Email problems prompt billionaire Jim Ratcliffe to order Manchester United staff back to office

The UK’s second-richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, was confirmed as part-owner of the team earlier this year and is coming in guns blazing (even if he’s not an Arsenal fan). And his latest offensive move is bringing employees back to the office, according to an exclusive from the Guardian.

Ratcliffe’s main motivation for getting everyone back on the pitch was a drop in email traffic, Manchester United staff said. The Guardian. While the company has had a flexible schedule since the pandemic hit, Ratcliffe disputed the 20 percent drop in traffic, mostly on Fridays. He lays down the law in no uncertain terms, adding that staff should seek other options if they are unable or unwilling to stop working from home.

“If you don’t like it, please look for alternative employment,” he said in last week’s meeting.

He’s not the only billionaire taking advantage of a tight job market when trying to gain an edge. JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon made headlines last year for saying he understood why some people might not want to come in three days a week, but “I can’t do that anywhere else.”

Naturally, Ratcliffe’s tenure was met with ambivalence, as The Athletic reports that the memo “has received mixed reviews, with some staff energized by Ineos’ desire to turn things around, while others will find the work-life balance uncomfortable to dictate”, adding that Ratcliffe is looking to bring its new investment into in accordance with the fully in-office policy of his own company, Ineos. Ratcliffe also emailed staff last week about how the office was a mess, calling its state a “disgrace”.

While a group has been trained to handle the logistics of this return to the office, some employees have noted that the club is not big enough to accommodate everyone, according to the Guardian.

This is not the first time that an executive’s in-person ambitions have not matched his staff. After Elon Musk ordered Tesla employees to return to the office, there were reports of not enough parking spaces or offices to go. Companies are going through growth spurts when trying to figure out what a hybrid office looks like, adds management consulting firm Korn Ferry.

While hybrid work has become the preferred post-pandemic path for most employees, according to a survey from Morning Consult, the verdict is still out on whether remote work has led to higher productivity or not, as some studies show it has reduced commute and lead to more dedicated hours, while other surveys say workers are less distracted from the office. The link between working from home and a drop in productivity may be early on, as a 2023 report from Goldman Sachs found that productivity “simply tends to decline over time.”

One thing is clear: schedule autonomy is still attractive to many job seekers. After receiving some pushback from their employees, the executives began to relax a bit. This year, only a third of CEOs surveyed by KPMG foresee a full return to the office by 2026, down from 62% the previous year.

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