Business / Opinion

Remote Work Needs to End

remote

America needs to go back to work.

Elon Musk ordered Tesla employees back to the office full time last week. Tesla will “create and actually manufacture the most exciting and meaningful products of any company on Earth,” Musk said. “This will not happen by phoning it in.”

Bravo to Musk for rebuffing the fairy tale that employees working from home are just as productive. It’s true for some jobs but not for most. The nation is moving recklessly fast to make remote and hybrid working permanent without anticipating the harm to the world’s largest economy.

The advantages of remote work are obvious: no laborious commutes, especially with budget-busting gas prices, and more lifestyle freedom. But it also threatens to depress economic output, lower America’s standard of living, doom our cities, and deprive young people of on-the-job training.

It’s a myth to think employees — especially entry-level workers — can acquire new skills sitting in their pajamas at their home computer instead of interacting with more seasoned workers on the job.

Remote work penalizes strivers who want promotions and need their job performance to be on full display. Employees working remotely are half as likely to be promoted, according to Harvard economists Edward Glaeser and David Cutler.

Not to mention the adverse impact on cities. Alarmingly, 78% of New York City companies expect to make hybrid work (some days in the office and some at home) permanent after the pandemic, according to the Partnership for New York City. Business leaders should take a page from Tesla’s CEO and resist that trend.

Commercial real estate values here plummeted in 2022, resulting in less tax revenue to pay for city services like cops and firefighters.

Cities cannot bounce back from the pandemic until office workers return, spending money in restaurants, retailers, shoeshine stands, and after-hours bars. New York office workers used to spend $15,000 a year on average at businesses near their place of work. Now businesses are shuttered.

Workers demanding freedom from the office often sound self-centered and uninformed. Over 1,000 Apple employees signed an open letter declaring that “office-bound work is a technology from the last century,” and “commuting to the office, without an actual need to be there, is a huge waste of time.”

Sorry. Working together in an office fosters innovation, according to Glaeser and Cutler. Working remotely discourages collaboration and information sharing, according to a study of Microsoft employees.

Despite the negative impact on productivity, many employers are caving. Blame the current tight job market. An astounding 54% of employees working from home say they’d look for another job if forced to go into the office, according to Gallup. That will change when the economy slows.

But in the long term, the push to make work remote is one manifestation of the political attack on America’s strong work ethic.

Democratic California Rep. Mark Takano has introduced a bill, endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to reduce the work week to 32 hours. Americans should not have to return to “the old normal” after the pandemic, he said.

Joe O’Connor, head of the nonprofit Four Day Work Week Global, argues, “there’s no correlation between working more hours and better productivity.” That’s laughable.

Europeans work fewer hours than Americans. No surprise, their GDP per capita is less, too. They’re producing fewer goods and services and having to settle for a lower material standard of living than Americans enjoy, including smaller homes and fewer appliances.

Zealots bashing America’s work culture and calling for an end to workplaces and 40-hour weeks aren’t telling you that these changes will likely require you to lower your standard of living. Societies that produce less have less.

Kudos to Musk and to New York’s Mayor Eric Adams, who’s insisting municipal workers get back to the office. More leaders need to do the same. The stakes are high for young people with ambition to succeed, for companies that want to grow, for cities, and for a nation whose work ethic has produced unrivaled prosperity.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of “The Next Pandemic,” available at Amazon.com. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey.

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Seriously?
1 month ago

Your opinions are outdated, embarrassing, and fit for nothing other than being printed out to line a birdcage. Way to show you’re woefully out of touch and so indoctrinated into our toxic work culture that you are willing to advocate against the health and happiness of your fellow humans in favor of kowtowing to corporations. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Chad Young
1 month ago

This is such a boomer article. It has so many outdated assumptions that are backed up by cherry picked stats that dont show the whole picture.

Here’s the truth: WFH means happier employees. Happier employees live better lives. Your entire article is making the argument that people’s happiness and health aren’t as important as “the economy.” In the long run most people benefit from WFH.

One issue is that companies are dragging their feet on adapting to WFH and then declaring WFH at fault.

People are tired of this mindset. You can’t reason with old boomers though because their minds exist in a world that no longer exists. This article is an embarrassingly bad take on a situation the author clearly does not understand.

Richard Forman
1 month ago

Such b.s. I know in my IT role as a software developer, WFH has made my quality of life immeasurably better without sacrificing an iota of productivity. And it’s not that I work in isolation – everything I do is highly collaborative with my fellow team members, and our collaboration is much easier and more effective, certainly much more efficient time and technology-wise, over Microsoft Teams calls and meetings than it ever was in conference room meetings at the office. The ability to “share screens” in order to look at problems or code or data together – or to quickly share information we need via copy-paste into ongoing chats – there are no equivalent in-person methods to achieve these tasks as easily; we’d only have to do the exact same thing between our cubicles if we resumed our miserable commutes into the office. In between coding, testing, emailing, documenting, we are laughing and talking together all day from the comfort of our home offices where the audio setups, computer monitor sizes, comfort level of the whole environment, is far superior to those in-office; no camaraderie is lost, although the need for constant awkward time-wasting small talk interactions with other employees we don’t actually work with or know is eliminated. Plus we save tons of money, not only on the commute but on lunches. In these inflationary times, how can you say it’s better for companies to reimpose these extra costs of thousands per year on employees? Thanks for showing how much you care. (And I feel bad for restaurant owners who are challenged by this, but I gotta say it’s not legitimately my problem, my job is not to have to drive for hours each day just to support them because then I have no other choice.) More sleep – better for my physical health, guess that doesn’t factor in to your thinking. And the time spent on say your lunch break is so much more comfortable, refreshing, enjoyable at home than it ever was in any office building, where you have to suffer through some institutional-food in-building cafeteria or deal with traffic and parking to hunker down in a crowded overpriced deli or fast food atrocity – this way you’re genuinely refreshed after the break or can use it for a truly productive activity that helps your life, maybe some laundry or grocery shopping, that otherwise you’d have to eat into your personal time at night to get done.

