Some bosses are using the threat of a possible recession this year to give workers an ultimatum: Come back to the office or be fired
- Some companies have been threatening to fire workers who don't return to the office, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Bosses are gaining leverage over employees due to recession anxiety.
If your boss has been trying to get you out of house slippers and back into business casual, they may have found some leverage.
That's because the recession that could hit this year is giving employers a leg to stand on in their pandemic-long fight to get workers back in the office.
Employees at investment firm Vanguard told The Wall Street Journal's Chip Cutter that management threatened to fire workers — without severance — if they didn't comply with recent return to office mandates. Vanguard, in addition to companies like Paycom, have sent memos to employees in recent weeks asking them to adhere to hybrid schedules or come into the office more.
A Vanguard spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that working from the office is essential for both the experience of its clients and workers.
"It's not going to be so easy to give up your job," Kathryn Wylde, chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit collective of nearly 300 CEOs, told Reuters last month. "That will probably mean that people are less resistant to the requirement they are back in the office at least three days a week — which is where it feels like it is headed."
It's a shift that's happened slowly but surely over the last few months, as workers lose some of the hard-fought ground from the labor shortage. Over the course of the pandemic, workers grew bolder, with the number of strikes tripling between 2021 and 2022 and people continuing to see wage gains as they hopped from one job to the next amid a Great Resignation climate. Employees have also been getting historic raises, although inflation is so high it only amounts to real wage gains for a handful of them.
In addition to better pay and benefits, workers have also made remote work a a make-or-break benefit, preferring to axe their commute time, avoid COVID-19 exposure, and strike a better work-life balance from their homes. But with job security becoming less certain, companies are looking to challenge that.
About half of leaders said their company requires, or was planning to require employees to return to in-person work full-time between early 2022 and early 2023, according to a September Microsoft survey of 31,102 workers around the world. In contrast, 64% of staffers said they have or would consider looking for a new job if their employer wanted them to return to the office full-time, according to an ADP survey of 32,000 people last year.
Aside from higher pay or "better career opportunities," a flexible working arrangement, which includes the option to work remotely, was the greatest motivator to find a new job, according to a McKinsey survey from last summer. According to another report by Adobe last year, 51% of 5,500 enterprise employees interviewed, workers at companies with more than 1,000 employees, preferred complete flexibility in scheduling, while only 16% said their ideal work week would involve no flexibility at all, with a "start and end work according to a set work schedule."
That was before news of layoffs hit some companies, something that's worrying workers. A survey from Insight Global last summer found that 78% of US workers are worried about losing their jobs during the next recession.
But those worries may be overblown. Layoffs are indeed hitting companies like Facebook and Microsoft, where thousands are getting cut, but the tech industry is an outlier and most workers are likely to keep their jobs in the event of a recession, experts say.
White-collar industries like banking, tech, and real estate, which experienced hiring boons at the start of the pandemic, are more vulnerable, as they're shedding the employees they gained earlier — which means workers bargaining for remote work flexibility might not need to blink so soon.
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