A Utah CEO who is demanding that many of his remote employees start working in the company’s offices says staff members must make sacrifices, and questions whether people who serve as primary caregivers for their children, specifically working mothers and single mothers, are doing right by both their employers and their children.
The remarks at a company town hall by James Clarke, CEO of digital marketing and technology company Clearlink, have gone viral with posts of an edited version of the comments on Reddit and YouTube.
In his remarks, Clarke also mentioned an unnamed employee who he said decided to sell the family dog in order to comply with the back-to-the-office order, even though he said he found that to be a heart-breaking decision.
“Truly those are the sacrifices being made, and I honor you for those sacrifices,” he said.
But the comments that got a great deal of attention on the edited video were around how the return-to-office order would affect child care needs of many employees. Clarke suggested that full-time child care and full-time work could not be balanced.
“Many of you have tried to tend your own children and doing so [while] also managing your demanding work schedules and responsibilities. And while I know you’re doing your best — some would say they’ve even mastered this art — but one could also argue that generally this path is neither fair to your employer nor fair to those children.”
“I don’t necessarily believe that,” he continued. “But I do believe that only the rarest of full-time caregivers can also be a productive and full-time employee at the same time. You may take issue with any part of this but I believe that the data will also support this in time.”
Clarke said that the conflict between working and being the “breadwinner” and providing child care while working “has hit the single mothers the hardest. This has hit working mothers equally as hard, I would argue. It is a real challenge.”
“That is not a criticism of the noble nature of motherhood, nor the ability to do both well,” he said elsewhere in the remarks. “But there are only so many waking hours in each day.”
He praised one of the company’s female vice presidents who had chosen to work part time, again suggesting he doubted full-time work and being the primary caregiving parent was possible.
“It can be done, but it adds so much stress to a working mother’s life that I would never want to put that on anyone,” he said.
He criticized some other company employees, saying there were 30 remote employees who he said had not opened their computers for a period of 30 days — though he added: “That’s again not to say that they weren’t working at all.”
He said other employees are “quietly quitting,” and suggested that some are working multiple jobs while working remotely or using artificial intelligence programs to create the content they produce on the job.
“We just need you to show up and give an honest day’s hard work — blood, sweat, and tears — and go home to your family after that,” he said.
Clarke’s remarks were first reported by Vice’s Motherboard news site. In a statement to CNN, Clearlink declined to address Clarke’s remarks in the video when asked about it, although the company did not challenge its authenticity. Instead, Clearlink simply addressed the decision to have many remote workers start working in the office once again.
“To help achieve our collective goals, Clearlink recently announced a return to office of four days a week for the majority of our Utah-based employees,” said the company’s statement. “We look forward to having these team members join us at our new world-class global headquarters in Draper, Utah and appreciate the efforts of all of our committed team members — which includes those who work in office and those who will continue to work remotely — as we accomplish our best work together.”