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Has remote work really been tragic for big companies' bottom lines?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some business leaders want their employees to get back to the office, among them J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMIE DIMON: There are huge weaknesses to the Zoom world, so it's hard to inculcate culture and character and all those things when you have the Zoom world.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

You can include billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg too.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We are paying our employees for five days a week of work. Now, if you think that those can be done at home, I don't know.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So has remote work really been tragic for big companies' bottom lines?

INSKEEP: We asked an expert.

MARK MA: My name is Mark Ma, and I'm an associate professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh.

INSKEEP: I'm listening closely there. It sounds like he's maybe on a Zoom call. Anyway, Ma's research indicates that requiring employees to go back to the office has not been helping big companies make more money.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so why do it then?

MA: So managers are trying to use return-to-office mandates as a way to blame employees as a scapegoat for the poor stock market performance of the firm.

MARTÍNEZ: As for which business leaders are more likely to issue such mandates, Ma says...

MA: We found that return-to-office mandates are more common among male and more powerful CEOs.

INSKEEP: And this is in some cases a power play.

MA: The managers are trying to grab power back from the employees in this employer-employee relationship by asking them back to the office.

INSKEEP: Now, Mr. Ma works a hybrid schedule himself. Sometimes he goes into the office to teach. Other times he works at home.

MA: I like it because I have a 4-year-old son, and so avoiding spending one hour commuting, that will give me a lot of more time to spend with my son.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I'm speaking to all of you from NPR West Northeast Bureau, which is my home. So my commute today was 20 feet, and it took a few seconds.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) I've done that on other days when it's helpful to the family, although I'm in Studio 31 in Washington - a little distance from home today.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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