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Millions Of Workers Fired Over Zoom As ‘Remote Layoffs’ Become Part Of America’s ‘New Normal’

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

A movie like the George Clooney-starring, Anna Kendrick-supported "Up In The Air" could have only been made during the depths of an economic crisis. The film focuses on a consulting firm that handles 'firings' mostly for large corporate clients. Most of these firings are handled in-person, until Kenrick's character comes along with an innovation: A new video-conferencing technology that will allow the firm to start handling its 'firings' remotely.

The new technology rankles George Clooney's character, the firm's most experienced consultant. Firing someone, as Clooney explains to Kendrick, requires taking them at their most vulnerable and "setting them adrift". It's a weighty, emotional and intense experience that should be handled in-person, if for no other reason than as a sign of respect: firing people remotely will simply cement the notion that these corporations truly don't value their employees as "humans", but merely as "resources."

Unfortunately, more than a decade later, the film's vision of remote firings' is finally becoming a reality.

With roughly 60% of America's workforce working from home, according to data by a national organization for HR managers, companies facing brutal business losses because of the COVID-19-induced recession have little choice by to deliver the news remotely, since bringing people back into the office just to be told to go home simply isn't tenable. And paying to have a George Clooney-type consultant travel to their homes and deliver the news personally would just be…weird.

The problem is that HR departments don't have widespread protocols for firing by remote. This has resulted in thousands of awkward moments where workers found out about mass layoffs on an all-hands call, or with family members sitting around them.

Ruthie Townsend didn’t think anything was amiss last week when she logged into her company’s standing staff meeting on Zoom, even though management at Pana, the business-travel-software startup where she worked, had warned the company might face serious challenges. But at the top of the videoconference call, employees at the Denver-based company were told they would soon receive either an email indicating that they were still employed, or an invite to another Zoom call at which severance details would be explained.

Ms. Townsend, a 25-year-old sales rep, began furiously refreshing her email until the calendar invite appeared in her inbox. “I was already panicking,” she says. “I forgot if this is the one where I get laid off or I’m keeping my job."

When she logged into the next Zoom call and realized she was being laid off, she quickly muted herself and shut off her computer’s video camera; she says she was comforted to hear Pana was dedicating resources to help people find other work.

The Palo Alto-based TripActions grabbed headlines after firing some 300 staff over Zoom.

TripActions Inc., a corporate-travel startup based in Palo Alto, Calif. grabbed headlines last week as one of the first companies to enact a significant layoff – nearly 300 employees, or 25% of its staff – over Zoom. Ariel Cohen, the co-founder and chief executive, says there is no good way to let people go. He worried that talking to employees individually would create a situation where the sad news spread quickly and created anxiety before management could reach everyone.

"Whether we do it over Zoom or face-to-face, the actual act is horrible,” Mr. Cohen says of the layoff.

At this rate, in-person firings might soon become a thing of the past, as companies realize that firing employees remotely is simply easier and less risky. One human resources manager warned that people should be fired individually when possible, and warned in advance that a "difficult conversation" was about to ensue.

Tracy Cote, chief people officer at human-resources-technology firm Zenefits, says if bad news has to be delivered to somebody working from home, managers should make sure that person understands a difficult conversation is coming so they can find a space that is at least semiprivate.

"You don’t want to tell them they’re laid off in the middle of the kitchen with the family around," she says.

Pretty soon, companies will be handling mass firings by email, or – worse – by text.


 


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