General Motors softens RTO plan after employee backlash

Communication is key, as the automaker's leadership team has learned the hard way

General Motors softens RTO plan after employee backlash

General Motors (GM) is slamming the brakes on its return-to-office policy following employee backlash.

On Friday, the Detroit-based company’s senior leadership team informed staff that corporate workers would be required to return to offices at least three days a week, beginning later this year, CNBC reported. On Tuesday, a second memo was sent out for the purposes of clarification, stating that individual teams will decide which days to come into the office rather than mandated in-office days.

Most importantly, the second memo says no workers will be required to return to offices sooner than the first quarter of 2023.

Read more: PwC director on RTO mandates: ‘We don’t feel like we need to’

“Our plan was always, and still is, to collaboratively design the solution that best balances the needs of the enterprise with the needs of each of you,” read the memo, which was signed by CEO Mary Barra and other executives, a copy of which was viewed by CNBC. “While we have maintained a highly collaborative culture over the past two years during a very challenging time, the intangible benefits of in-person collaboration are going to be a critical success factor as we move into a period of rapid launches. This evolution is about being ready for the next phase of our transformation.”

GM said it will communicate more information at the end of next month, as the company intends to spend the “next few weeks continuing to listen to your feedback so that we incorporate it into our implementation plans,” CNBC reported.

The tug of war between employers wanting offices filled a la pre-COVID and employees refusing to surrender remote work continues throughout the United States. Apple, Comcast and Peloton instructed their employees to return to the office for three days a week starting post-Labor Day. Apple workers responded by launching a petition to demand for location-flexible work. “This uniform mandate from senior leadership does not consider the unique demands of each job role nor the diversity of individuals,” noted AppleTogether, which identifies itself as a global solidarity union of workers from across the company.

Meanwhile, Peloton CEO Barry McCarthy has seemingly accepted that the controversial edict will result in a reduced headcount. “For those of you who don’t want to return to the office, we respect your choice,” McCarthy said in a company-wide memo. “We hope you choose to stay, but we understand not everyone will.”

Read more: HiBob CEO on the benefits of hybrid work

Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) refuses to mandate its employees return to the office.

“We don’t feel like we need to,” Kimberly Jones, PwC U.S. managing director, talent strategy and people experience leader, told HRD. “We’re being responsive to what our people tell us they want and need. These last couple years, we’ve discovered that we can be productive and serve our clients very well without forcing people to be in offices.”

Last year, PwC became the first professional services firm to introduce full-time virtual roles to all 40,000 of its client service professionals. (Since that announcement, Jones says job applications to PwC have increased by 20%.) PwC has nearly 80 offices across the country, including in Los Angeles, Irvine, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose, and says it will continue to allow employees to be in-person or to opt in to virtual and hybrid roles. As part of the flexible arrangements, PwC also offers part-time schedules, compressed workweeks and even leaves of absence (up to six months) where employees receive 20% of their pay.

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