Dell Is Sorting Its Workers Into Two Groups: Those Who Go to the Office and the 'Red Flags'

  • The tech company has introduced a new color-coding system to monitor when staffers go to the office.

  • Some Dell employees aren't pleased with the new return-to-office strategy.

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Dell’s return-to-office strategy hasn’t been without controversy. According to The Register, the multinational company has announced a new system to track its employees’ onsite presence. Every worker will now have a colored flag on their profile to indicate the number of times they’ve go into Dell’s offices.

Dell's RTO history. Dell’s return-to-office policy has caused internal chaos from the beginning. First, the company asked its employees to decide whether they wanted to work remotely or in a hybrid capacity, the latter of which required them to go into the office between two to four days a week.

However, given that Dell had cancelled leases on several of its offices around the world, employees had to make their decision without knowing which office they would be assigned to. This meant that employees who agreed to come to the office could potentially be assigned to an office hundreds of miles away from their homes.

When Dell finally confirmed the office assignments, many employees, as expected, discovered that they would have to relocate if they wanted to work from the office and advance their careers. Those who chose to work remotely wouldn’t be eligible for promotions.

Colored flags. According to The Register, Dell COO Jeff Clarke has introduced a new rating system set to be implemented on Monday that will monitor employee attendance at Dell’s offices.

The rating system determines how often employees go to the office by tracking electronic badge swipes and VPN positioning. Based on this data, the company will apply color-coded ratings to assess employees’ compliance with its return-to-office policy. The ratings are as follows:

  • Blue flag: “Consistent onsite presence”
  • Green flag: “Regular onsite presence”
  • Yellow flag: “Some onsite presence”
  • Red flag: “Limited onsite presence”

The new system has already sparked criticism and concerns among workers. One source told The Register that “employees who do not meet the attendance requirement will have their status escalated up the ladder to Jeff Clarke, who apparently believes that being a hall monitor trumps growing revenue.”

Opposing opinions. This controversial method aims to track compliance with Dell’s hybrid work policy. The policy states that employees are expected to work onsite for an average of three days per week. As such, managers believe that employees will probably try to aim for a blue flag, which indicates “consistent onsite presence.”

However, employees don't appear to share the same aspirations. According to The Register, some believe that they can get away with being between the green and yellow flags, which will allow them to increase their remote work days.

The new system aims to help the company justify dismissals. According to sources consulted by the outlet, this newest tracking measure that could be used to justify firing some employees. Dell tried to use justification to explain dismissals during the first phases of return-to-office period, but it wasn’t successful.

A business registry document for investors in February 2024 revealed that the company currently employs 120,000 workers—which is 13,000 fewer than the 133,000 employees it had at the same time last year—before the rounds of layoffs and the subsequent pressure for workers to return to the office.

Work flexibility was Dell’s thing… until it wasn’t. As told by The Register, Dell’s recent return-to-office policy has caused dissatisfaction among some employees, who see it as a rollback of the work flexibility they gained during the pandemic. Dell’s previous motto, “Work happens where you make it,” appears to contradict this latest move, which has created uncertainty and tension at the company.

An unnamed inside source told The Register: “Even pre-pandemic, they never pushed or pressured folks to be in the office.” The timing of this policy change coincides with a challenging period for Dell, which has experienced a significant drop in revenue compared to the previous year. This may explain the shift in the company’s labor policy. Something similar has happened at Tesla, which plans to lay off 2,688 employees in June.

Image | Fortune Live Media via Flickr

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