Another return-to-office showdown is underway, and this time it’s going on at the “happiest place on Earth.”
After Disney CEO Bob Iger declared last month that employees will need to spend at least four days a week in the office, he’s getting some pushback this week. More than 2,300 staffers have signed a new petition to get Iger to reconsider the return-office-mandate, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
“There is value in being together, but we also need to look forward and embrace new paradigms that add value,” the petition says.
The employees argue that policy will have “unintended consequences” that could harm the company, including “forced resignations among some of our most hard-to-replace talent and vulnerable communities,” which could lead to dramatically reduced “productivity, output, and efficiency.”
Staffers with disabilities, young children, or other issues that require remote work all gave testimonials in the petition, the Post reported.
“I think everyone has adjusted really well to the flexibility at Disney that was rolled out during the pandemic,” an unnamed employee told the outlet. “For that to all go away suddenly was really scary for a lot of people.”
“Flexibility at Disney really felt like a fresh start,” another employee said. “Now it feels like we’re moving backwards.”
Iger returned as the CEO of Disney in November, after leaving the company for just 11 months. In his first 15-year tenure, the 72-year old former president of ABC managed to increase Disney’s net income by over 400%, partly by adding top tier brands like Marvel and Pixar to the fold.
The news of employee push back against Iger’s return-to-office mandates comes after the CEO laid off 7,000 workers as a part of a cost-cutting move earlier this month. But despite their protest, the petition that includes more than 2,300 staffers is just a drop in the bucket for a company that has more than 200,000.
“The work we are doing to reshape our company around creativity, while reducing expenses, will lead to sustained growth and profitability for our streaming business, better position us to weather future disruption and global economic challenges, and deliver value for our shareholders,” he said of the layoffs in a statement.
Disney is far from the only Fortune 500 company to require employees to return to the office over the past year. From Big Tech giants like Apple to financial services firms like Vanguard Group, a number of U.S. firms have been attempting to get workers back to the office after the pandemic, with varying degrees of success.
Last month, the CEO of Morgan Stanley quipped that working remotely was “not an employee choice.” And Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon famously told his staff remote work was “not a new normal” more than a year ago, but the company is still struggling to reach pre-pandemic attendance levels at its Manhattan headquarters. Although building occupancy rates in most major cities have rebounded this year, they still remain well below pre-pandemic levels as many remote workers continue to push back on return-to-office mandates.
Jose Maria Barrero, an assistant professor of finance at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), told Fortune’s Jane Thier earlier this month that CEOs might have to accept that some their workers will never return to the office.
“I do think there will be a ceiling for workplace attendance,” he said, arguing that 60% in-office attendance may be the most execs can hope for these days.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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