back to article Meta tells staff to return to office three days a week

Meta is asking employees to return to their designated office three days a week from the start of late summer as more tech companies discuss the perceived productivity losses of remote work. The move, which isn't entirely surprising, was communicated to staff yesterday and does not affect any of the workforce that has already …

  1. Teejay

    In a Venn diagram, people who think work from home is good for productivity must have a huge overlap with identity politics drivers, equity preachers, tech bubble enthusiasts, cheap money advocates and power point fans.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      This would depend on what the job is.

      Programming? Yes, working from home would tend to be rather more productive as morons can't wander over and disturb you.

      Anything involving communication? Sitting around a table with some paper to scribble on is pretty indisputably the golden standard that other solutions are tested against.

      1. Valeyard

        programming from home = equally as productive

        programming from home compared to being in an office beside the noisy sales team = infinitely more productive, especially on office-playlist-thursday

      2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        -- as morons can't wander over and disturb you. --

        OK, how do you stop the non-morons (aka wife) wandering over and asking you to put a plug on this, take the dog for a walk, look after junior whilst she nips to the shop etc?

        1. Robin

          OK, how do you stop the non-morons (aka wife) wandering over and asking you to put a plug on this, take the dog for a walk, look after junior whilst she nips to the shop etc?

          Maybe have a grown-up discussion about it? e.g. in my home working scenario, we have an agreement that if the door to this 'office' room is closed then I'm working on something from which I can't be disturbed, otherwise I'm fair game for interruptions. And I usually say at the start of the day what time is good for lunch together.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      People who think work from home is good for productivity have actual demonstrable proof that it is, in fact, good for productivity.

      The only people who are against it invariably have significant commercial real estate holdings.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There is a specific sort of employee who can't wait to get back into the office. They know brown nosing is the only reason they're keeping their job and they need to get back in the office and get it inserted.....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The only people who are against it invariably have significant commercial real estate holdings."

        This this this... it isn't hard to work it out... just follow the ca$h !

      3. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Whether it is productive is debatable. It depends on the person doing it. It also depends how effective their line manager is, and their job. A cleaner or porter can't generally work from home, but an office worker, programmer or tech support bod probably could. My company is divided into teams, and during the first lockdown, I needed something from the leader of one of the other teams. Teams was the only way I could contact him. Which failed, because he had not signed in to Office 365 in over 30 days (as Teams told me when I tried to contact him).

        I did complain (the fact I couldn't contact him caused real problems for me), but, TBH, I don't know if anything happened because his line manager at the time was a little ineffectual.

    3. Handlebars

      If you can't motivate your staff to put in a fair days work that's nothing to do with where they are located.

      1. Spanners Silver badge
        FAIL

        Time

        I have noticed that many people put, at least some of, the time they spent on commuting in to work as well as the 7.5 hours or whatever that they worked in the office.

        That is not including the lack of micromanagers, personal networking and the now barely taken breaks. I would suggest we get between 5 and 10% more time off them. If they want radio1 playing at home, that is up to them and it no longer irritates the others.

        I had wondered for a while what the reason for "calling workers back in" was until I heard someone suggest that this is entirely related to how much money is spent upon the big shiny head office! Not having seen the figures, I can't confirm or deny the idea that it is a direct relationship between (cost of office) and (senior management's enthusiasm for return). That does make sense though.

    4. Max Pyat
      1. SundogUK Silver badge

        Upvoted for username, not comment.

    5. Kane
      Joke

      "identity politics drivers, equity preachers, tech bubble enthusiasts, cheap money advocates and power point fans.

      Sounds like a variation on buzzword bingo to me.

    6. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Personally, I think, for me, WFH has pros and cons.

      The Pros are that I can get up just before 9am, have a little breakfast, fire up my PC an work. No transport to worry about, and people have to make a real effort to talk to me. They can't just pop in the office. They can contact me via email or teams, but the fact they need to do that seems to cut down on the interruptions.

      The Cons are that because I have no room in my house for an office, my PC is in my bedroom. I can't escape work by going home because I am already at home. This means I frequently work on stuff in the evenings, and at weekends, which isn't good from a mental health point of view. Because me "leaving work" involves just logging out and going to a different room, I also don't have time to wind down. I was told ages ago (by a Psychologist) that the journey to and from work can be important because it gives us time away from others, where we can prepare ourself for work, or wind own after work. Don't get me wrong, I travel on South Eastern Railways. I *know* travel involves it's own stresses, but it does give me an hour where I can totally forget about work, and just think about what I want.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        @Stuart Castle

        For WFH you really need a separate "work" room for it to not affect you. Though, with lack of space, I use a bedroom and its fine as outside of work (and sleep) I'm not using that room so don't feel need to do work at random hours. Partner knows not to disturb me during work day (though we arrange to have lunch & a walk together at lunch time)

        If you miss the train to work "peace", then get up earlier & go for a walk - I try and get a bit of a fresh air stroll before work - especially as the 1 drawback of WFH is less walking about in working day compared to large office space.

