72% of companies have return-to-office mandates—but nearly half are seeing attrition spike

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Good morning,

As companies create return-to-office policies, there’s been some employee pushback, even at the corporate level.

For example, some Amazon corporate workers announced they were planning to walk off the job on May 31 to take a stand against the company’s divisive return-to-office mandate and recent layoffs, according to reports. A global study released on Wednesday finds that return-to-work mandates are coming with a price—employee attrition.

Returning for Good,” by Unispace finds that 72% of companies surveyed say they have mandated office returns, and almost half (42%) now report a higher level of employee attrition than anticipated. In addition, 29% are struggling to recruit altogether. The study combines the results of an April survey of 9,500 employees and 6,650 employers from 17 countries and 14 industries, including banking and insurance.

Unispace is an architecture and planning company for commercial workplaces. Some of its clients include Boston Scientific, Tripadvisor, and Hugo Boss. The study examines the current habits and motivations of the workforce. It’s not necessarily that employees don’t like the workplace. For example, in the U.S., 81% of employees surveyed feel loyal to their current employer, and 34% said liking their peers is the main reason they stay with a business.

According to the survey, overall, the top feelings employees revealed they felt towards the office were happy (31%), motivated (30%), and excited (27%). However, all three of these feelings decrease for those with mandated office returns (27%, 26%, and 22% respectively). This highlights that staff are more open to returning to the office if it was out of choice, rather than forced.

Ray Montalvo, VP of real estate and workplace at BlackLine, said there needs to be alternatives to mandates. “BlackLine is driven by a culture of people, collaboration, and togetherness,” Montalvo stated in the report. “By embracing a more predictable hybrid working model, we can amplify the moments that matter most, forge stronger relationships within and across teams, and provide valuable mentoring and counseling to drive engagement and career growth.”

Hybrid working is “currently embedded in the workforce,” with the data showing that 50% of workers are in the office four or more days per week. The top three workplace “likes” cited by employees were the social interaction in the office (33%), the opportunity to collaborate (28%), and better IT facilities (21%).

Hospitality spaces

People still value the workplace, but the workplace needs to evolve to meet their needs—and employers are failing to recognize this, according to Unispace. Marco Brucato, e-commerce lead at The Kraft Heinz Company, said the company is making headway with attracting employees back to the office with an upgraded workspace and the ability to collaborate. “The beauty of the office has really influenced staff wanting to be in the workspace, in fact, we have people wanting to show off the space to family and friends,” Brucato said in the report.

According to Unispace’s report, 75% of the global business leaders surveyed said they have increased their real estate portfolio in the last two years, with companies across Asia Pacific reporting the highest rates of growth. This expansion includes talent attraction trends of creating hospitality spaces by 44% of firms, the survey found.

I recently talked with Marriott International EVP and CFO Leeny Oberg at the hotel industry giant’s new global headquarters in Bethesda, Md. “Pretty much everything in this building, and every decision, was all about how to make our people love where they come to work,” Oberg told me.

At the heart of the new $600 million campus is the 21-story, 785,000-square-foot office building. Each associate workstation comes with a view outside with natural light, a sit-stand desk, and an ergonomic chair. Among the amenities in the building are an 11,000-square-foot childcare center, a fitness center, and 7,600 square feet of outdoor garden space. Oberg said that 25% of the building is collaboration space.

There are 5,000 associates assigned to headquarters, according to Marriott. The company has a hybrid work policy. “We encourage folks to come in for in-person meetings, but there is a lot of flexibility,” she said.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

Morgan Stanley at Work on Wednesday the latest findings from its third annual State of the Workplace Financial Benefits Study. According to the survey findings, employee views of equity compensation as a driver of long-term investment goals increased to 28% (compared to 24% in 2022), followed by providing an extra source of income and giving a stake in the success of the company. Seventy-two percent of companies say they offer some form of equity compensation benefits to some employees (up from 68% in 2022 and 65% in 2021).

The research also found that financial benefits may drive retention. Eighty-nine percent of employees say they’d stay at a company for the right financial benefits package. And 75% of employees would be willing to work elsewhere in order to have those benefits provided. The findings are based on a survey of 1,000 U.S.-employed adults and 600 HR leaders for companies.

Courtesy of Morgan Stanley

Going deeper

A new Willis Towers Watson (WTW) analysis of proxy disclosures found the total pay for CEOs at S&P 1500 companies increased by 2.7% in 2022, greatly lower than the 18.3% median increase in 2021. Also, the percentage of CEOs who received a reduction in total pay doubled from 21% in 2021 to 42% in 2022. Total pay includes several factors such as base salary, actual annual, and long-term cash bonuses. The analysis also found that 56% of the S&P 1500 companies reported using an ESG performance measure in their annual incentive plan in 2022, up from 49% in 2021. However, the use of ESG performance measures in long-term incentive plans (such as stock options, restricted stock, and long-term performance shares) remains relatively low at 8% in 2022 compared with 7% in 2021.


Jesse Deutsch was named CFO at American Battery Technology Company (ABTC) (OTCQX: ABML), a critical battery materials company. Deutsch is a seasoned financial executive leader. He joins ABTC after nearly 20 years of serving in the role of CFO with global brands such as Kraft Foods and Aramark Inc., and during his career has served in executive financial leadership roles at companies such as Visa, Philip Morris, and Altria. Deutsch has led several businesses through transformative high-growth phases and has completed more than 75 M&A transactions with strategic partners.

Tim Redfern was named CFO at Drift, a technology company that provides a conversational marketing and sales platform. Redfern brings nearly 25 years in financial operations. At Drift, he will lead the team responsible for global finance, IT and business systems, reporting, internal controls, operations, and pricing. Before Drift, Redfern held progressive finance roles as SVP, EVP, and CFO for records and information management provider, Access. Before Access, he held senior finance and management roles with Skillsoft over his 15-year tenure. Redfern was on the team that helped to grow Skillsoft from approximately $50 million in revenue to over $600 million, with profit margins north of 35%, according to Drift.


"I’m excited that this technology can bring the missing productivity gains of the last few decades back, and more than catch up."

—OpenAI cofounder and CEO Sam Altman said this week in a speech at University College London that generative-A.I. systems would enhance economic growth and productivity globally and could potentially lift people out of poverty and create new opportunities, Fortune reported

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