Dell employees told to return to the office

Dell announced that its allowances for staff to work from home will change, despite having reduced facilities during the pandemic.
18 May 2023

Dell has backtracked on its work from home policy, despite enthusing about remote work during the pandemic. The company initially promised workers that they could continue to work from home where applicable, following the mandate set out by the pandemic.

Previously, COO Jeff Clarke suggested that two-thirds of the company workforce might be able to keep working remotely, stating that work should be viewed as “an outcome, not a place or time.”

After Clarke suggested that the shift to remote work was “a human revolution right before our eyes,” Michael Dell himself doubled down on the commitment to remote work as recently as last September. He argued that those “counting on forced hours spent in a traditional office to create collaboration and provide a feeling of belonging” were “doing it wrong.”

The change seems all the more sudden for the fact that Dell sold off buildings at its Round Rock headquarters once staff went remote: approximately 35 acres were sold so that Las Vegas-based datacenter developer and operator Switch could build a 1.5 million square-foot campus.

Before the pandemic, 65% of employees were using remote work opportunities one to five days a week, at a time when two days in-office were the standard. When this dropped to zero during the pandemic, amenities were cut. Staffers are understandably concerned about returning to an office with too few desks, parking spaces and other resources.

Dell: work from home on a case-by-case basis

Now, all workers who live within an hour’s commute have been asked to return to the office for at least three days a week. Dell did acknowledge that the news might find workers struggling to make suitable arrangements, like childcare, so the request is being made on an “as soon as you can basis.” Which, considering the potential upheaval the move will cause, could be considered literally as the very least Dell could do.

A company spokesperson from Dell told TechRadar Pro:

“As the world adjusts to post-pandemic living, we shared with our team members that we will return to more flexible and hybrid work. We believe the future work experience will be a hybrid one and flexibility is, and will continue to be, a strong differentiator for our culture.”

“Team members located within about a one-hour or less one-way commute to a major Dell office should plan to be onsite at least three days a week. For those team members who have a need for a full-time remote work schedule, we will work with them on a case-by-case basis.”

Other big names making similar moves are Amazon and Google. Earlier this year, Amazon announced an end to work from home and was met with uproar. For Google, the outrage came after it told workers in its cloud department that they should return to work, but would have to share a desk with a colleague two days per week.

This all comes despite a report by Microsoft which indicated workers were still productive at home (sometimes more so), and that the reluctance to continue remote working was the result of managers lacking confidence in their staff.

There are rumors that the return to the office is a way to get disgruntled employees to quit, saving on redundancy compensation. Others have speculated that the shift is an attempt to benefit a workforce spanning generations.

Arguments have been made that entry-level employees who have only ever worked from home are worse at their jobs, creating more work for long-term employees.

Perhaps the news from Dell that work from home is no longer part of its ethos would have met a better response had the decision been explained more sufficiently. Or rather, had it been explained at all: according to The Register, Clarke’s email announcing the change is devoid of any explanation.