Dell Latest Big Tech Company to Order Staff Back to Office

Employees that live within an hour commute are told to return to the water cooler three days a week.

Dell has quietly reversed its remote working policy, with an internal company memo revealing that employees are being asked to return to the office ‘at least’ three days a week.

The news signals a return to the company’s pre-pandemic hybrid working model. Specifically, it stipulates that staff living within an hour’s one-way commute of a major Dell facility should plan to reacquaint themselves with physical working for three days of their choosing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dell’s workforce has been less than enthusiastic about the new mandate, with many employees feeling they were led to believe working for the tech giant post-pandemic would involve remote work flexibility.

Employees Take a Dim View of Office U-turn

As first reported by The Register, the announcement was delivered by Dell COO Jeff Clarke, who acknowledged that the process wouldn’t be a ‘light switch transition’ whilst still urging workers to adopt the new schedule ‘as soon as they can arrange it.’

While Dell never explicitly ruled out a return to hybrid working, disgruntled staff are pointing out it’s the same Clarke who said that work ‘was an outcome, not a place or a time’ when discussing his firm’s former remote-first strategy.

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When hybrid working has been discussed, Clarke’s vision also seemed to be much less rigid than the mandate he has just handed down, with the exec saying he saw a future where staff ‘work from home mostly and come into the office one or two days a week.’

CEO Michael Dell was even spotted bragging on LinkedIn about his company’s flexible ethos, going so far as to say that companies with ‘forced hours in an office’ were ‘doing it wrong’.

The apparent U-turn has given rise to fears that the policy is effectively a ‘soft layoff’ measure designed to help Dell further reduce costs, following extensive formal layoffs earlier in the year.

The Tech Trend of Layoffs Followed by Office Return

Soft layoffs represent a worrying new trend in the technology industry whereby companies look to curb employee numbers by mandating a return to the office, with the expectation many staff will be unwilling to make the switch and opt to resign instead. Such a scenario absolves firms of their responsibility to pay redundancy costs to staff, making it a real kick in the teeth in the eyes of many.

Earlier in the year, Dell was at the fore of the first batch of tech company layoffs that rocked the sector in February. In opting to follow this up by mandating a return to the office, it joins a number of other major industry players.

These include Amazon, who announced it was culling a massive 18,000 jobs back in January, and followed it up with a physical working initiative a month later. Similarly, Google revealed it was cutting 12,000 at around the same time and pushed for a return to the office in April.

A final example is Salesforce, the outfit behind one of the best CRMs for sales teams. It began a series of rolling layoffs at the start of the year and has since mandated that employees return to the office at least three days a week – four if you’re in a customer-facing role.

Dell certainly didn’t start this trend, but it won’t be the one to end it, either. Expect to see even more tech companies call employees back to the office, and scrapping those web conferencing calls for face to face catch ups.

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Written by:
James Laird is a technology journalist with 10+ years experience working on some of the world's biggest websites. These include TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and The Sun, as well as industry-specific titles such as ITProPortal. His particular areas of interest and expertise are cyber security, VPNs and general hardware.
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