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Remote working: Red Hat tells staff they don't have to return to the office

The office is where we 'used to work', says Red Hat's chief people officer.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Getty Images/d3sign

Enterprise Linux heavyweight Red Hat will let its nearly 20,000-strong workforce choose whether or not to come back into the office.  

Red Hat chief people officer Jennifer Dudeck said in a blogpost the maker of the enterprise Linux platform Red Hat Enterprise Linux is going for an "office-flex" model where it allows staff to "come to the office as much as they need to, or not at all if they choose." 

Dudeck notes that some of its "tech peers are pulling employees back to the office", which Red Hat believes isn't essential for success because it sees value in flexibility. 

"With COVID-19 still a concern for associates caring for immunocompromised loved ones, no Red Hatter is required to be in an office if they do not wish to return," wrote Dudeck. 

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Apple this month began requiring staff to be in the office three days a week. Google started its three day return to the office in April but has faced pushback from employees, while Microsoft started its process in February. Elon Musk has demanded Tesla employees are at the office 40-hours a week. Meanwhile, Salesforce co-founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff in June said "office mandates are never going to work"

Arvind Krishna, CEO of Red Hat parent IBM, told CNBC recently only 20% of IBM's US employees are in the office for three days a week or more. He reckons the the figure will never surpass 60%.  

Prior to the pandemic, about 30% of Red Hat's workforce worked remotely, according to Dudeck. 

She said the approach expands flexibility, extends trust, and gives staff the freedom to adapt to work and family needs. It's also good for recruitment in a tight market for high-level IT skills

"The benefits of expanding flexibility also don't just accrue to associates – our approach allows us to unlock a wider talent pool and create a lasting employer-value proposition. Not being limited by location when hiring provides a much broader opportunity to attract and retain great associates, especially when it comes to diverse talent," writes Dudeck.

With staff no longer required to return to the office, Red Hat has also been thinking how to redesign its offices to entice workers back. 

Dudeck, says "the office is where we used to work" but now it must be more — the "office is a vibe", she says — which is why it has been exploring "what makes coming to the office enjoyable and fun."

Red Hat's offices feature "neighborhoods" with "far fewer desks and more booths, couches and small collaboration spaces" and more video-conferencing equipment, so staff can conduct remote meetings from "almost any room".

Google highlighted its new campus featured "neighborhoods", where staff can collaborate and regroup as needed. Dudeck notes that Red Hat's neighborhoods concept was in place prior to the pandemic but is now being expanded. 

Red Hat staff come to its Raleigh, North Carolina headquarters "just for the free yogurt-covered pretzels – and that's ok!", she says. Others come to collaborate and when they need to connect with colleagues. 

"We've spent time exploring what makes coming to the office enjoyable and fun. That's the question to ask if you want to give your office a vibe that facilitates work and connection to one another and your company, and still brings along those who choose not to come back," writes Dudeck. 

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