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Enough, Bosses Say: This Fall, It Really Is Time to Get Back to the Office*After more than two year

Labor Day marks the line in the corporate sand.

Many company leaders say the end-of-summer holiday represents the best chance to finally lean on workers to return to the office this year.

After months of encouraging white-collar employees to return, or attempting to coax them back with free pizza, warm cookies and catered lunches, many executives now say they feel emboldened to take a tougher stance. No longer can workers merely come to the office if they so choose; this fall, executives say, attendance is expected and the office resisters will be put on notice. Employers including Apple Inc., Prudential Financial Inc. and BMO Financial Group plan broader September returns at their U.S. offices. Some companies, such as Ally Financial Inc., have sent notes in recent weeks reminding workers to come into the office consistently. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said it was lifting all vaccination and other requirements to enter most of its offices after Labor Day, eliminating a final barrier to a full return. Others, including Marriott International Inc., are opening gleaming new office spaces with the hope—and expectation—that workers will use them. Hybrid-work arrangements take effect after Labor Day at Prudential’s New Jersey headquarters and other offices.PHOTO: JOSE A. ALVARADO JR. FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Many executives say that, with schools in session and the weather still warm, a post-Labor Day return is their best hope at getting workers on a more regular office schedule before the fall and winter holidays. With Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in decline and the death rate lower, workers say they are growing accustomed to living with the risk of the virus, making it less of a deterrent to office work. Bosses also feel emboldened to step up demands as signs emerge that the economy is weakening. “A lot of employers are saying, ‘We’re going to set a line of demarcation,’ ” this fall, said Steve Pemberton, chief human-resources officer at the workplace technology company Workhuman, which is requiring its employees in the Boston area to return one day a week starting this month under hybrid schedules, while some employees can remain remote. Many bosses say it remains difficult to hire in an environment in which the unemployment rate is 3.7%. Still, workers might be more willing to accept return-to-work orders given recent announcements from several prominent companies that they planned to shed workers. Social-media company Snap Inc. said Wednesday it plans to slash a fifth of its workforce. Others that have announced layoffs this year include Ford Motor Co., Carvana Co., Netflix Inc., Coinbase Global Inc., Robinhood Markets Inc., and Peloton Interactive Inc.

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