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UPS employees return to office five days a week

Kelly Yamanouchi, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Business News

White collar workers at UPS streamed back into the office on Monday, the first day a new policy requiring them to come in person five days a week took effect.

The new policy, announced in January, makes UPS one of the most high-profile Georgia companies to mandate white collar workers report in person since the pandemic.

“Today we welcomed non-operations UPS employees back into the office five days a week, globally,” UPS said in a statement Monday. “One of the hallmarks of our culture has been our in-person connections with our customers and the partnership forged from personal relationships cultivated day in and day out at work.”

Like millions of people classified as “essential” workers across sectors, package handlers and other UPS workers directly involved in getting goods from Point A to Point B worked in-person throughout the pandemic.

The move mandating the return of corporate and other office employees has drawn opinions from working people well beyond UPS — whether criticized as a requirement that hurts morale, welcomed as a policy that makes sense, or somewhere in between.

The new in-person attendance policy applies to those who work at UPS’ headquarters in metro Atlanta and other UPS sites around the world.

Many businesses have grappled with whether to institute return-to-office mandates as many workers continue to prefer the flexibility of remote or hybrid work setup that gained widespread popularity among desk jockeys during the COVID-19 pandemic. But many employers say team cohesion, networking and mentoring, which can help productivity, have suffered amid the pandemic. In response, many employers have boosted in-office amenities and perks to woo workers back.

UPS said it has distributed guidance to employees on its return to office policy, “as well as reminders on everything from food to wellness options while at work.”

In its January memo to employees announcing the policy, UPS said: “We acknowledge this news comes with excitement for some and mixed emotions for others.”

The move was followed a few weeks later by an announcement that UPS was cutting 12,000 jobs — amounting to about 14% of its managers — after rough economic conditions and lost business from labor negotiations last year led to a sharp decline in its 2023 revenue and profit.

UPS had originally aimed for a broad return to the office in September 2021, but has had a hybrid work policy until now.

The shipping giant said some previously-approved remote positions will be permitted to continue and acknowledged that for other employees, “business travel, sick days, caregiving needs, home repairs and other circumstances may require you to be away from the office occasionally.”

It said managers will still be able to allow “occasional flexwork, when life happens or business needs require working from alternate locations.”

 

Some companies like UPS that have a large blue-collar workforce have cited that as a factor in calling office workers back in — especially those who oversee departments of workers who have had to work in person throughout the pandemic.

UPS has more than 500,000 employees around the world, including hundreds of thousands of drivers and package handlers in its operations who did not have the option of working from home.

After the UPS policy was first announced, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution invited readers to weigh in on return to office policies.

Responses to the non-scientific poll showed a wide variation in how many days a week employees are going into the office, with many working from home exclusively, and others going into the office 1-5 days a week.

Many responded that they prefer working from home exclusively, while others would prefer to go in 1-2 days a week, and some would like to go in more days a week.

Some respondents predicted the new UPS policy would cause the company to lose employees to companies that are more flexible, while others said companies want to improve productivity and mentoring by having employees at work in person.

One of the top responses readers gave for why they like working from home or working remotely was “Less time in traffic.” Other popular reasons were “More freedom to juggle life and work” and “Cost savings.”

When asked about the reasons they like going into the office, many readers responded that they enjoy “Seeing colleagues” and “Getting out of the house.”

But requiring all employees to come in five days a week is “really rare,” said Brian Elliott, an adviser and expert on the future of work.

To some employees who are top performers, he said, such a mandate signals “a lack of trust.”

“The challenge here really is finding the right balance, which really happens at the team level, not at the top-down mandate level,” Elliott said. “Managers often wrestle with this in order to find a way to let people do what’s right for them, as well as what’s right for the organization.”


©2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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