Business Blog Post

Return to Work Mandates

George Grombacher June 15, 2023

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Return to Work Mandates

Farmers Insurance recently announced a return to work mandate. People aren’t happy. 


Should we be able to work remotely? Do companies have the right to change course on their policies? Most importantly, where do you want to work from?   


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Here’s the WSJ article:


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Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
How do you feel about remote work? Are you in a job or a career where you have always worked from home? Or you traditionally have been in an office and do the COVID? You got your remote work, or you had to do remote work? How do you feel about returning to the office about hybrid work about this that the other thing? Have you ever thought about it? Are you going with the flow? Do you have strong opinions or preferences? Well, turns out the folks at Farmers Insurance have strong opinions and preferences. And when they announced recently that they were going to mandate, which is a tricky term these days mandate. We’d like some mandates, but we don’t like other mandates. But that’s a conversation for another day, when CEO said, we are coming back to work, after apparently telling everybody that the majority of the functions within Farmers Insurance can be done remotely. They changed their mind and change course on that decision and said we’re coming back to the office Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, three days a weak and quickly, the internal message boards were flooded with complaints and people voicing their dissatisfaction and people were pissed off. A lot of people. There’s Wall Street Journal article that I’ll link in the notes of the show here. That details everything, but people were were irritated, upset, feel like they got the rug pulled out from underneath them. Many people change their lifestyle, they sold cars, they relocated and moved to different places, because they were acting under the instruction and pretense and understanding that they were going to be able to work remotely. So there’s a lot going on there. There’s language that says we have specific declarations made by leadership at every level, that this will be a permanent change referring to the ability to work remotely. So folks that made those changes 100% feel like they got the rug pulled out from underneath them because to a degree they did. And there’s a question about or a conversation to be had about fairness and whether or not that’s the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do. But I think fundamentally, Farmers Insurance has the right to change their mind, just like you and I have the right to change our mind. Unless farmers is forcing you to work there. Unless you are forcing farmers to give you a job, which neither one of those things are true. So to degree, I certainly do empathize with people who make big lifestyle decisions, and are now having to figure out scramble how to unring that bell or to undo those choices. I’m empathetic to that. But I also totally appreciate and understand from a a organizational perspective that they have competing interests. I don’t think that farmers has any interest in pissing off their employees, I can’t imagine. But they looked at their business. And they made the determination that we are better served as an enterprise as an organization, to have our employees be in our offices in person doing their work in person, at least three days a week. And I’m sure that there was a lot that went into that I can’t imagine that CEO and the board of directors and everybody else just casually decided that, oh, you know what we said this, but now we’re just going to make everybody come in. We want to piss off our employees, we want to we want to make their life a little more difficult. Of course, they didn’t do that. There’s competing interests, and they’ve had so many conversations, I’ve had them and been a part of them and listened. And they’re all very interesting and a value, talking about what the responsibility of an organization is, who they’re responsible to, what kinds of conversations ought to be allowed and everything. And so, there’s a lot going on, but fundamentally, the organization must decide what is in the best interest of their