08 Nov The “self-reported” narrative
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WFH hit pieces aren’t new. Likewise with RTO fluff pieces. The anti-WFH narrative seems to have shifted to “WFH productivity is self-reported so, ya know, c’mon back to the office now.” I noticed it popping up on LinkedIn first and it reminded me of the viral video of news anchors reading the same script in unison. ONE OF US… ONE OF US… ONE OF US…
But it’s spreading beyond the bounds of LI. So let’s dissect this.
On November 2nd, Luay Rahil (who I admittedly know nothing about) published the article, “More People Want to Work Remotely, But These Jobs Are Disappearing. People are less productive at home.” (https://medium.com/all-things-work/more-people-want-to-work-remotely-but-these-jobs-are-disappearing-c1c1df20e770) Naturally, I snickered a bit and thought, “Oh yeah? People are less productive says who?”
Well, here’s where it gets REALLY interesting. Luay has a graph at the top that’s sourced to… wait for it… wait for it… the WEF.
The TL;DR summary of their article tells us:
“- The pandemic helped lead a huge rise in remote working, but there is still relatively little data about the practice and and its impact.
– Researchers compare two recent studies conducted with home workers in Japan during the pandemic.
– Their findings suggest the average productivity of home workers has increased but is still lower than that of the usual workplace.
– They warn that while WFH could become a preferred way of working for employees in the future, a recent survey of Japanese employers found many plan to discontinue the practice.”
Does Corpo America want you back, butt-in-seat in the cube farm? Yes. Anyone who thinks otherwise is being idealistically naïve. Are they above pushing out anti-WFH hit pieces to further their agenda? No. IMO, they are not. Dan Price, the CEO who had been such a passionate advocate for high pay and the work-from-anywhere model, is gone. (You can read more about it here: https://seanjkernan.medium.com/the-70-000-ceo-dan-price-resigns-after-slew-of-assault-allegations-f4f4ba029475) I know this will sound very tinfoil hat of me, but I would expect to see less vocal support of WFH in the coming months. The price for its advocacy may simply be too high. If the WEF has decided to weigh in and say, “Yeah, you’ve gotten more productive at home now than you were at the beginning of the pandemic, but like, you’re still not as productive as you are butt-in-seat in the office (according to us),” that tells me a lot about the information being disseminated.
“Employees are losing power.
Employers are more reluctant to advertise for remote jobs and want employees to show up at the office. This trend means employees are losing leverage about where they do their job, but they still have the upper hand in some other areas … Employees must be careful because employers dictate employment terms when the economy worsens.”
I agree with this and I’ve been on this blog and on my podcast warning you about it for months. Once we’re allowed to know that unemployment is not really 3.7%, I think we’ll see more people roll up the sidewalk on WFH and acquiesce to RTO. Not because they want to but because financially they have to. Welcome to Feudalism 2.0.
“… employers have seen no tangible benefits from allowing employees to work remotely. As I said earlier, employers are tired of employees boasting about their ability to work from anywhere and are finding themselves in a tough place. This tough place makes employers consider the benefits of outsourcing jobs, so most say, ‘We want employees to come back to the office; if you don’t want to return to the office, we will outsource your job for cheaper.'”
-from Luay Rahil
They may or may not rely on outsourcing. If unemployment is high enough, they’ll simply hire someone who’s Johnny-on-the-spot to RTO if that’s what the feudal lords – oops, I mean bosses – command him to do.
“Employers have good reasons they want employees to come back to the office.” -Luay Rahil
😆 No they don’t. Control and obedience are not good reasons to demand RTO. Neither is justifying the bill for your corporate real estate.
“As Jo Constantz stated, ‘Even if companies accept remote-work arrangements, the norm of being available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shows little sign of fading.’ So, the more employees resist the idea of working 9 to 5, the faster they will lose their privilege of working remotely.
