Work from home is a mandate that many organisations have picked up on in the new world of work. According to a tech talent outlook survey by job site SCIKEY, 82% of employees prefer to work from home rather than follow the primordial adage “work only happens in cubicles and office space”.
Yet it does seem many companies are not exactly onboard with following the work-from-home solution to the tee. As per various media sources, telecommunications giant AT&T is breaking away from its WFH agreement, which was agreed upon in light of COVID-19.
As per the agreement, the company and workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) agreed to extend the work-from-home solution until March 2023. Yet as per recent news reports, a lot of workers are being forced to return to the office sooner than decided. Also, some department managers have already forced their workers to be back in the office.
Kieran Frazier Knutson, who posted a petition update on Change.org claiming that the company ended WFH despite their agreement said, “The vast majority of AT&T workers are being forced to come back in the coming weeks, and many were already forced back in the past couple months. This is happening despite overall improvements in AT&T production and attendance since the WFH program started.”
For the AT&T workforce, this announcement comes at a grim time when gas [fuel] prices are rising and inflation is making waves, leading to serious family budget cuts.
“We don’t understand. If we’re still in a pandemic, we’re still considered essential workers and we’re still doing the appropriate job, then why are we coming back to the office? There’s no reason to risk anybody’s health and safety that’s not 100 per cent necessary to run the operations of the business” said Chuck Elgert, communication technician at AT&T and Executive Vice-President of CWA Local 6350, as reported by Guardian.
Knutson’s Change.org petition suggests that there has to be some kind of provisions for the employees who are being forced to come to the office when WFH has been quite beneficial for them.
“WFH provided a safer, more convenient work environment and minimised the spread of COVID-19 among the workforce. Production and attendance rates are both ways up. WFH was a necessary adjustment that has proven tremendously popular in what continues to be uncertain times,” he added.
In response to the fracas, AT&T's spokesperson said in the email, "The health and safety of our employees continue to be our priority. As we have throughout the pandemic, we adhere to guidance from the medical community, including implementing safety protocols to help protect our employees’ wellbeing. And now that we are a largely vaccinated workforce, we believe it’s safe for employees to return to the workplace. We do our best work when we’re together."
AT&T’s decision may have ripple effects on its 190 offices around the world, especially in India and Southeast Asia, where some companies are contemplating reverting to the old-school office system.
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