We polled CFOs to find out what they really think about going back to the office

May 26, 2021, 9:00 AM UTC

Good morning,

WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani recently made headlines and sparked some controversy for saying at a Wall Street Journal event that “uberly engaged” employees want to go into the office at least two thirds of the time, while employees who are least engaged at the job are comfy working from home.   

But many CFOs prefer that employees not return to a fully in-person work environment post-COVID. Flexible or hybrid, however you’d like to describe it, that’s their desired game plan.

Fortune and NewtonX, a B2B market research company, worked together to conduct our first-ever CFO survey between April 27 and May 5. The 75 CFOs surveyed work at U.S. companies of all sizes in industries including banking, asset management, healthcare, construction, energy, retail/e-commerce, to name a few.

More than a third of CFOs expect to return to a fully in-person workforce post-COVID, but just 25% prefer that working arrangement. About 33% prefer one to two days per week in the office, and 37% prefer three to four days in the office. So, 70% of CFOs want greater flexibility in days worked in the office.

Currently, 83% of respondents at companies with a hybrid in-person and remote workforce have flexible in-person days. Before the pandemic, 93% of respondents said most employees worked fulltime in the office.

But hybrid work arrangements with flexible in-person workdays benefit CFOs, too.

The majority of respondents said that it reduced their personal work-related expenses, like apparel. And they said it was less stressful to maintain work/life balance and personal autonomy when working remote.  

The CFOs, however, also noted a challenge to hybrid work environments — networking, socializing, and team building are harder. Creating a common culture on a virtual call can be tricky. About 44% of respondents said they’d like to organize in-person work periods by team department or project. 

Although many CFOs prefer greater flexibility, they’re focused on the bottom line: When asked what change in compensation they’d accept in return for a preferred post-COVID work environment, 83% said they wouldn’t accept any reduction in total compensation.

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

An increasing skilled-labor shortage threatens to delay the manufacturing sector’s full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG. About 63% of manufacturers surveyed are “struggling” to fill critical labor gaps.

Going deeper

CFOs are seeking strategic counsel, both in-house and outsourced, to help navigate the favorable landscape for defined benefit (DB) pension plans, according to the 6th edition of the biannual Mercer/CFO Research Risk Survey. Companies are set to make changes to their DB plans and leverage the American Rescue Plan Act funding relief legislation, a survey of executives found. A change to standard practices in 2020 was adding alternative investments such as private equity, private debt, hedge funds, and real assets, according to half of the survey respondents. However, 65% of respondents said it’s challenging to find the time and expertise to oversee their pension investment strategy. And 67% said it’s also a challenge to promptly execute changes required by their investment strategy.


Bernadette Madarieta was named SVP and CFO at Lamb Weston Holdings, Inc., a manufacturer of frozen french fries and other potato products for restaurants and retail. Madarieta will succeed Robert McNutt who will retire from his position as SVP and CFO, effective August 6, 2021. Madarieta has served as Lamb Weston’s VP and controller and principal accounting officer since November 2016.

Paul Balciunas was named CFO at Apex.AI, a producer of software for the automotive industry, effective immediately. Most recently, Balciunas served as CFO for Canoo, an electric vehicle company. He has also served as VP of global automotive investment banking at Deutsche Bank.


“You can be right in the long term when it comes to renewable energy, but the volatility can hurt a lot of people in the meantime.”

—Kenneth Lamont, senior fund analyst for passive strategies at Morningstar, on the current state of renewable energy stocks, as told to Financial Times.

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