Back to Work, or Else


Back to Work, or Else

I am honored that the venerable Wall Street Journal reads this blog. Coming off my piece about working from home, they had nearly a full section this last Saturday titled “Back to work, or Else”. They didn’t give me credit, but that’s OK. We all know who had the idea.

Employers including Apple Inc., Prudential Financial Inc, and BMO Financial Group plan broader September returns at their US offices. Some companies, such as Ally Financial Inc., have sent notes in recent weeks reminding workers to come into the office consistently. Goldman Sachs Group inc. said it was lifting all vaccination and other requirements to enter most of its officer after Labor day.

Others, including Marriott International are opening gleaming new office spaces with the hope and expectation, that workers will use them.

There’s an entire article in the WSJ about UMW Holdings in Pontiac, Michigan. They have 7,000 employees and have mandated that they will work in the office. They lost 500 employees over the policy, but say that it has been worth it. One supervisor noted that she can see her 60 staff members and can quickly see if one is struggling, and can walk over to help. “Overall it strengthens us at a team.”

Some employees complained that they couldn’t do their laundry during the day when they had to come into the office. Well Duh.

When executives at competitors call Mat Ishbia, UMW CEO, and say they are hesitant to push their own workers back to the office, he said he jokes in response: “I tell them, ‘Let them stay home,’”, He said. I’m kicking their ass and having fun with it.”

The Journal interviewed folks at of all places Zoom. The company had great successes at the beginning of the pandemic, its market cap was 159 billion. That has now dropped to 24 billion. The WSJ reporter noted that, like most tech companies, the concept of hybrid work is mostly to the remote side, however he found that the most provocative theory, “floated by the company’s Chief People Officer, was that remote work could prove harmful in the long term. Will those who work from home be lonelier and unhealthier? What if research shows that men and women coming to the office get promoted faster and make more money than those working from home? How can companies mentor employees and keep their company culture without sharing a physical space?”

The conclusion from WSJ is that when it comes to hybrid work, no one has the answers.

Well, I do. It’s obvious. UMW has the answers. Get your people back in the office, and you will too.


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John Van Horn

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