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Workers now expect CEOs to deserve their employment and effort, says pollster Frank Luntz

Key Points
  • Many companies are pushing return-to-office plans in September, the latest shift in the employee-employer dynamic.
  • But some workers, like at Apple, are already pushing back at mandates, asking for more flexibility.
  • Pollster Frank Luntz said workers now expect CEOs and companies to "deserve [their] employment," a stark shift compared to before the pandemic.
Strategist Frank Luntz breaks down how business leaders should return employees to the office
Strategist Frank Luntz breaks down how business leaders should return employees to the office

The start of September is expected to bring another push in getting workers back into the office, with some even calling September 6, the day after Labor Day, "Judgement Day" for return plans.

But while some may see that as a move back to normality in the employer-employee power dynamic, pollster and political analyst Frank Luntz said there is an onus on business leaders when it comes to workers like never before.

"The public expects the CEO to deserve [their] employment, to deserve [their] effort," he said to CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin on "Squawk Box" earlier this week. "It's a very different world today than it was before Covid and make no mistake – this is the way it is across the board; it doesn't matter whether you're in Washington state or Florida, or working class or upper middle class."

Apple is the latest company to see pushback from workers over return-to-office plans. The company had told employees who work in Santa Clara County near its California headquarters that it expects them to work three days a week in-office starting in September, shifting from two days earlier this summer. However, a group of employees has pushed back against that plan, putting together a petition that demands more flexibility.

Luntz said that workers are pushing for several things, including better flexibility and more control over their lives, including workplace setting.

"It's one of the reasons why so many businesses cannot hire the people they want – individuals now have two, three, or four job options, and they're going to go where they feel their quality of life is not messed up," he said.

For companies, this will require shifting focus to being considered a job creator, not a corporation, Luntz said.

"If you're a job creator, it's all about what you do for the people who you serve," he said. "It isn't about how much money you give, it's about what you do for your people to make their lives meaningful and measurably better."