scorecardRobinhood CEO explains how he got employees back to the office after initially saying the company was 'remote-first'
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Robinhood CEO explains how he got employees back to the office after initially saying the company was 'remote-first'

Sarah Jackson   

Robinhood CEO explains how he got employees back to the office after initially saying the company was 'remote-first'
Careers3 min read

The past few years have seen some companies declare themselves remote-first, only to backtrack and mandate workers return to the office.

One such company is Robinhood. Vlad Tenev, a cofounder and the CEO of the financial-services firm, explained in a new interview how he brought employees back to the office after initially telling them they were working at a remote-first company.

"In January of 2022, we were like all right let's just make a decision here and announce we're a remote-first company, and I think as soon as that blog post went out I was like, 'Oh, God, I made a terrible mistake here; this is not good' — I felt bad about it," Tenev said in an episode of the podcast "The Logan Bartlett Show" published Friday.

Tenev said that after the decision to reverse course, he heard feedback that other companies had not managed to successfully get workers back to the office, even if they hadn't given a full-throated endorsement to remote work, as Robinhood had. Coming out strongly for being remote-first made it "much, much harder," he said.

Tenev said "explaining the why of things" was important in getting employees on board with the policy reversal.

"I think we very directly said, 'I'd like people to come in person. I think it's better for collaboration. I think that we do a lot of important work across functions,'" he said.

"You have to have answers for all the concerns that people have that, I think, are reasonable," he added.

"I mean, some people are going to say, 'Well, we've got people all around the world. They've moved, Nobody that I work with, nobody from my team, is in my office, so why would I come in?'" Tenev said. "And I think the answer to that is everyone in this company is on your team," he said.

"You shouldn't just engage with people on your team because what happens if you need to talk to someone from compliance or legal and you're an engineer?" Tenev said. "Having those relationships are extremely important. Having some awareness for what people are doing is important, and I think that's something that's very difficult to manufacture in the remote world."

Tenev said Robinhood drew a radius in calling employees back, meaning those who lived too far away from an office didn't have to return, though he said: "Most people actually clustered around locations where we have offices anyway."

He added: "Up until January of 2022, we were hiring people within radius of offices, so very little hiring happened outside of those in the first place, and that was the good part about it. We weren't remote-first for very long. The period where we were remote-first and we were hiring aggressively was pretty short."

In 2022 , Robinhood declared itself a remote-first company and said it would be "staying primarily remote."

A year later, the company told staff to expect to return to the office at least four days a week on average.

"I've seen it firsthand — there is value in us being together," Tenev wrote to employees in a leaked Slack message at the time. "While the adjustment period may not be easy, I am confident that in the long run we will all benefit as coworkers and owners of Robinhood."

Many companies began issuing return-to-office mandates in 2022 and into 2023, including Apple, Amazon, Meta, and Google. The latest large company to jump on the bandwagon is Walmart, which said earlier this month it's also laying off several hundred workers and relocating others to one of three main campuses, in a reversal of its remote-work policy during the pandemic.




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