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A Majority of Leaders Are Down to Give Financial Rewards and Promotions to Those Who Return to Office

commuters packed into a subway train

KPMG released its 2023 CEO Outlook last week and we really don’t care that 73 percent of CEOs surveyed have confidence in the global economic outlook over the next three years nor do we care that three-quarters of them are concerned about rising interest rates leading to a recession. Let’s instead highlight the talent portion:

This year’s challenging global landscape underscores the pressures CEOs feel to make decisions on a variety of critical issues — and they impact how CEOs plan to support and attract talent over the next three years.

Notably, global CEOs are steadfast in signaling their support of pre-pandemic ways of working, with a majority (64 percent) anticipating a full return to office is only three years away. This remains consistent with their views in the 2022 CEO Outlook. What’s more, 87 percent of CEOs say they are likely to reward employees who make an effort to come into the office with favorable assignments, raises or promotions.

This sentiment underscores the persistence of traditional office-centric thinking among CEOs. It comes against a backdrop of the debate surrounding hybrid working, which has had a largely positive impact on productivity over the past three years and has strong employee support, particularly among the younger generation of workers. As organizations continue to roll out their return-to-office plans, it is crucial that leaders take a long-term view that embraces the employee value proposition and encompasses the considerations and needs of employees to ensure that talent is nurtured and supported.

In picture form if you are morally opposed to reading:

CEO attitudes on return to office 2023

“The data underscores the immense pressure on CEOs to make quick decisions on the big issues,” said Nhlamu Dlomu, Global Head of People at KPMG International. “The war for talent may have softened in this period of economic uncertainty, but the evidence suggests a one-size-fits-all approach to return-to-office could be detrimental.”

Coincidentally, Fortune published an article a week before the CEO survey results came out about workers’ willingness to return to the office. They’ll do it…if their employers make it worth it (literally).


Screenshot of Fortune article Workers have a $1.4 trillion message for the Fortune 500: We’ll return to office if you pay for the commute, childcare, and lunch and coffee too

According to exclusive data from a report from video-conferencing devices company Owl Labs, first provided to Fortune, almost all (94%) of workers are willing to make an office return—but they’re underwhelmed by the current suite of perks companies are shelling out for. In a post-pandemic world, the ante has been upped, and they expect bosses to level up—by paying up—too.

The perks they’re after aren’t wellness rooms or ping-pong tables. What they really want is to save money. Nearly two in five (38%) hybrid workers told Owl Labs they’d be more likely to go to their office voluntarily if their companies shelled out for their commuting costs. That’s the most desired perk by a wide margin, and it’s no wonder why. “Working remotely is often a money saver because it reduces commuting costs to zero, while also making lunch, coffee, et cetera, much more affordable,” George Anders, LinkedIn’s senior editor at large, told Fortune earlier this year.

The article linked at the end with George’s quote: Commuting costs $2,000 and 39 hours more than it did before the pandemic. It explains why no one wants to return to office

They got their numbers from Clever Real Estate’s May 2022 listicle The Best and Worst Cities for Commuters in 2022 which says:

  • The average worker commutes a total of 28 minutes one-way to work. In the average U.S. metro, workers spend an average of 239 hours every year commuting – amounting to 3% of their year in total!
  • The average commuter in the U.S. spends $8,466 and about 19% of their annual income on their commute every year. As part of that overall cost, the average commuter spends $867 on fuel and $410 on vehicle maintenance each year as a result of commuting. Additionally, the average driver in America loses 32 hours to traffic annually.

Funny that Deloitte is ending its commuting subsidy now. They’re really trying to get those attrition numbers up aren’t they. Anyone else pulling back on the perks? Let us know.

The takeaway here is that if leaders want people back in the office, they better pay up. Or just keep hoping for a recession and people to get desperate.

One thought on “A Majority of Leaders Are Down to Give Financial Rewards and Promotions to Those Who Return to Office

  1. If you have to rank a class of staff on a forced curve, are you going to give the shitty reviews to the person you eat lunch with, happy hour with, and small talk next to everyday, or the same person (or even better worker) who you never see in person? Most ranking systems, try as they might, are far from objective and highly political.

    Which is why I think if you’re digging your heels in on WFH, you mine as well go OE.

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