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Back-to-office mandates won't work, says Salesforce's Benioff

As industry and governments push to get workers crammed into commuter trains, glass box edifices, tech boss says: 'Why?'

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has doubled down on his company's stance on working from home and flexible working, that great pandemic debate.

Following widespread WFH enforced by global COVID-19-related lockdowns, opinion is divided between those welcoming the new normal of work-where-you-like and those who see numbers coming through the office door as a proxy for productivity.

Those in the latter camp include Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon – who has taken several opportunities to insist that his staff get back to the office full time – and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who insisted the temptation of coffee and cheese presented a serious threat to the nation's post-Brexit economic success.

Salesforce is no stranger to the debate, having cancelled the lease on an unbuilt 325,000 square foot (30,193sqm) tower. Last year, Brent Hyder, Salesforce president and chief people officer, said that "the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks" as he announced an end to the assumption that most staff would work from the office, and introduced a flexible working plan.

This week CEO Marc Benioff has gone further, saying an enforced return to the old normal won't be successful.

Speaking at a company conference in New York he said: "Office mandates are never going to work," according to Yahoo Finance.

At least from an IT perspective, there may be a sound reason for his thinking. Research from analysts at Gartner found organizations could be missing the boat if they don't accommodate flexible and home working, among the in-demand IT workforce at the very least.

Gartner found that 65 percent of IT employees say whether they can work flexibly will impact their decision to stay or go. For those in Europe, work-life balance trumped compensation in IT workers' decision making. Globally, it is now equal to compensation for the first time in a decade, Gartner found.

But not everyone is onboard with offering employees more choices about where to lay the laptop. Google may push through reductions in pay for employees that sidestep a return to the same office and instead choose to work from home permanently post-pandemic. The search and cloud giant created Work Location Tool in June to calculate the potential wage implications of full-time remote working. ®

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