Amazon and Disney employees fight back against return-to-office mandate, how investing in hybrid employee home setups can pay dividends

Plus, how employee-led DEI programs can help with employee engagement.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s take a look at some news stories from this week and see what lessons we can learn from them.

1. Amazon, Disney employees create petitions against return-to-office policies
Though some employees of Amazon and Disney have been working from home for years, the powers that be at their organizations sought to change that, implementing recent mandates that require workers to return to the office part-time in the coming weeks and months. Based on the number of signatures garnered by petitions against these moves employees aren’t having it.

According to Deadline:

Last week, over 2,300 Disney employees petitioned against CEO Bob Iger’s request for staffers to return to the office for a Monday-Thursday work week, effective March 1. Today, CNBC reports that there’s a similar revolt going on over at Amazon where several employees advocated against CEO Andy Jassy’s request for employees to return to three days a week starting May 1. A slack channel of Amazon employees, voicing their concerns was created on Friday, and as of today numbered north of 14K.

As countless research has shown, there are many positives to employees working remotely. Among them, remote work allows employees to be in more control of their surroundings, which has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health.

With these seemingly arbitrary return-to-office mandates, Amazon and Disney appear to disregard the pleas of their employees just to go back to the status quo. If your employees are telling you something as strongly as Amazon’s and Disney’s are with these petitions, the best thing you can do is listen. It’ll pay off with happier, more productive employees and improve your employer brand, too.

2. How investing in an employee’s home office pays off
For some organizations, helping remote employees set their offices up can add desired benefits to having a dispersed workforce A study from Logitech found that 89% of surveyed employees struggle with video and 85% struggle with audio at their work-from-home setups, it also found that less than 40% received desktop accessories other than mice and keyboards from their employers.

According to Dr. Gleb Tsipursky for Forbes:

In reality, the large majority of workers don’t pay to equip their home offices. When I ask about this issue in focus groups for my clients, employees tell me it’s the company’s job to fund their work-from-home needs. They feel it would be unfair for them to buy whatever they need for their home office just for the sake of doing work for the company.

So they end up struggling with technology and ergonomic challenges. Doing so harms their productivity, since they can’t work as effectively. It undermines their wellbeing, due to physical discomfort from lack of ergonomic furniture and mental discomfort from concerns about how they appear on camera. It undercuts retention, because staff feel frustrated and resentful over not having the equipment they need to do their job well.

Share this study with your head of IT and frame it around wanting your employees to have the right tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Wherever employees do their jobs from, they should have the equipment to excel, especially with home offices becoming a more permanent fixture in many American homes.

As communicators, we are encouraged to keep our finger on the pulse of what employees in our organizations need and encourage our teams to vocalize the need for updated equipment when necessary.

3. Employee-led diversity and inclusion programs can help spur employee engagement
Employee resource groups (ERGs) can help empower employees at your organization, helping them feel like a part of something larger than themselves. A 2022 report by McKinsey emphasized that ERGs should pay close attention to fostering a sense of inclusion. What better way to foster that inclusion by allowing employees themselves to run the group? This starts with prioritizing inclusivity at all levels of the organization.

According to SHRM:

Alorica, a global hybrid company based in Irvine, Calif., that provides customer service to mostly Fortune 100 companies, has two employee-led DE&I initiatives that have seen strong participation by women and people of color.

“When we work together as leaders—and there’s no barrier—we learn so much from each other,” said Vanessa J-Douglas, division director of HR at Alorica. “[We] have [an immersive] morale, compassion and openness that results in a global and relatable company.”

SHRM’s article went on to describe several situations in which ERGs have the support of top executives. Getting leadership’s blessing can help enforce the belief that an ERG’s mission has support at the highest levels of the organization. As communicators, we should always try to highlight all of the voices in our organizations, and employee resource groups are great assets to have when looking to tell a holistic employee story.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

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