Less is more? | Instagram forces staff to relocate thousands of miles, or lose job

Instagram forces staff to relocate thousands of miles, or lose job

Instagram is planning to cut or relocate roughly 100 staff members from its London office, continuing the ongoing narrative of layoffs in the tech sector.

The image sharing app’s CEO Adam Mosseri moved to London last year to lead the company from its European headquarters in Covent Garden. But the chief exec is now planning to relocate to New York with the remaining staff who haven’t been laid off.

In a memo sent to employees on Wednesday, Instagram’s parent company Meta said more layoffs would be conducted, including some in May. Lori Goler, Meta’s Head of People, said in the memo: “This will be a difficult time as we say goodbye to friends and colleagues who have contributed so much to Meta.”

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Meta announced in March that it would be laying off 10,000 employees amid economic strain and a need to let go of workers employed during the pandemic tech boom. The widespread integration of AI at tech companies is also playing a role in replacing many jobs that were once human-performed.

London has historically held Meta’s largest engineering base outside the US, with around 4000 staff. Opening in 2013, Instagram's Covent Garden space was the company's first office outside of the US, now boasting roughly 100 employees.

Can companies force employees to relocate?

In the UK, workers need to have a ‘mobility clause’ in their contract to be forced to move to a different country by their employer. A mobility clause means employers can force their employees to move to places stated within the clause, unless the request is unreasonable, such as expecting workers to move in a matter of days. If workers decide they don’t want to move, they can be made redundant.

Nothing is certain in any career, but workers in some of the biggest tech companies on the planet have been plagued with uncertainty around their job for months.

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One Meta employee expressed their frustration on the company’s internal messaging board following the announcement of more layoffs on Wednesday. They said: “You’ve shattered the morale and confidence in leadership of many high performers who work with intensity. Why should we stay at Meta?”

Some London-based Instagram employees might have breathed a sigh of relief to find out their job hadn’t been put on the chopping block just yet, but being asked to relocate to an entirely different country in-order to keep your job isn’t a small ask. Relocation involves staff upheaving their entire lives, and may cause stress around relationships, especially if they have children.

Less is more

Once upon a time, a high headcount in a business was a symbol of success. Founders would boast about their company growing, because in theory, the more people you had working for you, the more productivity you could output and the more your profits would rise.

But the prospect of AI, and the impact it is already having on the working world, could be changing this accepted notion of success before our very eyes.

Many business theorists and technologists believe that every company will be using AI, and sooner than we realise. We’re already witnessing the impact of AI catalysing mass layoffs in tech, and many other industries are likely to follow suit. Maybe high headcounts and large global offices as a sign of success are a thing of the past, while stripped-back businesses with roles that augment technology are a thing of the future.

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