Walmart is closing three US tech hubs but still expects all employees to report to office

Walmart is closing three US tech hubs but still expects all employees to report to office

Shipping employees to another office.
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

Walmart is shutting three tech hubs in the US, forcing a rejig in the workforce.

The big-box retailer is closing down tech offices in Austin, Texas; Carlsbad, California; and Portland, Oregon, Bloomberg reported on Monday (Feb. 13), citing a memo sent to staff last week by Walmart’s global technology head, Suresh Kumar. The retailer will also begin to require all its technology workers to come into the office at least two days a week, according to the Wall Street Journal, which also reviewed the staff memo.

Workers will need to relocate to keep their jobs. The operations will move to San Bruno, California or the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, Robert Munroe, Walmart’s director of global communications told Reutersdrawing from Kumar’s memo. “Everything is variable; there is no set date that (this transfer) must be completed,” Munroe added.

The company hopes to resettle most of the workers at the two locations, and some exceptions will be made to allow full-time remote work as well, a spokeswoman told WSJ. Those who choose to leave on account of the closures will be given severance pay, she said.

Walmart tech workforce, by the digits

11: Tech hubs Walmart has in the US

6: Tech hubs Walmart has abroad

Hundreds: Combined staff count at the Austin, Carlsbad, and Portland offices that are being shut down

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20,000: Tech workers in Kumar’s team at Walmart globally as of last year. Walmart’s total workforce is upwards of 1.7 million, largely warehouse and retail staff

2: Minimum number of days Walmart expects all tech workers to come into office

5: Number of days many workers in Walmart’s Bentonville corporate headquarters have been required to work in-person each week since last year

5,000: Tech associates Walmart planned to hire globally in the fiscal year, according to Kumar’s outline of the tech team expansion plans in March 2022. At the time, he had also said the company would add hubs in Toronto and Atlanta

Throwback: Walmart’s tech chief on remote work during the pandemic

“We believe the way of working in the future, particularly in tech, will be fundamentally different than it was before. We believe it will be one in which working virtually will be the new normal, at least for most of the work we lead. With this in mind, we’ve decided that even as restrictions are lifted and other groups in Walmart eventually return to their offices, we will take our time, and think about how we can invent the workspace of the future. We will have physical office space and it will be used primarily for collaboration, to sync up and strengthen camaraderie. We’ll be together, at times, and for a purpose.” —Walmart’s Global CTO Suresh Kumar in an internal memo in May 2020

More companies want remote workers to come to office

Walmart is the latest corporate giant to mandate work-from-the-office days, and that’s increasingly becoming the norm. Workers have been reluctant about giving up their newfound work-life balance and savings on gasoline for commutes. However, managers like to have their teams assemble in person for better training and team bonding.

Last year, Google, Salesforce, Twitter, and others started calling people into the workplace for a few days in the week at least. Starting September, Apple asked employees to work from an office three days a week. Since November, Uber has designated Tuesdays and Thursdays as “anchor days” when employees must come to the office.

This January, Starbucks told corporate workers to come to the office three times a week by the end of the month. And most recently, Walt Disney said workers would have to come to the office four days a week starting in March.

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