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.