Why remote workers are at risk of getting axed first in tech downturn

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Working from home may provide comfort but not job security.

Tech employees who work remotely risk getting axed over their in-person colleagues as tiny startups and Big Tech firms alike get squeezed by rising interest rates and plummeting stock prices, hiring experts tell The Post.  

Techies looking to hold onto their jobs should therefore consider ditching their pajamas and getting back into the office if they want to hold onto their jobs, the experts say. 

“Managers believe employees who work remote are lower performers than those that come to the office,” Brian Kropp, chief of human resources research at the consulting firm Gartner, told The Post. “They will on average be more likely to lay off those who are working remote than those who are coming into the office.” 

“Simply put: it’s out of sight, out of mind,” he added.

The news comes as tech workers are getting jittery about their jobs. Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta implemented a hiring freeze earlier in May, while smaller firms including Netflix, Peloton, Robinhood, Carvana and Gopuff have all laid off employees in recent months.

On Blind, an anonymous corporate message board with verified members, tech workers have been fretting about layoffs and the potential end of remote work in recent weeks. 

“Will recession / layoffs bring everyone back to office?” one employee of software firm Carta wrote in late April. 

“Yes it will, no doubt,” a Google employee responded. 

“Can’t go into an office if you’re laid off,” another Google employee quipped. 

In a separate thread, an Apple employee wrote that tech companies missing revenue targets and making layoffs are a “dream come true for [the return to office] lobby.” 

Michael Solomon, who manages software engineers and tech executives through his talent firm 10x Management, told The Post that remote work is a “great tie breaker” for bosses deciding which employees to lay off. 

“Managers believe employees who work remote are lower performers than those that come to the office,” Brian Kropp of Gartner told The Post.
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“If I’m evaluating who I’m going to get rid of, I might choose to keep the person who’s in the office and is near me all the time,” Solomon said.

But Solomon added that the best tech employees will be safe regardless of whether they schlep into the office. 

“If all things are equal, the person in the office might have an advantage,” Solomon said. “But if you’re a top performer, I don’t think it makes a bit of difference.” 

Google
“Can’t go into an office if you’re laid off,” one Google employee quipped. 
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According to Kropp, women work from home more frequently than men. If companies axe employees based on whether employees work in-person, they therefore risk ending up with a male-dominated workforce, he said.

“If we’re not really careful as organizations are laying people off, there’s likely to be gender bias in terms of the people that they lay off,” the HR expert said.

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