        I prefer WFH as not got the commute time waste & mental hassle (office is only viable by car as its one of those "mile or 2 off motorway" industrial park sites and 50 miles away so a long & stressful journey) - really notice productivity increase as not feeling partly mentally drained due to the drive. The lack of interruptions is also good for productivity.

  2. Someone Else Silver badge

    Hypocrites!

    Especially for "Meta", who (at least to their shareholders) are hyping exactly that capability they wish to destroy locally.

    Do as I say, not as I do
    ...never worked for parents, and is not likely to work for corporations that wish to position themselves in loco parentis, either.

    1. Mayday
      Devil

      Re: Hypocrites!

      Indeed.

      Makes me wonder what this “metaverse” products(s) is actually for. Now - I am actually wondering but not enough to cause me any real concern or lack of sleep.

  3. fromxyzzy

    Proof, if proof were needed, that they have no faith in their own product.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      " they have no faith in their own product"

      The product is for the plebs to fork out for. It has no other purpose, and whether it 'works' or not is irrelevant provided they continue paying up. That's commerce, and doesn't apply to the workplace so no faith is needed..

  4. Tim Hines

    How many people work here?

    ... about half...

    1. Snowy Silver badge
      Joke

      and then for only half the time.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        If you remember the final scenes of the movie 9 to 5 starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, when they all walk into the office way past normal hours, when the men think it should be 'safe' to do so, the office is full of workers doing shifts on their own schedule.

        Hey, it only took 4 decades but maybe we will actually end up there, eventually.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I remember that being attributed to Ken Olsen before I joined DEC which makes it very old indeed…

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back it up with facts

    And, as usual, the metrics to show how much more productive we were when we were in the office are nowhere to be seen. The old anecdotes about "I bumped into someone and had a really interesting chat" are not data, they're you admitting you're not organised enough to do your job properly.

    If you can't find anything that validates your plan in a centuries worth of data it's because the data doesn't support your plan.

    1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: Back it up with facts

      I'm sure I'll get shot for this but I've seen a lot of comments about how much more productive working at home is but no actual facts and figures. Just saying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Back it up with facts

        The 2-3 years of successful wfh during covid shutdown isn't enough?

        Companies were reporting (sometimes record) profits during that period. That's apparently the universally agreed-upon definition of success at big corporations -- what else do you want?

    2. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Back it up with facts

      People keep saying this but it's bollocks. The current metrics are useless as there is nothing like enough data yet. Give it five years and we will have a pretty good idea of whether WFH is more or less productive than in-office.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Back it up with facts

        Nonsense. There is already several years of data about WFH during the pandemic.

        And aside from executives over-hiring, in their misplaced exuberance not unlike the dot-com era, the real-world "test" worked out pretty well. At worst WFH was on par with in-office for most, and an improvement more often than not. Many companies reported record profits during this time, and many CEO's banked larger than usual bonuses.

        It's the post-lockdown behavior of many of those same executives which is turning out to be short-sighted bollocks.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Back in the real world we've rented all this office space and it looks a bit silly if we're not using it.

  7. RobThBay

    building tribal knowledge

    In these daze of political correctness and snowflakes can we still "tribal knowledge"?

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: building tribal knowledge

      You are okay so long as the Board and Management still practice all of the rituals of the company's forefathers: the symbolic collection of The Timesheets, the Monthly Sacrifice of the Junior Staff performed by HR...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: building tribal knowledge

        The picturesque ceremony of the changing of the TPS report covers

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: building tribal knowledge

      Maybe one day there could be a business which actually documents things in the first place instead of labouring under the belief that elder forefathers and younglings must meet by divine chance at the hallowed water cooler place and sacred serendipity in whom we have always trusted will ensure that the mystic incantations will be passed down.

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: building tribal knowledge

        But their ISO9001 cert describes the Water Cooler Process (rev 3, 2018) and it would cost too much to re-issue it and have an extra out of rotation audit.

  8. raving angry loony
    Facepalm

    Oh look, hypocrite boss is hypocrite. [shockedpikachuface]

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Well, he's not a defender of the Metaverse. More like an unwanted parasite that will pollute and destroy it before it's even managed to mature into a "thing".

  9. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Handshake on the golf course

    "this tension between organizations and their employees will need to be addressed at some point"

    Oh, it is being addressed. They want five days in the office, and they _will_ get there eventually. In order not to cause a worker stampede for the exits, they are all phasing in the hated three days a week requirement _together_. The only mysterious part of the process is how they decide which company goes first. Perhaps a rock, paper, scissors tournament? Or maybe they take turns -- "Last time I did the employee layoffs first, you go first on the three days a week."

