Good news! Employees of Facebook will soon be able to work from home FOREVER!
Not only will Facebook save money on office space and in-house perks; they can reduce salaries to account for lower cost of living as employees flee to the exurbs.
In the early aughts, tech companies like IBM and Cisco realized they could save hundreds of millions a year by outsourcing their jobs to India. A lot of people complained about this, but three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman took the initiative and actually visited an IT offshoring firm in Bangalore.
There, he discovered that the Indian IT workers were using computers and software made by Compaq and Microsoft, drinking beverages made by Coca-Cola, and the firm itself was 90% owned by American investors. Contrary to the popular opinion that offshoring was leaving Americans jobless and poor, it was in fact making Americans fabulously rich. Different groups of Americans, but all white people look same.
There was a time when IBM employees were treated like family. Would you dump Grandma on the street once her maintenance costs exceed her productive value? No! That’s why IBM had a no-layoff policy, along with corporate country clubs and family-friendly Christmas parties. Then the internet came along and made offshoring feasible, the end of the Cold War made globalization politically correct, and post-Bretton Woods financialization made foreign investment attractive. IBM laid off workers, sold the country clubs, and, well, it’s hard to have a Christmas party when the majority of your workforce is in India.
Facebook is an H-1B dependent company, meaning over 15% of its employees are on temporary visas. The obvious thing is for Facebook to send all the H-1B workers back home and have them work from overseas. But I’m reminded of this passage from Antonio Garcia Martinez’s Chaos Monkeys:
Large but unexciting tech outfits like Oracle, Intel, Qualcomm, and IBM that have trouble recruiting the best American talent hire foreign engineers by the boatload. Consultancy firms that bill inflated project costs by the man-hour, such as Accenture and Deloitte, shanghai their foreign laborers, who can’t quit without being eventually deported. By paying them relatively slim H-1B-stipulated salaries while eating the fat consultancy fees, such companies get rich off the artificial employment monopoly created by the visa barrier. It’s a shit deal for the immigrant visa holders, but they put up with the five or so years of stultifying, exploitive labor as an admissions ticket to the tech First World. After that, they’re free. Everyone abandons his or her place at the oar inside the Intel war galley immediately, but there’s always someone waiting to take over.
Strictly speaking, H-1B visas are nonimmigrant and temporary, and so this hazing ritual of immigrant initiation is unlawful. Yet everyone’s on the take, including the government, which charges thousands in filing fees. The entire system is so riven with institutionalized lies, political intrigue, and illegal but overlooked manipulation, it’s a wonder the American tech industry exists at all.
Zuckerberg is a smart guy. He’s also the co-founder of FWD.us, a lobbying group that wants MOAR visas for temporary workers. If employees in Bangalore were just as effective as employees in Menlo Park, Zuck would have enabled remote work ages ago. Immigration is part of the compensation package.
It’s the high-maintenance regular employees that will be sent home. You know, the ones that require a living wage and gender diversity, and stage protests if an exec appears to support Trump. The average tenure of a Facebook employee is only 2 years, so it’s a convenient way to shed some cruft from the workforce.
I guess Facebook is going the way of IBM, but with better marketing.