Will job losses in big tech companies call a halt to hybrid working?

An economic downturn in Silicon Valley could have unseen consequences for new ways of working as future-of-work pioneers take a tumble and shed jobs

November is turning out to be the cruellest month for jobs in the tech sector. Meta’s announcement that it is cutting of 13 per cent of its workforce has coincided with Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, sacking half its personnel. Meanwhile, Apple, Amazon and Google have seen US $2trn in stock market value wiped out in the last 12 months.

The Economist reports that, according to data provider Crunchbase, more than 60,000 American techies have been shown the door in 2022.

Given that the biggest beasts of global tech are such prominent players in defining the future of work and such ready investors in workplace experience, what should the workplace sector make of such a dizzying downturn?

‘Building a great physical workplace can’t paper over the cracks of a flawed business plan’

The first point to make is perhaps the most obvious one: building a great physical workplace can’t paper over the cracks of a flawed business plan and a toxic workplace culture, not matter how much money you throw at your office.

Big tech stumbled over the emergence of the hybrid model, unsure whether to mandate people back to the office or go all-out on choice and flexibility. Smaller companies have capitalised on the employee need for a more tailored and personalised working environment; many have found themselves attracting top talent as a result. To read more about how small to medium companies can offer a great workplace experience, access our series about SME workplaces here.

The second point to make is that those high-profile tech job losses could well be pivotal in wresting control back to the employer, and away from the employee who appeared to enjoy new freedoms and bargaining power amid staff shortages in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.

In periods of economic instability and political turmoil, topped off with an energy crisis and full-blown war in Europe, it is perhaps unsurprising that employees should be in a less powerful position than before.

Whether this new precariousness turns a trickle of workers returning to the office into a torrent remains to be seen. But downturns generally spell only one thing – employees feeling less secure in their ability to secure other roles or risk their careers. And research tells us that most business leaders favour a future that is office-based. Elon Musk’s ultimatum to Twitter staff that ‘we will need to be extremely hardcore’ is a case in point.

Management Today reports that a number of high-level executives are using the current economic dark clouds to persuade employees back to the office. They back this up with a new survey by LinkedIn which suggests that C-suite executives from the UK are concerned that the downturn will damage flexible working: 75 per cent of executives agree that flexible or hybrid working will be affected by the current financial turbulence.

‘C-suite executives are concerned that the downturn will damage flexible working…’

However, given that hybrid work has become so central to worker needs and is associated with better wellbeing and productivity, maybe even the repercussions of the big tech job crunch won’t be enough to stem the flight to flexible demanded by professional workers globally.


In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 16 November 2022.
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