UPS cuts 12,000 jobs and mandates a return to the office, news startup Messenger shuts down and leaves employees without severance

Plus, research shows some employees are resentful of RTO decrees.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s look at a few news stories from the last week and see what we can learn from them.

1.  UPS conducts massive layoffs, orders employees back to their desks

Delivery giant UPS will lay off 12,000 employees, citing economic headwinds, and is ordering office staff back to their desks five days a week beginning in March. According to the Wall Street Journal, the cuts are aimed mostly at management staff and contract workers. The additional return-to-office (RTO) mandate reflects those of many other large companies, part of an ongoing trend calling remote and hybrid workers back to physical offices.

The Wall Street Journal also cited a memo from UPS acknowledging complaints from some on-site staff that they had to be at work five days a week and office staff didn’t.

“By adopting this approach, we recognize the ongoing commitment of our operators and other UPSers who have and continue to work in-person in our facilities five days and sometimes more per week,” the company said in a recent staff memo viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Layoff comms aren’t always easy. But despite UPS’ return-to-office mandate, which often aren’t too popular with affected employees, the parcel delivery company was wise to frame its RTO as an issue of fairness for all employees and demonstrate that it is listening to feedback. This approach frames the motivation to return employees to their desks as an equity-based mandate for all employees at UPS.

Is that the real reason UPS wants to get employees back at work? Maybe, maybe not. However, positioning the RTO mandate through an equitable lens earns comms some goodwill because it demonstrates that the company is listening. It’ll be interesting to see if other organizations take this lead.

2. News startup The Messenger shuts down, leaving employees without severance or healthcare

News startup The Messenger shut down suddenly this week, despite an investment of over $50 million last year. Worse still, the sudden closure left employees without jobs, severance payments or healthcare coverage to fall back on.

According to The Guardian:

Within hours, the Messenger’s website had been wiped blank, shocking the publication’s hastily laid-off reporters, who had been trying to share links to their work as they suddenly searched for new jobs. Former Messenger journalists and writers from other news organizations criticized the company’s owners for the swift website takedown, calling it disrespectful to former employees.

One employee said that the company Slack channel shut down while some were asking questions about healthcare coverage, and others decried the fact that the organization spent big bucks on physical offices when resources could have gone elsewhere.

It’s been a bad go of it for news media recently. But when layoffs or shutdowns happen, there are things to do and not do. Organizations need to be there to answer employee queries and can’t leave people in the dark as to the next steps. Cutting off severance and health insurance is a cold move by the management at the Messenger.

When these things happen, organizations should equip managers and leaders with the facts so they can communicate as much as they can.

3. Employees are paying up to return to the office, and it’s causing resentment: survey

We’ve written about the RTO mandate from the employer’s perspective today, but a recent survey revealed some aspects of it from the employee’s point of view. A survey conducted by Fortune revealed that RTO mandates can cause disruptions to one’s work-life balance, lower trust in an organization, and an overall souring of one’s sense of wellbeing at work.

According to Fortune:

​​While it seems intuitive that people form better working relationships in person, poorly communicated and implemented return-to-office mandates breed resentment toward employers. Resentful employees are less likely to bring their authentic selves to the workplace and less likely to invest in those around them.

The research also found that RTO can also cost employees a lot of money on commuting and other expenses. If employees must come back to the office, remember that you have the power to survey employees and partner with HR to ensure employee experience is considered.   Consider crafting a campaign that emphasizes the positives such as increased connection between employees, more opportunities for work-life balance, and flexibility when possible.

The more humanity you’re able to include in RTO comms, the less likely employees are to feel resentment toward the way such a decision is communicated.

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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