Boeing is letting top executives work in small offices near their houses and commute by private jet rather than relocate to its new headquarters


As the COVID pandemic gradually subsided, Boeing, like many workplaces worldwide, encouraged its employees to return to the office.

But while the aerospace giant has tried to limit working outside of the office—30% of its job ads today allow for remote or hybrid working—several of Boeing’s top executives have not relocated closer to the company’s new Virginia headquarters and reportedly rarely show their faces in the office.

Take CEO David Calhoun, who took the helm shortly before the pandemic. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, over the last three years, a private jet has been chartered around 400 times near his two homes—a waterfront estate on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire and a house in a gated resort community in Buffalo, South Carolina. 

Calhoun is required to use Boeing-supplied private jets for all of his travel, both for business and personal reasons, due to security concerns. While flight logs do not specify whether these trips were for business or leisure, some flights did include visits to Boeing’s Arlington location.

Some top execs don’t even bother with that.

The aircraft manufacturer’s Chief Finance Officer, Brian West, also hasn’t relocated to be near the company’s Arlington base.

Instead, Boeing opened a small office five minutes away from his home in Connecticut.

Boeing told the WSJ that its Canaan premise, where West occasionally works from, was necessary to recruit the company’s new treasurer, David Whitehouse who lives around 30 minutes away. 

When a WSJ reporter visited the New Canaan, Conn. office that opened this spring, West, who is Boeing’s second-highest-ranking executive, was reportedly casually dressed in a polo shirt, shorts, and slip-on shoes. 

Human resources chief Michael D’Ambrose, who joined Boeing in mid-2020, operates from a company facility near Orlando.

Leadership team rules

A spokesperson told Fortune that the firm’s top executives do enjoy more perquisites than lower-ranking personnel, like private jets, but that there is no company-wide mandate to come in and that any RTO requests have been made on a team-by-team basis. However, they wouldn’t expand on how many team members have been asked to go in.

“We have been transforming our leadership culture to encourage our management team to engage more frequently with employees, customers, and other stakeholders,” a Boeing spokesperson said in a statement while adding that it’s why the leadership team is empowered to spend less time sitting at a desk.

“As with many companies, we have introduced more flexibility across multiple levels to enable people to work in ways that are most productive and supportive of our global business, and we’re pleased that this approach has allowed us to attract top talent across disciplines as we continue to execute our recovery plans.”

Still, the leadership team’s decision to work remotely after taking measures to entice its workforce back to the office—including happy hours and visiting alpacas—hasn’t washed down well with everyone. 

“What’s he doing? Is he like at Lake Sunapee or something in New Hampshire?” Jim Cramer called out the CEO’s apparent absence on CNBC in 2021. 

Since then, several Boeing employees have begun displaying ironic “Lake Sunapee” signs in their cubicles, as well as souvenir mugs like one that read, “Love Lake Life”, according to the WSJ.

Boeing’s bosses represent a wider trend

Boeing’s remote-working bosses are a familiar story for workers across the globe who are being encouraged to return to the office while their superiors conspicuously remain absent: McKinsey research revealed that high-earning mid-to-senior-level employees worldwide are digging in their heels when it comes to letting go of the pandemic-induced shift to working from home.

McKinsey surveyed 13,000 office workers in six countries and found that the largest share of employees who strongly prefer to work from home were those who earn more than $150,000.

In fact, 33% of employees who earn over $150,000 said they would quit their high-paying jobs altogether if their boss demanded them to come into the office five days a week. What’s more, this cohort of seasoned professionals would even take a 20% pay cut to be able to have a say in where and when they work. 

“Their seniority and high incomes suggest that they are probably decision makers who can protect remote work at the team or company level,” the researchers concluded. 

However, Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and author of a recent book about remote work, The Future of the Office, warned the WSJ that leaders who defy their own return to work policies risk looking out of step.   

“If you want people to come back and you’re not doing it, that really undermines the message,” Cappelli cautioned.

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