A Gen Xer moved to Orlando, Florida, after his lab in California went remote in 2020.
He says his managers gave him less work as it adopted a hybrid-work environment.
He quit without a job lined up, but a remote contract position gave him some peace of mind.
Stephen Taylor, 51, said he remembers sitting on the train in 2020 on his way to work for the last time before his company went completely remote, wondering what it would mean for his career.
After a few weeks of isolation and feeling mentally drained, the mechanical engineer and computer architect got approval to move from California, where he worked at a lab, to Orlando, Florida, to be closer to his family. He gave up his office space at the California lab to a local employee in order to work from home.
For the first few years, remote work went smoothly. But as Taylor inched closer to his five-year mark at the company, he said he got a new supervisor who told him the company was bringing people back for hybrid work. Although Taylor said he could do all his work remotely, his manager wanted him to stop by the Bay Area offices at least once a month.
He said his company would not help with relocation, nor did anyone follow up about arranging a schedule for his visits. Taylor said that seemed like a sure sign the company was investing in in-person workers. He had also just built a new home in Orlando and couldn’t leave behind his daughter, a full-time student, by moving back to the Bay Area.
“My coworkers who were all out there in California kind of knew I wasn’t coming back, so I started getting uninvited from meetings, I got assigned less and less work, and it became hostile to me,” Taylor told Insider. “It was good that I left, but at the same time being unemployed, you have children, bills, and everything, which is not the greatest either.”
He decided to quit without another job lined up, though he did find temporary employment a few weeks later.
After bringing remote workers back to the office, some companies are “quiet firing” employees who either moved away from the office or were hired for an initially remote position. While some companies intentionally make jobs less appealing so employees leave on their own volition, companies sometimes quiet fire employees without even knowing it. At the same time, there appears to be a growing detachment between remote employees and their employers.
“We find that ‘quiet firing’ is most often unintentional and a result of negligent managers,” Ben Wigert, the director of research and strategy for workplace management at Gallup, told Insider. “Most often, it occurs when managers fail to adequately provide coaching, support, and career development to an employee, which results in pushing the employee out of an organization.”
Some companies see quiet firing as a better alternative to layoffs
Typically, quiet firing happens when managers don’t routinely discuss goal progress, don’t give performance feedback or recognition to individuals, and don’t provide workers with a compelling career path, Wigert said. Because of performance issues, team-cohesion problems, or changing business needs, companies sometimes try to push employees out so they voluntarily quit. Wigert said this may save them unemployment fees or may let managers off the hook for mistakes.
Other companies are practicing what some call “quiet cutting,” meaning an employee’s position gets cut, but instead of being terminated, they are moved to a different — and often lower-paying or unrelated — position.
“Maybe the most famous use of ‘quiet cutting’ in the return-to-office era has involved rumors of employers ending remote-work options in hopes of employees quitting before the company is forced to conduct layoffs,” Wigert said.
“We typically find that how an employee is managed is three to four times more important than their work location,” Wigert said. “In other words, staying on top of ongoing conversations about expectations, progress, and support needed to succeed would have likely translated to a more productive and trusting relationship between both parties.”
Adjusting to a new position
Taylor was making in the low six figures when he decided to leave his company. Though he didn’t have a job lined up immediately after, he said the decision to stay in Orlando gave him peace of mind.
Eventually, he landed a six-month remote contract position at an electronics company based in North Carolina. Although the pay is comparable, he said he doesn’t have the same health benefits as he did with the California lab, nor does he know what will happen after the contract ends.
“After the six months, I may be on the move again, looking for another job,” Taylor said, adding that many companies in his industry have been moving toward hybrid-work arrangements.
He’s fairly confident he’ll land a position that fits his needs, though. Remote work has given him the opportunity to set up a cozy home office where he can focus, cut out transportation costs, and have the freedom to log on whenever he wants as long as he meets his 40-hour requirement.
“Sometimes you do have to be your own boss and stay productive, and a lot of times you can get lackadaisical when you don’t have anyone on your shoulder,” Taylor said. “But some days when you’re just not feeling it, you don’t have the pressure of having to perform in front of everyone. I don’t see a whole lot of negatives with remote work.”
Have you quit over return-to-office policies, or have you pushed to get workers back? Contact this reporter at [email protected].