10 Most Out-Of-Touch Things CEOs Have Said About Remote Work

CEOs reveal jaw-dropping beliefs on remote work that will leave you in disbelief.
Updated April 11, 2024
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Once the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of the country’s employees to work remotely, a lot of people were convinced they would never return to the office.

In fact, many workers love having the option to work remotely. These types of jobs offer the convenience of working from home at a good job that allows you to continue to grow your wealth and your career.

However, some CEOs are ordering employees to return to the office. Here are the most out-of-touch things 10 they've said about remote work.

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People got lazy during the pandemic

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Speaking at a conference in California, Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle told audience members how unproductive he thinks society has been since going remote.

"This isn't just a Frontier thing, this is society-wide," Biffle said. "We got lazy in COVID. I mean seriously, people are still allowing people to work from home, all this silliness, right? All that's out the window. So, we need to get people back in the office."

Biffle added that workers are “not as productive” now as they were in 2019 before the pandemic.

Remote workers can’t be good leaders

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Jamie Dimon has been the CEO of JPMorgan Chase since 2005. A lot has changed since then, but his approach to management has not.

“I don’t know how you can be a leader and not be completely accessible to your people. I do not believe you can be a leader and not be accessible to your people,” Dimon told the Economist in July.

Some JPMorgan Chase employees complained when leadership began calling them back into the office. However, it had no effect on Dimon’s perspective.

"I completely understand why someone doesn't want to commute an hour and a half every day,” he said. “Totally get it. Doesn't mean they have to have a job here either.”

Remote work hinders innovation

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Ellen Kullman became the CEO of 3-D printing technology company Carbon at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic took over.

She told the Wall Street Journal that true innovation can only happen when people are working together in person.

“What I worry about the most is innovation. Innovation is hard to schedule — it’s impossible to schedule,” she said.

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Workers perform better in the office

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Mark Zuckerberg was highly supportive of remote work during 2020 and 2021.

The Meta CEO said in an employee memo that it made him more productive and allowed him to spend more time with his family — which made him happier. He even suggested he would work remotely for half of the year.

However, his tune changed significantly by 2023, when the company called workers back to the office and laid off others.

In a March 2023 company update, Zuckerberg wrote, “Our early analysis of performance data suggests that engineers who either joined Meta in-person and then transferred to remote or remained in-person performed better on average than people who joined remotely.”

Collective success requires individual sacrifices

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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel championed remote work when the pandemic began. According to the Wall Street Journal, he even told his team in 2020 that he wouldn’t return to the office.

Flash forward to the end of 2022, when Spiegel ordered employees to return to the office. He suggested that individual needs weren’t as important as the company’s success.

"I believe that spending more time together in person will help us to achieve our full potential,” Spiegel wrote in an internal memo. "What each of us may sacrifice in terms of our individual convenience, I believe we will reap in terms of our collective success."

Remote work is morally wrong

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It’s no secret that Twitter CEO Elon Musk has issues with remote work. In a May interview with CNBC, he laid out his true feelings, calling the idea of remote work “morally wrong.”

He said, "There are some exceptions, but I kinda think the whole notion of work-from-home is a bit like the fake Marie Antoinette quote, 'Let them eat cake.’”

Musk noted that people who make food “can't work from home, the people that come fix your house, they can't work from home. But you can? Does that seem morally right? That's messed up," Musk added.

He added that it’s “not just a productivity thing, I think it's morally wrong," he said.

Zoom hinders collaboration

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It seems natural that Zoom CEO Eric Yuan was a big supporter of remote work early in the pandemic. His business thrived on other companies using his technology to conduct business from home.

However, in August, Yuan told his employees to return to the office.

"We cannot debate each other well because everyone tends to be very friendly when you join a Zoom call," he said.

Remote workers aren’t as successful

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Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, is yet another leader who made a 180. After the pandemic began, he supported remote work and even went so far as to declare the traditional 9-to-5 workday “dead.”

He said that mandates forcing workers to return to the office “are never going to work.”

But in February, internal Slack messages suggested that Salesforce employees were being required to come back. And Benioff eventually said it was because remote workers aren’t as successful.

“For our new employees who are coming in, we know empirically that they do better if they’re in the office, meeting people, being onboarded, being trained. And if they are at home and not going through that process, we don’t think they’re as successful,” he said on the "On With Kara Swisher" podcast.

Nothing can replace in-person connection

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Bob Iger returned as Disney CEO in November 2022 and told employees to return to the office starting March 1.

He said in an employee email that it was because people can only be creative and connect with others while working together in person:

“As I’ve been meeting with teams throughout the company over the past few months, I’ve been reminded of the tremendous value in being together with the people you work with,” he wrote. 

“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.”

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It’s not just about you

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Rounding out the list is Jake Wood, CEO of corporate philanthropy company Groundswell. He wrote on LinkedIn in June that working for a company means it’s not all about your individual needs or abilities.

“I can understand the employee’s perspective, but I think it’s lacking something critical: It’s not just about you,” he wrote. 

“What do I mean by that? You might be able to execute your work on time and to standard in a remote environment. But what about your colleagues? Absent your presence, leadership, mentorship — can they thrive?”

Bottom line

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Plenty of CEOs have said workers are less productive at home and that they want employees back in the office. The good news is that other bosses disagree. 

If you want to find a work-from-home job that helps you stop living paycheck to paycheck, the opportunities are still out there — and probably will be for some time.

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Author Details

Liz Lane Liz Lane is a freelance writer who likes to help people understand complex topics like finance. She's passionate about making the most of her hard-earned money and wants to make sure her readers have the tools to do the same. She has worked for NBC, "Inside Edition," "The Dr. Oz Show," and more.

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