'Corporate cringe': Office-return video draws flak online

Despite criticism, company defends video's push to get employees back to the office

'Corporate cringe': Office-return video draws flak online

WebMD's parent company Internet Brands is drawing backlash on social media after a video of its executives telling employees to get back onsite has surfaced.

The video opens with CEO Bob Frisco telling employees that they're getting "more serious" about getting employees back into the office.

"Many of you have come back to the office and we've noticed, it's made a big difference. Unfortunately, too big of a group hasn't returned," Frisco said on the video.

After Frisco came a string of executives from Internet Brands as well as WebMD, who told employees about the benefits of working together physically.

‘Big goals for 2024’

Lisa Morita, chief operating officer of Internet Brands, said working face to face can help generate ideas faster.

"It propels us into meeting our business goals and we definitely have big goals for 2024 and we need your help to accomplish those," Morita said.

Also in the list of executives present in the video is Lynn Tokeshi, Senior VP, Internet Brands.

"We're able to collaborate and help each other to be better leaders," Tokeshi said in the video.

‘Your manager will be in touch’

According to the video, the company has been slow in getting some people back in some places, but this is "about to change."

"Your manager will be in touch with you shortly about how this will be implemented and tracked," Tokeshi said.

Frisco reappeared by the end of the video telling employees that they are no longer negotiating with their office return.

"We aren't asking or negotiating at this point, we're informing of how we need to work together going forward," the CEO said. "It's again for the simple reason that great companies are built by great people working together and seeing each other eye to eye and tackling the big task."

Towards the end of the video, a screen recording of an employee being alone in a video meeting was shown with the words: "No one else is here. Everyone is in person now!"

It is immediately followed by employees dancing to the "Iko Iko" song, with the company claiming that some of its lyrics translate to: "We mean business" or "Don't mess with us."

'Corporate cringe'

The video, which was uploaded on X by More Perfect Union US, has since drawn the ire of users of the platform.

"Yikes, this is such corporate cringe I'm having trouble accepting it's not satire," one of the comments on the video said.

"The only thing this would motivate me to do is find a new job," another user said.

"This might be the most tone-deaf thing I've ever see. It honestly feels like a bad SNL skit," another user said.

Internet Brands' defence

Internet Brands eventually made the video public on Vimeo but added a message at the beginning.

"Wow, this video has gotten a lot of attention! For the 'record', our return to office policy is a hybrid one. We've been rolling out these hybrid policies for over a year," the company said.

"As to comments/criticisms on the tone/style, yeah, corporate videos are corporate videos!"

In the US, where Internet Brands is headquartered, nine in 10 organisations previously said they will implement a return-to-office policy by the end of 2024.

This comes as previous research shows that the push for office return has stabilised. Tensions were previously rising between employers and employees over such mandates.

Some executives have called out office deniers for refusing to get back, while employees said they want their office comeback to be "commute worthy."

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