How Virtual Layoffs Became The New Normal For Workplaces


The rise of remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic has now brought about the rise of the virtual layoff.

Last November, Meta laid off 11,000 workers, and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, delivered the news over a remote video call. In April, McDonald’s temporarily shut down its corporate offices and fired hundreds of employees virtually.

Meta declined to send a statement, but a company’s spokesperson noted that the company has multiple locations in the world and cannot do all layoffs in person.

The practice is leading to a public debate over layoff etiquette — whether giving employees the bad news is more dignified than locking them out of their email accounts overnight.

“McDonald’s is teaching a master class in layoffs,” Jessica Kriegel, chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in April. “If I were getting laid off, I’d want to be laid off at home, not at the office.”

McDonald’s declined to comment.

Critics of the remote layoff trend say it lacks empathy and only favors the employer.
“It’s lazy leadership,” said Nicholas Whitaker, former Google employee and chief well-being officer and coach for tech workers. “We’re talking about thousands of people’s lives that have been turned upside down. And it’s one of the most, you know, impactful moments in somebody’s career to be let go or to be laid off. It lacks humanity, an ethical and a moral component.”