DropBox executive shares why employers should not force workers back in the office

'These retreats and off-sites and things like that are often a lot more effective than asking people to commute'

DropBox executive shares why employers should not force workers back in the office

Employers should not be forcing workers to report back to the workplace, according to DropBox CEO Drew Houston.

Doing so is simply bad for business, Houston said in talking with The Verge. And many employers are making this mistake.

“They keep mashing the ‘Go back to 2019’ button, and they see it’s not working. Then they just push harder, and then you have this really toxic relationship,” he said.

“I don’t see that coming back.”

RBC, Amazon and numerous other employers have previously asked their workers to be in the office more often.

Giving people flexibility

Previously, the company enjoyed an “awesome space” with “awesome food” and “an incredibly vibrant in-person community,” said Houston in talking with The Verge.

But the pandemic meant everyone went remote overnight. And in the end, “it worked a lot better than we thought,” he says.

While appreciating the value of the in-person experience and meeting face-to-face, Houston says you can also get a lot done on Zoom. So, how how do we get the best of both worlds?

“How do we give people that flexibility but also keep the human part, the team cohesion, and build relationships and trust and all the things that are hard to do on Zoom? Also, how do we avoid the worst of both worlds, which is this two-, three-day hybrid compromise?” he says in the Verge article.

“The problem with that — I mean there are many problems with that — but one is you’re still on a leash to whatever the office space is. You can’t live outside commuting distance. Maybe you’re commuting less, but you’re still spending a lot of time in a car or train or whatever, which is a totally dead time.”

Plus, the company might not appreciate paying for a 70 percent vacant office space, says Houston.

“If it’s unsynchronized, it’s totally self-defeating because then you’re commuting to a half-empty office. What’s the point? What’s happened since is even worse. It’s like, “Well, I’m commuting to a half-empty office to literally be back in the same Zoom meeting, which I can come back to.’”

What is the 90/10 rule for Dropbox CEO?

As a result, DropBox has a workforce of about 2,600 people, and they work remotely 90 per cent of the time.

“We decided not to be 100 percent remote because you lose the in-person part. We decided to be 90 percent. Then, 10 percent is really a more concentrated dose of human connections.”

For that 10 per cent, DropBox does not ask employees to come to the office only to attend meetings via Zoom. Houston said that employers should make that in-person time more meaningful.

“So, don’t just do Zoom things when you’re together as you would in-office — really think about when you think about the most memorable experiences in your working career.”


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