Meta recently issued a strict return-to-office mandate and threatened to fire employees who did not comply. However, CEO Mark Zuckerberg still believes in the potential of remote work, albeit not with the currently available technology.
In a recent episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, Zuckerberg gave an interview within the metaverse. Using Meta Quest Pro VR headsets and photorealistic Codec Avatars, which are technologies still being developed by Meta, he and Fridman conversed in a virtual-reality space.
The experience was incredibly realistic, with Fridman repeatedly expressing amazement and commenting on how it felt like they were in the same room.
During the conversation, Zuckerberg eventually discussed remote work.
He said, “One of the things that I’m curious about is, there are all these debates right now about remote work or people being together. I think this gets us a lot closer to being able to work physically in different places but actually have it feel like we’re together. I think the dream is that people will one day be able to just work wherever they want, but we’ll have all the same opportunities because you’ll be able to feel like you’re physically together.”
He compared the technology they were using to the technologies commonly used by remote workers to connect with colleagues who are far away.
“I think we’re not there today with just video conferencing and the basic technologies that we have,” he stated.
Zuckerberg is among the CEOs who are demanding employees return to the office, and Meta’s return-to-office policy of three days in the office has faced challenges. Many employees who do show up struggle to book conference rooms or secure desks for the day.
“We have not yet figured out hybrid work,” admitted Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, in a Threads post. Both Instagram and Facebook are owned by Meta.
However, during the Fridman podcast, Zuckerberg expressed excitement about the potential of remote work with the technology they were using. He believed that over time, it could bring people closer to the feeling of being physically together.
He continued, “That would open up a lot of opportunities, right? Because then people could live physically where they want while still being able to get the benefits of being physically, or kind of feeling like you’re together with people at work—all the ways that that helps to build more culture and build better relationships and build trust, which I think are real issues if you’re not seeing people in person ever.”
In 2020, Zuckerberg praised Meta’s embrace of remote work, stating that they would be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at their scale. He estimated that about half of the company’s employees would be working remotely within the next five to 10 years.
However, he later changed his stance, along with many other company leaders who had doubts about maintaining a strong corporate culture and mentoring young employees in a remote work setting.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman called the remote work “experiment” a mistake, stating that the technology is not yet good enough for people to be fully remote, especially in startups.
Zuckerberg seems to share similar concerns about the current state of technology. However, the extent to which metaverse headsets might address these concerns and alleviate CEO worries about remote work remains uncertain.