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Once A Pioneer In Remote-Friendly Work, Tech Gets Strict About RTO

Tech companies like Google, Lyft, Meta and Salesforce, early pioneers of remote work policies, are now upping the stakes to get employees back into the office. 

Tech companies have been apprehensive about adopting return-to-office mandates for fear of losing employees, The Wall Street Journal reports. But with industry layoffs topping 200,000 so far this year, companies find they now have the upper hand.

People work in a SoHo, New York, office.

“Nearly 600,000 employees are subject to stricter office attendance mandates that have gone into effect in the first two weeks of May,” according to a report from JLL.

The tech industry accounts for almost 200,000 of those requirements. 

While some companies are extending incentives, such as Salesforce offering charity donations for those who return, others are making it a requirement, with consequences for those who can’t or won’t comply. 

Google, which announced in May it will offload 1.4M SF of Silicon Valley office space, requires employees to be in the office three days a week. The company notified employees in mid-June that office attendance will now be part of performance reviews. In addition, employees that are away for long periods of time will receive email reminders and conversations with their managers about performance.

Meta, which has laid off 21,000 employees since November, including 1,200 jobs in California in June alone, is also mandating that employees assigned to an office come in three days a week. And last month, AT&T announced that 60,000 managers have to return to the office full time.

Employees who structured their lives around the expectation remote-first work would always be in place are now faced with the possibility of losing their jobs. Amazon’s hybrid requirement of three days a week in the office led employees in Seattle to walk out over “lack of trust in” leadership last month.

Amazon executives said resistence is coming from a tiny percentage of its staff and that morale overall remains high.

“There's a vibrancy and there's an excitement and renewed enthusiasm about that opportunity to collaborate in person,” Amazon Vice President of Worldwide Economic Development Holly Sullivan told Bisnow this month.

She said there hasn’t been any pushback about the policy in Nashville and Arlington, Virginia.

The increasingly heavy push to get tech workers back to office buildings could bring the tech industry more in line with other sectors. While 71% of financial and professional services companies were requiring a full-time or hybrid return to the office at the top of the year, only 56% of tech companies were doing likewise, according to a corporate real estate survey conducted by CBRE

This shift would be a boon to struggling offices in major cities. For the first time since the pandemic hit, New York office usage reached 50.5% of pre-pandemic levels, while the national average sits at 50.3%, according to Kastle Systems data.