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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says employees will return to offices when majority are vaccinated

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says employees will return to offices when majority are vaccinated


The Netflix CEO says working remotely is ‘a pure negative’

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he doesn’t expect his company’s employees to return to the office until the “majority” are vaccinated — a shifting deadline that will probably see staff working from home into 2021 given current time frames for vaccine development.

Netflix is one of many Silicon Valley firms currently trying to balance a desire to keep its employees safe while maintaining the sort of in-person interactions that can define a company’s culture. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Hastings made it clear he thought working from home was detrimental to his business, and that he’d be pushing for a return to the office as soon as possible. Here’s what he told the WSJ:

WSJ: Have you seen benefits from people working at home?

Mr. Hastings: No. I don’t see any positives. Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative. I’ve been super impressed at people’s sacrifices.

WSJ: It’s been anticipated that many companies will shift to a work-from-home approach for many employees even after the Covid-19 crisis. What do you think?

Mr. Hastings: If I had to guess, the five-day workweek will become four days in the office while one day is virtual from home. I’d bet that’s where a lot of companies end up.

WSJ: Do you have a date in mind for when your workforce returns to the office?

Mr. Hastings: Twelve hours after a vaccine is approved.

WSJ: I like that.

Mr. Hastings: It’s probably six months after a vaccine. Once we can get a majority of people vaccinated, then it’s probably back in the office.

Although Hastings sounds more anti-remote-work than some other Silicon Valley execs, the time frame he suggests for a return to the office doesn’t differ too much from other firms.

Facebook has said it will let employees work remotely until July 2021 and has cancelled physical events through June that year. Amazon and Microsoft have both said they don’t plan a return to the office until at least January next year, while Google has said it plans to keep employees working from home until at least July 2021.

In all these cases, though, it’s expected there will be a degree of flexibility. The danger posed by the pandemic will continue to ebb and flow in different locations, and workers around the world are expected to change their time frames if required.

In Netflix’s case, it seems that Hastings is keen to end remote work as soon as possible. That’s no surprise considering his focus on corporate culture, which the Netflix CEO is currently promoting in his book on the subject, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention.

As per a write-up from Variety, the book describes a range of corporate habits peculiar to Netflix, some of which sound undeniably cutthroat. These include “radical transparency and feedback loops, lack of official time-off or vacation policies, and the famous Keeper Test — in which managers are encouraged to fire employees who aren’t ‘stars.’”