Saturday, May 18, 2024

Revolt in the Remote: When Employees Resist the Return to Office


Elon Musk wants employees back at work

Apple, Amazon, Lyft… In the United States, employees are rebelling against their employers over work-from-home, an achievement that many companies have been trying to revert for a year.

Work-from-home would harm team spirit, performance, creativity, and employee involvement. This is the sound little we can hear among managers and on LinkedIn for a year now.

For Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI (ChatGPT), endorsing teleworking after the pandemic would even be the worst mistake the tech industry has made. Disney and Salesforce – who two years ago assured that the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office day was over – made an about-face by forcing employees to return to work.

These positions create significant internal tensions. The latest comes from Farmers Group, an American insurer. A shower of 2,000 negative comments fell on the internal messaging system of the Los Angeles-based group, after the announcement of the new CEO, Raul Vargas. The latter required 3 days of compulsory presence while last year, the majority of employees had switched to complete teleworking. The measure concerns 60% of the company’s 22,000 employees.

I sold my house

The news is experienced as a betrayal. Some employees have moved, reorganized their lives, sold their car after remote work was authorized. Some workers sold their house to move nearer to their relatives. According to Boston moving company EasyMoving, there is an uptick in relocation moves due to workers forced to move after the implementation of this new rule at some companies.

Companies message boards are full of comments, such as I am so sad to learn that I made the decision of moving out based on a lie. To make their voices heard, employees threaten to leave the company, others want to organize into a union.

Before them, it was the employees of Lyft, Apple and even Amazon who rebelled against measures restricting teleworking. At Amazon, hundreds demonstrated in front of the company’s headquarters in Seattle for this reason, among others.

Loss of creativity: facade or real motive

The CEO of Farmers Group cites, as often, the need for collaboration, innovation and creativity as reasons for this return to the fold. These arguments are hardly admissible for employees who had been told, a few months earlier, that productivity during the pandemic, where teleworking was widespread, had exceeded that before Covid.

On a larger scale, it is difficult to decide on the benefits and harms of these new methods of organization. Studies and surveys on the effects of remote work say a bit of everything and its opposite. A quarter of teleworkers feel alone, according to one survey, but according to another, the location does not really influence employee morale.

Creativity is described as the big loser in the home office in newspaper headlines, but on closer inspection, the surveys on which these headlines are based are not so clear-cut (30% of marketing directors believe that it is more difficult to create professional relationships when working remotely, which are essential for creativity).

Extremely hardcore schedule at Twitter

And then is this search for innovation and great team spirit really the reason that pushes managers to bring their teams back?

In a vitriolic article, Business Insiders believes that this speech is only a facade, relaying the analysis of researchers specializing in the working environment. Behind this lies a very archaic and sexist vision of things, the media explains.

The office is for work, and the home is for — well, for all those unpaid tasks that women do while their men are at work. In the minds of many bosses, teleworking is an oxymoron. This is notably the backdrop to Elon Musk’s speech, which calls for an end to teleworking, and a return to a hardcore schedule for Twitter employees.

In any case, the CEO of Farmers Group has decided. He has read the comments of his employees, but reaffirms in an internal email that his decision is maintained: the company must move forward.



By: Paulo
Title: Revolt in the Remote: When Employees Resist the Return to Office
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Published Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2023 15:30:00 +0000

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