As the COVID-19 pandemic gradually receded, Boeing, like many businesses worldwide, encouraged its employees to return to the office. However, despite the company’s efforts to limit remote or hybrid working to about 30% of its job openings, there have been reports of several top Boeing executives not relocating closer to the company’s new headquarters in Virginia and rarely appearing in the office.
One such executive is CEO David Calhoun, who assumed his role shortly before the pandemic. According to a Wall Street Journal report, over the past three years, a private jet has been chartered nearly 400 times near his two residences: a waterfront estate on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire and a home in a gated resort community in Buffalo, South Carolina. Calhoun is mandated to use Boeing-supplied private jets for all his travel, both for business and personal reasons, due to security concerns. While flight records do not specify whether these trips were for business or leisure, some did include visits to Boeing’s Arlington location.
Boeing’s Executive Work Arrangements and Office Locations
In a similar vein, Boeing’s Chief Financial Officer, Brian West, has not relocated to be closer to the company’s Arlington base. Instead, Boeing established a small office just five minutes away from his home in Connecticut.
Boeing explained to the Wall Street Journal that the establishment in Canaan was set up to facilitate the recruitment of their new treasurer, David Whitehouse, who resides approximately 30 minutes away.
During a visit by a Wall Street Journal reporter to the New Canaan, Connecticut office, which opened this spring, it was observed that David West, Boeing’s second-highest-ranking executive, was dressed casually in a polo shirt, shorts, and slip-on shoes.
Meanwhile, the company’s Human Resources Chief, Michael D’Ambrose, who joined Boeing in mid-2020, operates from a corporate facility located near Orlando.
A Fortune spokesperson revealed that the company’s top executives indeed receive more perks than their lower-ranking colleagues, such as access to private jets. However, they clarified that there is no company-wide requirement to work on-site, and all requests for Return to Office (RTO) have been handled on a team-by-team basis. Unfortunately, they did not disclose the number of team members asked to return to the office.
Mixed Reactions to Remote Work Policy
In a statement, a representative from Boeing stated, “We have been transforming our leadership culture to encourage our management team to engage more frequently with employees, customers and other stakeholders. As with many companies, we have introduced more flexibility across multiple levels to enable people to work in ways that are most productive and supportive of our global business, and we’re pleased that this approach has allowed us to attract top talent across disciplines as we continue to execute our recovery plans.”
However, the decision by the leadership team to continue working remotely, despite efforts to entice employees back to the office through initiatives like happy hours and visits from alpacas, has not been well-received by everyone.
“What’s he doing? Is he like at Lake Sunapee or something in New Hampshire?” Jim Cramer questioned the CEO’s apparent absence during a CNBC broadcast in 2021.
Boeing Employees Inject Humor with “Lake Sunapee” Signs Amidst Remote Work Controversy
Since then, a number of Boeing employees have started displaying tongue-in-cheek “Lake Sunapee” signs in their office cubicles. Additionally, souvenir mugs with phrases like “Embrace Lake Life” have become a common sight, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Boeing’s executives working remotely is a situation that resonates with workers worldwide who are being encouraged to return to the office while their higher-ups conspicuously remain absent. This trend is not unique to Boeing; McKinsey research has shown that high-earning mid-to-senior-level professionals globally are resisting the push to relinquish the remote work arrangements that were initiated during the pandemic.
McKinsey conducted a survey of 13,000 office workers in six countries, revealing that the largest portion of employees who strongly prefer to work from home are those earning over $150,000 annually.
In fact, 33% of employees with incomes exceeding $150,000 indicated that they would be willing to resign from their well-paying positions if their bosses insisted on a five-day-a-week office presence. Moreover, this group of seasoned professionals would even consider a 20% reduction in salary to have a say in their work location and schedule.
“Their seniority and high incomes suggest that they are probably decision makers who can protect remote work at the team or company level,” concluded the researchers.
However, Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the author of a recent book on remote work titled “The Future of the Office,” cautioned the Wall Street Journal that leaders who defy their own return-to-work policies risk appearing out of touch.