This reluctance pushed employers to be more aggressive to ensure that their employees are working 8 hours, so companies are placing pressure on their staff to have a ‘green dot’ on their workplace software to prove that they are online and working.” -Luay Rahil
Lose their privilege? 🤮 Yucko. This is more of the “y’all have been like schoolkids on summer break during WFH” theme. Which isn’t much better than calling remote workers dogs on a leash. (https://medium.com/@sara_causey/so-now-remote-workers-dogs-on-a-leash-8e21017d2925 ) In any case, they’re telling you what they really think. Kids at recess. Dogs on a leash. Serfs working the land for the patroons.
I disagree with the idea that remote work is evaporating because the peons didn’t want to be available from 9 to 5 and that caused some massive bottleneck. Quite frankly, most of the full-time, W2 employees I know personally and know of who work remotely do so Monday-Friday from 8 to 5. The people I know who work remotely in the middle of the night are freelance IT or creative types. The notion that RTO is happening because too many peons refused to be butt-in-seat from 9 to 5 is more of the corporate blame game IMO. I mean, even the rampant inflation has been blamed on remote work for Chrissakes. 🤦🏻♀️
“Productivity research on working from home is self-reported.
The issue with all the ‘productivity research’ on working from home is most of that data is self-reported. Self-reported data is virtually worthless data. When respondents’ opinions are removed, things change.
According to a study that was conducted at Stanford, ‘Full-time working from home is problematic for three reasons: It is hard to be creative at a distance, it is hard to be inspired and motivated at home, and employee loyalty is strained without social interaction.’
Most people will disagree with Stanford’s research, and that’s okay. This is what I think. Working from home is a privilege that should be earned on a case-by-case basis by those who can prove they are disciplined enough to be more productive at home. I’ve seen many employees who failed miserably when they tried to work remotely. Stop resisting human nature, and most people function better with structure.
Companies want to hire people who can add value to their customers and compensate them for it. This concept should not be hard to understand. If you can add value from home, great job, but most employees aren’t able to do that.” -Luay Rahil
Let’s look at the study from Stanford he references. It’s a publication piece by Nicholas Bloom that reads much more like an op-ed than any kind of scientific study. For example:
“From all my conversations and research, I have three pieces of advice for anyone crafting WFH policies.
First, working from home should be part time.
Full-time working from home is problematic for three reasons: It is hard to be creative at a distance, it is hard to be inspired and motivated at home, and employee loyalty is strained without social interaction.”
Wow, well thanks for your edicts, Nicholas. ‘Preciate ya. Nice of you to just toss out a clear shill for the hybrid hell-of-half-measures model there. And for an added bonus we also get the hot air about collaboration and togetherness, too. Even though we can debunk the myth that brainstorming in a group is actually better… none of that matters. It’s about following a narrative here, people.
“Third, working from home is a privilege, not an entitlement.
For WFH to succeed, it is essential to have an effective performance review system. If you can evaluate employees based on output — what they accomplish — they can easily work from home. If they are effective and productive, great; if not, warn them, and if they continue to underperform, haul them back to the office.” (emphasis mine)
-From the Stanford article
WOW. He actually said, “Haul them back to the office.” I guess that’s a modernized version of “Let them eat cake.”
I don’t disagree with the idea that results matter. I recorded a podcast episode called Results Are King because entrepreneurs who get bogged down in processes and ignore the end result are not gonna have a successful business for very long. To me, WFH is not about employees opening a laptop and then walking away to watch Netflix all day. I get it, believe me. I know there are people who want to get paid to do nothing. But that’s not everyone. And to use a few bad apples to punish everyone, including those of us who are more than capable of WFH and being more productive there than at a loud office, is absurd.
Yet I totally believe that’s what will happen to those who rely on full-time W2 employment. I won’t sit here and give you a bunch of fake optimism and hopium on the issue. I think even bigger pushes for RTO are on the horizon and the notion of, “WFH is a privilege we lords bestow upon a select few plebs” will get even more acute in the coming months.