Photo of Joshua Bote

File photo of Sam Altman speaking onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019.

File photo of Sam Altman speaking onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019.

STEVE JENNINGS/Getty Images for TechCrunch

While seemingly every tech company is attempting to chase the artificial intelligence dragon that Sam Altman and OpenAI wrought, Altman is joining the old-fashioned chorus of anti-remote work tech CEOs with one of the strongest statements against it.

Altman — the chief executive of San Francisco-based OpenAI — opined against the “experiment” of remote work for staff creativity at a talk hosted by the financial tech giant Stripe. It was first reported by Fortune Friday.

“I think definitely one of the tech industry’s worst mistakes in a long time was that everybody could go full remote forever, and startups didn’t need to be together in person and, you know, there was going to be no loss of creativity,” Altman said during the chat, according to Fortune. 

“I would say that the experiment on that is over, and the technology is not yet good enough that people can be full remote forever, particularly on startups.” (In a 2019 podcast appearance with economist Tyler Cowen, Altman did express his contempt for coworking spaces, which begs the question: Where does he think startups should meet if they need to meet in person?)

This isn’t the first time Altman has made his feelings about remote work known, saying that the companies “who rushed to full remote permanently made a big mistake” in a January tweet. That said, even he has exceptions — making the caveat that some of OpenAI’s “best people are remote” in a follow-up response.

He’s also not the first to bang the drum against working from home, even if he is among the most zealous. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, once an ardent supporter of his employees’ ability to work remotely, suggested in January that employees hired during the pandemic are facing “much lower productivity” because of the company’s “office policy.” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, smuggled a pro-office “analysis of performance data” — suggesting that remote-start employees were worse off than their in-office counterparts — into a notice laying off 10,000 workers in March. Recently joining this list is newly appointed Lyft CEO David Risher, who, in April, reportedly switched the company’s flexible working policies into a mandated three days a week in the office.

Among those cheering on his call to return to work was San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey, whose District 6 includes Mid-Market, SoMa and Mission Bay.

“In-person collaboration helps create vibrant workplaces *and* vibrant urban neighborhoods,” Dorsey said in a tweet Saturday, thanking Altman for his “influential thought-leadership” on the matter.

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