How RTO Mandates Elevate Your Tech Career
The Future of Work

How RTO Mandates Elevate Your Tech Career

by Carla Dewing
How RTO Mandates Elevate Your Tech Career
  • The Top Talent Exodus (And Why It Matters)
  • What Enforced Return-to-Office Actually Means
  • The Balance of Power in Tech is Shifting
  • Your Tech Career: Playing The Cards You’ve Been Dealt

Return-to-office mandates are your golden ticket. They’re the major career boost you never saw coming. Not quite what you were expecting to hear? It’s true – and I’m going to tell you why.

Everywhere you look these days another major tech company is insisting remote workers sell their homes, ditch their pandemic pets, and hightail it back to corporate head offices.

X, Apple, Microsoft, SpaceX, Google, IBM and Dell are on a growing list of tech giants who have decided to turn their backs on remote work…and rather do things the old way.

Ironic in an industry known for innovation!

Statista January RTO days in-office. 2024.

And it’s not just happening in the US – it’s everywhere.

Because tech is everywhere.

It’s easy to see why so many remote workers have rightly said ‘no thanks’ to these mandates. The pandemic let the cat out of the bag, and now Big Tech is determined to force it back inside.

There are consequences.

Luckily, these unsettling return-to-office mandates are a clear signal. An opportunity for remote workers to pick a side in the tech talent wars that are currently raging.

And one group of people are leading the way. 

The Top Talent Exodus (And Why It Matters) 

Here’s what we know.

The best of the best – tech’s most in-demand talent pool of senior leaders are jumping ship. Instead of returning to the office, they’re opting to take jobs at smaller, up-and-coming startups. 

Start-ups that value remote work as a company culture.

Top talent quits at the slightest sign of RTO.

They see the RTO mandates for what they really are within the context of the tech industry. And they’re not about to give up the freedom they’ve won, because of corporate profiteering.

A case study by the University of Chicago and The University of Michigan shows that RTO mandates at large tech companies are causing a massive brain drain to happen.

If you’ve been paying attention – a brain drain at this critical moment in history doesn’t seem like a smart play for Big Tech. 

What could possibly motivate these titans to show their top performers the door? Some would say they’re sacrificing the long game for short term wins.

And it could change EVERYTHING.

Darren Topping, Lorien quotes on RTO and top talent movement.

So senior-level employees are leaving large tech companies. They’re taking their management skills with them. Their experience. Their productivity secrets. Their guardianship of culture.

These are the employees who make the biggest IMPACT on company outcomes.

RTO mandates cost companies far more than they think.

Or do they?

What Enforced Return-to-Office Actually Means

When you think of it this way, return-to-office mandates don’t make much sense.

Let’s not forget about the lingering talent shortage in play. Experts keep saying that the need to nurture, attract and retain top talent is more important than ever before.

Tech is more competitive now than 10 years ago, if anything. Gartner recently reported that 86% of CIOs report increased competition for qualified tech candidates.

So what gives?

It helps to know what top tech talent knows.

That RTO mandates could be something far more insidious – a corporate power move.

A way for Big Tech to quietly continue layoffs without assimilating the financial burden of having to fire people.

People who – in their opinion – wouldn’t stick around much longer anyways.

Tech layoffs really upset people, so why not just avoid them? 

X tweet from @Glaxigrav about tech layoffs.

Ahem... incase you missed it -

RTO is a soft layoff tactic.  

Reddit user tgt305 speaks about quiet layoffs.

In the wake of the widespread tech layoffs, this isn’t surprising.

In reality, return-to-office mandates have nothing to do with productivity dips, collaboration or team connection. These are all rubbish excuses to force some of the most expensive (and likely to leave) tech workers from their positions.

Top tech talent is in-demand. They have options.

They change roles every 2.7 years on average anyway. 

Reddit user anarkyinducer speaks about the top talent brain drain.

If profit and security are your main drivers – it’s a smart play.

Or it seems that way right now, to Big Tech decision makers who are bleeding cash.

According to The Flex Index tech is the MOST flexible of all industries. About 75% of tech is still fully flexible, but this is changing, fast.

 What happens when the smartest people leave the largest companies? 

The Balance of Power in Tech is Shifting

Tech has the highest turnover rate of all industries – because 2% of talent drives so much change. These high performers bring the thunder, and they know it.

Top talent is tough to control. Especially if that talent can keep working remotely, earn more and be treated way better at a smaller tech company.  

Of course, when RTO mandates are imposed, they’re the first to leave.

Top performers take their highly trained AI skills elsewhere after RTO mandates.

The University of Pittsburgh released research proving that 99% of companies with a forced RTO policy, saw a drop in job satisfaction among employees. 

And when these top performers leave, they take innovation with them. 

The balance of power in tech is shifting. And this is why RTO is the best thing that will ever happen to you in your tech career. 

It’s creating opportunity! 

Remote work has become the catalyst for a changing of the guard in tech power.

It’s literally pitting power against progress.

Soon you will have to choose between the old ways of Big Tech, corporate bureaucracy, the illusion of security and increasingly controlled location hubs – or the new ways of remote-first tech which prioritizes people over profit.   

What This Means for Remote Workers

  • Freedom as a top performer: How do you want to spend your time as you contribute to the biggest technological changes since the Industrial Revolution? High performers skilled in AI will always be immune from layoffs, soft layoffs (RTO mandates) and the lack of security that comes with working in tech today. Be the best, to be stable. 
  • The future is fully remote tech startups: What happens when the smartest people with the strongest skills in AI work for remote startups? It means the tech of the future, the best innovations, the biggest opportunities for change will live here. Working for a startup is more valuable than ever before for remote workers. If you’re on the hunt to be with the right company at the right moment, take note. 
  • A flexibility divide is happening in tech. 88% of tech companies under 500 employees are fully flexible. But large companies have opted for structured hybrid instead. 65% of tech companies with 25K employees are now structured hybrid / up from 44%. Work in-office for a large company, or remotely for a small one. 
The Flex Index Remote Companies By Size Chart.
  • Remote work becomes a career booster: Where would you rather work – a big tech brand with bad mid-level managers and limited opportunities for growth, or somewhere you can learn from the best, innovate and have work-life balance? When you choose to stay remote in your tech career, you’ll go further, faster. If you’re not a top performer yet, this is an excellent way to get there sooner than your peers.

Your Tech Career: Playing The Cards You’ve Been Dealt 

Tech wars RTO vs GTFO: playing the hand you're dealt.

I like to think of these talent wars as a high-stakes game of competitive Texas Hold’em.

Companies play the joker RTO card as a bluff, strategically pushing some players out while aiming to strengthen their hand with those who remain.

In the meantime, top talent assesses the table and plays the cards they’re dealt with shrewd judgment. After all, the savviest players realize their advantage – the freedom to leave and take their considerable skills and value with them. Their chips are never down!

RTO is a great reminder that real career freedom is the ability to work anywhere, anytime. 

Top talent knows that remote work is non-negotiable.

If the house always wins, it’s important to play in the right house.   

Are you? 

RTO mandates are exposing Big Tech's desperation and creating a golden opportunity for you to thrive in remote-friendly companies. Seize the chance to leverage your skills where innovation truly matters - your tech career will bloom because of it. 

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