As the dust settles from Covid-19, business leaders around the globe have been faced with a very difficult decision — continue with remote work, get employees back to the office, or a hybrid solution.
For many companies, like Amazon and Microsoft, ditching the WFH experiment in favor of in-person collaboration couldn't have come sooner, with 14% of Fortune 100 companies issuing return-to-office mandates as early as 2021. Yet, as others weigh up the impact of ditching remote working, and face increasing pushback from their staff, mandatory returns have been delayed.
To shine a light on companies that have made recent U-turns on remote work, here's our regularly updated list of companies that have decided to bid farewell to the practice in 2023, as well as some that made similar decisions last year.
Which Companies Have Ditched Fully Remote Working in 2023?
Companies that have ended remote work in 2023 include:
- Activision Blizzard
- General Motors
- United Parcel Service
Dell employees have had a rough few months. With thousands of layoffs announced back in February, those staff that remain have now been told that they must return to the office.
Reported by The Register, COO Jeff Clarke sent a memo to staff stating that those living within an hour's commute of the office should be making the journey a minimum of three days a week. This move comes after a previous commitment to a more robust working from home policy, which saw CEO Michael Dell say in 2020 ‘I think if you were skeptical about work from home, you probably aren’t now. And I think we’ve all learned a lot in the last few months here. ‘ At the time the company also pointed out the environmental impact of the move to remote, citing the reduction in greenhouse emissions typically caused by commuting.
After re-joining the company in November of last year, Disney's new CEO Bob Iger asked workers to return to the office from Monday through to Thursday this January, as part of an attempt to improve the company's “creativity”, “culture” as well as the careers of his employees. Technically though, this wasn't the first time the company tried to move away from remote working, as the mandate replaced a three-day-a-week policy that had previously been in place since 2021.
Unfortunately for the CEO, this policy change wasn't welcomed with open arms, with 2,300 Disney employees signing a petition in response which asked Iger to reconsider the policy due to its “unintended consequences” that could cause “long-term hard to the company”. This pushback hasn't seemed to make much of a difference though, as Disney's four-day-a-week policy is still in place.
In February, Amazon decided to ditch its WFH policy by asking all workers to return to the office for at least three days a week, starting from May 1. Put simply, workers were not happy. In response to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy's, mandate, employees drafted an internal petition to fight the mandate, urging him to consider a new, more flexible, working policy.
In March, the company doubled down on its decision, with an internal Amazon FAQ revealing that the three-day return was still going to be implemented with little flexibility. While Amazon just appears to be moving with current trends in the tech industry, the new policy marks a major change from its pandemic-era policy which let managers decide if and how frequently their teams needed to be in the office.
It may be responsible for some of the biggest games on the planet, including World of Warcraft and Call of Duty, but when it comes to remote working, Activision Blizzard isn't playing games.
Staff in the Activision arm were told that they had to return to the office on the 10th of April, while Blizzard employees have until July before they need to start commuting again. Game producers at Blizzard been vocal on Twitter about the policy leading to a staff exodus.
Being loud about it because I've lost yet *another* person this week.
Blizzard is losing amazing talent because someone in power doesn't listen to the game directors who make his products. DE&I also means diversity of thought, especially when it's backed by data and financials.
— Adam 💙 #ABetterABK (@Glaxigrav) April 18, 2023
In January, Starbucks's CEO, Howard Schultz, demanded all corporate employees to return to the office for at least three days a week, after trying and failing to implement a one-day return last September. According to a memo issued by Schultz, data revealed that staffers weren't previously adhering to this lax requirement, forcing him to take this change of strategy more seriously.
As part of the CEO's effort to “rebuild” the companies office culture, this new measure took effect on January 30, with all workers that live within commuting distance from the company's Seattle HQ now being expected to work from the office Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and a third day of their choice. Employees that report to regional offices are expected to follow similar orders, although their contact days have not been mandated.
Not one to be outdone, in addition to requiring all of its white-collar workers to return to the workplace two days a week, Walmart has also decided to ask hundreds of employees to relocate cities, as it closes its Austin, Carlsbad, and Portland offices to recover costs.
In what is being described by the company's CEO, Doug McMillon, as a “location strategy”, the company told Wall Street Journal that some relocated workers will be allowed to become full-time remote workers. However, for the majority of Walmart staffers, failing to move to the cities with remaining hub offices will result in them being ejected from the company.
Last October the Detroit-based car manufacturer General Motors announced it would be launching a return to work plan for salaried workers, starting from January 30. This was a huge U-turn from the company's former policy, which allowed them to work remotely up until 2023.
The company is expected its 53,000 salaried workers to return to the office for an average of three days a week. However, GM's approach isn't as firm as its contemporaries, with the manufacturer telling its workers that it will listen to their feedback, and incorporate it into the implementation of its plans moving forward.
United Parcel Service
Another Fortune 500 company, UPS, decided to switch to a hybrid work schedule at the start of this year. The delivery service mandated that all of its white-collar-based employees return to its Atlanta office for at least three days a week. The decision impacted around 3,600 UPS workers, most of whom have worked remotely since the onset of Covid-19.
UPS has aimed to make this experience as pleasant as possible for its staffers by revamping its cafeteria and ensuring senior leadership is available for feedback. What's more, unlike Disney and Amazon, UPS claims that this decision was based on the will of its workers, with its vice president Chris Bartlett explaining “we listened, looked at the needs of the business, looked at people's feedback and selected what we thought was the best course of action.”
Companies That Rolled Out Return-to-Office Mandates in 2022
While lots of companies have put off asking workers back until this year, the majority of businesses – including 32% of Fortune 100 companies – revoked their WFH policies in 2022.
Notable examples include Apple, which pushed back its three-day return from September 2021 to early 2022 amid widespread backlash from its employees, and Uber, which similarly delayed its hybrid policy until April 2022 in response to the Omicron virus. Salesforce also started calling some workers back into the office from the 1st day of 2022, and has since demanded those in customer-facing roles to make the commute at least four days a week.
Other companies that retracted their WFH policies include Goldman Sachs, which demanded employees to return to the office for the full five days from March 2022, Capital One, which opened its offices for the first time since the pandemic last September, and Citigroup, which requested that all vaccinated employees return to in-person work from February 2022.
When Elon Musk took over as Twitter CEO last year, the writing was on the wall. A known opponent of remote working, Musk had already demanded Tesla staff return to the office, and sure enough, did the same when he arrived at Twitter (as well as firing over half the company).
In 2021 accounting group KPMG told its employees that it only expected them in the office two days a week. However, by December of the same year, the company instructed staff they must return to the office for at least four days a week, amid concerns around its audit quality.
As the economic climate remains uncertain and major companies continue to feel the crunch, it's inevitable more business leaders will embrace hybrid models to maximize profitability. Yet, the business landscape remains divided, and thanks to seamless web conferencing tools lots of companies still welcome remote working.
Read our guide to companies that offer remote work to discover which companies are resisting mandatory office returns.