Look, boss – Nvidia's still cool with staff working from home

Plus: Stanford prof tells off industry for making decisions based on anecdotal data

If it ain't broke, there's no need to fix it. Or so is the mantra at one of the fastest-growing mature tech companies. Unlike some of its peers, Nvidia still promises flexible working policies.

Rewind to May 2020 when CEO Jensen Huang told Venture Beat he had no issue with staff wanting to work from home permanently, or mixing it up with hybrid work. Clearly he was talking about corporate staff, not those working in the fabs.

Yet where many others that espoused that view are rowing back WFH freedoms, Nvidia's policy remains unchanged.

Beau Davidson, veep of employee experience at Nvidia, recently told Commercial Observer that it is still running a "flexible work environment for employees worldwide". He described it "as a way for employees to balance their personal and work obligations, while preparing for the future, so they can focus on doing their life's work."

The company refused to say how many employees are working from home offices or coming in for meetings on occasion but Davidson said it is "seeing a healthy and growing flow of employees coming on site."

Nvidia finds itself in a unique position, supplying 95 percent of the world's datacenter chips for AI model training. The company's share price has risen threefold in the past 12 months and simply can't make enough product, and everything it makes is already sold before it leaves the factory floor.

Tech peers also started with flexible work policies during the pandemic. Dell, for example, said the majority of its 165,000-strong workforce would never work the way they had prior to COVID-19. In May this year, The Reg revealed Dell was U-turning on this commitment.

Dell's not alone: Amazon called 300,000 white collar worker back to the office this year; Meta told everyone including engineers they work better when in-person, and even Salesforce started to question the productivity of newbies that were working remotely.

DevOps darling Atlassian said this year WFH mandates destroy staff innovation and morale, and studies have shown that many employees view commuting to work every day as an expensive waste of time, and they can produce work to the same standard when at home.

Some employers including Amazon, Meta and Tik Tok are monitoring how many times staff come into the office each week, and are threatening to make this an HR issue should compliance not be achieved. Recruiters are themselves now saying that strict adherence to work from office rules means there is a slowing of job hiring among tech execs.

So, is remote work as productive, or even more productive, than working from the office? Yes, according to Nick Bloom, William Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy.

He wrote in The Hill that WFH saves on "commuting time more than offset the losses in connectivity from fewer office days." He reckons fully remote work can impede mentoring and culture building but good management should rectify this.

It drives down office costs and allows for national or global hiring. In studies that Bloom was involved with, he noted that productivity grew by double digits as remote workers often work for longer hours, take fewer sick days and create greater output when not operating in a noisy office. Oh, and staff quit rates also reduced.

Bloom wrote: "The work-from-home conversation needs to shift from big-name CEO anecdotes and stories to data and research. When it comes to making decisions impacting millions of employees and firms, we deserve better. The data and research show well-managed work from home can raise and maintain productivity, while cutting costs and raising profits.

He added: "It keeps employees happy, reduces pollution by cutting billions of commuting miles, and supports millions of employees with care and disability challenges in work. Indeed, what is not to like?"

Trials of a shorter working week seemed to go well this year, but one ISP decided to cancel its own trial for a four-day working week after six months, saying it made staff more stressed to complete the same amount of work in a shorter timeframe.

Simon Blackler, founder at Krystal, reportedly told customers: "While the outcome isn't what we expected, I'm glad that we tried. Our heart was in the right place and the exercise hasn't been a total failure. After listening to feedback we've made a major adjustment I hope will improve staff work-life balance with fewer trade-offs — staff can now finish at 5pm instead of 6pm and have more evening time." ®

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