Back to the old work routine? More companies in the US started requiring their employees to return to the office.

The number of companies in the US that have started requiring their employees to return to work from the office five days a week continues to rise, and some even threaten that those who do not adopt the new policy will be fired without compensation.

According to the “Wall Street Journal” quite a few companies in the United States, including the investment giant Vanguard Group, the technology company Paycom Software and other large and well-known companies have sent instructions to their employees during the first week of 2023 calling them to increase the number of days they work from the office. Several companies even released notices that employees who refuse to do so, will be fired shortly after.

Most of the employees opposed the new instructions and criticized them, saying that commuting to the office takes up most of their time and that working from the office is less productive. The employees that are in favor of returning to the office claim that it will lead to better corporate bonding, improve corporate culture and increase productivity.

According to ‘Kastle Systems’ security company data during Covid19 companies not only allowed but also encouraged their workers to work from home leading to a less than 50% office occupancy in the ten largest cities in the United States.

With the pandemic behind us and the growing fear of recession, giant companies such as META, Twitter and Amazon have already made extensive layoffs, forcing the remaining employees back to the office for the whole week.

At Vanguard Group, located in Philadelphia, managers have contacted all staff members informing them that employees that will not fulfill the company’s requirement to arrive at the office between Tuesday and Thursday will be fired without compensation.

Another example is Paycom Software company based in Oklahoma City, where the managers have informed the tech teams that their presence in the office five days a week is crucial in order to execute “a number of critical projects”.  The company’s spokesman has released a statement to the ‘Wall Street Journal’ stating that 80% of the company’s employees have already been working from the office five days a week as demanded.  “Since the beginning of the epidemic, we have announced that working from home is a temporary solution as we prioritize the health and well-being of everyone. We are now excited that the last departments that worked from home will join their colleagues in the office.”

The Goldman Sachs Group took a much tougher approach, demanding that the employees arrive at the office on a daily basis, even during the pandemic. “Bottom line, we’re working pretty close to the way we worked before the pandemic.” said David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, at a conference last month.

Companies such as LifePro financial company based in San Diego have explicitly written in their job description that the requirement is to work from the office throughout the whole week. The company enabled remote work in the early stages of the pandemic “even though burnout increased and productivity decreased for some employees,” said LifePro CEO Heather Olz. In the summer of 2020 Olz decided to return all employees to the office, despite the objection of some, a policy that has brought almost a third of the employees to resign. “It may take longer to fill positions because of the preferences of some applicants to work from home, but I see the benefits- that employees can hear each other and also help each other.” Said Olz.

A change in meeting procedures:

Shopify, the giant Canadian e-commerce company, has laid off 1,000 employees after its shares fell by 75% during 2022. In order to be more productive during 2023, the company has informed its workers that they will be returning back from their Christmas and New Years vacation to new work procedures.

Among the partly surprising procedures- meetings that include more than two people will no longer be held, no meetings will be held on Wednesdays at all, and that meetings that include more than 50 people will only take place on Thursdays in a specified time window. “The best thing company founders can do is subtract,” said the CEO and one of the founders of Shopify, Tobi Lotka “It’s much easier to add things to the calendar than to remove them. If you say ‘yes’ to something, you are actually saying ‘no’ to every single thing you could have done in that time period. As people add things to the calendar, the pool of things that can be done becomes smaller and then it becomes from there that everyone is just maintaining the status quo.”  He added while encouraging them to remove themselves from large internal chat groups.

Among the companies that have already adopted a “no meetings” policy, you can also find META.

According to a survey conducted last year, employees spend an average of 18 hours per week in meetings, and they only decline 14% of invitations to meetings, although they prefer to decline 31% of them. According to the same survey, holding non-critical meetings to which employees reluctantly attend wastes about 100 million dollars a year for large organizations. According to Steven Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science, psychology and management at the University of North Carolina

the management of the meetings themselves may also harm the involvement of the employees and even increase their intention to resign.

Microsoft’s data, which is based on thousands of users of its Workplace software shows that the time spent in meetings more than tripled in the first two years of the pandemic and the number of weekly meetings more than doubled.

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