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Has remote work really been tragic for big companies' bottom lines?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some business leaders want their employees to get back to the office, among them J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMIE DIMON: There are huge weaknesses to the Zoom world, so it's hard to inculcate culture and character and all those things when you have the Zoom world.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

You can include billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg too.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We are paying our employees for five days a week of work. Now, if you think that those can be done at home, I don't know.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So has remote work really been tragic for big companies' bottom lines?

INSKEEP: We asked an expert.

MARK MA: My name is Mark Ma, and I'm an associate professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh.

INSKEEP: I'm listening closely there. It sounds like he's maybe on a Zoom call. Anyway, Ma's research indicates that requiring employees to go back to the office has not been helping big companies make more money.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so why do it then?

MA: So managers are trying to use return-to-office mandates as a way to blame employees as a scapegoat for the poor stock market performance of the firm.

MARTÍNEZ: As for which business leaders are more likely to issue such mandates, Ma says...

MA: We found that return-to-office mandates are more common among male and more powerful CEOs.

INSKEEP: And this is in some cases a power play.

MA: The managers are trying to grab power back from the employees in this employer-employee relationship by asking them back to the office.

INSKEEP: Now, Mr. Ma works a hybrid schedule himself. Sometimes he goes into the office to teach. Other times he works at home.

MA: I like it because I have a 4-year-old son, and so avoiding spending one hour commuting, that will give me a lot of more time to spend with my son.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I'm speaking to all of you from NPR West Northeast Bureau, which is my home. So my commute today was 20 feet, and it took a few seconds.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) I've done that on other days when it's helpful to the family, although I'm in Studio 31 in Washington - a little distance from home today.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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