• Matt Ferguson

Why are we here, only to work in cubicles?

After two solid years of upheaval wrought by the pandemic, prevailing winds within the U.S. corporate edifice suggest a lot of managers and executives want their employees back in the office, even if their jobs are easily done from home.

Is there some hidden rationale for the sturm und drang these managers feel about their employees working from home? Is there a justification for making them return to their offices? Considering that so many tech jobs, and jobs within the larger knowledge economy, can be done from any location with a decent Internet connection, no, there is no real justification for this managerial angst over remote work. So what is the impetus for dragging people back into the offices?

It's fairly straightforward: in spite of the wealth of evidence that a manager might claim he has that employees are more productive in the office, the truth is that manager just wants to be able to keep the employee under his thumb. When did so much of work become adult daycare? Companies have long had access to tools to monitor employees' computer screens, check how long they're idle or away from their desks, as well as log which websites and services employees access on company time. In fact, these tools have only gotten more powerful in recent years; managers are not wanting for employee analytics.

Given this, it seems self-evident that the drive to get employees back in their cars, back to sitting in rush hour traffic for a pointlessly lengthy commute, is not a function of any empirical evidence at all. It's just desperate functionaries in middle management, trying to prove their own relevance by having asses in seats to "manage". Perhaps this says more about the necessity of a great many managers than it does about employees not wanting to return to the office. "Too many chiefs, not enough Indians", as the saying goes.

What can you do, in your own white-collar job? Don't go back into the office. Plenty of outfits are more than willing to let people work remote now, in 2022, pandemic or not. The status quo is dead, in so many ways. During this Great Resignation of ours, the worker has more 'hand' than he ever did, to borrow a euphemism from Seinfeld.

Let your unwillingness to knuckle under to inferior minds on this particular issue serve as a larger message to brown-shoe corporate practitioners: you're an adult human, your work life has as much value as your non-work life, you have skills, and you refuse to be monitored in a cubicle for 40 hours a week.

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