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A study analyzing Apple, Microsoft, and SpaceX suggests that return to office (RTO) mandates can lead to a higher rate of employees, especially senior-level ones, leaving the company, often to work at competitors.

The study (PDF), published this month by University of Chicago and University of Michigan researchers and reported by The Washington Post on Sunday, says:

In this paper, we provide causal evidence that RTO mandates at three large tech companies—Microsoft, SpaceX, and Apple—had a negative effect on the tenure and seniority of their respective workforce. In particular, we find the strongest negative effects at the top of the respective distributions, implying a more pronounced exodus of relatively senior personnel.

The study looked at résumé data from People Data Labs and used “260 million résumés matched to company data.” It only examined three companies, but the report’s authors noted that Apple, Microsoft, and SpaceX represent 30 percent of the tech industry’s revenue and over 2 percent of the technology industry’s workforce. The three companies have also been influential in setting RTO standards beyond their own companies. Robert Ployhart, a professor of business administration and management at the University of South Carolina and scholar at the Academy of Management, told the Post that despite the study being limited to three companies, its conclusions are a broader reflection of the effects of RTO policies in the US.

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