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Dell to start handing out red flags to staff who don't come to the office enough, and some employees feel 'tracked like kindergarteners'

Polly Thompson   

Dell to start handing out red flags to staff who don't come to the office enough, and some employees feel 'tracked like kindergarteners'
  • Dell has initiated the next phase of its return-to-office mandate.
  • Employees' on-site attendance is now being monitored, according to a memo seen by Business Insider.

Dell is pushing ahead with its return-to-office mandate.

The tech giant has told US employees who opted to classify themselves as hybrid workers that it has started monitoring their in-office attendance by tracking badge swipes, according to an internal memo seen by Business Insider.

Dell started monitoring attendance on May 6 and will make the data visible on each hybrid employee's profile on HR platform Workday this week.

The data will then be used to categorize employees with a blue, green, yellow, or red flag every quarter.

Business Insider spoke to 10 current Dell workers, all of whom asked to remain anonymous as they are not permitted to speak to the media.

Most opposed the policy, and many complained it felt unnecessarily strict, with one staffer telling BI that some employees feel they are being "tracked like kindergarteners and scared that their names might end up on some list."

Dell's memo states: "As the next step in implementing our Hybrid Work Policy, we will track onsite presence using badge swipes for hybrid-designated team members."

"Beginning Monday, May 13, you will be able to see your weekly site visit data. At the end of the quarter, site visits will be cumulated and reflected using category ranges."

Blue flags, reflecting Dell's corporate colors, are the highest rank and are given out for "consistent on-site presence," meaning 39 days or more in the office per quarter, while green flags are allocated for "regular onsite presence."

Yellow flags reflect "some onsite presence," and red flags will be handed out for "limited onsite presence."

The color by their name will be considered for performance evaluations, rewards, and compensation, Dell told employees.

Staff who opted to remain remote during the company's overhaul of its hybrid work policy, which was first announced in February, will not be monitored. However, by choosing to stay remote, they are no longer eligible for promotion or able to change roles.

Dell employees who were classified as remote and hybrid told Business Insider they were disappointed with how the company was implementing this new policy.

"Dell is not the place it used to be where employees were respected and valued. There are so many people that are demoralized and will be hurt by this policy," said one Dell worker, who requested to remain anonymous.

"Dell is in a state of dictatorship," another declared.

'Lack of flexibility'

Other staffers who spoke to BI raised concerns about the "lack of flexibility" in the new monitoring system. One said that for a company dedicated to tech innovation, Dell's internal "technologies and approaches are totally outdated."

According to an internal FAQ about the policy seen by BI, the attendance monitoring solution is solely based on data from badge swipes.

That means that if an employee forgets their badge, goes on a work trip, or takes an approved annual leave, the system marks them as absent.

The FAQ confirms that regularly turning up without a badge means you will show up as "red" on the system.

According to Dell, workers will not be penalized for that.

"We do not have a way to systematically account for onsite attendance where no badge reader is available, so we will use the honor system and trust that you are adhering to the policy."

Dell told staff that by reporting attendance in ranges, the system can account for the odd "days that a team member has Dell-approved time off, business travel, corporate holidays, etc."

It is not clear what happens if an employee regularly falls out of a positive attendance bracket for legitimate reasons. This lack of clarity has caused "a lot of frustration," according to a senior manager at Dell.

"No one really knows what it means if you're designated hybrid but fail to meet 3 days a week."

When contacted by BI, Dell did not respond to specific questions about the system's flexibility but confirmed that staff in hybrid roles were expected to be on-site at least 39 days per quarter — on average, 3 days a week.

"In today's global technology revolution, we believe in-person connections paired with a flexible approach are critical to drive innovation and value differentiation," the company told BI.

Dell is among a growing list of major corporations mandating more in-office work after years of working from home spurred by the COVID pandemic.

After initially embracing working from home, tech giants like Google, Meta, and Salesforce have all moved away from remote work and now mandate employees spend a certain proportion of their time in the office.

Many firms have faced an internal backlash over these policies. In February, financial giant Deutsche Bank faced staff criticism after mandating three days a week in the office despite complaints that there wasn't enough space to house all employees.

In the hands of managers

Dell is placing responsibility for tracking workers with individual managers, and any future action based on low attendance "will be at the leader's discretion, not driven centrally or by HR," according to the FAQ document.

"It isn't as iron-fisted as it sounded when the announcement was first made, we can work with our management for abnormal exceptions," said one employee, who viewed the manager-by-manager approach positively.

However, others see the new system as more work for already-stretched leaders.

"Its an additional time sink in an environment where more keeps being pushed onto a smaller set of people," said one manager at Dell.

The leniency of managers will also differ across teams, BI's sources said.

One staffer who works under senior management said their boss told staff that he will be satisfied as long as "he sees a 3 in the count towards 39 days."

"He personally believes the new policy is ridiculous," the source said. "He has better things to do than count people's days in the office."

But a friend on a different team was told by their manager that they expected everyone to be blue each week, the source said.

"The effectiveness is definitely going to depend on the manager. There will surely be managers who aren't tracking time off as well as they should and chastising employees for not being in the office despite vacation days," agreed another source at Dell.

These changes are "really making people turn on Dell as an employer," the source added.

Are you a worker at Dell or another company pushing staff back to the office? Contact this reporter at

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