Half of Dell US staff reportedly opted for remote work

Reduced promotion prospects for those involved, and some already eyeing up the exit route

Return to office (RTO) mandates don't work, at least not for a reported 50 percent of Dell staff in the US, some of whom are prepared to let go of promotion hopes and start looking for alternatives that offer more flexibility.


Study finds a quarter of bosses hoped RTO would make employees quit


According to Business Insider's calculations, based on its analysis of the PC maker's internal workforce data, months after Dell told employees to come back to their corporate desks, as The Register exclusively revealed, things perhaps aren't working out for everyone involved.

We have asked Dell to comment.

At the start of the pandemic, Dell chief operating officer Jeff Clarke said that for the majority of its 165k staff members, working life would never be the same and they wouldn't be going back into the office regularly.

That proclamation in August 2020 didn't hold water for long, and within three years, employees living within an hour's commute of a major Dell office were asked to come back for at least three out of five days a week. They could still choose those days.

A "Return to Office" notification was dispatched to all staffers in February this year, classifying most as hybrid workers – which means it is now compulsory to work at a Dell desk for 39 days a quarter, or three days a week. Those below a certain pay grade could choose to be fully remote.

Some staff interpreted this policy as a stealth layoff, and we were told that opting to work remotely meant not funding on-site team meetings, no career advancement or movement inside the company, and that working offsite would be considered when choosing who would be the target for workforce reductions.

The Reg was told that 17 offices locations in the US and internationally would be off limits for those that opted-in to work remotely in March.

Just last month, Dell informed hybrid workers that it will use electronic badge swipes, VPNs and a color-coding system to track their agreed on-site compliance, and that those who don't make the grade will see their cases escalated.

The ratings included:

  • Blue flag indicates "consistent onsite presence"
  • Green flag indicates "regular onsite presence"
  • Yellow flag indicates "some onsite presence"
  • Red flag indicates "limited onsite presence"

Dell now employs 120,000 people globally. The data accessed and collated by Business Insider indicates that one-third of staff outside of the US decided to work remotely.

"I benefited a lot from being WFH since 2020 and had a lot of personal growth. I'm not willing to give that up if I don't have to," one Dell worker told the publication. "With the salary that we are receiving, a return to the office would leave a huge hole in our budget," another was quoted as saying.

working from home and the office - hybrid work

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Like many other tech businesses, Dell thinks staff work better when together, sharing information, etc. It isn't alone. AWS, Meta, IBM, Google, and many, many others all seem to agree. Salesforce's boss Marc Benioff famously said RTO mandates "are never going to work," before he promoted a return to the communal desks amid fears younger staff and newbies weren't being assimilated into the corporate culture.

This is despite research indicating that employees are happier when they have the flexibility to choose which location they work from, and another study indicating there are no productivity or profit benefits to be gained from demanding staff work in a designated office.

One trend has emerged, though, and it was flagged previously: those forced to comply with these mandates aren't happy and they will look for something elsewhere, meaning tech companies could be losing talent for little gain. ®

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