After a golden era at Snap and other tech companies, it’s back to reality for workers

A year into the epidemic, Evan Spiegel was flying high. Snap CEO He said Annual revenue growth of 50% or more was a “constant opportunity” for the social media company, not requiring additional gains in audience or innovation.

These days, things are going in a different direction. A former employee newly laid off from the company’s research and development wing offered this shocking view of its current state: “sink and on fire.”

On Tuesday, Spiegel announced that the parent company of the Snapchat app will stop operating About 20% of positionswhich makes good layoff plans Leaked to the media In early August. The chopping block is facing investments in games, third-party services, and original content as well as the company’s camera-equipped drones and glasses. Two standalone apps owned by the company are Zenly and Voisey.let down. “

For Spiegel, whose fortune Forbes in May estimated at $3.1 billion, it’s not an immediate personal crisis. “The CEO just bought a [$120-million] House,” the former R&D employee, who requested anonymity, wrote Wednesday via direct message. “So he’s doing a good job.”

But for employees lower in the company hierarchy, things are not so rosy. In the cafeteria of the company’s headquarters in Santa Monica Wednesday morning, employees could be heard discussing layoffs. A worker who was not authorized to speak with the media said the atmosphere was depressing, and everyone knows colleagues who will be affected.

Snap isn’t the only tech company where workers are currently taking a beating. Meta Platforms – the one-stop company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – has implemented Hiring Freeze in certain sections, like google. Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter have gone even further lay off employees, Although none of them have reduced their workforce as sharply as Snap. And technology stocks, which are part of many employee compensation packages, are Sinking.

It’s a dramatic fall from grace for an industry that, all things considered, has been so great to work in during the pandemic. With humanity suddenly thrown into the age of Zoom calls, DoorDash deliveries and peloton rides, software engineers and designers have found their talents wanted, absorbed, and rewarded like never before. Working from home has shifted from a part-time feature to a mandatory feature. a Employment increase Driven by the demand for digital products and e-commerce, software engineers are left to choose between competing job offers – or even employment Several cars at once While tech companies, desperate to attract highly skilled employees, promise more generosity than ever before Privileges, benefits and rewards. All the time, technology stock Shoot to the sky.

However, now, with belt-tightening on the rise, in Snap and elsewhere, this glamorous lifestyle faces an uncertain future. Is the golden age of the tech job fading away?

“I think economic conditions are definitely starting to favor management over workers,” said Natalia Nidzvitskaya, a doctoral student at UC Berkeley, whose research has looked at employee activism in the tech sector.

One pointer: the recent efforts by the big tech companies to get their employees back into real offices. Apple will soon start requiring workers to show up in person three days a week (some resistance). Other companies have even adopted stricter policies, Eliminate remote work completely. Taking technology mogul Elon Musk tough stance At Tesla, he says it will only A little more lenient With Twitter employees if it ends up get their company.

Working from home can now mean pay cuts – a standard used by tech giants like Google and Twitter led the charge.

The vaccine policy statement is posted on the door of a Google office in Mountain View, California.

(Brian Contreras/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s very specific to the individual worker — the role they play, the skill set they have — in terms of the leverage they might have in a work-from-home situation,” Nedzhvetskaya said. “I don’t think you can say this is the same across the board for all tech workers. But I definitely think there is more concern about job stability than there was six months ago.”

At tech companies where remote work is set to continue permanently, managers are cracking down on other fronts.

Meta has been relatively vocal about embracing remote work in the long term. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is currently Company pivot Towards building a “metaverse” of immersive virtual worlds, virtual offices are one of his favorite use cases to talk about.

Zuckerberg commented during recent interview With podcaster Joe Rogan. “Sometimes it’s really better not to be in the office, because then people don’t bother you.”

