Uber is the latest company to offer increasing flexibility for its workforce that has gotten very comfortable with their telecommuting situation.
The ride-hailing and now food-delivery giant announced in April that it expected to bring its employees back to the office at least three days per week as of September. This tracks with what some other tech companies have been planning, however Facebook and Salesforce announced much broader flexibility for their employees surrounding remote work, reflecting the competitive nature of the overall tech sector when it comes to employee recruitment and retention.
Now, Uber is changing its tune somewhat, saying in a company blog post Tuesday that since making that April announcement "we have continued to gather feedback from employees and evaluate our approach."
"It’s still early days as we look to find the right long-term model for Uber, yet we want Uber to continue being a great place for our current and future employees, and that means adapting to different needs and being creative about what is possible," writes Chief People Officer Nikki Krishnamurthy.
The company says it values "in-person collaboration and the community that builds" — and certainly it doesn't want that $130 million campus it just moved into in Mission Bay to go to waste. So, with that in mind, they're altering the policy to say that people can opt to be in-office half the time, which might mean five days in, five days remote, or it might mean three days one week and two days the next.
"So if [employees are] spending half their time in the office, they can spend the other half wherever — working from home, working from a relative’s home around the holidays, or taking a trip and extending their time there to work remotely," says Krishnamurthy.
There will be the option to relocate, Uber says, "choosing from a list of dedicated team hubs, instead of being limited to their pre-pandemic location."
The company also says that it is setting up a system through which workers can apply to be 100% remote, and there will be occasional opportunities for in-person meetings and days to interact with teammates in person.
It should be noted that the blog post was headed up by a shiny image of that new office in Mission Bay, as a kind of enticement at least for SF teams.
Alphabet/Google did something similar, backtracking from an initial announcement about the number of days employees would be required to be back in the office. In early May, the company announced that it expects 60% of its workforce to be coming back to the office at least a few days a week this fall, with 20% relocating to new office locations, and 20% remaining fully remote.
"Before the pandemic, we had thousands of people working in locations separate from their core teams," said Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai at the time. "I fully expect those numbers to increase in the coming months as we develop more remote roles, including fully all-remote sub teams."
Earlier this year, in justifying Uber's initial approach regarding its return to the office, Krishnamurthy said the company was discussing the tradeoffs between more remote work, the competition for talent, and the benefits of in-office collaboration.
"You might optimize more for flexibility, a little bit broader reach for talent anywhere, but will you give up your magic?” she said in an interview with CNN Business. "And we just didn’t want to give up our magic."
I guess the magic will have to happen with some people waving their hands on Zoom for months to come...
Photo courtesy of Uber