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Handshake on the golf course

      On the other hand, based on the comments in the article and the various "outs" suggested, Facebook at least, don't seem to be going with a hard and fast "everybody at their desks Mon-Weds, or else!" and have left wiggle room for those who are clearly better or as good when WFH based on experience, length of service etc. And they do specifically pull out those who joined remotely and may have not ever met their colleagues face to face. If, and it's a huuuuge, "if", Facebook stick to what the article describes and managers have authority, leeway and the ability to be fair, I could see it working quite well. On the gripping hand, it's Facebook and their toxic culture, so I don't hold out much hope for it not turning into a tick-box exercise with no leeway at all.

      I say this as a remote field based guy of 20+ years who rarely ever meets other employees of the same company other than on Teams once in a while and am fully in favour of being left alone to just get on with the job with no hassle from manglement :-)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll admit:

    I go to an office 3 days a week in London. 1st time in 4 years.

    Takes ~3hrs per day door to door, making my "working" day 12 hours on those days.

    I still do "12 hour days" on Monday and Friday too, They're nowhere near as full on /back to back as T/W/Th, but I *DO* get more done on the WFH days, I just spread it out over 12 hours instead of 9 (and again, I get more done in the WFH 12)

    Why do I do it? They stumped up £200 /day over market rate (for all days) and as a contractor, outside, that made it less unpalatable. Would I stay if they dropped the rate? No. Would I take a rate cut for fully WFH? Possibly.

    Will the next one be "hybrid"? almost certainly not. I plan to move to the countryside and live off Starlink and remote gigs.

    Do I worry about the trend of increasing "hybrid" a bit, but not much. Threats of "you may as well be offshore" don't scare me, I've been the offshore on US contracts, I'm already there!

    Follow the money: these companies who want you onsite have some sort of link to commercial property: they are stuck in a lease or they are invested.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: as a contractor, outside

      If your end client mandates the work scheme then you are no longer "outside" IR35 as now your client exerts Direction, Supervision & Control (SDC) over where and when the work is done.

      In a genuine outside IR35 engagement, other than where the specific nature of the work necessitates a specific time or place of work (such as working a a test engineer for certain equipment, which can only be done in a lab, or working with classified data which must be done on a security accredited site), it's the contractor who decides where and when to complete the work. If the end client tells you when you have to be in the office (irrespective of whether the task requires it) then you're under the client's SDC, you're behaving like an employee and your role is inside, irrespective what any SDS might say.

      A lot of supposedly "outside" contract jobs come with the stipulation of certain days in-office, often even the same they also mandate for their own employees. Which right there puts the whole assignment inside IR35.

      And increasingly also into HMRC's focus.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well done - the world needs TWATS - Tuesday Wednesday And Thursday

      If only more Twats were in charge of the country….. oh they are but they don’t seem to be the right kind of twat

  11. DS999 Silver badge

    This is a good way to conduct stealth layoffs

    Rather than announcing you're cutting thousands of employees and having to pay severance, just announce they will have to work in the office three days a week. Some will be upset enough about that to quit, but you don't owe them any severance!

    If anyone they deem too important resigns over this, they'll make an exception for them but probably tell them not to tell anyone else they got a special deal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is a good way to conduct stealth layoffs

      It's never "stealth" when it is straight from the IBM playbook.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: This is a good way to conduct stealth layoffs

        It is stealth in terms of avoiding the reporting requirements under US law that would be triggered if they laid off a few thousand people instead of having a few thousand people quit.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: This is a good way to conduct stealth layoffs

          It's also better for the business. If you have redundancies it's upto idiot managers to choose who to let go, and these decisions are all based on age/race/who the manager doesn't like the look of.

          By those who wfh quitting they are automatically self-selecting for the ones who are most confident they can get a job somewhere else. Since you don't want the sort of employees that other people would hire - you are automatically ahead

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: This is a good way to conduct stealth layoffs

            "By those who wfh quitting they are automatically self-selecting for the ones who are most confident they can get a job somewhere else. Since you don't want the sort of employees that other people would hire - you are automatically ahead"

            Your second sentence seems to be saying the opposite of the first. Surely those most confident[*] of getting hired elsewhere are the better staff you don't want to leave?

            [^], yes, there will be percentage of those overconfident types too, especially sales and marketing types who you'll be glad to see the back of at no cost in redundancy payments :-)

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: This is a good way to conduct stealth layoffs

              > Surely those most confident[*] of getting hired elsewhere are the better staff you don't want to leave?

              Obviously not a management fast-tracker

    2. Snowy Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: This is a good way to conduct stealth layoffs

      What happens if the too important to resign has already got another job and does not want to stay?