But amid its own economic struggles – a Latest earnings report Meta has revealed its first annual decline in quarterly revenue was hurt On other COVID compliments. The extra vacation days that were introduced during the pandemic are now being phased out, and the free laundry and dry cleaning services they once offered to employees are long gone. In an internal call reviewed by The Verge, Zuckerberg warned that many employees haven’t worked as hard as they will soon need.

“There may be a bunch of people in the company that shouldn’t be here,” he told employees, adding that he would now be “turning on the heat.”

These workplace changes reflect a changing economic landscape. In many technology companies, stock prices have previously skyrocketed back to earth. Recent earnings reports from Twitter And the Explode, Explode Proved disappointing, start-up companies financing I started to evaporate. “Silicon Valley investor sentiment is the most negative since the internet crash,” said venture capitalist David Sachs chirp in May.

However, even as the pandemic-induced boom and resilience wanes, technology remains, at scale, an industry with plenty of pluses for workers. Much of the chalk is due to simple economics: highly skilled technicians are in great demand, but supply is relatively limited.

John Choufeld – Secretary with United Tech and ALLID WORKERS, a branch of the UK Telecommunications Workers Union – said that Shortage of American tech workers It gives them great power to make demands, for example, whether they work from a cubicle versus a sofa.

Louis Hyman, director of the Cornell University Institute for Workplace Studies, agrees that “unemployment for these types of workers is still very, very low.” They may not be able to choose between Google and Amazon, but they can choose [between] Google and General Electric. … If all companies are now software companies – which is not entirely true, but somewhat true – there is still plenty of opportunity.”

The company's bikes are located outside an office building on the Google campus in Mountain View.

The company’s bikes are located outside an office building on the Google campus in Mountain View.

(Brian Contreras/Los Angeles Times)

“Essentially, the strength of the work comes from whether or not you can be easily replaced,” he added.

However, the industry is not homogeneous. Even if software engineers who work for well-known technology companies or who have impressive college degrees still wield some influence, their counterparts at the lower rungs of the industry ladder are in a far more dangerous position.

The tech sector is very divided, said Ron Hera, an associate professor in Howard University’s Department of Political Science who studies business dynamics. Although pop culture may suggestAnd, he added, not every Google employee hangs out all day and plays ping pong.

“Most of the people who work at Google will be contract workers,” Hera said. “If they had an agency and had the authority, they wouldn’t be contractors – they’d rather work directly with Google.”

An oversized chess set in a gardened area of ​​the Google Campus in Mountain View.

An oversized chess set in a gardened area of ​​the Google Campus in Mountain View.

(Brian Contreras/Los Angeles Times)

At the moment, Google employees are working wanted To come to the office three times a week. But on a sunny Friday in late August, there wasn’t much evidence of that policy at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Parking spaces were empty everywhere; The huge chess sets scattered in the many manicured gardens looked the same.

Among the scattered mix of employees, contractors and interns who strolled into the office garden shortly after lunchtime, some said the back-to-office mandate is not consistently enforced.

Hanwen Ling, a recent college graduate who started working at Google Ads earlier this summer, said the prospect of hybrid work was part of what attracted him to the company in the first place.

“I really don’t like the full remote control,” Ling said. “I kind of like this hybrid.”

An empty extension of the Google Campus in Mountain View.

Googlers are expected to be in the office three days a week, but on a sunny Friday afternoon, the main campus remained relatively sleepy.

(Brian Contreras/Los Angeles Times)

Another employee, who asked not to be identified, said that no one really adheres to the three-day rule: “It’s really up to the discretion of the manager.” But, this person added, the company began “pulling” employees’ salaries to help employees set up offices at home. (Google did not respond to an email inquiring about home office salaries.)

Meanwhile, the hiring slowdown has shifted the fabric of the job, with fewer new hands to take part in the tasks, the employee said, “The way it has affected me is that I feel like we’re very understaffed.”

It’s a complaint that, after layoffs, it may soon be heard in Snap — and as the sector continues to narrow, other companies will likely be as well.

Times staff writer Jimmy Deng contributed to this report.


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