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The Tweet Heard ‘Round the World

June 8, 2022

By Mary E. Corrado, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

I’m sure by now you’ve seen or heard about the Elon Musk memo leaked on Twitter telling his senior staff that all employees must report to the office for a minimum of 40 hours per week.  When another Twitter user asked, “Any additional comment to people who think coming into work is an antiquated concept?”, Elon’s response, the Tweet heard around the world was, “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”

This one memo has created many questions around the future of remote work. (see image)

While many executives are pushing for a return to in-person work, employees are pushing equally hard for the opposite.  They’ve grown accustomed to the flexibility of remote work and for many, have proven to be equally or more productive.

A recent survey conducted by Cleaning Coalition of America surveyed over 200 New York c-suite executives and found that 76% think in-person work is essential to the bottom line.  They have data to back their opinion:

  • A University of Chicago study found that while remote workers put in longer hours, they were less productive.
  • A study by Microsoft found that their business units became less interconnected and overly relied on emails and chats which made it more difficult to collaborate on complex projects.
  • A Webex study recently found that many remote workers are experiencing “meeting fatigue.”

But with the challenging labor market right now, can employers afford to demand in-person work? In March of this year Goldman Sachs asked employees to return to the office five days per week. When they first made the demand in February, only about half of the employees actually returned to the office. In 2021 CEO David Solomon stated, “Remote work is not ideal for us, and it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.” However, since the return to the office, they’ve had trouble retaining employees and now offer junior staff a minimum of two extra days off each year and senior staff unlimited time off. In a recent memo, it was announced that all Goldman Sachs employees will be required to take a minimum of three weeks off annually – and one of those vacations must be five consecutive days. So, will the return to the office backfire on them with more employees taking vacations throughout the year? Was it a fair exchange?  Time will tell.

In another example, JPMorgan, who initially called for a return to in-person work, announced this past April that they would allow half of its workforce to work a hybrid or remote schedule.  Just a year ago, CEO Jamie Dimon stated that working from home “doesn’t work for those who want to hustle” and that people “don’t like commuting, but so what.” According to Business Insider, a JP Morgan staff member stated, “At JPMorgan, nobody trusts you.”

So how will this turn out for Tesla? Goldman Sachs currently reports they have about 50-60% in-person attendance and JPMorgan has allowed employees to reduce their in-person days to two to three per week.  It seems employees are winning the battle. Will this shift if we go into the expected recession?

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