Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: No Positives to Long-Term Remote Work

Many technologists are upbeat about the future of remote work, but don’t count Netflix CEO Reed Hastings among them. The head of the streaming giant told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview that he really, really dislikes how COVID-19 has forced entire offices to work remotely. 

“I don’t see any positives,” he said. “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative. I’ve been super impressed at people’s sacrifices.”

However, he also thinks that, for a majority of workers, a more flexible office schedule is here to stay. “If I had to guess, the five-day workweek will become four days in the office while one day is virtual from home. I’d bet that’s where a lot of companies end up,” he said, while joking that Netflix employees will head back to the office “twelve hours” after a COVID-19 vaccine is actually approved. 

Hastings isn’t the only tech CEO who dislikes remote work. In a May interview with The New York Times, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella voiced concerns that full-time remote work could have negative psychological consequences for employees. “What does mental health look like? What does that connectivity and the community building look like?” he asked. “One of the things I feel is, hey, maybe we are burning some of the social capital we built up in this phase where we are all working remote. What’s the measure for that?”

Like Hastings, Nadella was also big on the idea of interacting face-to-face: “What I miss is when you walk into a physical meeting, you are talking to the person that is next to you, you’re able to connect with them for the two minutes before and after.”

But technologists seem to like working from home. In Dice’s ongoing Sentiment Survey, the most popular benefits of working remotely include boosted productivity, more time for in-depth work and thinking, and the chance to avoid office politics. On a personal level, respondents also liked the money they saved by not having to commute, as well as the chance to control their office environments. 

When asked about their preferred mix of remote and in-office work, the substantial majority of respondents found a flexible schedule (i.e., some days in the office, some days working from home) extremely desirable; many were also fans of working from home all the time. Relatively few liked the idea of working in the office full-time.

Some tech firms have already pivoted to embrace employees’ desire to work remotely. Facebook and Twitter, for example, announced fairly early in the pandemic that the majority of employees would no longer have to head into the office on a daily basis; however, Facebook also announced that employees who took advantage of this remote-work option might need to take a pay cut if they moved someplace with a lower cost of living.   

But comments from Hastings and Nadella make clear that not all CEOs intend on shifting to an all-remote workplace. Once the pandemic subsides, trust that these leaders will make an aggressive effort to get their employees back to their desks—although they might be open to negotiations over working remote some days of the week. 

7 Responses to “Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: No Positives to Long-Term Remote Work”

  1. “Facebook also announced that employees who took advantage of this remote-work option might need to take a pay cut if they moved someplace with a lower cost of living.”

    This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve heard since the pandemic began (so it’s not surprising that it came from FB). Basing someone’s salary on their physical location or cost of living? Aren’t two employees with the same job title, same education, same work experience, and same level of productivity worthy of the same salary? Just because someone moves to a lower-cost area doesn’t suddenly mean their work is less valuable to the company does it? Certainly the company does not experience a commensurate decrease in revenue as a result of an employee living in a less expensive area?

    Is the converse also true? If I work remotely but then move to a more expensive city, am I entitled to a salary increase? How about if I stay in the same city, but I move into a more expensive house? Or buy a more expensive car? Or drink more expensive wine? Should all of thee qualify me for a salary increase?

    • @PG The cost of living is always a consideration when a company sets its pay scales. When you have to be physically in the company offices, this is mostly hidden because the company takes the local cost of living. But with remote workers, some one could relocate from someplace like San Francisco to Atlanta has basically double their effective income https://www.nerdwallet.com/cost-of-living-calculator/compare/atlanta-ga-vs-san-francisco-ca

      So I twist your questions of equality around. Aren’t two people, regardless of where they live, entitled to the same rent for the same size apartment? The same transportation costs? The same price for a gallon of milk?

      Also, your examples of more expensive house, car, choice of wine are standard of living increases not cost of living. Cost of living is the level of prices relating to a range of everyday items. Standard of living is the degree of wealth and material comfort available to a person or community.

    • A company does not consider cost of living when setting wages, it only considers “market wages”. If the company does not pay enough, no one will apply for the job or the workers will apply to a different company. It is interesting that FB is so concerned about employee location. I wonder what they would pay if I was living in a tent?

  2. I’ve been working remote for an implementation partner since 2016 and would never go back to the office full time. There simply isn’t any reason to with the technologies we can utilize for meetings, the vastly increased productivity, the time back from commutingin and the fact that cloud apps make access much to tools much easier. Of course person to person in the office is needed to build and maintain personal relationships. Communication skills also need to updated to account for loss of emotional intent that can plague text/email and video needs to be utilized more to improve person to person interaction. For me, a 3-4 home/1-2 office day ratio would be the perfect mix.

  3. If you are not an employee that MUST have direct contact with a customer, then remote work is superior in every way for productivity and work freedom. Don’t listen to the IDIOT CEO that is WAY OVER-PAID!

    • Exactly…Some CEO’s or Executives have that old school mindset that everyone must be in one building to be productive. 95% of my interaction with co-workers is by email, phone or WebEx because they are in different area’s of the country. Why should I need to commute to an office?