Morgan Stanley, DC Mayor Join Growing Back-to-Office Movement

Morgan Stanley

Add the mayor of Washington, D.C., to the list of people calling for an end to remote work.

As Politico reported Friday (Jan. 20), Muriel Bowser addressed the issue in her inaugural address recently, saying the federal government needed to end its work-from-home rule, which has left her city’s downtown businesses hurting.

Bowser’s comments came soon after remarks by the CEO of Morgan Stanley calling for that company’s employees to end remote work.

James Gorman, the financial services company’s CEO, commented on the work-from-home trend in a recent interview with Bloomberg News, putting his firm in the company of the likes of Apple, Disney and Goldman Sachs.

“They don’t get to choose their compensation, they don’t get to choose their promotion, they don’t get to choose to stay home five days a week,” Gorman said of his employees. “I want them with other employees at least three or four days.”

Still, the CEO admitted that the decision could depend largely on a worker’s specific role.

“There are different kinds of jobs,” he said. “Five days in the office for everybody is not going to happen again.”

All the same, a number of large companies have said they want to see workers in the office at least some of the time, including Disney. CEO Bob Iger reportedly said earlier this month that “hybrid employees must return to corporate offices four days a week starting March 1,” per an internal email.

Other companies have gotten mixed reactions to their back-to-the office mandates.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told workers to show up for a minimum of three days a week, but an employee group calling itself “Apple Together” pushed back, telling Cook in a letter, “We believe that Apple should encourage, not prohibit, flexible work to build a more diverse and successful company where we can feel comfortable to ‘think different’ together.”

Amazon abandoned its plan to push workers back to HQ, with CEO Andy Jassy saying, “At a company of our size, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for how every team works best.”

These moves are happening as workers are increasingly doing their jobs from home or through an at-home/at-work hybrid, according to recent PYMNTS research.

The PYMNTS report “12 Months of the Connected Economy” compared changes in consumer behaviors between November 2021 and November 2022 and found that work-from-home and hybrid work increased by 10%, despite the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

“When we first examined consumers’ online work habits in November 2021, 53% worked in either an entirely remote or hybrid work environment, splitting their time between home and the office. Many workers opted to continue working from home — at least on a part-time basis — even as their employers began reopening physical offices,” the study said.

But in the following 12 months, more workers embraced remote work, whether it was full or part-time. By the end of the year, 58% of consumers worked in a digital-only or hybrid work environment, which means 8 million more consumers were part of the remote workforce in November 2022 compared to a year earlier.

Although the move to remote and hybrid work arrangements progressed steadily, there was a spike during the summer months — possibly a seasonal effect that stuck around — as PYMNTS noted that “when summer came along, millions of employees reported working remotely from vacation destinations and other locations, such as cafés, airports, and family members’ homes.”

And while that shift to remote work has meant a loss for smaller retailers in business districts — coffee shops, lunch spots, hair and nail salons, and pharmacies — it has benefitted the digital corner of the retail sector, PYMNTS research has shown.

According to the study, “How The World Does Digital: Different Paths To Digital Transformation,” 44% of consumers reported working online remotely, and 73% of this highly connected group shopped online for retail goods and 63% also purchased groceries online.