Return to the Office Efforts Aren’t About Productivity, Despite What They Tell You

The one silver lining to the COVID pandemic was the massive experiment with working from home. Most people found improved productivity, enjoyed a better work-life balance, and saved money by working from home. 

Unfortunately, significant players hate remote work and have implemented a massive psyops campaign to get everyone else to hate it too. 

The Argument Against Remote Work

Everywhere you look, you can find studies highlighting the massive loss in productivity with remote work. News Media talking heads promote a return to the office while broadcasting comfortably from their homes. Bosses claim they need employees back in the office. 

The message is inescapable: remote work is out, so get back to the office. 

Are the Studies Right?

There’s lots of nuance to studies. Corporations can pay a research company to conduct an investigation, highly suggesting a particular result. 

Others may have bias, only studying specific industries or refusing to look at the problem holistically. For example, a study found that new, fully remote workers in India were 18% less productive than their counterparts that started in an office. But is that because they worked remotely, or is it because of poor management or remote work? Likely, poor managers don’t know how to engage with remote workers, leading to a lack of support leading to reduced productivity. Is that a problem with remote work or ineffective leadership?

The media can also cherry-pick data from a study supporting its cause, highlighting that in its reports while neglecting the evidence countering the claim. For example, many pieces zoom in on the fact that managers “feel like remote employees are less productive” while ignoring that employees and data show the opposite. 

Facts don’t care about your feelings, managers. 

Benefits or Remote Work Transcend Productivity

Most of these reports and media pieces only discuss productivity, refusing to discuss other critical benefits of remote work. 

Remote work benefits employees by reducing commute time and alleviating the stress of a commute. This gives them more time for family, working out, or relaxing. It also allows them to make healthier lunches at home rather than going out for lunch. 

They save money on gas and business clothes, reduce car wear, and enjoy home comforts. They can even complete some chores on their breaks, like swapping the laundry to the dryer and cleaning up a random cat accident. 

These benefits significantly improve the lives of everyday Americans. People who work from home are happier and healthier. 

Businesses benefit as well. When employees work remotely, companies save money on office space and utilities. The cost savings can far exceed any minor drop in productivity. 

So Why the Push for Office Work?

Remote work cleary benefits everyone, so why is there such an intense push to return to the office?

There’s the tired excuse of trust. Many older bosses feel an intense need to control every aspect of their employees’ lives. They want to micromanage and “see” them do the work.  This cultural difference is the main reason companies can gaslight people into thinking remote work is terrible: the micromanagers at the top agree!

But that hides the main culprit, which we alluded to in the benefits.

Corporate Real Estate

Big-monied interests will lose billions of dollars if companies stop renting corporate real estate for big bucks. 

However, it goes beyond that. Some companies sign contracts with the cities, promising a certain amount of workers in a particular area. The cities use this promise to draw in other businesses, like coffee shops, restaurants, and gas stations. When a company goes remote, its employees no longer visit these establishments, causing a ripple effect that could collapse local economies. 

Our entire economy depends on workers commuting to a downtown or “business region” daily and patronizing local businesses for lunch or after hours. A massive shift to remote work endangers the precarious balance. 

What’s the Solution?

No one wants an economic collapse, but there must be a better way to solve the problem than to force employees back into a situation that doesn’t serve them.

One potential solution is converting corporate office space into housing. Not only would this solve the corporate real estate problem, but it would also help solve the housing crisis by injecting more housing into the economy. 

Of course, the political will to make such drastic changes doesn’t exist. It’s easier to go back to the old way because “that’s how we’ve always done it” than to look forward to the future and create solutions that would improve everyone’s lives.