‘It’s a s*** show here’ | Dell to color-code employees based on office attendance through badge swipes & VPN monitoring

Dell to color-code employees based on office attendance through badge swipes & VPN monitoring

Dell has notified its hybrid employees it will track their in-office attendance using electronic badge swipes and VPN monitoring before assigning them a color code.

According to a report from The Register, the new system will begin Monday, May 13, and will measure how often workers attend the office.

The data will feed into Dell’s HR management software and assign employees one of four color-coded ratings:

  1. Blue flag: "consistent onsite presence"

  2. Green flag: "regular onsite presence"

  3. Yellow flag: "some onsite presence"

  4. Red flag: "limited onsite presence"

"We shared with team members our updated hybrid work policy,” a spokesperson for Dell wrote in an email to The Register. “Team members in hybrid roles will be onsite at a Dell Technologies office at least 39 days per quarter (on average three days a week).”

The spokesperson repeated a previous line from Dell that it believes “in-person connections paired with a flexible approach are critical to drive innovation and value differentiation."

The move has been met with criticism from those close to Dell. One source described the new system as less of a return-to-office (RTO) and more of a “return-to-grade-school initiative” in which the tech giant’s HR team “will be keeping an attendance report card on employees.”

"Employees who do not meet the attendance requirement will have their status escalated up the ladder to Jeff Clarke, who apparently believes that being a hall monitor trumps growing revenue,” the source said. Jeff Clarke is Dell's Chief Operating Officer.

Another source has suggested Clarke’s new monitoring system could be scuppered by it managers. While some managers are eager to push all employees in their team to the ‘blue’ tier, others are happy for more flexibility and for team members to pick up ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ flags.

“It’s a shit show here,” they stated, claiming that “the goal of the worker tracking appears to be workforce attrition,” and said they predict further job cuts at Dell this summer. The company has made 13,000 job cuts since the beginning of 2023.

A third source from inside Dell claimed the company is including VPN monitoring alongside badge-tracking data to "ensure employees are onsite when they claim they are (to deter 'coffee badging' or scanning your badge then going immediately home)."

They noted that the policy is an aggressive departure from Dell’s historic stance on remote worker flexibility. “Even pre-pandemic, they never pushed or pressured folks to be in the office,” the source said. “A common phrase used to be 'Work happens where you make it,' with the office often being a ghost town multiple times a week, or after lunch, or pre-holidays.”

In 2021, CEO Michael Dell told CRN that remote working is “absolutely here to stay.” Dell also gave the example of two employers, once with in-officed mandates and another with flexibility. “Which company do you think is a more attractive place to work? This is not really a hard test,” he said.

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The exec further criticized in-office mandates in a 2022 LinkedIn post. “If you are counting on forced hours spent in a traditional office to create collaboration and provide a feeling of belonging within your organization, you’re doing it wrong,” he posted. “At Dell, we found no meaningful differences for team members working remotely or office-based even before the pandemic forced everyone home.”

This update follows Dell’s controversial move to inform workers through a memo that career advancement is only possible for those workers who hit the 39-day-per-quarter in-office benchmark. Remote employees who do not meet this criteria will also be at greater risk of layoffs.

The policy was criticized by many as a form of quiet firing which one Dell worker described as discriminatory against women. "Every team I work with has at least one person if not two or three affected by this policy,” they told Business Insider. “They are overwhelmingly women. This new policy on its face appears to be anti-remote, but in practice will be anti-woman."

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