Article main image
May 20, 2022
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

US workers making 20% fewer trips to the office

The number of trips Americans are making to their workplace has dropped significantly when compared to pre-pandemic figures, according to a new report. A new study by Work From Home Research finds the average American employee is now working 1.5 days per week from home. The same research also found US employees are ‘digging in’ and are starting to refuse to work a full week at the office – with 15% of those polled saying they would likely look for a new job if they were told they had to return to the office five days a week. Researchers analyzed mobile phone location data to find that daily trips to work have dropped by 20% when compared to pre-pandemic figures. The research suggests employers and employees have reached an impasse. Some firms, like Airbnb and Twitter, allow permanent work from home but others, including JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, are requiring employees come back to the office.

McDonalds pulls out of Russia

After temporarily closing more than 850 outlets in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, the fast food giant this week announced it was going one step further, by permanently pulling out of the former Soviet Union. McDonalds famously opened its first outlet in Moscow’s Red Square in 1990, and at the time it signaled the thawing of East-West relations. But in a statement McDonalds said its presence in Russia would be against its corporate ethos. It said: “Continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.” It added: “McDonald’s priorities include seeking to ensure the employees of McDonald’s Russia continue to be paid until the close of any transaction and that employees have future employment with any potential buyer.” Some 62,000 staff work in its Russian restaurants, and it also supports hundreds of Russian suppliers. Added McDonalds: “We have a commitment to our global community and must remain steadfast in our values. Our commitment to our values means that we can no longer keep the Arches shining there.”

Microsoft doubles salary budget to retain staff…

It seems like desperate times call for desperate measures. In signs that the technology giant Microsoft is no less immune to the ‘Great Resignation’ as anyone else, it this week announced it would “nearly double” its budget for employee pay as part of its retention efforts. In a statement issued to The New York Post it said: ““This increased investment in our worldwide compensation reflects the ongoing commitment we have to providing a highly competitive experience for our employees.” Microsoft has 103,000 workers in the US and, as of June 2021, another 78,000 around the world. It is thought the increases will mostly apply to early and mid-career Microsoft employees. In addition to increased pay, Microsoft is also increasing the range of its stock-based compensation by at least 25%. Its statement added: “While we have factored-in the impact of inflation [which has now hit 8.3%] and rising cost of living, these changes also recognize our appreciation to our world-class talent who support our mission, culture and customers, and partners.” As well as bidding to keep people with better pay, Microsoft also lets staff work from home more than 50% of the time if they wish.

…as low-paying employers named and shamed

What with five states still not paying a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage (which was last set in 2009), it’s still the case that many employers are paying substantially less than what people need to comfortably live on. In an effort to draw attention to this, 24/7 Wall St has named and shamed employers who are paying at least 10% of their workforce less than $10 per hour. Using data from the Company Wage Tracker – a collaboration between the nonprofit economic think tank Economic Policy Institute and The Shift Project – it lists 20 employers that could be doing better. These include Applebee’s (10% of its workforce earn less than $10 per hour and 42% earn less than $15 per hour); IHOP (where 58% earn less than $15 per hour); and Taco Bell (14% earn less than $10 per hour and 81% earn less than $15 per hour). The data found that the vast majority of these companies are in the hospitality industry, including 10 fast food chains, five popular restaurant chains, and two hotel chains. The three remaining companies are in the retail sector. Pizza Hut has the highest percentage of workers earning under $10 an hour (25%). All of the remaining 75% earn less than $15 an hour.

Nearly half of Americans witness wrongdoing in the workplace

Data from the latest WhistleBlower Security US Report’ finds a staggering 41% (or 64 million) working Americans are aware of wrongdoing committed at their place of work. The top three types of organizational wrongdoing witnessed by employees were forms of discrimination (38%), health and safety violations (38%) and sexual harassment (36%). The research found nearly two-fifths (78%) of staff would now blow the whistle on what they see, with employees most likely to report wrongdoing if it affects their colleagues (93%), customers (90%), the leadership team (88%) and the environment (85%). Said Shannon Walker, founder and president, WhistleBlower Security Inc: “It seems like Americans are done with tolerating workplace wrongdoing, with 92% saying employees should speak up if they witness it.” The research found that if a whistleblower hotline is not made available to staff, 46% would make their concerns public. This includes sharing issues with friends/family (21%), industry officials (14%), lawyers (9%), media (5%) and social media (5%). Younger workers were also found to be more likely to report wrongdoing they see at work compared to older employees.

Netflix sheds staff to offset falling subscriber numbers

It was almost inevitable. After posting its first fall in subscriber numbers for a decade in late April, came news this week that the streaming giant is offsetting this by starting to shed staff too. Around 150 roles – of mostly US-based staff – have been axed this week, and a company spokesperson directly attributed the cuts to the fall in customers: “Our slowing revenue growth means we are also having to slow our cost growth as a company. So sadly, we are letting around 150 employees go today,” said the spokesperson. It admitted the job cuts were “primarily driven by business needs rather than individual performance, which makes them especially tough as none of us want to say goodbye to such great colleagues.” Currently, Netflix employs around 11,000 staff. Some 200,000 accounts were lost in Q1 of 2022. But Yahoo! reports the company anticipates losing 2 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2022.

Goldman Sachs to offer unlimited holiday

Investment bank giant, Goldman Sachs, famous for its 100-hour weeks (and which was recently bashed for allowing staff to take Saturdays off), appears to be joining the real world. This week it was discovered the company had revised its holiday policies, to include mandated unlimited vacation for senior staff (defined as all partners and managing directors globally), effective from this month. And it gets better. Starting next year, all staff, including senior executives, will be required to take at least 15 days of holiday annually, including at least one week of consecutive days off. Although Goldman Sachs has not commented on the reasons behind its policy change, others have argued that while sounding better, the change still needs to be accompanied by cultural change. Penelope Jones, a London-based career coach and founder of consultancy My So-Called Career said: “A mandated week off, sandwiched between extended periods of 80-100 hour weeks, may have questionable value, particularly if you are unable to fully disconnect while you are away.”

Employers report greater Q3 hiring optimism

Amongst all the noise about skills shortages, and difficulties finding talent comes the finding from Manpower that employers in the U.S. report an improved Net Employment Outlook of 38% for July-September. Its Employment Outlook Survey finds half (50%) of 6,000+ U.S. employers plan to have job openings during the third quarter and only 12% expect a decrease in their workforce. This latter statistic is down two percentage points from last quarter. The IT, technology, telecoms, and communications & media sectors reported the strongest outlook (+59%), followed by finance/real estate (+45%). Employers in the Northeast (43%) are most optimistic to grow their staff this coming quarter, followed by the West (42%). Becky Frankiewicz, president, ManpowerGroup North America said: “As labor demand continues to outpace supply, employers across America are bullish in their hiring intentions.” She added: “Despite chaotic market conditions and the challenges of inflation, we are living through one of the strongest job markets in U.S. history.”


This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!