During the COVID pandemic, many companies allowed their employees to work from home. It was a way of preventing the spread – and kept businesses up and running. The aftermath is that employees realized they could do their jobs, save money on daily commutes, and be more productive.
Employers aren’t too happy with their employees not working in their corporate offices. It means that the offices sit empty, and there are not as many opportunities to micromanage.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently covered a story about JM Smucker ordering its workers back to the office. The plan is a give-and-take to try to keep employees happy. The demand is that employees return to the Ohio headquarters for 22 “core” weeks a year.
The campus of JM Smucker is found in Orrville, Ohio. The campus isn’t nearly as populated as it once was. It is also one of the main employers in town. Without its employees there, the town is suffering in many ways.
When WSJ posted the story online, most of the comments were focused on pushing a narrative that people don’t want to see anymore. The narrative is that employees should be working in offices.
That’s just not true anymore. Companies have the ability to reduce overhead and produce happier employees by allowing remote work. Considering that most employees who work in offices can do their jobs from home (or a coffee shop or even a cruise ship), there’s no need to order employees into a corporate office every day.
A laptop and a Wi-Fi connection are all that’s needed to get the job done.
As one social media user commented, “WSJ, quit trying to push this narrative. Some jobs can be worked from home, some can’t. Employers can accept that or can pay to make the commute and overhead worth it; their call. Stop trying to gaslight workers into ‘making the decision.’”
Smucker’s thinks that they have a strategy to get themselves out of the jam they’re in. With 1300 corporate workers, they aren’t mandating in-person attendance for the entire year – just 22 “core” weeks.
Entrepreneur explains the plan: “Employees can live anywhere in the U.S. as long as they make their way to Orrville at least 25% of the time or six days a month, which the company encourages during these core weeks.”
The weeks when employees are in the office are being incentivized, and it allows for team building.
According to the company, they have met limited resistance.
They’re taking an approach different from other big companies such as Amazon, Zoom, and Meta where they are demanding that employees get back to the office or face termination. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has even been lying to himself by saying there are no positives to working remotely and it is “pure negative.”
While Smucker may think they have come up with a great solution, it remains unseen. Telling employees that they can live anywhere sounds great until they actually have to be in Orville, Ohio for 22 weeks. That’s quite the commute and not the one that is easy when there are kids and local obligations.