Why managers fear a remote-work future

Some of the people loudly calling for a return to the office are not the same people who will actually be returning to the office regularly. The old guard’s members feel heightened anxiety over the white-collar empires they’ve built, including the square footage of real estate they’ve leased and the number of people they’ve hired. Earlier this year, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, rolled out an uneven return-to-office plan for its more than 130,000 employees—the majority of workers must soon come back to the office three days a week, while others are permitted to keep working exclusively from home. One senior executive at the company has even been allowed to work remotely from New Zealand.

Remote work lays bare many brutal inefficiencies and problems that executives don’t want to deal with because they reflect poorly on leaders and those they’ve hired. Remote work empowers those who produce and disempowers those who have succeeded by being excellent diplomats and poor workers, along with those who have succeeded by always finding someone to blame for their failures. It removes the ability to seem productive (by sitting at your desk looking stressed or always being on the phone), and also, crucially, may reveal how many bosses and managers simply don’t contribute to the bottom line…

Some people really do need to show up in person. I live in Las Vegas, a city of more than 600,000 people with more than 200,000 hospitality workers, and thus I’m keenly aware of which tasks require someone to physically be there to complete them. You can’t wash dishes over Zoom. You can’t change bed sheets over Slack.