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After Being Told They Could Work From Home Forever, Employees Made Major Life Changes. Then, a New CEO Ordered Them Back to the Office. Farmers Group CEO Raul Vargas is facing backlash for the change, but he says being in the office brings more "collaboration" and "innovation."

By Amanda Breen

RossHelen | Getty Images

Last year, California-based insurer Farmers Group informed employees they could work remotely on a permanent basis, and many planned accordingly, selling their cars or moving to other states.

But the company's new CEO has other plans: Raul Vargas told employees last month that he'd require the majority of Farmers staff to work in the office three days a week to further "collaboration, creativity and innovation" — and outrage ensued, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Related: Martha Stewart Is on a 'Rampage' to End Remote Work | Entrepreneur

The shift from in-office models amid the pandemic revealed that many Americans value the ability to work from home: In fact, nearly half of 1,700 employees surveyed by SHRM Research last year said they'd "definitely" look for a remote position in their next role.

Farmers Group's shift will impact roughly 60% of the company's 22,000 U.S. workers, who took to the company's internal social-media platform to express their discontent with more than 2,000 comments featuring abundant crying and angry emojis, per the WSJ.

"I was hired as a remote worker and was promised that was the company culture moving forward," a worker who specializes in medical claims posted. "This is seemingly a power move that is frankly disgusting."

Another employee in the claims division said they'd sold their home and relocated closer to their grandchildren — a "huge financial decision based on a lie."

A spokesperson for Farmers told the WSJ that employees will have until September to make necessary arrangements.

Related: Author Malcolm Gladwell Slams Remote Workers: 'You're Just Sitting in Your Pajamas'

So far, Vargas' response to the fury has been blunt. Employees told the outlet they received an email that said: "We read all your comments. We understand and we appreciate them. But we're still moving forward."

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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