Since the beginning of Covid, employees have gained a lot of leverage, benefiting from remote work options and higher wage demands. However, this favorable period may be coming to an end. Some corporate executives now call workers "lazy," with one exec suggesting that economic pain will be needed to "remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around."
At an investor conference hosted by Morgan Stanley on Wednesday, Barry Biffle, CEO of budget airlines Frontier Group Holdings Inc., said, "We got lazy in Covid. I mean, seriously, people are still allowing people to work from home. All this silliness, right?"
Biffle's comments highlight the push by corporate America to impose more strict in-office mandates after productivity declines materialized shortly after the proliferation of remote work.
"When we look at overhead versus 2019 adjusted for capacity, it's up dramatically," he said, adding, "Why do I have more people per plane in overhead than I had in 2019? It's because they're not as productive."
"Look, we're not alone in this. You hear every company out there talking about productivity challenges," Biffle said.
Just before billionaire businessman Sam Zell passed away in late May, he called remote work "One of the biggest lies in the world is that people working from home are more productive than people working in the office." He noted, "You have much less productivity if you're working from home in your pajamas with three little kids running around than if you're in an office."
Others have voiced their concerns about lazy workers and a slide in productivity, and the next executive isn't from the US but Australia.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, property developer Tim Gurner called employees arrogant and warned unemployment must surge to revive productivity.
At a business event earlier this week, Gurner said Covid had a "massive effect" on productivity. He said, "The problem that we've had is that people decided they didn't really want to work so much any more through COVID."
Gurner offers a solution that no worker wants to hear:
"We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around. There's been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them, as opposed to the other way around. It's a dynamic that has to change."
These are very harsh comments from corporate elites who are angered by the shift in leverage workers have received. They now want revenge, which might be in the form of a downturn -- where they can reduce wages and cut workers. Recall Walmart already kicked off the reduction in wages for new employees.