AT&T Employees Suspect Covert Layoffs Disguised as Return-to-Office Mandates

**AT&T CEO’s Return-to-Office Mandate Sparks Controversy and Layoff Speculation**

**The Move to Consolidated Locations: Is it a Covert Layoff Strategy?**

AT&T employees, numbering around 60,000 managers, were informed by CEO John Stankey that they were required to return to the office starting in July. However, there was a catch: AT&T owns 350 offices in the U.S., but the workers would have to report to one of just nine consolidated locations. This meant that workers in other states would have to relocate or potentially quit their jobs. Stankey justified this decision as a way to build a great culture and environment, while others viewed it as an attempt to trim the workforce without resorting to layoffs.

**The Synthesis of Workers’ Worst-Case Scenarios**

AT&T’s move embodies many workers’ worst-case scenarios: a compulsory return to the office and the threat of job loss. Despite workers’ preferences for remote work, leaders like Stankey, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff have been pushing for in-person work. This trend has also contributed to the historic number of layoffs as companies downsize after a period of remote work. According to workers, AT&T’s mandate is a subtle way to achieve both objectives.

**Return-to-Office Mandates as a Cost-Saving Measure**

Many tech companies are using return-to-office mandates to reduce costs, including severance packages for layoffs. Companies such as AT&T are less willing to offer perks like remote work and instead use mandates to encourage workers to quit voluntarily. Gleb Tsipursky, author and CEO of future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, pointed out that the shift in favor of worker power is occurring alongside massive tech company layoffs. Tsipursky also suggested that return-to-office mandates are an attempt to avoid paying severance.

**Resistance and Criticism from Workers**

Stankey’s decision to mandate a return to the office did not sit well with many AT&T workers. Employees had previously filed a petition against the move, highlighting the need for flexibility due to childcare and eldercare responsibilities. The decision to consolidate office locations would also result in long commutes for some workers. Workers expressed concerns about the impact on their quality of life and their ability to provide quality service if they were stressed and unhappy.

**Impacted Workers and Company Morale**

AT&T workers are expected to know if they will be impacted by the end of the month, with move-by dates for those assigned new locations to be determined. The announcement of the return-to-office mandate has significantly impacted company morale, and workers are now considering their options. The writing may have been on the wall for some time, as a 2022 study conducted by AT&T itself indicated that hybrid work would be the primary working model by 2024, with senior executives highlighting its importance in attracting young talent.

In summary, AT&T’s CEO John Stankey’s decision to mandate a return to the office has caused controversy and speculation about its true intentions. While the company claims it is about building a great culture and environment, workers believe it is a covert layoff strategy. The move has sparked resistance from employees who value the flexibility of remote work and are concerned about the impact on their quality of life. The company’s decision to consolidate office locations has also raised logistical issues and further eroded company morale.

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