End to work from home: Top tech CEOs warn employees to return to office, workers seem unwilling

Waking up at 9:00 am when you had a meeting at 9:15 am became a common practice for many employees while working from home when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak. Gradually, as the pandemic receded across the world, offices began opening their doors again and employers called employees back to offices. In the tech world too, top CEOs like Google’s Sundar Pichai, Meta’s Marck Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Andy Jassy, and others, called their employees back to offices. However, this was easier said than done as employees simply didn’t want to return to the grind. 

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, at a session organized by fintech company Stripe, was recently quoted saying that the ‘work from home experiment’ is over and that the tech companies that announced permanent work from home in a rush made ‘a big mistake’. 

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As more and more companies are now making it mandatory to work from offices, here’s a look at how the top tech CEOs have called employees back to work.

1. Google 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in March last year, called the employees back to office and announced that it will be following a ‘hybrid’ work model that will allow employees to work from home for a few days in a week. 

Soon after this announcement, reports of Google contract workers saying a firm ‘no’ to work from office had surfaced. As per reports, around 200 contract workers had circulated a petition to keep work from home on as some of them ‘could not afford to commute’.

2. Amazon

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, had noted the benefits of working from offices in a blog post. In the same post, the CEO had announced that Amazon employees will be required to come to the office from May 2023 for at least three days in a week. 

“We made this decision at a s-team meeting earlier this week, and for a number of reasons (including the adjustments I know will be required for some of our employees), I wanted to share with you as early as I could even though we haven’t worked out all the execution details yet,” the post read. 

Amazon laid off thousands of employees recently. And employees are now planning to protest over the company’s work-from-office mandate as well as large-scale layoffs. A report by the Washington Post revealed that the Amazon employees are planning to walk off the job on May 31 as a sign of protest. The employees are reportedly frustrated over the company’s return-to-office policy as well as the mass layoffs. 

“Amazon must keep pace with a changing world. To cultivate a diverse, world-class workplace, we need real plans to tackle our climate impact and flexible work options,” the protest group wrote on Twitter.

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3. Meta

Facebook parent Meta is also planning to ask employees to return working from offices soon. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, during a meeting in April this year, said that while the company won’t fully remove the work from home option, but will explore ways in case the ‘conditions don’t improve’. 

“I want to be clear upfront that we’re not going to eliminate all remote work or anything like that. My sense is we’re still not seeing teams work together in the office as much as intuitively I would hope and expect would be optimal, and we’re also starting to get some data points that suggest we should be doing more there,” Insider had quoted Zuckerberg as saying.

In an earlier email too, the Meta CEO had said that employees working from offices performed better than those working from home, on an average.

4. Twitter

Twitter Boss Elon Musk has been quite vocal about his contempt on working from home. He removed the work from home option for Twitter employees as soon as he assumed his role as the company’s CEO in 2022.

Recently, Musk was even trolled on Reddit as people started calling him ‘Karen Musk’ after the Twitter CEO criticized work from home during an interview and called it ‘morally wrong’.

Musk had said that “Silicon Valley ‘laptop classes’ need to get off their ‘moral high horse’ with their work-from-home bulls***,” in an interview with CNBC.

He had also added that in his view, work from home idea is like the fake Marie Antoinette quote, ‘Let them eat cake’.

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5. Apple

An Apple employee made headlines last year for quitting his job after Apple made it mandatory for its employees to work from offices. Ian Goodfellow, who was in charge of machine learning and artificial intelligence at Apple, gave his resignation and said that the company lacked ‘flexible work environment and policies’. Days after he quit his job, Goodfellow reportedly joined Google as it had more relaxed policies at the time.

In March last year, Apple announced that remote from work is coming to an end at the company. 

6. TCS

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) also removed the work from home option for its employees in September 2022. The company had sent an email to employees in which it mentioned that they must work from office for at least ‘three days a week’. The managers, as per the mail, were asked to prepare a roster accordingly.

“Adherence to rostering is mandatory and will be tracked… any noncompliance will be taken seriously, and administrative measures may be applied,” the email read.

In January this year, in an interview with Financial Express, TCS’ Chief Operating Officer (COO), N. Ganapathy Subramaniam had said, “There is a greater realisation that by coming to offices, more things get done, especially for people who have joined us in the last two years. When they come and see the offices, they see a different perspective of TCS, they see a different perspective of their own position vis-a-vis their peers.”

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