stockholders, or their actual stakeholders. And if in the in regard to Farmers Insurance, I just I honestly can’t remember if they are publicly traded. So if they’re a publicly traded company, so you can go buy shares on a stock exchange, or if they are a mutual Will company. That’s a really important difference. A lot of insurance companies, in fact, all insurance companies, early on many, many years ago, hundreds years ago, were mutual, which means they didn’t have they didn’t have stockholders. What it meant was that their policyholders were the owners of the company. And so the company, their main responsibility was making sure that they were able to serve their policyholders just like a publicly traded company, they are legally obligated to act in the best interests of their stockholders. So similar, but a little bit different. And if you really take another big step back, who should an insurance company be really be responsible to? It really is the policyholders, because they’re receiving money in the form of premium payments, and making promises and guarantees that they need to be around to honor and make good on when they come do. So. Does that mean it’s a bad thing when an insurance company has stockholders? Not necessarily, but there’s competing interests there. So in regard to whether whether or not farmers is a mutual company or a publicly traded company, their ultimate responsibility is to shareholders or policyholders there’s obviously, a responsibility to the employees. There’s an employment agreement that everybody signed, they want and every organization entity wants, they’re the people that have made careers with them that are working there to feel like they’re heard, and that they’re valuable, and that they’re honoring them. So that these are all competing interests. And farmers, I’m sure has tons of real estate. And they’re sitting around thinking about oh, my gosh, what are we going to do with this massive portfolio of real estate of these office buildings that we’ve spent so much money on a continue to? If nobody’s going to be in them? What are we going to do? So there’s a lot going on. So it’s not simple. Fundamentally, I think that, obviously, both parties are allowed to change their minds. If you and I, as employees, as individuals are allowed to quiet quit, if we’re allowed to take part in the great resignation, and move on which we are, which we did. Farmers is certainly allowed to change their mind on business practices as well. So it’s a very, very nuanced thing, as most issues are. So But fundamentally, for me, it’s, it’s, that farmer certainly has the right to change their mind and to make the decisions on where they feel that their employees are best suited to be performing their jobs. And it’s obviously going to be on a job by job basis, and roll by roll and everything else. So there’s so much that’s kind of going into this, but we’ll see what actually happens, because there was a massive outcry by farmers. And I’m sure that this is happening across all companies. And this is just one that is getting highlighted right now. So I was curious about what the average length of time that most people stay in jobs. And there’s a good amount of data on this, but it changes based on your generation. So younger people are more apt to change jobs than older. But it was interesting in 1950s, in 1996, it was about three and a half years now is the average that people stayed in jobs in 2014. And it actually grown, which I would have guessed the opposite to tooth in 2014, it was four and a half years. And in 2020, before the pandemic it had gone down to right around four years. So down from four and a half years to four years. I don’t think that there’s any real reliable data over the past three years, maybe there is somebody can correct me on that. But it’s about four years. So that’s the amount of time that we stay in jobs. In my I think what am I big takeaways here is that just with everything, so we have choice, we have agency. And that’s one of the most important things that we have. And when you’re working with an organization and they change the rules on you, well, that’s crappy, I don’t like to be to have made plans and then have things change. But at the same time, that’s also life. We have little to no control over the circumstances of our lives, but we have absolute control over how we think feel and react to those circumstances. And

