Snap’s RTO Plan Is Meant To Boost Productivity. It Could Do the Opposite

Nat Rubio-Licht
Nat Rubio-Licht is a freelance reporter with dot.LA. They previously worked at Protocol writing the Source Code newsletter and at the L.A. Business Journal covering tech and aerospace. They can be reached at nat@dot.la.
Snap logo and hq
Photo by rblfmr/ Shutterstock

Snap is the latest major tech company to bring the hammer down on remote work: CEO Evan Spiegel told employees this week that they will be expected to work from the office 80% of the time starting in February.

Per the announcement, the Santa Monica-based company’s full-time workers will be required to work from the office four or more days per week, though off-site client meetings would count towards their in-office time. This policy, which Spiegel dubbed “default together,” applies to employees in all 30 of the company's global offices, and the company is working on an exceptions process for those that wish to continue working remotely. Snap’s abrupt change follows other major tech firms, including Apple, which began its hybrid policy requiring employees to be in the office at least three days per week in September, and Twitter, which axed remote work completely after Elon Musk’s takeover (though he did temporarily close offices amid a slew of resignations in mid-November).


“After working remotely for so long we’re excited to get everyone back together next year with our new 80/20 hybrid model,” a Snap spokesperson said in a statement to dot.LA. “We believe that being together in person, while retaining flexibility for our team members, will enhance our ability to deliver on our strategic priorities of growing our community, driving revenue growth, and leading in AR.”

In a memo to employees, Spiegel said “spending more time together in person will help us to achieve our full potential,” Bloomberg reported. “What each of us may sacrifice in terms of our individual convenience, I believe we will reap in terms of our collective success.”

The move, however, is a complete 180 for Snap, which, like Twitter, once embraced a remote-first policy. And despite Spiegel’s rosy outlook that the change will bring increased productivity, it may have the opposite effect.

In a study of 2,300 full-time U.S. workers published in November by remote work hardware company Owl Labs, the company found employee interest for in-office work fell by 24% between 2021 and 2022. Interest in hybrid and remote work, meanwhile, jumped by 16% and 24%, respectively.

According to Owl Labs CEO Frank Weishaupt, complete overhauls of remote work policies could mar employee retention, trust and morale at tech companies.

“You take a position that you're looking to fill, you create a culture of accountability, and you hire someone to do a role,” Weishaupt said. “Are you hiring them to perform a role and the duties that you outlined? Or are you hiring them to watch them work? Anybody that answers the latter is not thinking about it the right way.”

Not to mention, employees also aren’t afraid to walk if they’re forced to return to their cubicles. The same study found that, if work-from-home flexibilities were taken away, two-thirds of workers would immediately begin searching for a new job, and nearly 40% reported they’d quit outright. At Twitter, for example, Elon Musk’s abrupt return-to-office demands — on top of requiring long hours and “extremely hardcore” work — sent hundreds of employees running for the hills. Though likely less severe than Twitter’s chaos, Snap may be in for a similar exodus, and re-upping its talent may prove difficult.

“It’s quite a(s)tonishing to see this joke of a company that can’t even plan 1 month ahead and won’t hesitate to mess up their employees’ lives,” One Snap employee wrote on Blind, an anonymous forum for verified tech workers.

Another wrote, “Can someone spare a referral, the last straw has been pulled at Snap.”

To that end, roughly 75% of the workers surveyed by Owl Labs said that working from home would make them feel more trusted by their company, and 86% said it would make them feel happier.

“Unhappy employees don't perform as well,” Weishaupt added. “If I came out with a notification to my organization that said ‘You're required to be in the office five days a week,’ I think that we would have a lot of unhappy employees that produce way less than they do right now.”

nat@dot.la

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