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Red Hat says staff can stay away from the office forever

Buildings need 'a vibe' and desk-free ‘neighborhoods’ to make them fun for those who decide to come in

IBM's FOSS unit, Red Hat, has publicly said its staff don't need to come back to the office – ever. And if they do decide to return, they'll find collaborative "neighborhoods" await them.

This stance was outlined in a memo this week from senior veep and chief people officer Jennifer Dudeck, who said more than 30 percent of staff worked remotely before a certain pandemic made the practice more widely accepted.

Red Hat was therefore, for a lot of staff, pretty remote-friendly anyway. Now it's publicly confirming, in line with a bunch of its corporate peers, that it's happy to continue on with a mostly remote workforce.

Red Hat said it will offer "the majority of our associates the freedom to be 'office-flex,' where they can come to the office as much as they need to, or not at all if they choose." Senior leaders, however, are encouraged to work from company offices "to interact and learn more."

Dudeck said the policy reflects the fact that some people have excellent reasons – such as immunocompromised loved ones – not to visit the office.

A boundaryless approach to work requires a greater emphasis on psychological safety

"Not being limited by location when hiring provides a much broader opportunity to attract and retain great associates, especially when it comes to diverse talent," she added, before noting that the FOSS community collaborates without physical interaction and does so with famous success.

Dudeck's post includes a section headed "The office is a vibe" that explains Red Hat has figured out that offices need to be more than a place people go to work.

"With the majority of our associates having the flexibility to decide when they would like to use the office, we realized it needed to be a place where associates can connect to Red Hat's culture, collaborate and engage more fully. Simply put, if associates are not going to the office all of the time, it's even more important that it's fun, functional and enjoyable when they do."

That means Red Hat offices will feature "'neighborhoods' where teams gather to work" and which include "far fewer desks and more booths, couches and small collaboration spaces."

Which sounds good for collaboration, and maybe less good for those with couch-compromised spines.

All that openness is accompanied by an "Open Decision Hub" that Dudeck described as "a central place for Red Hatters to participate in active decisions, voice opinions, take part in surveys and trace the history of how and why decisions were made."

"Looking at the Open Decision Hub, associates can see which leaders are driving an issue, what is open for feedback (and what's not) and where we are in the decision process."

Red Hat customers now perhaps know how to get a little leverage – ask who's driving an issue that matters and if it's getting good Hub traction.

Accompanying all of the above is some thinking about how to make the new workplace work.

"A boundaryless approach to work requires a greater emphasis on enabling digital collaboration and psychological safety because inclusion and trust power effective distributed teams," Dudeck wrote.

Red Hat's flexibility policy appears to be maximalist compared to its peers. Apple wants people back three days a week, as does Google. Tesla wants execs to return full time. Salesforce won't mandate a return to the office because CEO Marc Benioff doesn't think it will work.

And NASA has blamed working from home for delays on at least one mission – the VIPER rover that will look for useful chemicals at the Moon's South Pole starting in November 2023. You'd think NASA would be well-equipped to handle remote work – when was the last time Voyager 2 actually showed up in the office? ®

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