07 May Pompous nonsense / another WFH hit piece
Well. Here we go again:
“There is no doubt that remote or virtual work is more efficient for white collar workers. And it may be more effective in some cases. But the tragedy of the commons may be coming into play with organizations that encourage individual remote or virtual work giving up their common culture. The efficiencies of remote work are easily measurable. Organizations need less office space. Employees save all their commuting time and can seamlessly transition back and forth between their work and personal lives throughout the day.” –https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgebradt/2023/05/02/why-those-working-remotely-are-heading-for-the-tragedy-of-the-commons/?sh=5b172e825a84
OK, cool. We’re getting valid, reasonable points about why WFH makes all the sense in the world for most white collar workers. However, we get a looming threat about “the tragedy of the commons.” This already sounds pompous and overblown to me and we’ve hardly touched the article, which will be a true joy, I’m sure. So let’s rip the band-aid off:
“The Tragedy of the Commons happens when individuals make decisions that are right for themselves but wrong for the common good. Arguably this is what led to over-fishing Cod in the North Atlantic or over-grazing common lands. The dots almost connect themselves.” -Forbes, Ibid.
Oh Gawd. Remote work now = overfishing and overgrazing and pillaging the environment. Aside from being a logical fallacy of false equivalence, it’s also got the issues backassward. Greedy companies putting the boot on the back of workers’ necks to demand more and more and more is not the same thing as white collar workers choosing remote work over in-office work. 😣
“In addition to ecological considerations, decisions regarding the future of the fisheries were also influenced by social and economic factors. Throughout Atlantic Canada, but especially in Newfoundland, the cod fishery was a source of social and cultural identity. For many families, it also represented their livelihood: most families were connected either directly or indirectly with the fishery as fishermen, fish plant workers, fish sellers, fish transporters, or as employees in related businesses. Additionally, many companies, both foreign and domestic, and individuals had invested heavily in the fishery’s boats, equipment, and infrastructure.” –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collapse_of_the_Atlantic_northwest_cod_fishery emphasis mine
“In the 1600s, long before Boston was a big city, the space was shared as a grazing pasture for cows. The cows were owned by families who lived in the area. The cow grazing caused a collective action problem. Each individual family wanted their cows to eat as much grass from the Common as they could because then the cows would grow more and be worth more to the family. However, the Common had a finite amount of grass that could be eaten at any one time. Soon the cows were eating the grass faster than it could regrow. At this point, the grazing became unsustainable, and it was only a matter of time before the Common ran out of grass, forcing families to cease grazing their cows. One could reasonably argue that if the families had collectively established rules for grazing and exercised moderation in their grazing practices, then the grass would not have been depleted, and the cows could have continued grazing indefinitely. However, the original idea behind the ‘tragedy of the commons’ is that the depletion of a shared resource like the Boston Common is unavoidable due to individuals’ selfish behavior.” –https://www.e-education.psu.edu/geog30/book/export/html/343
a) If you’re gonna tell these stories as “evidence” of your point, tell the whole story rather than cherry-picking your information. b) How does this analogy even work to prove the author’s point? Makes no sense to me. As a farmer and rancher myself, yes, you MUST be careful not to overload the land. Your animals need the calories they need and the land has to have the chance to recover properly. Rotational grazing of animals helps with this issue tremendously. To argue that remote work is somehow a finite commodity and too many workers participating will somehow deplete . . . what, exactly?
IMO, we just get more Corpo America propaganda.
“Expect individuals to opt for remote work – especially the more senior individuals who know the culture and the people and have been fully trained. Expect them to be at a stage of their lives where the benefit of flexible time for them outweighs the advantages of working in the same physical space as others. Note, Emma Goldberg and Ben Casselman make a great point in The New York Times about what young people are missing in the power of proximity – essentially, mentoring and training.” -Forbes, Ibid.
Expect it because this guy says so? I’d guess that the dividing lines are more likely to encompass things like introvert/extrovert/ambivert, happy home life vs unhappy home life, childcare/pet care/eldercare considerations, childcare deserts, distance from the office/commute time, cost of gasoline, access to transportation, etc., as opposed to making this an age-related issue.
“At the same time, culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage; thus the risk to the collective, the organization, the common, is existential.” -Forbes, Ibid.
Ah. So for the author, the Boston Common in his scenario is the office and the company culture itself. Still yet, the analogy doesn’t work for me. Overfishing waters and overgrazing land ≠ people working remotely. If a lot of people refuse RTO, the argument could be made that corpo real estate will suffer. And I feel highly confident those discussions are going on behind closed doors. But crumbling real estate and vacant buildings are not the same as land that became decrepit due to too many head of cattle on it. In fact, it’s the opposite. The Boston Common had too many cows whereas the overlords are mad because the buildings have too few occupants to pay the rent. I mean, I’m pretty sure an eight-year-old kid could figure that out. It’s pretty disappointing to me that the editor didn’t read this and say, “Uh, this holds no water. Go back to the drawing board, bud.” Although I will say it’s a great illustration of my point that greedy corporations persistently want more and have no qualms about putting a boot on the back of yer neck to get it.
“It’s going to require disciplined, deliberate, intentional investment in individuals to benefit the collective, the common. It’s going to require bringing people together physically one way or another from time to time. But that may be the only way to save the common in a world of remote work.” -Forbes, Ibid.
The opening lines to the old Soviet anthem:
“Союз нерушимый республик свободных / Сплотила навеки Великая Русь.”
Roughly in English this means: “An indestructible union of free republics, united forever, the Great Russia.”
Couldn’t help but think of it in reading this article. You’re a free agent, sure. But, ha ha, not really because you need to swear fealty to the company and its office. IT MAY BE THE ONLY WAY TO SAVE THE COMMON IN A WORLD OF REMOTE WORK! Yet when we look at his own words, the Common for him is the damn office itself. So let’s draw it out.
The office needs to be saved. ➡️ The only way to save the office is to demand RTO. ➡️ Position it as doing what’s best for the collective because the collective is higher than the individual anyway.
If the office was so great, why does it need saving now? Why all the effort to sugarcoat in-person work? Why didn’t the carrots work and why did Corpo America have to resort to the sticks and have their cronies at The Fed crash the damn job market? If it was so wonderful, wouldn’t we naturally go back and be glad for it?
Reddit’s antiwork channel is even more blunt about it:
One of the responders writes:
But see that’s naughty because it puts the self above the collective. Even though this person has acquired extra skills and knowledge, that’s irrelevant. And even though the company can pink slip you at any point or pile extra work on you using layoffs as a threat, you must put the company first because the company is more important than you as an individual peon.
You go along to get along. You engage in groupthink. You swear fealty to Corpo America. If you do not, you are tossed out on the ice of Gotham and that’s that.
All in all, IMO, this is just another WFH hit piece with some pompous nonsense thrown in to sound intellectual.