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For the latest in big company insanity, look to the recent Dell scheme to get rid of employees who work remotely. I snapped this picture while fighting rush-hour traffic in May, 2004. Now, Dell employees can look forward to more traffic fun.

Driving home in stop and go traffic in May, 2004. I was stopped when I stuck the camera out a window and snapped this picture. Dell demands its employees return to this insanity.

Dell has undergone quite an evolution since founder and chairman, Michael Dell, wrote this Sept. 7, 2022 Linkedin article about the virtues of remote work. But eight months later, in May, 2023, Dell changed its tune when it mandated that anyone who lived within one hour of a Dell office must travel to the office three days per week. In Feb. 2024, Dell tightened the screws, decreeing that everyone must spend at least 39 days per quarter in a Dell office, no matter where they lived. Anyone who failed to accept those conditions would be a remote contractor with limited career opportunities. Dell doubled down in March, 2024 by proclaiming that all remote employees would lose any opportunities for promotion.

And then Dell tightened the screws even more in May, 2024 with a kindergarten scheme to grade employees by the number of days spent in the office. Blue employees spend at least 39 days days per quarter in the office, or about three days per week on average. Green, yellow, and red spend progressively fewer days.

I wonder how many HR geniuses met in physical conference room to come up with this innovation in idiocy.

Here are a few other important numbers. In 2020, Dell’s employee headcount was 165,000. By 2024, headcount was down to 120,000. Revenue, excluding VMware, was $84 billion in fiscal 2020, $86 billion in 2021, $101 billion in 2022, $102 billion in 2023, and $88 billion in 2024. Dell’s fiscal years run roughly from February through January. Fiscal 2024 ended on Feb. 2, 2024.

When COVID first forced everyone to work remotely in 2020, the tech industry boomed to support it. But tech spending eased as COVID eased, and by 2022 and 2023, Dell and the tech industry laid off thousands. Factor in today’s AI and visualize eager technocrats who drive across town to sit in company conference rooms and play with spreadsheets to calculate savings from automating all customer interaction. Whoever delivers a model that chops the most headcount wins a company mouse-pad. Congratulations.

But severance packages from layoffs are expensive. Especially when cutting a quarter of the workforce and counting. Which means, the next cost cutting step finds a way to eliminate pesky severance packages. And that’s why Dell put the screws to employees it invited earlier to work from home. If work conditions become intolerable, people will leave on their own. People who leave because of an intolerable work policy don’t show up in layoff statistics and don’t get severance packages. Which looks better on Wall Street than paying out thousands of severance packages. Don’t believe Dell execs who spew hogwash about collaborating better with cubicle mates than over video. Especially when less than two short years ago, the top Dell exec said the opposite.

This isn’t the first time a big company screwed its own people with backhanded layoffs. A manager tried to do it to me on a small scale back in 1992. I wrote a fictional, but mostly autobiographical story about that phase of my life. IBM did it to thousands in 2017.

If you work for Dell and you’re tired of corporate execs treating you like a kindergartner, maybe now is a good time to explore other options. Dell wants you to leave anyway. Why not leave on your own terms? There are big companies out there who embrace remote work. I work from home. On any given day, I routinely collaborate with people across the United States and around the world. Sometimes, I work weird hours, especially when I need to talk to somebody who lives a dozen time zones away. I enjoy the flexibility. But I promise, if I had to fight traffic driving to and from an office, the weird hours would stop.

I need to add one more paragraph. This blog post and everything on my website represents me and my opinions, and nobody else. If you’re a Dell exec and you disagree with my thoughts, then leave a comment. Or better, write a guest blog post and barbecue me where I’m wrong. If it’s good, even if I disagree with you, I’ll publish it right here with your name.

But get rid of your backhanded layoff scam and find a way to cut costs without sacrificing your integrity. You’ll sleep better at night.