GM's Return-To-Office Mandate Adds Insult To Injury

Photo Credit: Tanya Gazdik/MediaPost

General Motors' salaried employees were already smarting after learning they were getting a much smaller raise than their blue-collar co-workers. But things got even worse last week when told the flexible work schedule they’d grown used to is coming to an end.

In a companywide email that was obtained by the Detroit Free Press, CEO Mary Barra made it clear she wants the 43,500 white-collar workers in the office on three specific days of each week "at a minimum."

"At the start of the year, we asked hybrid employees to be in the office three days a week in order to drive the greatest impact. However, adherence has been mixed," Barra wrote in the email. "We are now explicitly requesting hybrid employees to be onsite beginning Jan. 8, every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at minimum. Senior leaders will continue to have the flexibility to determine if a team needs to be in the office more frequently.”



The mandate ends the company’s “work appropriately” policy that gave people flexibility to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Barra acknowledges in the memo that not everyone is a fan of working in an office.

"We realize 'return to the office' is a topic that has been highly debated in many workplaces around the country," she writes. "It is also something the senior leadership team feels strongly about, and we want to make our expectations clear. We believe the benefits of in-person collaboration and mentorship lead to a stronger, more innovative culture and higher performance.”

The surge in remote work was prompted by stay-at-home orders during the pandemic. But many workers came to like the arrangement. Among the primary benefits: no commute, flexible work schedules and less time getting ready for work, according to WFH Research cited in a CNBC story

Research shows that the typical worker equates the value of working from home to an 8% pay raise, per CNBC. 

Given the modest 3.5% pay increase that GM’s salaried workers recently received compared to major gains realized by UAW members following a six-week strike, GM should have thought more about the timing of the mandate. 

The U.S. Big Three automakers (GM, Ford and Stellantis) recently agreed to dramatically raise pay for top-scale blue-collar workers, with increases and cost-of-living adjustments that would translate into 33% wage gains, per another CNBC story.

Some GM workers posted their frustrations on social media, with multiple threads on the GM subreddit calling out the RTO mandate as unfair, ineffective and hypocritical, according to GM Authority

“Not only is the action of mandating three days a week off-base, the way it was delivered was really deplorable,” writes a GM employee. “Right before the holidays… so we can all stress about how drastically our work lives are going to change in a short amount of time while we’re with our families.” 

The user goes on to say that General Motors is leaving its employees to scramble to find child care and transportation options over the holidays.

Some recent studies fail to support GM’s assertion that employees are more effective when they are working from the office. 

One survey reveals that companies embracing flexible work arrangements are not just surviving, they’re flourishing, according to Fortune. From 2020 to 2022, companies with full flexibility led their peers by 16% in revenue growth, adjusted for industry differences.

Angry GM employees may want to take a look at working for crosstown rival Ford. That automaker still maintains a flexible hybrid policy that doesn’t require workers to come to the office for a specific number of days a week. They only need to come to the office for group meetings, per Bloomberg.

1 comment about "GM's Return-To-Office Mandate Adds Insult To Injury".
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  1. Jonathan May from HorseTV Global, December 11, 2023 at 5:31 p.m.

    Poor babies...perhaps they should be thankful they have a job & benefits.  There are those who would take their place in a heartbeat.

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