CBA mandates office return by mid-July

'We have seen that innovation is an outcome of our people physically working together'

CBA mandates office return by mid-July

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) employees are the latest crop of workers to be ordered back to their workplaces, as executives across the world rally to end the pandemic era's pure remote work arrangements. 

CBA's order, which will take effect in mid-July, wants employees to be back in the office at least 50% of their monthly working time, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported.

"We have now set the expectation with our office-based people that from mid-July, they will be required to come into the office for at least 50% of their work time per month," Sian Lewis, CBA group executive of human resources, told the AFR.

According to the AFR report, the order was signed by CBA CEO Matt Comyn and his executive team. It was relayed to bank leaders on Monday before it was disseminated to the company's broader workforce.

Lewis attributed the CBA's decision to fostering stronger connections among employees.

"We've learnt that on average, we actively connect with 11 more colleagues each day when we are together in the office and spend 20 to 30 minutes more time collaborating," the executive told AFR.

"Our people also spend 40% or more time connecting with their leader and peers when in the office. We have seen that innovation is an outcome of our people physically working together."

Return to office debates

The order adds CBA to the growing list of employers mandating employees back to workplaces. Recently, National Australia Bank chief executive Ross McEwan also asked his senior staff to come back five days in the office.

"I'm one for flexibility, I always have been, but we have also got to make sure our people are trained and developed well," he said.

These office return orders come despite employees' strong resistance to such policies, citing a lack of worthwhile reasons to return.

Their refusal, however, fuelled employers' frustrations. Nicole Duncan, CEO and managing director of Sydney-based CR Commercial Property Group, recently slammed those who refuse to return as "selfish."

"This generation is just selfish," she said. "Yes, it did take two or three hours, but you've got to be in the office because you don't know what you don't know."

Business magnate Elon Musk even went as far as to call working from home "morally wrong."

On the other hand, GoTo chief people officer Jo Deal said it was "disheartening" to hear CEOs discredit remote workers.

"The fact is, employees have a choice of where to work, and stringent return-to-office mandates put organizations at risk of losing talent," Deal told HRD in a statement.

"The businesses that will thrive in the face of economic uncertainty are the ones whose leaders take a mindful approach to how their employees work and set an example to put their employees first."

AirBnb CEO Brian Chesky, also said he believes that the future is all about flexibility, calling out other executives in their office return policies.

"I guarantee you that many of these CEOs who are calling people back to the office in New York City are going away to the Hamptons for the summer or going to Europe in August," he said.

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