In my job anyway, after more than two years, I see no disadvantages to myself or to my employer from my doing my work remotely, and only advantages for both of us. Since my company hasn’t made any moves to require me to come back, it’s obvious they see it this way too. So please shut up.

Roscoe69
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Forman

So in short, you get to f off when you want? I guess thats what gets in the craw of us un educated/ indoctrinated workers who have to slug into work everyday.

Not impressed
1 month ago

Pathetic mouthpiece propaganda for stunted management skills from the 50s. Part of an ongoing effort by a few major business interests to create a counter narrative where none existed. I am sure “Outside Contributor” is a well know and utterly unbiased source. All vitriol like this does is galvanize people against RTO.

Pete
1 month ago

Idiotic garbage. Go be a dictator elsewhere.

Nathan
1 month ago

OK, boomer. YOU’RE LAUGHABLE.

Gerry
1 month ago

What a askewed point of view.

My company is growing too large, too fast, for me to come back to the office. My desk was given away at the beginning of covid right after we finished rebounding a new office space (which was too small for our current staff at the time), and since work from home is so successful, my company is hiring more and asking more of the veteran workers to go remote because they don’t need to be babysat or micro managed. And there is no need to buy more real estate immediately in order to maintain company growth. Get your head out away from the blinders and the idea that remote is bad for everyone.

Billy Mays
1 month ago

I did WFH for 2 years and received 3 raises and a promotion. I have no idea where you got your information but it is WRONG. I returned to the office and was placed in a tiny cubicle and have been told there is no budget for any more raises or promotions in the near future.

Brian Bacci
1 month ago

“New York office workers used to spend $15,000 a year on average at businesses near their place of work.” Just think, now they can save that mindless spending for things that matter. College funds, retirement, family vacations, etc.

Bob Dylan
1 month ago

OK boomer is the only valid response to this opinion piece devoid of any facts or sound logical reasoning

Fred Sandford
1 month ago

GIT OFF MY LAWN!!

Joe Mama
1 month ago

I thought this was a parody article.

Vincent Hayes Beville
1 month ago

I bet you some baby boomer wrote this article. America is finished, and we’re not going back to 2019. Baby boomers are out of touch with reality and in the way.

Matthew Merk
1 month ago

Who wrote this, a lobbyist for the commercial real estate industry? All of my employees work remotely. All anyone should ever care about is whether or not the work is getting done, and if their employees are happy. Otherwise you just may be a weirdo control freak.

Facts Matter
1 month ago

There are those of studies going back as far as the early 90s that refute the assertions in this article and none that support…hmmmmm

Kelly Goerbig
1 month ago

This individual who wrote this article can suck my Wang. I’ve proven over the past two years to my employer that my stats are just as good, or better then being in the office. I save 30-40hrs a month both in drive time, and lunch hour.

John Holmes
1 month ago

Amazingly bitter and out of touch article you have here. Resist all you want but WFH is here to stay. Sorry we all don’t want to go back to miserable commutes, middle managers with no real purpose, constant interruptions that slow down production and a terrible work life balance.

Americant Boomers Unite
1 month ago

Tell me you’re a Boomer mid level manager that needs to justify your job without telling me that you’re a Boomer mid level manager that needs to justify your job.

Here I’ll fix your title for you: Get back to the office so I can lord over you even though you are adults and don’t need your hands held.

Daniel
1 month ago

Remote work allows for more flexible work hours whether that be starting early, working late or working on weekends which is huge! You are saving time on commute, prepping for work, and dressing up. You do not need a specific time for lunch. You may not even need to take off when sick or for childcare. For me that is much more useful when I have a project due if I can depend on my staff and coworkers to carry through. Plus there’s less wasted time mingling. Training is a valid concern for new people but there will be advances in that area. The pros greatly outweigh the cons. Never mind the fact that I worked from home about one day out of the week every week prior to COVID-19 anyways.

Derick
1 month ago

Completely disagree. There are some big tech companies that are 100% remote and have been since inception. I currently work as a senior software engineer 100% remote. Almost all the employees are fully remote and have been since the start. There is an office and about 30 total people work there. Once or twice a year I fly in for a week to hang out.

The company has a very open policy in that everyone’s calendar including CEO are fully viewable by everyone. Everyone in the company is very active on slack and we use zoom for meetings. Works incredibly well if the procedures and culture are established.

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