Travis Kalanick’s food tech startup sends employees to his office.

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  • Travis Kalanick’s food tech startup is bringing employees back to the office three days a week.
  • The former Uber CEO runs the controversial $15 billion startup Cloud Kitchens.
  • Employees who live within 60 minutes of the office can work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Travis Kalanick’s food-tech startup Otter wants employees to return to the office three days a week, according to insider leaks.

Employees at Otter build and sell software that manages delivery orders for restaurants and ghost kitchens, such as at sister company CloudKitchens. Starting Sept. 12, Otter employees will be required to report to the office every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, according to a memo written by Otter head Guido Gabrieli. The hybrid policy is directed at employees with a commute of 60 minutes or less during off-peak hours., The memo stated.

It’s unclear whether this new requirement applies only to Otter employees or to every division under parent company Urban Storage Systems, which includes the Los Angeles-based and other divisions like Kalanick’s ghost kitchen startup CloudKitchens. A spokeswoman for City Storage Systems declined to comment.

In the note, Gabrieli said that the “flexible working” policy is to use the energy generated from collaboration in the body.

“Whether you’re planning a photo shoot, conducting a code review session, or practicing a sales pitch, the speed and quality of collaboration can be a huge benefit to us as a company,” he wrote. “If we want to win in this competitive market, we must take advantage of these opportunities to continue to unlock value for our customers.”

Kalanick’s flexible policy comes as his Spirit Kitchen startup faces the challenge of protecting customers and employees. Some aspiring restaurateurs have left CloudKitchens after complaining about dirty kitchens, inadequate security, and poor technical support. Hundreds of employees walked out last year and two employees sued the company over labor disputes, Insider previously reported.

The hybrid policy could ruffle feathers among employees who were hired in “completely remote” roles during the pandemic, a current employee told Insider.

Insider reported that some employees protested the CSS outbreak last year when the coronavirus vaccines were coming out. At the start of the lockdown, Kalanick told each team to hold two daily check-in meetings, one in the morning and one in the evening. Even before vaccines were released, some sources said Kalanick and his lieutenants were strongly encouraged to appear in their offices, where they often held meetings without masks. Some employees told Insider that they were hesitant to speak out about the outbreak’s protocols and other issues after seeing their peers ignore or even protest comments on other topics.

Now, employees can choose to work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to the policy outlined in the latest memo. They will also have the option to work from home for three days per quarter on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Those three days of the week are mandatory and cannot be changed. HR and Gabrieli will review all exceptions.

“We need people who are in the office on the same days and frequently,” Gabrielli wrote in the memo. “We don’t want to miss opportunities to include everyone or meet everyone on the team. The kind of work we do at CSS and on our team is best done in person.”

Eventually, CSS staff are expected to return to the office full-time.

“Over time, we would like to see the majority of our workforce in the office five days a week. We will share when we have more clarity around this schedule,” the memo said.

Back-to-work policies in the post-Covid environment are controversial across corporate America. Nike’s hybrid return-to-work policy, implemented in May, has received mixed reviews from employees. Some workers refuse to comply with back-to-worker orders.

Are you a Cloud Kits or Otter employee? Do you have a tip? Contact this reporter by email. nluna@insider.com or through Signal Encrypted by 714-875-6218.

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