Despite being beloved by many, pressure is mounting against hybrid and remote work models.
During the pandemic many employees grasped a new level of freedom for the first time: it helped carers stay in the workforce, opened doors to staff who lived more remotely, and improved work-life balances for many.
But bosses want their teams back at their desks where they can see them. Increasingly the biggest names in business, from JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon to Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, are telling their employees that if they don’t return to the office they’ll need to look elsewhere.
And this week, Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin said bosses are less likely to fight for staff who they see in person less often as fears of continuing layoffs mount.
In 2023 alone, more than 240,000 tech industry workers have been laid off, according to data compiled by website Layoffs.fyi. These include staffers at Meta, Amazon and Google.
Workers who aren’t in the office as frequently are more likely to find their name on a layoff list, said Griffin, because they have less of a personal connection with colleagues.
The man worth $36 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index said: “What worries me in a hybrid work environment or work from home environment [is] the cultural or social contract that holds people together in a company is unquestionably weaker.
“We’ve all read about companies that have fired thousands of people on Zoom calls. There’s no sense of ‘That’s Jane who’s worked down the hall with me for years, and I’m going to go the extra distance to keep Jane employed here.’
“It’s like here’s the email to all, here’s the video conference with a bunch of people, and goodbye.”
CEOs including Better.com boss Vishal Garg came under fire for remotely letting workers go, with Garg especially feeling the heat as he made the mass layoffs days before Christmas.
Elsewhere reports surfaced that laid off Twitter employees were simply locked out of their laptops overnight, while ex-Google staffers told Fortune they were sent off-boarding documents via email.
This may become par for the course for hybrid workers, Griffin claimed during a sit down with Bloomberg at the Citadel Securities Global Macro Conference in Miami: “It’s a very different moment in American employment history where I believe the bond between the company and the employee has become far weaker.
“That worries me in terms of the willingness of corporate America to make cuts on their workforce that they just wouldn’t have made at other similar points in the labor market cycle.”
Are more layoffs coming after talent hoarding?
Griffin, who also acts as Citadel’s Co-Chief Investment Officer, added more people could be facing layoffs following talent hoarding during the pandemic.
Meta workers were supposedly “hoarded like Pokemon cards” in order to keep talent out of the hands of competitors, while other tech specialists told Fortune they earned six figures to “do nothing”—some even completed scuba diving qualifications on the company’s time.
The Citadel founder’s prediction of axing hoarded talent was previously voiced by a member of the so-called PayPal mafia, Silicon Valley VC Keith Rabois.
Rabois, who was an executive at PayPal in the early 2000s alongside Tesla CEO Elon Musk, told an event hosted by banking firm Evercore that Google and Meta had hired thousands of people to do “fake work” to hit hiring metrics out of “vanity.”
Griffin told the Miami conference one of his concerns for 2024 will be how the “unwinding” of COVID-era talent hoarding will come about: “It’s been really hard to hire people and as such your large companies have been very reticent to let people go, no matter what the circumstances are.”
He continued: “Now we’re starting to see for the first time the unwinding of that labor hoarding, what we don’t know is how much of that labor hoarding has taken place.”
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com