March 1, 2024

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Bank of America sends warning letters to employees not going into offices | US work & careers

3 min read

Bank of America is cracking down on employees who aren’t following its return-to-office mandate, sending “letters of education” warnings of disciplinary action to employees who have been staying home.

Some employees at the bank received letters that said they had failed to meet the company’s “workplace excellence guidelines” despite “requests and reminders to do so”, according to the Financial Times. The letter warned employees that failure to follow return-to-office expectations could lead to “further disciplinary action”.

The bank is the latest company to signal to employees that going into the office is mandatory. Companies from Citigroup and Meta have been tracking whether employees have been going into the office, usually with a hybrid policy of three days in the office and two days at home, with similar warnings of discipline if employees don’t show up.

It’s a major shift nearly four years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, when nearly all office workers worked remotely five days a week. Wall Street companies were some of the first to bring employees back into the office in 2021, and most have some sort of office requirement in place. Along with Bank of America and Citigroup, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Barclays all have three-day office requirements.

While the push to get workers back to the office may seem aggressive after years of work flexibility, most companies are still allowing employees to work some days at home – a major shift in remote work compared to pre-pandemic times. Before the pandemic, 3% of all American workers were remote at least part of the week. Now, it’s about a quarter of workers, according to Goldman Sachs, one of the only major companies requiring its workers to work full-time in the office. Goldman Sachs has noted that the pandemic brought on key structural changes that allow for hybrid work policies, particularly better technology.

For many workers, their hybrid policies are likely to stay. A new survey of American CEOs found that only six of 158 said they will prioritize bringing workers back to the office full-time in 2024. Another survey from Deloitte in November found 65% of chief financial officers surveyed said they will keep hybrid policies in place this year.

Meanwhile, as much as managers like to think that their employees would rather stay home, some surveys have shown workers like to be in the office and would want to spend at least part of the week at their desks.

However, wanting to be back at the office is different from being forced back – the latter leads to lower job satisfaction without actually helping a company’s performance, according to new research.

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Even as companies and workers tussle over return-to-office policies, work from home researchers are adamant that hybrid policies are here to stay and the five-day work week as we knew it is dead.

“Today’s new companies have nearly twice as many days worked from home as those founded 20 years ago,” wrote Stanford professor and remote work researcher Nick Bloom in November. “In 10 years, expect to see leading chief executives and entrepreneurs actively embracing hybrid work rather than begging employees to return to the office.”

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