WebMD Faces Employee Revolt Over Office Return Policy

The parent company of the popular medical website WebMD has gone viral for a video that some are calling condescending, alerting employees that remote work is no longer allowed.

Tech Company Releases Announcement Via Video

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WebMD’s parent company, Internet Brands, is coming under fire for a recent video they released informing employees that remote work was coming to an end.

Remote Work Ending for Internet Brands Employees

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In the video, CEO Bob Brisco makes it clear that employees would no longer be given the option to work from home. Based in El Segundo, CA, the office has had many employees working remotely since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employees “Work Better Together,” CEO Claims

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That’s all coming to an end for WebMD employees, who received the video with mixed emotions. Brisco suggested more than once that his reasoning for requiring the change was because he feels companies “work better together.”

Compliments Dished Out to Employees Already In Office

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The video starts with Brisco praising those employees who have already started working in the office again, saying their presence has “made a big difference.”

“Too Big of a Group Hasn’t Returned”

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“Unfortunately, too big of a group hasn’t returned,” Brisco says, followed by several silent shots of empty chairs in an office space.

“We’re Getting More Serious”

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“We’re getting more serious about getting everyone back into the office for the simple reason that we’re better when we’re together,” he continues.

“We Need It Now”

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CFO Blake DeSimone is next with a simple and to the point message: “We need you ready and present, and we need it now,” he says. 

Executives Take Turns Sharing Same Sentiment

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COO Lisa Morita comes on screen next to detail the reasons why in-person work is better than remote work.

“Working Together Face-to-Face Helps Us”

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“Working together face-to-face helps us create ideas faster and better so we have new products and new offerings for our customers,” Morita says.

Working In Office Leads to “Better Solutions for Our Clients”

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“We all know when we spend more time together we end up creating better solutions for our clients,” says Steve Peraino, SVP of Consumer Services at WebMD. 

“Organic Breakthrough Moments of Creativity” – Do They Only Happen In the Office?

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“[Working in the office] encourages organic breakthrough moments of creativity, specifically across teams who haven’t worked together in person as much before,” continued EVP Konrad Gerszke. 

“We Definitely Have Big Goals for 2024”

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“It propels us into meeting our business goals, and we definitely have big goals for 2024, and we need your help to accomplish those,” says Morita with the camera back on her. 

Video Turns from Encouraging to Serious

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The video has a largely positive message, but it takes a turn toward the middle when Brisco returns to the frame to drive home the point that employees were being told, not asked, to return to the office.

“We Aren’t Asking or Negotiating”

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“I want to leave you with this,” Brisco says. “We aren’t asking or negotiating at this point; we’re informing of how we need to work together going forward.”

“Great Companies Are Built By Great People”

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“Great companies are built by great people working together and seeing each other eye-to-eye, and tackling the big tasks,” he continues. 

Mardi Gras Song Juxtaposes Overall Tone of Video

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The video ends with 30 seconds of employees dancing to the Dixie Cups’ version of “Iko Iko,” a popular Mardi Gras song, and the captions explain that the meaning of the lyrics as translated into English is “we mean business” or “don’t mess with us.”

Internet Brands Updates Video Following Response

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In an updated version of the video shared by Internet Brands, the company acknowledges that the video received widespread attention, and in a series of slides, they double down on their message.

“Corporate Videos are Corporate Videos”

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“For the ‘record’…our return to office policy is a hybrid one. We’ve been rolling out these hybrid policies for over a year. As to comments/criticisms on the tone/style, yeah, corporate videos are corporate videos!” The text is punctuated by a shrugging emoji.

A Widespread Internet Response

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Backlash to the video was swift and severe, with many people going online to express their shock at the company’s message. The issue of remote work has been a contentious one since its rise in 2020. 

Opinions Vary, Many Dislike the Video More Than the Message

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Some found the video condescending and out of touch, with an air of superiority. Others considered it a thinly veiled threat that if employees did not return to the office, their jobs would be on the line. 

A few people supported Brisco’s message, agreeing that there are benefits to working together in an office, and thought that the tone of the video wasn’t surprising given that it was a corporate one.

Lesson Learned: Tone vs. Content

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Internet Brands certainly struck a chord with their message, and it seems that was their intention all along. As they have learned, the tone of an announcement is just as important as the content. 

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The post WebMD Faces Employee Revolt Over Office Return Policy first appeared on Thrift My Life.

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