Washingtonian Staff Protests Against CEO: What Happened?

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Cathy Merrill, Washingtonian CEO and President, publicly apologized after her staff went into a web-based protest where they refused to publish content on Friday. Merrill had previously written in an opinion piece for the Washington Post about remote work and returning to the office. She stated that the employees who wanted to continue working remotely would not receive the same benefits as those who did.

2020 was the ‘’year of remote work’’ for most companies around the world. Now that businesses are opening their doors again, more employees have started to return to the office. However, few are the companies that are willing to go back to the pre-pandemic working model. Most companies from different kinds of industries are all-in for remote work arrangements and the hybrid model implementation.

But other companies are not excited about implementing remote work. Washingtonian CEO, for instance, shared in a Washington Post op-ed how those employees who want to work remotely might be reclassified as contractors by some employers.

Washingtonian Staff Protested on Friday Against CEO

‘’As a CEO, I want my employees to understand the risks of not returning to work in the office’’ was the headline of the op-ed written by Cathy Merrill in the Washington Post.

She also emphasized that those who choose to work remotely will be treated differently from employees who returned to the office:

 If the employee is rarely around… management has a strong incentive to change their status to ‘contractor.

And she highlighted why workers who returned to the office would have more job security than those who don’t.

although there might be some pains and anxiety going back into the office, the biggest benefit for workers may be simple job security. Remember something every manager knows: The hardest people to let go are the ones you know.

After the opinion column was published, the staff decided to go against Miller, and they announced on Friday that they would refuse to publish during the entire day as a protest. Most of them expressed via Twitter their opinion, posting the same statement:

As members of the Washingtonian editorial staff, we want our CEO to understand the risks of not valuing our labor. We are dismayed by Cathy Merrill’s public threat to our livelihoods. We will not be publishing today.

Source: https://twitter.com/MarisaKashino
Source: https://twitter.com/MarisaKashino

After the protest, the Post edited the headline changing it to ‘’As a CEO, I worry about the erosion of office culture with more remote work’’. Merrill also apologized to the staff; a statement shared with The Daily Beast showed how she informed the staff that there would be no changes for those who want to continue working remotely.

I have assured our team that there will be no changes to benefits or employee status. I am sorry if the op-ed made it appear like anything else,

She also sent the staff an apology email on Friday and explained that her main concern was the company culture. As other companies have publicly stated, like JPMorgan, that culture can be harmed if teams continue to work remotely. Yet, not all organizations agree and what happened with the Washingtonian is a clear example of the importance of flexible work for employees. 

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