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Walmart closing tech hubs in Texas, California and Oregon

by Serenah McKay | February 15, 2023 at 6:55 a.m.
Cashiers process purchases at a Walmart Supercenter in North Bergen, N.J., on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. (AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

Walmart Inc. said Tuesday that it's closing three of its tech hubs around the country and requiring most workers to move to other offices, including its Bentonville headquarters.

Employees at Walmart's global technology offices in Austin, Texas; Carlsbad, Calif.; and Portland, Ore., must transfer to larger tech hubs nearby as the three locations close. Walmart will pay those workers' moving costs. Employees who choose not to move will get severance pay.

Also, all of Walmart's tech workers will have to work in the office at least twice a week, although the company said some will be allowed to work remotely.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Suresh Kumar, Walmart's global chief technology officer and chief development officer, gave employees the news in a memo.

Walmart declined repeated requests by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for a copy of the memo, even though it was supplied to the Wall Street Journal.

The retailer gave the Democrat-Gazette only a brief statement on the matter, saying, "The unique culture and values of Walmart are at the core of who we are -- to our customers, members, associates and partners. With this in mind, we've made the decision to focus our tech team's presence within select locations. We hope to relocate or allow for remote work for all affected associates."

The new mandate is a reversal of Walmart's previous policy for its tech team.

Early in the pandemic, Kumar said Walmart's tech employees would continue to work remotely indefinitely because the arrangement was so successful.

"As we've moved to virtual work, we haven't just coped, we've actually thrived," Kumar said in a memo to staff on May 28, 2020. "We are more focused on the things that have the greatest impact for our customers, and the business."

Kumar also said that the team was quicker to make decisions and act on them, and that meetings included more employees regardless of their locations.

"Working virtually will be the new normal," Kumar said.

Walmart Global Tech workers include software engineers, architects and developers; data scientists and engineers; cybersecurity experts; and technical program and product managers.

When Walmart opened tech hubs in Atlanta and Toronto in March, the company said that brought to 17 its total number of technology hubs worldwide. Walmart also said at the time that it employed more than 20,000 tech workers and planned to add 5,000 more.

The few hundred workers who may move to the Bentonville area in coming months won't affect Northwest Arkansas' already stressed housing market, said Mervin Jebaraj, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas' Walton College of Business.

And they're not on any timeline to get here, Jebaraj said. If they all had to be here next month, that would be problematic, he said. But having them move in over time won't have a significant impact on already high housing prices and rents in the region.

Tyson Foods Inc. said in October that it had recalled about 1,000 corporate employees from its offices around the country to work at its Springdale headquarters. However, Jebaraj said Tyson gave them a five-year window to make the move, and not all of them will opt to do so.

The Wall Street Journal reported in December that only about 200 workers have said they'll move to Springdale. Tyson said the moves were expected to begin early this year.

Print Headline: Walmart to shut 3 hubs, shift workers


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