Dell says remote workers must go hybrid if they want any hope of a promotion

Fully remote workers may find themselves lately with the nagging feeling that promotions and plum assignments are passing them by. Now Dell is the latest company to answer that question: They will.  

If remote workers at Dell want to move into a new job or be promoted, they’ll need to become hybrid employees and start coming into the office at least three days a week, according to details first reported by Business Insider.

According to the outlet, Dell instituted a new policy that reclassified all its employees into one of two categories—hybrid or remote workers. Those in the hybrid category are already required to work in a designated office at least 39 days a quarter. Given there are between 62-64 working days a quarter that averages out to about three days a week. Remote employees, as the name suggests, are allowed to work remotely 100% of the time.  

However, that freedom comes with a catch, as a memo released by the company explains. 

“For remote team members, it is important to understand the trade-offs: Career advancement, including applying to new roles in the company, will require a team member to reclassify as a hybrid onsite.” 

A Dell executive who works remotely estimated about 10% to 15% of every team was remote, according to Business Insider. “Dell cared about the work, not the location,” they told the publication. 

Dell did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fortune

The move is the latest in the tech industry’s change of tune about remote work. Over the last year Google, Meta, and Amazon all changed their remote work policies to require employees to come into the office a majority of the week. Dell’s decision, though, spells out added stipulations about how remote employees can expect their careers to progress at the company. 

Dell’s new policy is all the more notable because the company had been supportive of remote work in the past. In 2022, Dell published a blog post extolling the benefits of hybrid work. It set the goal of eventually having “60% of our workforce…operate remotely on any given day.” The post also explained that the company viewed hybrid work as a critical talent magnet. “The business case for hybrid working is based not only in productivity terms, but attracting talent,” it read. 

It appears now that Dell is drawing a distinction between hybrid workers, who work remotely some, but not all days of the workweek, and those who are fully remote.

Since the popularization of remote work during the pandemic, career experts have opined on the consequences not coming into the office can have on an employee’s career. A January study found that in 2023, in-person or hybrid workers got promotions 5.6% of the time while only 3.9% of those working fully remotely did. Younger workers in particular can struggle with fully remote work, because they receive less on-the-job training and less informal learning of the sort that happens from simply observing more experienced colleagues. Remote workers can also get less coaching because it can be harder for managers to deliver critical, but constructive feedback over Zoom. 

Some attribute the practice to what’s known as proximity bias, the idea that senior managers prefer to work with people who are already around them. Those people who happen to be physically closer to the top decision makers at a company get rewarded with better assignments and eventually promotions. But since remote workers are not part of a legally protected class, like workers of a certain ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, there can be little recourse they can take if they believe they are the victim of proximity bias. 

There has been research demonstrating the benefits of remote work, including improved collaboration and team-building. However, questions of increased in-person productivity, which is often the reason cited by senior management for bringing employees back, are not quite as clear-cut. 

Nonetheless, there are some advantages to in-person work—namely an increased familiarity with one’s coworkers. Research has found that spending time in-person can actually increase collaboration in hybrid settings as well, because employees have already built real-world relationships they can translate over to the digital world. Researchers have also demonstrated that an in-person onboarding process can help keep new employees at the company. 

The silver lining for those who want to work remotely is they can still do it at least a few days a week—so far, there doesn’t seem to be evidence that workers who go in five days a week get promoted any faster than those on a hybrid schedule.

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