Starbucks and Disney Forces Employees Back to The Office, But Is Your Company Next?

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Given the extensive headlines about Disney and Starbucks ordering employees back to the office, you might think that it’s the beginning of a new back-to-office return across the board. Yet do such headlines represent the reality of a new wave or are they just clickbait for anxious workers who want to avoid the threat of a forced office return?

Recent survey data from The Conference Board provides a surprising insight into how companies are approaching the hybrid workplace policy. After surveying 1,100 corporate executives across several industries around the globe, including 24% from the U.S., The Conference Board revealed that Disney and Starbucks represent the exception, not the rule. In fact, of the CEOs from the U.S., a tiny proportion — 3% — indicated they would decrease the availability of remote work in their companies. Disney and Starbucks belong to that 3%.

By contrast, 5% said they would expand it. For example, consider Elon Musk at Twitter. After initially ordering all Twitter staff back to the office, he now reversed course. He embraced remote work by closing Twitter’s Seattle and Singapore offices, telling all staff to work remotely.

In short, it’s likely that 2023 will see a slight expansion of employees working remotely. These findings suggest that the majority of companies are finding the hybrid workplace policy to be a successful solution for their organization.

Case study: Hybrid workplace policy success

One example of a company that has successfully implemented a hybrid workplace policy is a large financial services company, which I know from consulting for it. Prior to the pandemic, this company had a traditional in-office work model. However, as the pandemic hit, the company quickly shifted to remote work in order to keep employees safe.

As the pandemic progressed, the company realized that remote work was not only effective but also improved employee satisfaction. They, therefore, decided to adopt a hybrid workplace policy that allowed employees to work both remotely and in-office. This approach has allowed the company to continue operating effectively, while also supporting the unique needs of its employees.

Related: They Say Remote Work Is Bad For Employees, But Most Research Suggests Otherwise — A Behavioral Economist Explains.

Case Study: Hybrid workplace policy challenges

Another example is a mid-size IT services company. They initially struggled with the transition to remote work and the hybrid workplace policy, as their industry requires face-to-face interactions with clients. They soon realized that the lack of collaboration and communication between employees working remotely and in-office resulted in a decline in productivity and employee satisfaction.

To address this, the company brought me in to advise them on improving their approach. With my advice, they implemented a number of measures to improve collaboration and communication, such as weekly one-on-ones between supervisors and supervisees, and setting clear expectations for communication and collaboration. These measures have helped to stabilize the company’s performance, and the hybrid workplace policy is now working well for them.

Benefits of hybrid workplace policy

One of the key benefits of the hybrid workplace policy is the increased flexibility it provides for employees. Remote work can offer a better work-life balance, as well as the ability to work from locations that may be more convenient for employees. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and employee retention, which can be especially important in a competitive job market.

Additionally, the hybrid workplace policy can also lead to cost savings for companies. By reducing the need for office space, companies can lower their overhead costs, and potentially save on costs such as electricity, internet, and office supplies.

Cognitive biases and hybrid workplace policy

However, it’s important to note that implementing a hybrid workplace policy is not without its challenges. One potential issue is the impact of cognitive biases on decision-making. For example, the availability heuristic, which refers to the tendency for people to base their judgments on information that is most easily available to them, may lead leaders to rely too heavily on their personal experiences with remote work rather than considering the unique needs and circumstances of their organization.

Another cognitive bias that may come into play is the sunk cost fallacy, which refers to the tendency for people to continue investing in a decision or strategy because they have already invested resources into it, even if it’s not the most effective solution. This can lead leaders to persist with their initial hybrid workplace policy even if it’s not working well for their organization, instead of getting advice and training on how to improve their approach to hybrid work.

Related: A Pervasive Myth Employers Believe That Is Hurting Their Remote Workforce


The Covid-19 pandemic has forced companies to rethink their approach to work. The hybrid workplace policy has emerged as a popular solution for many organizations, as it allows for a more flexible and adaptable approach to work. However, it’s important for leaders to be aware of the potential impact of cognitive biases on decision-making when implementing a hybrid workplace policy. Through careful planning and regular reviews, companies can successfully navigate the challenges of the hybrid workplace policy and stabilize their business.