Remote work or back to the office? Here's what bosses want you to do

But CEOs will have to tread carefully as expectations about the working week have changed.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

It could soon be time to pack up your home office and start commuting again, with 65% of CEOs at multinational firms saying they want workers back in cubicles 9-to-5 by 2025. 

That's the opinion of the majority of 1,325 chiefs of global firms interviewed in KPMG's 2022 CEO Outlook check on their "mindset, strategies and planning tactics". 

While they've reaped rewards from a geographically unbounded hiring pool, better collaboration and improved productivity, CEOs largely want staff back in the office. So, Elon Musk is not alone in his demand that Tesla workers be at the office 40 hours a week. 

Also: Hybrid workers don't want to return to the office. But soon, they might have to

Only 28% of CEOs said they'd prefer hybrid during the next three years, while just 7% said they'd like a fully remote arrangement.  

A third of KPMG's respondents are CEOs of companies with over $10bn in annual revenue, headquartered in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, UK and US. 

Also, 86% of CEOs see a recession happening in the next 12 months and 46% of them are looking at cutting headcount in the next six months, while 75% have already started or are planning a hiring freeze over the next six months. 

Given this outlook, the balance of power could tilt in favor employers who've weathered a tight labor market for all workers since the pandemic, not just high-tech ones. KPMG notes that even if employers have more bargaining power, CEOs need to make sure their people have "purposeful interactions" at the office. 

"How do CEOs define what an optimal structure looks like? Now is the time to experiment and see what works best. Active listening, empathetic communications and a commitment to finding the right balance over the long term will be key," KPMG said.

"Employee expectations when it comes to remote work are evolving, so it's important for CEOs to develop a better working structure that suits their people in what is still an emerging area," it warned.

Microsoft, which is gearing Office software towards hybrid, found that many business leaders are suffering hybrid work "productivity paranoia". Its recent survey of of 20,000 people in 11 countries found 85% of business leaders suspect remote workers are shirking, while 87% of workers reckon they're just as efficient at home. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said employers need to overcome productivity paranoia.

Also: MBAs and professional development: Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

It's unclear what the work norm will be in a world facing stagflation for the first time in 50 years. Currently, job postings for hybrid work are on the rise, according to GlobalData, yet LinkedIn's hybrid job postings have tapered off during the past few months. 

A recent survey in the UK found over half of tech leaders plan to ask staff to work more from the office in the next year. In contrast another survey of tech workers in the US and London found 67% would leave their job if a boss declined a pay rise, while 30% said they'd quit if a boss asked them to return to the office. Yet only 6.5% of the US workforce teleworked in August, which was down from 7.1% in July, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Via MarketWatch, 60% of 3,000 managers polled by beautiful.ai said it was likely that remote workers will be laid off first.

KPMG found that 77% of CEOs see information security as a strategic function and a potential competitive edge. Some 73% of CEOs said geopolitical uncertainty had heightened concerns over cyberattacks, up from 61% in 2021, while 76% said protecting partners and their supply chain was as important as building their own defenses.  

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