As tech layoffs mount in Ireland, another battle is afoot at the heart of Dublin’s Silicon Docks: telecommuting. Twitter’s new boss Elon Musk has banned it. He calls it “pretending to work”.
Cross Town, Drew Houston, Dropbox’s billionaire, tells me a different story. Its redesigned international headquarters, which employs several hundred people, is based on a once- or twice-weekly staff. There are no individual desks.
“Companies that have tried going back to how it was in 2019 are finding that it doesn’t work,” he says.
While he acknowledges that there can be “multiple models,” he’s fairly certain that a company that doesn’t offer remote working will lose out on the most talented and productive employees.
So who is right? Is working from home for middle-aged and middle-class people who prioritize the comfort of their suburban homes over making their company a global leader?
Or is it intelligent evolution, unleashing productivity and happiness in people whose energy is drained by long commutes and mediocre office environments?
The road ahead is arduous and requires intense work to succeed
The biggest giants like Apple (6,000 in Cork), Google (9,000 in Dublin, half of them employees) and Microsoft (3,500 in Dublin) are on the brink.
On the one hand, they enable remote work. On the other hand, they’ve tried to get employees to come back as often as possible — usually for at least three days a week.
Apple is most open in its core belief that working together in a physical space is the optimal way to develop ideas and products.
Others are waiting to see where the consensus falls.
The arguments for and against telework are still being played out. Political skeptics point out that younger employees are disadvantaged.
Graduates and those in their early 20s typically want to learn skills and company culture up close, rather than via Zoom calls.
They have the added disadvantage of living at home or in cramped quarters unsuitable for long work days.
On the other hand, advocates of remote working say it eases painful commutes and gives people who cannot afford a home close to central Dublin offices the flexibility of a more comfortable property outside the capital.
For example, a third of Dropbox’s Irish staff work outside of Dublin, including Tipperary-based director of international human relations Laura Ryan.
However, neither of these arguments seem to hold up particularly well with Musk.
“The road ahead is arduous and requires intense work to succeed,” he emailed employees.
“We’re changing Twitter policies to no longer allow remote work unless you have a specific exception. Managers send me the exception lists for review and approval. Starting tomorrow (Thursday) everyone has to be in the office at least 40 hours a week.”
Whether this is the end of the story remains to be seen. The Right To Request Remote Working Bill is about to be passed into Irish law and aims to strengthen the rights of people who want or need to work from home for a variety of reasons.
For a company that is so family-oriented, this drives women out and is a major concern for many parents
However, this is expected to have limited impact as most industrial relations experts say employers simply need to give due consideration to such requests, with no firm rules as to when an employee may claim it as a right.
Regulatory requirements are not currently high on Musk’s agenda.
Yesterday, the company’s two top security and privacy officers – including Irishman Damien Kieran, Twitter’s global chief privacy officer – left the company, potentially wreaking even more havoc at the company.
This could result in Twitter being heavily exposed to regulators, especially as it is required to meet certain minimum standards in order to comply with EU law.
However, from what we know about the way Musk has been running Twitter so far, such legal concerns may not be a priority.
Will Twitter employees advocate for remote working themselves? Some have started to complain.
“For a company that’s so family-centric, this will drive women away and is a major concern for many parents,” said a Twitter employee who asked not to be named Irish Independent.
“We have people who have just come back from maternity leave and others have to be picked up at crèches and so on.”
Otherwise, we might not hear as much contradiction as we would normally expect. By which staff at the Irish Twitter office
say there is now a culture of fear in the company. To work from home, they may have to leave.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/elon-musk-starts-laying-down-the-law-at-twitter-as-battle-to-secure-remote-working-intensifies-42135765.html Elon Musk begins legislating on Twitter as fight for safe working from home mounts