Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook parent Meta, has pointed to internal data analysis that suggests engineers who initially joined the company in an in-person capacity performed better than those who joined remotely from the get-go.
He also suggested that younger engineers, or more accurately those who are “earlier in their career,” perform better when they work with colleagues in-person for at least three days each week.
The insights stem from a memo sent to employees earlier today, in which Zuckerberg revealed the company was cutting another 10,000 jobs. Aside from announcing the fresh round of layoffs, Zuckerberg delved into a number of ways the company was looking to improve efficiency, such as canceling “lower priority projects” and creating a flatter organizational structure by removing various management layers.
However, the fact that Meta is aligning performance and remote working data tells us a little bit about how the powers at Facebook Towers are currently thinking about the whole remote-working kit and caboodle, with Zuckerberg opining that “in-person time helps build relationships and get more done.”
Remote work is one of the legacies of the global pandemic, and Meta — as with most other companies — was forced to embrace it faster than it otherwise would have. Speaking in May 2020, Zuckerberg said Meta (then called Facebook) was going to be the “most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale,” and to this day its careers page spotlights its mission to build a “distributed-first future.”
Throw into the mix the fact that Meta is actively shrinking its real estate footprint, while doubling down on metaverse ambitions that would undoubtedly benefit from a more distributed workforce, and it would make little sense for Meta to abandon its recent remote-work embrace. However, it seems that Meta does want to get people back into the office just a little more often.
Pointing to “early analysis” of internal performance data, Zuckerberg said that engineers who started out at Meta in a fully in-person capacity before transitioning to a remote role, as well as those who have remained in an in-person role, “performed better on average than people who joined remotely.”
“This analysis also shows that engineers earlier in their career perform better on average when they work in-person with teammates at least three days a week,” Zuckerberg said. “This requires further study, but our hypothesis is that it is still easier to build trust in-person and that those relationships help us work more effectively.”
It’s not all that preposterous to suggest that people who are new to a specific job might benefit from being around colleagues, particularly inexperienced new-starts fresh to the working world entirely. But at a time when the option of remote work is a major selling point for in-demand technical talent, companies will have to tip-toe lightly around the issue. Also, there could be a broader issue at play here in terms of how companies administrate their remote workforce. A company of Meta’s size and global distribution may find it more difficult to make the transition, versus a company that has grown organically from the ground up as a remote company.
At any rate, Meta doesn’t want to make any direct demands yet, but that could change as other tech companies reassess their own approach to the remote-work subject. But for now, Zuckerberg is gently prodding people to work with colleagues in-person more often if they can.
“We’re committed to distributed work,” Zuckerberg said. “That means we’re also committed to continuously refining our model to make this work as effectively as possible. As part of our ‘year of efficiency,’ we’re focusing on understanding this further and finding ways to make sure people build the necessary connections to work effectively. In the meantime, I encourage all of you to find more opportunities to work with your colleagues in person.”