HomeBusinessNearly half of Dell's full-time U.S. employees have refused to return to...

Nearly half of Dell’s full-time U.S. employees have refused to return to the office. They would rather work from home than get promoted

Even months after tech company Dell implemented its strict return-to-office policy, excluding fully remote employees from promotions, employees are still refusing to return to work in person.

Nearly 50% of Dell’s full-time U.S. workforce and a third of its international employees have continued to work remotely, the company’s internal data shows, Business Insider reports. Unless these employees return to the office or Dell changes its remote work policy, they won’t move up.

Remote workers were willing to defy company policy because the benefits of staying home simply outweighed what they thought working in person had to offer.

“The more time I have to spend in the office, the less time, money and personal space I have,” one employee told Insider. “I can do my job just as well from home and have all those personal benefits.”

Other employees found that returning to in-person work simply wasn’t practical given the nature of their work.

“My team is spread all over the world. Almost 90% of the team did the same, because in our case there was no real benefit to going to the office,” said another employee.

Multiple Dell employees told Insider that they work with team members in different time zones and held meetings that required them to work around the clock at times when it would not be appropriate to be on site. Others said they lived too far from a business location or that a Dell office near them had recently closed.

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Dell did not immediately respond Fortune‘s request for comment, but told Insider that it believes “personal connections combined with an agile approach are critical to driving innovation and value differentiation.”

The RTO policy introduced in March certainly reflects this. The policy reclassified employees into remote and hybrid workers, with those in the latter category required to work in-person at least 30 days per quarter, approximately three days per week. In a 2022 blog post, the company set a goal of 60% of its workforce working remotely at any given time.

In May, Dell cracked down on enforcement and introduced additional tools to track employees’ office visits. The tech company started tracking how often employees swiped their electronic key cards and their VPN usage to see which staff members actually showed up three days a week. Those who received blue flags, and employees who showed up less frequently, received green and yellow flags, with never-seen employees literally receiving red flags from the company.

But time and time again, remote workers have shown their disdain for these types of policies: After software company SAP began enforcing RTO rules in January, 5,000 employees signed a letter to company leaders in a remote work rebellion, stating they said they felt “betrayed” by the policy. An October 2023 FlexJobs survey found that of 8,400 U.S. workers, 17% of workers would sacrifice up to 20% of their wages if it meant being able to work remotely. More than half of respondents said they knew someone who was planning to quit their job because of an unwanted RTO mandate.

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“The lack of remote work options is a major reason why people are leaving their jobs,” FlexJobs career expert Keith Spencer wrote in the report.

How to quell the remote work rebellion

Despite the anger over inflexible RTO policies, Dell’s strict rules follow a trend among companies favoring hybrid and in-person workers, especially when it comes to promotion. Companies have held their ground when it comes to rewarding in-person workers, according to a January report from employment data platform Live Data Technologies.

Of the 2 million white-collar workers, 5.6% of hybrid and in-person workers were promoted at work last year, compared to 3.9% of remote workers. Ninety percent of CEOs surveyed said they would prefer employees who came to the office for a raise or a favorable assignment.

“People may not like it, but I can’t build a business by playing to the lowest common denominator,” says Vineet Jain, CEO of software company Egnyte. Wall Street Journal. “If you don’t show up and collaborate with the rest of your colleagues, it shows a lack of connectivity and a lack of ownership.”

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But Stanford economist Nick Bloom does not believe in the strategy of a strict RTO policy and discovered that hybrid work in particular has its advantages in the workplace ecosystem. According to a study he wrote, published in Nature this month, employees who worked from home twice a week reported greater job satisfaction and had lower turnover compared to fully in-person employees. In fact, these flexible arrangements slightly improved the productivity of a group of 1,612 employees at a Chinese technology company between 2021 and 2022. It also had no impact on promotion figures.

While he didn’t tout the benefits of exclusively remote work, Bloom advocated flexibility for employees — not only for their own good, but also for managers who wanted to retain talented employees.

“The results are clear: hybrid work is a win-win-win for employee productivity, performance and retention,” Bloom said.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com


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