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At some of tech’s biggest companies, tensions around remote and hybrid work could be on the rise. Many employees want to work from home permanently, without taking any kind of pay cut—while executives want their teams back in the physical office as much as possible. How will it end?

A new article in CNet describes Google employees as “angry” over the search engine giant’s remote-work policies. Although Google CEO Sundar Pichai has instituted a “hybrid” work policy that allows the Google workforce to do their jobs from home for a portion of the week, that’s apparently not enough for a subset of employees. “This feeling that I can't realistically leave the Bay Area and work for Google is enough for me to have decided to leave,” one site reliability engineer told the publication. “It’s the fact that Google doesn't prioritize the needs of human beings. The fact that we have lives outside of work, that people actually have families.”

Compounding the issue is the ease with which some senior Google executives have been granted the ability to work from wherever they want, including New Zealand. Many of those employees who do manage to secure permanent remote-work privileges may also see their salaries slashed, with the amount of decrease determined by a custom-built internal tool

Google isn’t alone in weathering this controversy, of course. Various other tech giants, including Facebook and VMware, have announced that any employees deciding to move from Silicon Valley will see a lighter paycheck as a result. For technologists who have spent the past 15 months working from home without any issues, the idea of a pay cut is annoying at best and intensely demoralizing at worst.

Then you have Apple, which is strictly enforcing a hybrid work model for its workforce. A subset of the company’s employees recently sent a letter to CEO Tim Cook, asking him to allow permanent remote work: “Many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.” Instead of bowing to those employees’ demands, though, the company re-emphasized that hybrid work was the way of its future (with a few exceptions that reportedly require executive sign-off). 

Repeated surveys have found that the majority of technologists actually like the idea of hybrid work. In Dice’s 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report, some 85 percent of technologists found the prospect of hybrid work anywhere from somewhat to extremely desirable. That included 94 percent of younger technologists (i.e., those between 18 and 34 years old), who clearly see the physical office as an opportunity for collaboration and mentorship opportunities. Other Dice surveys have found that technologists generally aren’t willing to take a pay cut for remote work—and only 12 percent have said their companies are slashing pay in exchange for permanent work-from-home

Whatever happens at companies such as Google and Apple, it’s clear that many technologists are okay with a hybrid workweek. But if a company does opt to offer all-remote work, they should think carefully about whether to cut salaries—that’s clearly an unpopular move.