the better we can position ourselves to be able to respond I want to those circumstances, the better off that we’re going to be, the happier we’re going to be. And I think that fundamentally the more successful that we’re going to be another interesting, I don’t know if it’s interesting or not, I think it’s, I probably would have guessed this one, around 72% of workers said that they would take a lower salary. So they would take less money, if they were able to work remotely. So, so true of you, which you take less money, if you were able to work remotely, I think one of the, one of the benefits of, of the pandemic, if you could find a silver lining, which it’s possible to find the silver lining in anything, is that we did question everything. Really, we start and are questioning everything question where we work, obviously, it’s what we’re talking about right now. We we are questioning a lot, how we educate our kids, we’re questioning how we police, our communities, how we do this, that the other thing we are looking at, and poking and everything and wondering, why does it work this way? Does this make sense? Did it ever does it any more? All these things? And I think it’s immensely valuable for we, for us, we as individuals, for you and I as individuals, to be asking all those questions of ourselves, does what I’m doing makes sense? Or is it just because it’s what we’ve always done? And is this what I want? And with the massive rise in issues of mental health and physical decline, and just, we’re not doing great we as as a society, and as a culture, I think that we are suffering on so many different levels. And so I think a lot of the answer to that question is, is what’s what I’m doing? Is it great? Is it benefiting me? Is this the life that I want? Is it the answer is no. And so is this an opportunity for us to take that big step back and to say, Okay, well, if this isn’t what I want, what do I really want? One of the it’s the question, one of the big ones existential question, is this, what I want? Is what I’m doing, serving me is it giving me the life that I really want. And change is really hard. If you are not familiar, there’s a whole industry called Change Management. mean, it’s hard for individuals to make changes, it’s hard for you and I to make sustainable changes. Think about the last time you tried to lose weight, or get out of debt, it’s tough. No, we do your stuff, we lose weight, put weight back on lose weight, put it back on, get out of debt, get back in debt, not easy. And then think about that. From an organizational standpoint, you’ve got an organization like farmers, which has at least 15,000 employees, well, that’s awfully tricky to make change happen in a way that is not going to ground the business to a halt. So it’s, it’s huge. So I guess, as I try and land this airplane here, what I encourage everyone, what I encourage you to think about is, what do I want my life to look like? I’m super fond to saying that the only way to live how you want is to know how you want to live. Only way to live, how you want is to know how you want to live. And I know me personally, I never really thought about that. I had ideas about different things that I wanted. I knew what I wanted to do today. And stuff like that I knew the things I wanted to buy or places I want to go. But had I ever really taken the time to think in total? What do I want my life to look like? Had have you? Have you ever thought about that? You really ever thought about what you want your life to look like? Where do you want to be? What do you want to be doing who you want to be doing these things with? And I think that that is, is the logical starting point to all of this. Because we piecemeal things, we get our first job out of college, we take on debt, taking a little bit more debt, we buy a house, you know, we’re in relationships, we’ve got obligations and bills to pay, and we want to have fun and we want to go out and whatever it is. But I think that there is it’s really, really a smart thing to do to take that take a step back. Particularly if you find yourself in a circumstance where you’re not happy where the rug got pulled out of you for working at farmers and you were working from home and you were pretty satisfied with that. And now they’re telling you you have to go back to work like well, maybe I don’t want to. Maybe this is an opportunity for me to think about what I really want. And I really want you to think about what time you want to wake up in the morning. What do you do when you wake up? Do you go out for a walk? Is there some place that you’d like to and Timon, is there a park? Do you run around a lake? Do you walk down by the river? I don’t know. Do you know? What would you like your mornings to look like? Where do you want to go? Do you want to work from home? How do you start your day? Do you want to start at a coffee shop? I mean, just take it one hour at a time and think about what you want your life to look like, where would you like to be? You can move wherever you want. Now, that might not be possible. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it. And that’s kind of the trick here. Just let let your imagination run wild. It’s a human superpower. Think about whatever you want, what do you want your life to look like? And then you start making plans. And it might take a long time to get there. Not saying this is going to be easy change is hard. But why not? Why not think about that? Why not think about what a great day would look like? Why not think about, you know, just all the things and then start making plans for getting there chip away at it. We as human beings have a tendency to really overestimate what we can get done in a year and underestimate what we can get done in three years. So you make plans, figure out what you want your life to look like. And think about it in terms of three years. The things that stop us from doing that are more often than not financially related. So if you’re in debt, that is absolutely going to compromise your ability to make these kinds of decisions. So can you get out of debt? Can you become debt free? Can you create an emergency fund that will allow you to make a career shift or a job shift into something that you want to be doing or someplace that you want to be living? And the answer is yes, you can do that. I’m just not sure if you will, or not. The price of all of these things is is doing the work. And taking the time to think about these things that I’ve been talking about. And then make the plans and execute on it. The stronger that you can be as an individual, you you increase your personal sovereignty, you make your body healthy, if you make your mind healthy. If you make your finances healthy, stronger, that’s just going to increase your options. Good going to have more options for longer. And I’m confident that that’s something that you want, you choose, you get stronger. In terms of resources on that what we’re talking about is is really as dumb as it is setting goals that I talk ad nauseam about. We’ve got two free courses that you can access, actually three are germane to this conversation of our goals course, our values course and then our get out of debt course. So I know that for me, I was in a position where I needed to get clear what I wanted to get clear on what I believed, and then to get out of debt. And, you know, it’s been years since I was in that position, but I did it. And I can tell you that once I got clear on what I wanted. That’s when I started to get what I want it. You are worthy and deserving of the life that you want, but you’re not entitled to it. You have to do the work. And that work is starting with thinking about what it is you really want. And then figuring out what it’s going to take to get there. And then you execute goodness is you can do it. You’re an intelligent person look at you. You’re listening to this on a smartphone that you know you were able to, to log in and listen everything else so you can do whatever you want. You’re awesome. You’re amazing, you’re unstoppable. Take advantage of your ability to do these things. But if you’re at a job that you hate, well tell him to pound sand move on. You know, don’t work at farmers go work at State Farm instead. Maybe they’ll allow you to work from home. I don’t know. Anyway, as always, do your part, but doing your best

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