      1. Excused Boots Bronze badge

        Re: This is a good way to conduct stealth layoffstring two or

        Well actually nothing, as the managers will be totally ignorant of just how valuable the employee in question (let’s call them Jill) is to the long term profitability of the company is!

        Anyway, if the company collapses in the next year on the grounds that Jill is no longer there and nobody else understands how it all works, on the grounds that since she left the hiring has been on the basis of ‘can you string five words together into a coherent sentence, yes? You’re hired!’, so be it!!!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next time there's a deployment or the shit hits the fan...

    ... insist on an hour-long taxi trip to the office to connect to the same remote production servers that you do when at home.

  13. bertkaye

    forward to the future

    I plan to get rich selling Metaverse printing paper and disposable virtual paper coffee cups that sit in that pop-out cup holder at the top of your tower PC. I haven't yet quite figured out the logistics of virtual reality laser toner but when I do I will clean up the market.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: forward to the future

      "I haven't yet quite figured out the logistics of virtual reality laser toner but when I do I will clean up the market."

      If you want to clean up, make sure the virtual container is spill-proof :-)

  14. Joobloo

    Zuck admits Metaverse is dead

    So Zuck is admitting the metaverse is dead, meetings can't be productive unless you're physically sat in a room together. It was all a horrible dream and he's really sorry he killed the stock and sacked everyone. Now it's back to high fives and chest bumps and the accountant has given him a stern word about the offices looking as dead as his ideas and to 'at least get people to sit in them' to attract spinoff sales.

    1. SuperGeek

      Re: Zuck admits Metaverse is dead

      "So Zuck is admitting the metaverse is dead". A narcissist NEVER admits fault. Only someone else's.

    2. Excused Boots Bronze badge

      Re: Zuck admits Metaverse is dead

      Unfortunately reality has a nasty habit of intervening and showing you up as being a compete twat, irrespective of how much money you have or how important you think your are!

  15. jvf

    Finally

    Is common sense starting to prevail? Maybe not all the suits are as dumb as we think. As I’ve been saying all along: “stop whining and get back to work”.

  16. Furbian
    Coat

    A deeper perpective...

    Undoubtedly working from has shown to be better, hardly a study disagrees with it, My workplace requires managers to allow one day from home, up to a maximum of four, though a manager can decide for this to be zero, which was the case, until my new one decided he'd like me two days a week, which are not quite full days either. Problem is that not all others are in on the same days, so out of the few who would be in our area, typically it's just two. Now in the old days, I worked for large consultancies, you could tap an expert on the shoulder and they'd save you hours of time, and you could do the same for someone else. I miss that, but then again they made me commute thousands of miles every year. Now my commute is a bike ride of less than half an hour, and the team, within a huge organisation, is small and doesn't have that many other experts anyway. Yes, I do get less work done on-site. My story, is probably not like anyone else's, but probably has parallels.

    True, big landlords want their tenants back, but the support industry, the cafe's the shops around the office, now have a reduced income and may need fewer people. Then again home shopping might increase and shift the jobs to local shops and online warehouses (that are being automated more and more, but let's not talk about automation here).

    Another angle, Covid-19 gave a unique opportunity to study mass home working and the idea of BMI (not weight index, basic minimum income). I digress here a little, it was squandered by political hubris though, simply giving everyone with an NI number £1k a month, no messing around with giving it through companies and business loans, near zero extra admin costs, but no, they had to enrich/look after their wealthy voter base with £2.5k payments, whilst those on the other end ended up with less than £400 a month, and the business loan fund was looted like an ATM throwing out money.

  17. MikeTheHill

    Why can't each group decide?

    Three days a week is pretty arbitrary. If you trust a group to define, create and release a product or feature, surely you can trust them to self-manage how much time they spend physically together?

    A group might decide that in the early product development stage they all need to be in the same room, but during the mid-phases when the project is well defined and delivery targets are being met, maybe no physical meetings are required. Then as it gets closer to release date and maybe during release the group decides they really want to be together so they can instantly react and problem solve if something goes wrong. In short, the need to be physically together, is very fluid.

    And I'm sure many of these groups have highly experienced developers, project managers and product managers who hardly benefit from micromanagement from on high.

    Yet strangely, Zuck has this epiphany, that only a genius could get, that three days a week in the office is the perfect number for everyone.

    Is there anyone more out of touch with reality and clouded by their own narcissism?

    1. hayzoos

      Re: Why can't each group decide?

      "Is there anyone more out of touch with reality and clouded by their own narcissism?"

      There is a good chance the answer is yes. I can think of a few. But, Zuck does put in a strong showing.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Meta is consolidating all of its offices worldwide into one?

    How will people work together if they can’t all be together in the same office? And what’s with these newfangled clay tablets when the stone ones were just fine?

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