American Express CEO blasts bosses who don’t back hybrid working

“They’re not gonna sit on a Zoom call all day,” the CEO said

Graig Graziosi
Friday 04 February 2022 22:17 GMT
<p>Steve Squeri, the CEO of American Express, said he opposed companies forcing workers to return to the office full-time.</p>

Steve Squeri, the CEO of American Express, said he opposed companies forcing workers to return to the office full-time.

The CEO of American Express took a hard stance against employers demanding their employees to return to the office full-time once the threats posed by the coronavirus pandemic wane.

Bloomberg reports that AmEx CEO Steve Squeri thinks it "makes no sense" for companies to require their workers to return to the office full-time just to conduct Zoom meetings or make phone calls. He said on Thursday that if workers were called into the office, they should "come in with purpose”.

"They're not gonna sit on a Zoom call all day. It makes no sense to trek all the way in from Jersey, or Brooklyn or Staten Island, Long Island or Connecticut to sit on a Zoom or be on a phone," Mr Squeri said.

He believes that if a worker is called into the office, it should be for a "purpose."

"Meet with your colleagues, interact and have the meetings," he said. "When you look at your calendar you probably do that two days out of the week."

The company's employees began working under a program called "Amex Flex”, a hybrid working model that gives staff three options for spending their time at the office. They can choose to be fully virtual, hybrid, or work fully from the office. There are some exceptions depending on the employee's role in the company, though anyone may return to the office five days a week if they wish.

The plan also allows workers to work remotely from anywhere for up to four weeks a year, and can spend 15 days working abroad if they want. The company said the model allows workers to maintain a better work-life balance.

Wall Street in New York City.

The company surveyed its workers and found that the majority – 75 per cent – preferred a hybrid working model, where they spend some time working from home and other days in the office. Another 20 per cent wanted to remain fully virtual, while only five per cent said they wanted to be in the office full-time.

As of February, the bank is only operating out of its New York office. Other offices are set to re-open once the threat posed by Covid-19 is reduced. Those workers who do want to return to the office have to be vaccinated and boosted unless they're medically exempt.

The debate over whether or not employees who can work from home should be forced to return after more than two years of remote working have proven that office presence is not necessary for many businesses to operate.

The CEO of Washingtonian Magazine, Cathy Merrill, received backlash last spring after she wrote an editorial that was criticised as vaguely threatening employees of the publication who did not want to return to the office.

She argued that employees who wish to work from home are offering executives a "tempting economic option the employees might not like," suggesting that without office presence, employers could outsource the work to cheaper labour pools outside the area or overseas.

Mr Merrill also suggested that employees who were present in the office were more likely to receive promotions, which critics argued was another threat and flew in the face of the idea that promotions should be based on work performance and not on willingness to participate in office culture.

She went on to say that executives might be tempted to reclassify remote workers as contractors – stripping them of their company provided benefits and social security contribution.

The magazine's employees responded by going on a publishing strike.

A Harvard Business Review survey found that more than 40 per cent of US employees would look for a different job if they are forced to return to the office full-time.

While the battle over whether or not some workers will return to the office full time, front-line workers and individuals working in the retail, food service, hospitality and numerous other industries are still working in person and have been since the start of the pandemic.

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