11 Dec This is the here and the now…
-Fortune.com has dedicated an entire section now to RTO. 😖
I’m reminded of a scene in the 1993 movie Malice where the character Jed Hill says something like, “Welcome to the land of You Don’t Have a Choice. This is the here and the now…” Exactly. I’m not gonna get on here like most people in the staffing & recruiting world and blow hot air and hopium around. RTO is happening. It’s the here and the now. Over the past 6 or 8 weeks, many of the conversations I’ve had with hiring managers have included statements like:
- I’m tired of remote work. I’m over it.
- I understood remote work during the pandemic, but, I mean… I think it’s time now that we can all come back.
- I hate remote work. I miss the hustle and bustle of the office. I want everything to go back like it was before.
- I like everyone being in the office. I feel like there’s more energy and we can collaborate better that way.
As you might imagine, I have heard 0 job seekers and 0 non-management employees saying that. The job seekers I’ve spoken with say quite the opposite and they do not want to look at hybrid and/or full-on RTO positions. However, trying to explain that to the RTO-happy hiring managers is like the meme of the man talking to a brick wall. I actually heard a hiring manager refer to people who want 100% remote work as “non-starters” and I could feel my eyes rolling all the way back into my head like Tony Stark in The Avengers. But here’s the deal: my opinion is only that – it’s my opinion. If Corporate America is hellbent on bringing people back to the Cube Farm to sit and be obedient Monday through Friday, that’s what’s gonna happen.
Right now, we’re in the battle between employers who want to fight for RTO and employees/job seekers who want to fight for remote work. Who do you think will win? At the risk of sounding très cynique, I believe it’ll ultimately be Corporate America. I’ve been warning about this for months and I feel like it’s on our doorstep now. I predict Corporate America will become even more mercenary about it in 2023. Part of this will owe to the peons & plebs finally being allowed to know the economy is not in good shape and the labor market is not, indeed, BLAZING HAWT. Layoffs will continue and as unemployment goes up, more and more hiring managers will become totally inflexible. RTO or else. Lord Elon paved the way and more will follow that lead. I wish it were not the case, but I don’t see any way around it. In other words: the situation will be manipulated to make more people desperate for work and they will have to RTO out of necessity and not out of a genuine desire to do so. The competition for fully remote jobs will be fierce and honestly, I think those companies will have prime choice of who they want to hire. In spite of that, the RTO hardliners will not care. Because for them, it’s really not about selecting the best possible person for the job. It’s about selecting someone who’s at least somewhat qualified but is highly obedient.
I believe we’re already transitioning from the carrot to the stick; we’re going from supposed perks and incentives to RTO to the Lord Elon method: c’mon back or leave. In the meantime, we’ll get drivel like this:
“Dropbox let employees work remotely and saw record-high turnover. Then it offered in-person retreats. Retention soared.” –https://fortune.com/2022/12/06/dropbox-virtual-first-model-asynchronous-work-retention-turnover-remote-work/
Essentially, we’ll be told that fully remote work doesn’t work, we’ll hear all about its many alleged disadvantages, and then we’ll get the “evidence” of how much people actually want to be together in person and how wonderful _____ is. Fill in the blank as you want: RTO, in-person retreats, rah-rah rallies where everyone sings the company anthem, company parties, forced fun, etc.
“Dropbox insiders say the end of office perks like free food from Michelin-starred chefs and the shift to remote work has upended its culture and made it harder to keep employees around.” –https://www.businessinsider.com/dropbox-michelin-cafeteria-high-turnover-remote-work-2022-2
Oh yeah. Everyone knows that employees will hit the door fast if they don’t have a “posh cafeteria” with fancy chefs.
“When Dropbox closed its San Francisco offices, it also lost its famously posh cafeteria.
Insiders say the loss of the cafeteria was emblematic of how remote work has upended its culture.
Without lavish office perks, it’s become harder for Dropbox to keep employees around, insiders say.”
-from Business Insider
If your entire company culture revolves around a cafeteria, WTF?
“Dropbox insiders told Rosalie Chan and Paayal Zaveri that the end of free perks like bulgogi from Michelin-starred chefs contributed to their decision to leave the company. Sure, they didn’t quit just because of the food. But for many, the move to virtual first and an end to the kinds of perks that brought people together IRL shifted their loyalties and made leaving that bit easier.” -from Business Insider, emphasis mine
Ahhhh, now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re being told that not being face-to-face in an office every day made it easier to leave the company. Hmm. No wonder Corpo America is tired of remote work. Perhaps they feel manipulating you to stay by having you there in person is easier on them. It seems the spin is, “Well hey, if you’re not sitting in the cafeteria or working out in the on-site gym and buddying up to yer coworkers, then it’s easier for you to see the reality that you are indeed a free agent. So we gotta nip that in the bud!”
Meanwhile, back at the Twitter ranch, Lord Elon out here setting up work apartments.
“Twitter is under investigation by city officials in San Francisco following a complaint that the company allegedly converted rooms in its headquarters to sleeping quarters, an inquiry that has drawn scorn from Elon Musk.
As of Monday, the office has ‘modest bedrooms featuring unmade mattresses, drab curtains and giant conference-room telepresence monitors’ with four to eight beds a floor, employees told Forbes. The changes appear to be part of Musk’s plan for ‘hardcore Twitter’ in which he’s demanded workers dedicate ‘long hours at high intensity’ after he fired nearly half the company’s workforce.”
Wow. So maybe RTO isn’t good enough. Now you need to just live at work.
It could be easy to dismiss this as the realm of Big Tech. But I’d be very careful with that. Tech companies are not the only ones with layoffs. They are also not the only ones trying to navigate a push from WFH to RTO. In my opinion, this is not the time to be willfully naïve or to bury your head in the sand. The tides are turning.