A bright, glass office area full of workers.
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Is Big Tech trying to end the remote working revolution?

12 Jun 2023

Having largely led the way promoting remote working, major tech employers are now cracking down on bringing staff back to workplaces.

When Covid-19 forced the world to reckon with a remote working revolution three years ago, major tech employers were at the helm, quick to promote permanent remote working policies.

Twitter was one of the first big tech businesses to allow staff to work remotely, advising its employees around the world to work from home at the beginning of March.

By May 2020, its then CEO Jack Dorsey sent out a company-wide email informing employees that they can work from home “forever”.

However, the social media giant has seen a lot of turbulence since then, with a $44bn purchase by Tesla giant Elon Musk. With a new sheriff in town, the remote working forever policy was rolled back.

In 2021, Facebook’s parent company Meta told staff that it would allow for permanent remote working after the pandemic.

However, at the beginning of this month, the company announced a change to its hybrid working policy, stating that company staff will need to work in the office at least three days a week from September.

However, the statement reportedly won’t affect workers who currently have fully remote positions and only applies to those who are already work in offices on some days.

And now, Google is the latest tech giant to crack down on in-person working. According to internal memos seen by CNBC, the company will be tracking office badge attendance, confronting workers who aren’t adhering to the hybrid working schedule and considering employee attendance in performance reviews.

Employee resistance

Ever since remote working was proven to be possible, it was always going to be difficult for leaders to put the genie back in the bottle, especially when productivity levels remained unaffected.

And as companies continue to struggle with retaining talent, strong remote and hybrid working policies became an important factor in attracting workers.

In fact, earlier this year, data from Zoom and FRS Recruitment found that hybrid and remote job posts in Ireland had almost doubled over the previous 12 months.

But, while demand for remote working continues, the trend of calling employees back to the office is a growing trend.

A new report from LinkedIn found that Irish remote working jobs appear to be in decline, as only 10.5pc of LinkedIn job postings in April offered remote options.

Big-name CEOs don’t get to decide this and dictate it

Despite this drop, LinkedIn said Ireland still has one of the largest shares of remote job postings in the EMEA region, as applications for remote roles accounted for 18.6pc of all job applications in Ireland.

Damien McCarthy, CEO of Irish consultancy HR Buddy, believes that Big Tech CEOs are pushing a narrative that remote working should have ended along with the pandemic, but said it’s not their call to make.

“Big-name CEOs don’t get to decide this and dictate it,” he said. “The labour market is so tight now and there’s such a war for talent that it’s almost the candidate who’s telling the employer what way they’re going to go.”

McCarthy added that while some people “may not be suited to working from home on a continuous basis from a welfare point of view,” he said there is a “huge hunger” for it when it comes to work-life balance.

“The fact is that we are on a very quick journey in the evolution of work and what we are seeing currently is a jockeying for position. Big-name CEO’s call-out remote working for being lazy, unreliable, morally wrong. On the other hand, workers use the tight labour market and the war for recruitment and retention to jockey their position for flexibility in an attempt to guarantee it for the future,” he said.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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