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AT&T demands managers return to office or quit

AT&T

AT&T is directing more than 60,000 managers to return to the office at least three days a week to redefine the office as the central workspace. 

It will take effect in July at the main hubs and be implemented in other offices, including Los Angeles, Seattle, St. Louis, and San Ramon, California, by early September. 

The move comes as the rate of in-person work has stagnated across the country, with office occupancy leveling off at 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels after peaking in early 2023. 

Read More: Davis Polk and JPMorgan frame new tactics to restore in-office work

Despite this trend, major corporations such as Starbucks, Amazon, and Disney have already mandated increased in-person work for their employees.

The telecommunications giant, which operates in all US states, is consolidating into nine core offices, with Atlanta and Dallas as the main hubs. 

The return-to-office requirement means some employees may need to relocate to maintain their positions. 

The push to bring workers back to the office has continued since 2021, with many knowledge workers already transitioned. 

However, as the labor market cools and layoffs increase, leaders leverage their influence to physically bring employees together.

Read More: Amazon asks staff to work in the office at least three days a week

But employees want to retain the flexibility they enjoyed during the pandemic.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said 85 percent of the company's corporate employees live within commuting distance of the designated office locations. 

For the remaining 15 percent, he mentioned that those who want to contribute to building a strong company culture and environment must adapt to the changes.

He said: “If they want to be a part of building a great culture and environment they’ll come along on these adjustments and changes.

"Others may decide, given the station of life they are in, that they want to move in a different direction.”

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Only 1.6 percent of workers reported moving for a new job in the first quarter of 2023, the lowest rate recorded by the survey. 

This declining trend suggests that employees have alternative options for remote or hybrid work arrangements that do not require relocation.

Return-to-office policies have particularly affected managers, with some companies, like JPMorgan Chase, requiring managers to be present in the office five days a week.

Employees have expressed frustration with the mandates, arguing that remote work has benefited their productivity, mental health, and work-life balance. 

Hybrid work remains the dominant model for knowledge workers as companies navigate post-pandemic work norms.

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