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Uber is the latest tech company to rethink its return-to-office plans

By Rishi Iyengar, CNN Business

Less than three months after announcing that its employees would be required to come back to the office at least three days a week, Uber is backtracking.

The ride-hailing company will give its global office workers the option to apply for fully remote work or choose from a list of other offices instead of their pre-pandemic location, the company’s chief people officer, Nikki Krishnamurthy, said in a blog post Tuesday.

For those who choose to come back to the office, Uber is asking that they spend at least 50% of their time there, but it is offering more flexibility on how this time can be structured. “This can be 3 days one week and 2 days the next week, or 5 days one week and 0 days the next week, depending on what works best for the employee and their team,” Krishnamurthy said.

It’s a sharp reversal for Uber and points to the challenges for Silicon Valley’s biggest companies — which built the products that enabled remote work for many households throughout the pandemic — in striking the right telework balance with their employees as the pandemic eases.

Like Uber, Google initially announced it would require workers to come back to their pre-pandemic offices a few days a week only to loosen that policy later by allowing employees to apply for permanent remote work or to change their office location.

Earlier this year, Krishnamurthy said Uber was willing to give up some of the remote work advantages that would allow it to attract talent from all over the country, forgoing the permanent remote options offered by companies such as Facebook and Twitter.

“You might optimize more for flexibility, a little bit broader reach for talent anywhere, but will you give up your magic?” she told CNN Business in an interview in April. “And we just didn’t want to give up our magic.”

But Krishnamurthy said Tuesday that the company is continuing to gather feedback from its workers and wants to provide more flexibility as it figures out the “right long-term model” for post-pandemic life. “While we still believe in the value of in-person collaboration and the community that builds, we also value our employees having the choice to decide where they want to work while they’re not in the office,” she said in the blog post.

When asked if there had been employee pushback to the original remote work policy, Uber spokesperson Lois van der Laan told CNN Business the updated guidance “is about finding an approach that works for as many current and future employees as possible.”

Facebook and Twitter have made permanent remote work a significant part of their reopening strategy. Twitter said some employees could work from home “forever” if they so choose. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he plans to spend at least half of the next year working remotely.

Apple, meanwhile, will still require employees to come into the office at least three days a week.

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