Main image of article Is This the End of Big Tech's 'Rest and Vest' Habit?

If you’ve spent enough time in the tech industry, you’ve no doubt heard the term “rest and vest.” For years, a subset of senior technologists at some of the nation’s tech giants were content to sit back, do comparatively little, and still take home enormous paychecks.

“Once she was in rest-and-vest mode, this engineer spent her time attending tech conferences, working on pet coding projects and networking with friends, quietly developing an idea for her next gig, a startup,” is how Business Insider described life for one (anonymous) Facebook engineer on rest-and-vest… and this was in 2017, when the biggest tech companies were pulling down enormous profits and swallowing up significant market-share.

On Blind, which surveys anonymous technologists on a range of issues, a number of companies have been cited as ideal rest-and-vest spots. “Microsoft and Google are excellent retirement homes,” a Facebook employee wrote in one thread. Others called out Adobe and Yahoo.

For the biggest tech companies, rest-and-vest has some strategic advantages. At least in theory, a resting-and-vesting senior engineer is less likely to jump ship for a big rival or a startup; it might cost the company quite a bit in salary and stock, but at least it keeps knowledge and talent firmly in-house.

But this trend might be coming to an end. At Meta (the new name for Facebook, just in case you’ve been sleeping under a rock for most of 2022), which faces economic headwinds and increased competition from TikTok, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that employees are expected to perform their jobs in the most aggressive, efficient manner possible. “I think some of you might decide that this place isn’t for you, and that self-selection is OK with me,” Zuckerberg reportedly told staffers during an internal call. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.”

At Google, any rest-and-vest culture is potentially at risk due to CEO Sundar Pichai’s new drive to boost productivity. “Sometimes there are areas to make progress [where] you have three people making decisions, understanding that and bringing it down to two or one improves efficiency by 20 percent,” he recently told the audience at the Code Conference in Los Angeles, according to CNBC. Whether that means layoffs is up to interpretation—but it’s clear he intends for all Googlers to do more, including senior managers.

Once a few big tech companies do something, others tend to follow. Despite the strategic advantages to rest-and-vest, companies might decide they want their senior technologists burning the proverbial candle from both ends—which means those technologists may need to ramp back up to maximum productivity (or find another job).