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Fiery leap off building rattled workers a week before Indeed layoffs

'It was very sudden.'


Parks Kugle


Posted on Apr 7, 2023   Updated on Apr 11, 2023, 7:21 am CDT

Since the beginning of 2023, approximately 138,820 tech workers have been laid off. The scope of job loss has created an environment of fear for many. As March approached, employees at Indeed, a company that helps others find jobs, felt secure in their positions. The fear that enveloped so many other companies had not yet affected them. 

“There wasn’t much indication that layoffs were going to happen. Especially, since Indeed had never done layoffs in their history. So, I never got a feel of nervousness or anxiety of an impending layoff,” said one laid-off Indeed employee in a phone interview with the Daily Dot.

Fear of widespread layoffs throughout tech took a psychic toll on many workers, and this person felt “some nervousness and anxiety about layoffs as more a function of working in the tech industry.” 

Indeed’s transparent culture had previously made this fear seem counter-productive.

“For months, even in the middle of 2022, our Q&As were always very open and we were very transparent. We asked them if layoffs would occur. At first they emphasized it is the last thing we can do then they switched to a vagueness on whether or not layoffs would occur.”

Then someone died.

On Wednesday, March 15, Indeed’s office in Austin, Texas was evacuated after someone climbed the stairwell of an adjacent parking garage, lit themselves on fire, and jumped to the parking lot below.

“It happened during the day,” one former Indeed employee recalled to us. “I wasn’t in the office at the time. I worked remotely, so I just got a bunch of official texts and emails from Indeed and emergency services checking on our mental and physical health and directing us to designated exits. Police had blocked off the parking lot. It was during business hours.”

Although rumors spread that it was an employee who jumped off the office building, Indeed was quick to inform staff that the person who jumped was not an Indeed employee.

“Factually they did not light themselves on fire and jump off the Indeed building, but rather they jumped off the parking garage nearby. Virtually anyone can climb up a bunch of stairwells,” said the former Indeed employee. 

An Austin police report confirms the fire and death at 10721 Domain Dr., site of the Indeed tower, which does also have an adjacent parking garage. No other info on the death has been made public.

The following Wednesday, employees woke up and prepared themselves for the all-hands meeting they joined every week. Staff was unaware of the meeting’s intent. During the meeting, CEO Chris Hyams informed the staff that they would be reducing their workforce by 15%, laying off 2,200 workers. 

“It was very sudden, I was working on a presentation all night and getting ready for a meeting at 11am, I went into a CEO Q&A at 10am, and the CEO was almost on the verge of tears. He explained that it was something we had to do and that you would receive an email by tomorrow. I received mine within 10 minutes and by 10:10am I was let go. By the end of that day, every U.S. employee knew whether or not their job was impacted.” 

Part of the reasoning for the layoffs was the cooling job market. Indeed gains a majority of its funds through companies sponsoring job listings. Sponsoring listings allows the post to reach a higher proportion of potential applicants. But, according to a blog post from Hyams, sponsored job posting were down 33% year over year, and total job openings have decreased by 3.5%.  

Layoffs were widespread throughout the company, impacting every team, level, and region. Hyams will also reportedly be taking a 25% cut in base pay to help with balancing expenses. 

“With future job openings at or below pre-pandemic levels, our organization is simply too big for what lies ahead. We have held out longer than many companies, but the revenue trends are undeniable. So I have decided to act now,” Hyams wrote. 

Indeed, unlike some companies involved in the layoffs, tried to make the landing as easy as possible on former team members. The company has offered at least 16 weeks of base salary pay, compensation for accrued PTO, a cash payout for RSUs that haven’t vested, and access to career placement and mental health services, according to the blog post. U.S. employees will also be eligible for four months of health insurance through COBRA. Indeed allowed ex-staffers to keep their work laptops that were disconnected from their business systems. Slack, workday access, and former staffer’s emails were left intact, so they could say goodbye and remove personal materials from their laptops. The laptops will be remotely reset after allowing workers a period of time to adjust. 

“The benefits we got seem better than most companies, especially with all the other tech layoffs happening. In that way I do feel a bit lucky, but I know it’s been a really rough time for a lot folks,” said the former Indeed employee.  

Indeed did not respond to a request for comment.

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*First Published: Apr 7, 2023, 7:40 am CDT