Dye & Durham DND-T CEO Matt Proud delivered a pair of tough messages to employees on Thursday: those who aren’t willing to work five days in the office should leave. Then he announced he would be cutting an undisclosed number of jobs anyway.
In a memo to its 1,500 employees sent Thursday, the Toronto-based software company said all of its workers would have to return to the office on a full-time basis starting Feb. 1 next year, and cited empty offices and the inability of employees to “effectively collaborate with each other” as reasons for the reversal of the company’s hybrid work policy.
“Our expectation will be that if you work for this company, you work together with your colleagues at the office,” Mr. Proud wrote. He went on to state that if employees preferred to work from home, it was their “personal choice,” but effectively meant they should seek employment elsewhere as “Dye & Durham likely isn’t the place for you.”
But hours later, as part of an earnings announcement, Dye & Durham said it would be cutting costs by 10 per cent, and that some of those cuts would involve jobs. On an earnings call with investors, Mr. Proud said that the largest cost the company had is people, so it would be “letting people go”.
Dye & Durham has employees spread across four countries, including Ireland, Britain and Australia.
In an interview with The Globe before the earnings announcement, Mr. Proud said he realized, in recent months, that full-time, in-person work was a prerequisite for “building a better business.”
“We tried soft pushes to get people back in. It did not work. Innovation does not take place when people are hiding behind computer screens,” he said. “The reality was, half our office was empty.”
When asked why so many Dye & Durham employees preferred to work from home, Mr. Proud said that he could not speak for his staff, but that he expected a number of employees to leave the organization in light of the policy change.
Employers in both the private and public sectors have grappled with their return-to-office plans, often encountering significant pushback from employees who have gotten used to the flexibility of remote work. And in an era where most industries continue to face a labour shortage, employees have held greater leverage in determining the terms of their employment, including where and how they work.
But lately, tech workers may have seen that leverage slip away. Across the country, high-profile companies in the sector, including e-commerce platform Shopify SHOP-T, fintech company Wealthsimple Technologies Inc., and the social media management company Hootsuite Inc. have all shed hundreds of jobs, a result of declining tech valuations after years of frothiness.
This month, Twitter Inc., under the leadership of its new CEO Elon Musk, cut thousands of jobs and dumped its remote work policy entirely, telling remaining employees to work from the office full time, for “at least 40 hours a week.” The social media giant had previously allowed employees to work from anywhere.
Still, Twitter and Dye & Durham remain anomalies when it comes to their return-to-office policies. Most big tech companies have shied away from instituting a full return to the workplace – Apple AAPL-Q, Alphabet GOOGL-Q, Meta META-Q, Amazon AMZN-Q and Shopify all allow their employees to work from home some days a week.
Beyond cost-cutting measures, Dye & Durham also announced a sizable share buyback. The company said its board had approved a “substantial issuer bid” to buy and cancel up to $150-million of its outstanding common stock, under which it will pay an as-yet undetermined purchase price that will be between $12.50 and $15 per share. That would equate to between 10 million and 12 million shares. The company said it expected to announce the terms and start the offer, which is being managed by Canaccord Genuity, on Friday.
That comes just six weeks after the company announced it would buy back up to 5 per cent of its 69.1 million shares over the subsequent 12 months; it has since bought back 2.8 million shares and said it will buy no further stock under that program.
In total, Dye & Durham will buy back $196-million worth of stock, said a company spokesman. That amounts to at least 18.5 per cent of the shares outstanding.