728 x 90

Remote Work Needs to End

Remote Work Needs to End

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 percent 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 percent 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.


Image Credit: Flickr-Nenad Stojkovic, CC BY 2.0


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *


  • Avatar
    The mom
    June 9, 2022, 12:26 pm

    I like your stats – they help me think through this topic. You did not include a reason to work from home besides high gas prices. I think you fail to see that 2 income households need some flexibility for kiddos. Even if you regularly like to work at the office, sick kids, doctor appointments, childcare problems, summer break, etc make a flex schedule almost imperative. This is HUGE. You also didnt touch much on why an individual should care – just the country. If I am working for a company that is value extracting, it will be really hard to get me there. However, if the company is value adding to their individual emoyees, they will want to show up at work.

  • Avatar
    June 10, 2022, 11:54 am

    Perhaps we should all be living in smaller homes with fewer appliances?

    • Avatar
      June 13, 2022, 5:51 am

      You will own nothing and be happy…
      You’ll live in barracks attached to your work site where you will spend your entire period of employment, which will end the moment your employer no longer needs you at which point you’ll be transfered to the unemployed workers’ barracks outside of the city to await your next work assignment.

      That’s the future the WEF wants, and which this author no doubt would love to see as well for the majority of people (of course he sees himself as one of the elite owners who’ll actually own those slaves and whip them around to keep them in line).

      I’ve been working from home for over 2 years now myself.
      I’ve been both more productive and less productive, depending on what work I’ve been doing and how much contact with coworkers that required.
      At times it’s hard to stay focussed, but so it is in an office as well, what with constant interruptions by conversations going on around you, people wanting to go to the coffee corner, in promptu department meetings announced without any reason or warning, etc. etc.
      I think overall, productivity and distraction levels are roughly similar for me working remote as compared to on-site.
      The only real slowdown is that getting things done that require face to face contact is faster when actually face to face than over conference calls. And that’s mostly getting things set up initially when starting a new job, having someone help you at your workstation getting your computer properly configured is easier than having them try to give instructions over the phone (plus being able to walk in on the service desk people and asking why those accounts still aren’t ready is more effective than having to send an email and wait for a reply).
      But those aren’t most peoples’ normal day to day activities.

      • Avatar
        Tex A @JTW
        August 30, 2022, 7:40 pm

        Can I just add that HYBRID work sounds ideal. Work from home when you have a task that you need to think through deeply, then meet with your team in person to discuss next steps and planning and such.
        I just think there’s a lot of people out there who want to avoid doing hard work, avoid each other, get through their bs, and then party when they’re week is over.

  • Avatar
    Another mom
    June 10, 2022, 9:24 pm

    I have to disagree with this article here. I worked remotely for a short time during the pandemic & the improvement in my health & our family life was astounding. (and I have the bloodwork results to back that up) I was better rested, less stressed, and got ten times more work done. Now? Our gasoline expenses exceed the mortgage payment. No restaurants for us in the foreseeable future.

  • Avatar
    June 12, 2022, 12:21 am

    It should be up to the employer and employee. I worked from home from 2015 to 2018, long before COVID. My work day started at 7 am and often ended at 7 pm. All my work consisted of preparing for and attending conference calls with individuals all over the world, as well as creating and presenting training to employees in all these locations via computer. There was no advantage of going to an office. And I was MUCH MORE productive working from home. When I did go into the office, I spent most of the day chatting with co-workers, not being productive.

  • Avatar
    July 27, 2022, 5:43 pm

    Betsy, Great article! Remote work will hurt Americans of the middle class tremendously. Now that companies realize their employees are never returning to the office. They have the political clout from 2 years of labor shortages to permanently move jobs to overseas countries where workers are willing to work in an office setting at half the cost of an American. They have already begun unloading their commercial spaces. Americans don’t understand this and have forced companies to take extreme measures. Permanent remote work is not good for middle Americans who are forced to compete with higher educated foreigners who will work for less money. There is going to be a painful awakening for many Americans who are not paying attention to shifting trends.


Posts Carousel

Latest Posts

Frequent Contributors