Dell hybrid employees who don’t show up to the office enough are getting a literal red flag

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Dell is proving to staff that it’s not all talk and no action: Months after telling workers that those who work from the office will be rewarded for their efforts with promotions, it’s now monitoring in-office attendance and color-coding staff’s compliance.

The $106 billion Texas-based tech giant is tracking workers’ electronic badge swipes and VPN usage to keep tabs on who is heading into the office three days a week (and who isn’t), according to multiple news outlets.

It’s then dishing out blue flags to workers who consistently show up, green and yellow flags to those who come into the office semi-regularly, and a red flag to hybrid workers who are dodging the company’s return-to-office mandate.

The school-style grading system will also weed out workers who are coffee badging—scanning their badge so it looks like they came to the office, before swiftly returning home—an anonymous source told The Register. 

“This is likely in response to the official numbers about how many of our staff members chose to remain remote after the RTO mandate,” they added.

“We believe in-person connections paired with a flexible approach are critical to drive innovation and value differentiation,” Dell responded in a statement to Business Insider.

It’s not clear what happens to staff who are issued a red flag (Dell hasn’t responded to Fortune’s request for comment) but the company has previously been clear on its stance: Come into the office or risk being left behind.  

Show face if you want a promotion

Dell reportedly empowered its 120,000-strong workforce to work from home long before the pandemic. And in 2022, its Future of Work report boasted that “a long-term ambition for Dell Technologies is for 60% of our workforce to operate remotely on any day”. 

But in February this year, the maker of laptops, servers, and more took a sharp U-turn and told employees they’d be classified into one of two categories: hybrid or remote workers. 

Those in the hybrid category would be required to work from the office for a minimum of 39 days a quarter—about three days a week. Meanwhile, remote employees would be allowed to work remotely 100% of the time. 

However, that freedom would come at the cost of career progression, the company warned in a memo: “Career advancement, including applying to new roles in the company, will require a team member to reclassify as a hybrid onsite.” 

Remote work bias isn’t anything new

Research has consistently shown women and working parents are more likely to take up Dell’s option to work from home—and although the tech giant is explicitly laying out the toll that will take on their careers, it’s not as if other firms aren’t secretly doing the same.

A major KPMG study previously revealed that bosses want workers back in the office—and 90% of the 1,300 CEOs surveyed said they plan on rewarding those who return to their cuble with raises and promotions.

Having a system in place that tracks how often workers actually report to HQ could eliminate some bias: Bosses won’t be able to unfairly favor those who they think frequent the office often just because they happen to get more face-to-face time with management than others.

However, it could penalize parents who need to square business needs with childcare: In the end, workers who need to duck out for pick-up, dental appointments, sports day, or the many demands that come with raising children, may risk getting passed up for a promotion.

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