Atlassian, Airbnb Boost Remote Work as Peers Order Office Return

While many of the largest tech companies are joining a US corporate effort to compel employees back to the office, Atlassian Inc. is among the firms remaining steadfast backers of remote work.

(Bloomberg) — While many of the largest tech companies are joining a US corporate effort to compel employees back to the office, Atlassian Inc. is among the firms remaining steadfast backers of remote work.

Atlassian has committed to a workplace model without mandatory office attendance, Annie Dean, the company’s vice president of “team anywhere,” said in an interview. With more than 11,000 employees, Atlassian is “the largest company in the world committed to distributed work at this scale,” she said.

Remote collaboration with periodic in-person gatherings boosts productivity and allows the Australian-founded software company to recruit better talent, Dean said. More than half of the people hired during the last year live over two hours from an office, she said.

Also holding out against the return-to-office movement is Airbnb Inc., which has said its roughly 6,000 employees can work from anywhere with regular meet-ups structured around product releases. Software company Twilio Inc. has no office-return rules for its 6,400 employees — about 60% of its workforce is in locations where the firm historically hasn’t had offices, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Lawson said in a March interview. Autodesk Inc., Dropbox Inc., Okta Inc. and Gitlab Inc. are other tech employers without mandatory office attendance.

“At a time when many companies are requiring employees to return to the office a certain number of days per week, Autodesk will stay the course and has no plans for corporate return-to-office mandates for hybrid and remote-based employees,” Rebecca Pearce, chief people officer at Autodesk, which had 13,7000 employees as of January, wrote in a blog post.

Before Atlassian, Dean led Meta Platforms Inc.’s remote work initiative. With a three-day-a-week office mandate beginning in September, the social media giant has joined the list of major employers pushing a return to the office. Inc. will require some corporate workers to relocate to meet new office rules. International Business Machines Corp.’s Arvind Krishna said in May that promotions will be rarer for those who aren’t on site. Beyond tech, companies from Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. to BlackRock Inc. have bumped expected in-office time to four days a week.

Read More: Citigroup, Google Among Firms Tightening Return-to-Office Rules

And plenty of firms have backpedaled from their previous positions. Zoom Video Communications Inc. said early last year that most employees would be able to choose whether to work on site or not. Earlier this month, it mandated at least two days a week in the office. Salesforce Inc. Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff, an early public advocate of remote work, has touted the importance of collaborating in person, with some salespeople called back to company offices. 

These new high-profile mandates aren’t showing up in return-to-office data. Attendance was at less than half of pre-Covid levels across 10 of the largest US business districts last week, according to data from Kastle Systems. That figure is roughly unchanged compared with the start of 2023. The San Jose, California area — home to many technology companies — recorded the lowest office attendance in that period at 37.5% of pre-pandemic levels.

Atlassian’s Dean said she doesn’t anticipate that companies will uniformly march toward more restrictive office policies, adding that “a lot of these decisions are not well-grounded in data.” Real productivity problems include “back-to-back meetings, having minimal clarity about what goals you’re trying to move forward, overflowing inboxes, vague processes,” none of which are fixed by simply returning to the office, she said.

–With assistance from Natalie Lung and Matthew Boyle.

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