaming accounts for rent. Here's how citizens are finding ways to skirt Beijing's diktats.

Citizens in China are experienced at cooking up countermeasures when Beijing or governments come down with rigid policies.

Photo: Liu Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

During the summer break, Beijing handed down a parade of new regulations designed to intervene in youth education and entertainment, including a strike against private tutoring, a campaign to "cleanse" the internet and a strict limit on online game playing time for children. But so far, these seemingly iron-clad rules have met their match, with students and their parents quickly finding workarounds.

Grassroots citizens in China are experienced at cooking up countermeasures when Beijing or governments come down with rigid policies. Authorities then have to play defense, amending holes in their initial rules.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. She can be reached at shenlu@protocol.com.


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Protocol | Policy

Google and Microsoft are at it again, now over government software

The on-again, off-again battle between the two companies flared up again when Google commissioned a study on how much the U.S. government relies on Microsoft software.

Google and Microsoft are in a long-running feud that has once again flared up in recent months.

Photo: Jens Tandler/EyeEm/Getty Images

According to a new report commissioned by Google, Microsoft has an overwhelming "share in the U.S. government office productivity software market," potentially leading to security risks for local, state and federal governments.

The five-page document, released Tuesday by a trade group that counts Google as a member, represents the latest escalation between the two companies in a long-running feud that has once again flared up in recent months.

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Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

People

Facebook wants to kill the family iPad

Facebook has built the first portable smart display, and is introducing a new household mode that makes it easier to separate work from play.

Facebook's new Portal Go device will go on sale for $199 in October.

Photo: Facebook

Facebook is coming for the coffee table tablet: The company on Tuesday introduced a new portable version of its smart display called Portal Go, which promises to be a better communal device for video calls, media consumption and many of the other things families use iPads for.

Facebook also announced a revamped version of its Portal Pro device Tuesday, and introduced a new household mode to Portals that will make it easier to share these devices with everyone in a home without having to compromise on working-from-home habits. Taken together, these announcements show that there may be an opening for consumer electronics companies to meet this late-pandemic moment with new device categories.

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Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Protocol | Policy

The techlash is threatening human rights around the world

Some 48 countries introduced laws to regulate tech last year. But researchers say many of those laws are just attempts at censorship and surveillance.

In its latest report, Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz said, "We really see free expression and privacy as under unprecedented strain."

Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Governments around the world are seizing on widespread frustrations with Big Tech as justification for a spate of increasingly restrictive laws governing online speech, a new report finds, a trend that researchers say puts both free expression and the fate of tech companies' overseas employees at risk.

Over the last year alone, some 48 countries worldwide introduced — and in some cases, passed — laws to regulate tech companies, according to the latest report by Freedom House, a nonprofit that publishes an annual survey on internet freedoms in 70 countries. While those laws have often been passed in the name of promoting competition, protecting people's data and moderating offensive content, the report's authors say that, in many cases, these laws are merely thinly veiled attempts to force companies into censorship and surveillance.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

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