Mar 24, 2022 - Economy & Business

Your CEO has no lunch buddy

Illustration of a paper lunch bag with a post it note on the side showing a sad face.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Offices are opening up, but only the executives want to go in to work.

Why it matters: There's an executive-employee disconnect in hybrid workplaces. Many CEOs and top leaders are eager to work in-person the way we did before the pandemic, while many rank-and-file workers want to keep telecommuting.

  • 75% of executives want to come back to the office three or more days a week, compared with just 37% of rank-and-file employees, according to a Slack Future Forum report

As a result, many executives are returning to barren offices.

  • In the last quarter of 2021, 71% of executives were back in the office full-time, compared with 63% of rank-and-filers.
  • That may not seem like a large gap, but consider the fact that many people in the latter category work in labs or IT or with clients in jobs that cannot fully be done from home.
  • The disparity is likely much higher when looking only at workers who can work remotely, says Brian Elliott, VP of Slack's Future Forum.

What's happening: Executives scored 77% higher than workers on the work-life-balance metric in Future Forum's survey, so they're likelier to have fewer responsibilities — like child care — keeping them at home. They're also likelier to have nicer offices and better setups in the workplace.

  • So it makes sense that they're the first — and the most eager — to return, Elliot says.

The stakes: Experts warn that an imbalanced return to work — with top leaders and a self-selecting group of other employees going back, while others stay home — could lead to proximity bias.

  • Those rubbing shoulders with the CEO, executives and managers in the office may be favored for raises and promotions while their remote colleagues fall out of sight and out of mind.
  • This risk is especially worrisome for people who are underrepresented in the professional workforce — women and people of color — who are likelier than their white male colleagues to want to work remotely.

The other side: Not all executives are rushing back to the office.

  • Meta's top leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg, are scattered in places far from their Silicon Valley HQ, testing the limits of remote work, WSJ reports. Their destinations include Israel, New York and the U.K.
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