Over 2,300 employees of The Walt Disney Company have signed a petition addressed to CEO Bob Iger asking him to reconsider his recent return-to-office mandate for hybrid employees, The Washington Post reports.
Iger told Cast Members in early January that Disney would require employees currently working in a “hybrid fashion” to be on-site four days a week, preferably Monday through Thursday, beginning on March 1. The current hybrid program has these employees on-site two or three days a week.
Iger said in an email to Cast Members that “working together more in-person will benefit the company’s creativity, culture, and our employees’ careers.”
Employees who have signed the petition work in various corporate departments of Disney, including Marvel, Pixar, Hulu, FX, ABC, and 20th Century Studios.
The petition argues that the return-to-office is “likely to have unintended consequences that cause long-term harm to the company” because it will lead to “forced resignations among some of our most hard-to-replace talent and vulnerable communities” while “dramatically reducing productivity, output, and efficiency.”
“This policy will slow, or even reverse, our post-COVID recovery and growth,” the petition continues, “by creating critical resource shortages and causing irreplaceable institutional knowledge loss.”
The petition was submitted to upper management last week and there has been no response since.
As The Washington Post states, employees at various companies have resisted recent return-to-office mandates by ignoring them or leaving for other remote opportunities, but employers have begun to counter this with significant layoffs. Disney just announced they would cut 7,000 jobs, which will impact all sections of the company but not hourly theme park Cast Members.
Laurie Ruettimann, a human resources consultant in Raleigh, North Carolina, told the Post, “This is a standoff, like an old-fashioned cowboy standoff right now. I would not dare workers to choose between returning to the office and their jobs, because they may learn to live with a little less in the long- term.”
Ruettimann also pointed out that many employees are feeling “betrayed” by these mandates. “Workers feel like they did a really good job of demonstrating trust and showing up during the pandemic,” Ruettimann said. “Coming back to the office through a mandate seems punitive, and it certainly isn’t something most workers were consulted on.”
An anonymous Disney employee confirmed to the Post that employees were not consulted on this recent mandate and said, “I think everyone has adjusted really well to the flexibility at Disney that was rolled out during the pandemic. For that to all go away suddenly was really scary for a lot of people.”
Testimonials from employees on the petition state that some feel “forced out” by the mandate and some plan to voluntarily resign. Over 400 testimonials were from parents worried about childcare. Neurodivergent employees (those with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and other neurological conditions) and disabled employees submitted testimonials with concerns about how office work would affect them.
The petition asks Iger to allow employees who want to work remotely to do so and for Disney to invest in technology, training, and in-person events like town halls that would make this system easier.
“Sitting on Zoom calls in an office for four days a week while your co-workers, partners, stakeholders, vendors, and customers do the same in a different part of the world does not meet the core need,” the petition states. “There is value in being together, but we also need to look forward and embrace new paradigms that add value.”
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