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Like working from home? Some companies say enough is enough.

U.S. sees decline in remote work positions
Remote work job postings in decline in U.S., LinkedIn report finds 04:16

Some of America's most prominent companies want to turn back the clock on working from home and require employees to spend more time in the workplace. 

At Walt Disney Co., which moved quickly to shutter its offices and theme parks after COVID-19 erupted in 2020, newly restored CEO Bob Iger told workers this week that beginning in March he expects all employees to be in the office four days week, typically Monday through Thursday. Previously, most Disney staffers were required to report in three days a week. 

In an internal email obtained by CBS MoneyWatch, he framed working on-site as important for fostering the kind of shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration that creating popular entertainment requires. 

"As you've heard me say many times, creativity is the heart and soul of who we are and what we do at Disney," he wrote. "And in a creative business like ours, nothing can replace the ability to connect, observe and create with peers that comes from being physically together, nor the opportunity to grow professionally by learning from leaders and mentors." 

Starbucks on Wednesday also told employees to start reporting to the office at least three days a week by the end of January.

"Partners, it's time for us to come back to the office — to do this Mission-critical work face-to-face, and in person," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in a memo to employees. "While we have built transactive connection and on-screen skills through COVID, we have lost a true human connection. We need to rebuild that." 

Remote work jobs fade

Technology companies were among the first employers to allow employees to work remotely — even before the pandemic effectively kicked off a national experiment in mass remote work. But even they are now reversing course, as COVID-19 restrictions ease and recession fears restore some of employers' bargaining power. 

Snap, the parent company of social media app Snapchat, in February will also summon employees back to the office four days a week, Bloomberg reported.

"What each of us may sacrifice in terms of our individual convenience, I believe we will reap in terms of our collective success," Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in a memo, according to the wire service. 

While some major employers do indeed want to wind down remote work, there's likely no reverting to the way things were in 2019, when remote work was seldom acceptable. 

"I don't think that most companies are trying to wind the clock all the way back to 2019. But I do think that they are trying to swing the pendulum back from the pandemic peak of full remote working," said David Garfield, global head of industries at consulting firm AlixPartners. Companies that issue aggressive back-to-office edits with little flexibility "will be making a mistake," he added.

"The experience people had remote working and the application of tech to support remote and hybrid working, that doesn't just disappear with changing market conditions. People are not just going to forget. The reality is we did find better ways to do certain things," he said.

A January report from LinkedIn shows that the number of job postings offering remote work is declining, going the way of other pandemic fads like Pelotons and baking bread. In March 2022, more than 20% of job postings advertised remote work; but as of November of last year that figure had fallen to 14%.

"That opportunity to work anywhere is diminishing," George Anders, senior editor at large at LinkedIn told CBS News. "There is more of a pressure to come into the workplace and there's more of a belief on management's part that if you really want to get the best from people you need to have them on site."

The future is hybrid

At the same time, job-seekers still indicate a strong preference for remote work, according to LinkedIn. Remote jobs, which reflect 15% of the total job pool on the social platform, have in recent months attracted up to half of all job applications tracked by LinkedIn. 

Snapchat's parent company orders workers to return to office four days a week 04:03

Some business management experts think the push to scale back remote work is misguided and likely to backfire. 

"We learned during the pandemic that you can actually make hybrid schedules work, and I think this is the future of the workplace," said Stephan Meier, management professor at Columbia Business School. "Cutting back on remote work is not the right approach."

Meier also believes that companies that continue to lean into flexible, hybrid schedules that allow ample remote work will retain a competitive advantage, while those with strict in-office mandates will suffer in the battle for talent. 

"You want to create and engage an efficient, productive workforce. That means reimagining when and where we do work. Firms that have figured out how to make hybrid schedules work will be more productive," he said. "It's not just that talent might leave, but those firms that do the hard work of figuring it out and reimagining the workplace are going to be more successful in the future."

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