A hot potato: Some Dell employees are fuming about a perceived broken promise regarding working from home. Statements from top executives in 2021 led them to believe they could work from home forever. However, the company now wants them back in the office at least three days per week.

Most of Dell's staff started working strictly from home during the pandemic. The company went to great expense to equip these employees with the tools to do their jobs remotely. At the time, Dell COO Jeff Clarke said the "investment" was such that the company would likely just keep people working from home rather than call them back into the office.

"After all of this investment to enable remote everything, we will never go back to the way things were before," Clarke said in a Q2 2021 earnings call. "Here at Dell, we expect, on an ongoing basis, that 60 percent of our workforce will stay remote or have a hybrid schedule where they work from home mostly and come into the office one or two days a week."

It was a sentiment that even CEO Michael Dell echoed. Dell bragged about company productivity being at an all-time high in a September 2022 LinkedIn blog post, adding that forced office work is "doing it wrong."

Many employees took this to mean they would never have to set foot in the office again. One can imagine the disappointment when Clarke informed everyone via email this week that they would have to start coming back into the office three days per week. Some disgruntled employees have called it a "soft layoff," implying that Dell is only calling them back to the office to shed some employees who would rather quit than return to the office, thus saving the company from having to dole out redundancy compensation.

Clarke said the company would make the transition gradually, and employees would have options and time to work things out regarding their modified work schedules.

"We know many of us have arranged our lives around remote work over the past three years," Clarke said in an internal memo seen by The Register. "This is not a light switch transition. We understand it will take time to prepare and adjust to being in the office more regularly again. This is the beginning of us more clearly defining hybrid work for our company."

Dell is allowing affected workers a loose timeframe to return to the office "as soon as you can arrange it" to ease the transition. The mandate only applies to employees within an hour's commute to the closest Dell office facility. Employees can also choose their three office days.

According to at least one employee, the three-day mandate is inconsistent with Dell's pre-Covid work schedules. Most hybrid employees before the pandemic spent only two days per week in the office. Now it seems to be three days across the board.

Employees have a list of reasons they do not wish to return to Dell offices, including fewer amenities, no child care, shared workspaces, and inadequate parking, resources, and infrastructure. But not all workers agree with the 100% work-from-home "norm."

One 15-year employee stated that since Covid, new hires have gone downhill. He claims that green employees don't get the same training and supervision that makes them good enough at their jobs to work from home effectively.

"It became a joke," said an anonymous employee on TheLayoff forum. "Juniors send memes around about using text is better than phoning people. No initiative to do the work they are given and no one to help them. Because there is no one around them to learn from and their manager is missing and equally as unskilled they just go quiet."