So, here we are back with another rant hm? I guess I'll just jump right into it then. You might want to read my LinkedIn post before this one though, as that adds a bit more context to the things I'm going to talk about next.
The office is dead
Or is it? After years of companies praising WFH as the future of work, both for employers and employees, it seems like everything is reverting to the world before the pandemic. Companies are asking (also known as threatening with termination, in most documented cases) employees to please, please, please come back to the office, but only after hiring loads of people who all took their jobs with the expectation that it was going to be remote even after the whole Covid-19 debacle was over, and made plans around such promises accordingly (those people should've probably made sure their position was finalized in writing, but that's a whole other topic). I'm not going to quote Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos here, plenty of reputable publications have done that already (this is the blog of a 20-year-old techie, what were you expecting? I'm not Wired), but what I am going to do is chip in and add my oh-so-requested take on this hot potato of a topic.
Why return to the office?
Honestly, the reasons are probably a combination of the following:
Many companies get tax breaks from the cities where their hubs are located because their workers boost the local economy around them. This seems to be mostly a US-specific problem though, so I don't think it explains the broader trend that has been going on lately
Most managers, for some mysterious reason, seem to believe that having a bunch of people all sitting close together typing at their keyboard is the definition of top-tier productivity. Not only is that provably false, both by research (no I'm not going to quote any articles because I'm lazy, do your research, there's plenty) and anecdotal experience (anyone who has chit-chatted for more than 5 minutes with their colleagues will attest to how much time is lost just doing that), but it's also an incredibly old-fashioned way of looking at office jobs and work culture in general
Companies tend to sign multi-year leases with real estate owners to get their offices at a steep discount. No more people working in the office means those investments are effectively wasted
Some CEOs are just, let's say, not exactly the kind of people I (and probably any of their workers for that matter) would like to hang out with (I'm looking at you, Jamie Dimons and Elon Musks of the world). The trust issues that managers have regarding work performance are most likely coming from above
This is not true for all companies (although it is relevant to the industry I work in, which is tech), but some of them hired tons of people during the pandemic (even if those people ended up just twiddling their thumbs for most of their day) just because they were sitting on piles of money, not in small part thanks to the fact that their profits skyrocketed after everyone and their mom was suddenly forced to hop onto their computer to work (did anyone seriously care about Zoom before 2019? It's a genuine question). Why? Well, some of that might be manglement (yes, you read that right) making short-sighted hiring decisions (although I find that unlikely), but I think it was just another sneaky way to dodge taxes on the newfound profits: after all, you can't pay taxes on your profits if you reinvest all of it into "developing" the company, right? And, I mean, you can just lay off all of your extra workers once the pandemic ends, right? Maybe by forcing them to return to the office while knowing that most of those who were hired to work remotely will be forced to resign, therefore not needing to shell out costly severance packages? It can't be that, right?
Companies tend to copy each other: this is true with products as well as with managerial decisions. I wouldn't be surprised if the reason many of them were forcing RTO mandates was "because Google/Amazon/Facebook did it" (Yes, Facebook. I ain't playing your rebranding game, Mark). Is it stupid? Yes. Is it human? Unfortunately, also yes. Silly humans doing their humaning, I guess
P.S.: Just FYI, this post (most of this blog actually) is a reflection of my opinions. None of this stuff should be taken as fact, cold hard truth, or anything of the sort. I'm a young tech guy ranting, not Andrew Tate: If you disagree with me, that's fine. I'm also not saying WFH is the best thing to ever be invented after toilet paper. All I'm arguing for is to let people choose the way of working that they feel makes them the most productive and happy, and that works best with their current way of life. We don't live to work anymore, this isn't the 1970s: work should adapt to us, not the other way around.
As I said in my LinkedIn post: employees make choices with their feet. I know many people can't afford to just quit their jobs right now, but if you have the option I think it should be time to reflect on what you think is more important: your career, or your life? The choice is yours. Most companies, whether they like it or not, will be forced to realize that remote work is here to stay, but that can only happen if we stand united and teach their execs that no, we aren't going to trade our quality of life so they can give themselves another 2M yearly bonus while the raises they give to employees don't even keep up with inflation anymore.