Delta boss to CEOs complain about employees not returning to office: ‘They’re on my planes’

The battle back to the office shows few signs of abating, with remote workers holding their own and bosses getting tougher with in-person demands. But one business leader sees the standoff from an unusual perspective: Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian.

Asked if business travel was back to pre-pandemic levels, Bastian told Semafor this week it was “about 80% back”. But overall, he noted, demand for air travel “has been out of this world” as passengers return to the skies with a vengeance.

He also explained how the shift to remote and hybrid work schedules has affected his industry, even as CEOs push back-to-office mandates.

“New work patterns mean people are traveling when they couldn’t before because they were in an office Monday through Friday,” he said. “When I talk to CEOs and they complain about the difficulty they’re having getting their employees in, I say, ‘I know where they are. They are on my planes.’

shark tank Star Kevin O’Leary thinks remote work is here to stay and is changing the way projects are managed, with 9-5 days no longer the norm. “You tell someone, ‘Look, you have to do this by next Friday at noon,'” he told CNN in March. “You don’t really care when they do it…as long as it’s done.”

This gives remote and hybrid workers flexibility in when to work, and when to travel or vent as well. Stanford researchers documented how golf courses saw a 278% increase in mid-afternoon golf on Wednesday comparing 2022 and 2019, with the most likely explanation being that “employees play golf during breaks while working from home.”

That doesn’t mean workers who use the links during traditional office hours are less productive, the researchers noted. It could just mean that they spread their work over a wider range of hours, perhaps working late at night or very early in the morning. The same logic would seem to apply to taking a flight.

Remote work vs office leases

“Remote work means giving employees confidence and responsibility, fostering a culture of responsibility and initiative,” said Chris Herd, CEO of Firstbase. tweeted last week. Herd, whose startup helps companies set up, manage and recover equipment for remote workers, says the term “remote work” has been diverted to mean working from home, when it really means working from anywhere. He agrees that companies benefit from in-person employee bonding, but he thinks a better and cheaper way to do this is to be remote and hold semi-regular offsite meetings rather than signing long-term office leases and insisting workers live nearby.

If his advice were widely followed, it would likely benefit the airline industry, with remote workers taking flights for employee gatherings, while having more freedom to travel overall. Herd also notes that going remote allows companies to tap into a much larger pool of talent, giving them a significant competitive advantage over time.

Amazon, for its part, is going in the opposite direction. It would force some employees to relocate in order to comply with a back-to-work mandate it began enforcing earlier this year. Workers at its Seattle headquarters staged a strike in late May to protest the mandate, but that didn’t faze Amazon executives.

With the return to in-person work, “there is more energy, collaboration and connection, and we’ve heard it from many employees and the businesses surrounding our offices,” Amazon spokesman Brad Glasser said. Fortune.

Herd thinks CEOs will relax RTO mandates and embrace remote working more as office leases expire, Tweeter on Friday, “Tell me when a company’s main office leases expire and I’ll tell you when their CEO announces they’re going a distributed company.”

If he’s right, that could be good news for airlines like Delta.

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