I’ve worked from home for over a decade, and I’ve never been more confused and angry over the state of things. There’s more manipulative, anti-remote sentiment popping up each day in our feeds and control tactics like having cameras installed in home offices being put in place. So, in-office is preferred, and if that’s impossible, extreme measures will be put in place to make the experience unbearable and dehumanizing. It feels more important than ever before to call out this nonsense.

In another recent thread, everyone involved was seriously proposing that no one ever mention the desire for remote work in their cover letters, resumes, profiles, etc. The argument was that it was such a desperate look, signaling to hiring managers that you only cared about working from home. This was somehow translated to then being incapable of caring about the position or employer itself–that you are declaring a line in the sand, and that’s too forward.

Even if I try to put aside the ridiculous notion of caring about an employer” in this way, the idea that even voicing a preference or need to work from home is akin to writing profanity all over a resume is absurd. And allowing these companies to make you feel bad enough to hide it is assigning them too much power. You know what you need and what works for you; you know how to be successful. There should be zero shame in wanting or needing to work from home. What an absolute mind-melting, dumb game this has become, and we can’t feed into it.

None of this is to suggest that employees need to openly say why they require a work-from-home setup–it’s not anyone’s business. While demanding to know should stop in general, I think the first step is not entertaining these questions, which shouldn’t be legal–not that this is a solution in itself because I’ve been asked countless times in interviews if I have kids. Whether you are in chronic pain, have an isolating health condition, need flexibility to take care of someone else, or just can’t stand being enclosed in a small space while someone burns popcorn, it shouldn’t matter. Since the post-pandemic” fallout regarding remote work, everyone has been put in a defensive position over it. Breathlessly sharing their deeply personal needs and preferences as a price to be paid to get what they know they need.

Drawing lines in the sand should not be a negative thing. When we allow companies to make us feel bad about being upfront about our needs, they get away with things like failing to disclose pay until they’ve wasted hours of precious time. Time needed to earn money, time needed to care for loved ones, time needed to recharge. This time is gone after learning you can’t afford to live based on what they are offering, and you’re supposed to thank them for the privilege of it all. Unless we push back on anti-remote work talking points, we’ll be dealing with this unfounded shame and smallness forever and continue to lose fights for fair wages, fights for sick leave, and fights to protect privacy–it’s all interconnected.

Working from home is not easy, and it’s not for everyone, but this doesn’t mean it should then be for no one. When companies that have no real reason to require humans to sit in loud, smelly, cramped spaces with shitty lighting but are preaching it’s required, a tightly held value,” and necessary for bonding,” what I hear is that they don’t know how to hire in this new environment and that they are protecting the desires of an especially greedy few. And are likely afraid of their office landlord.

Additionally, the idea of in-person environments being equated to optimized productivity and the absence of killing time” is delusional and out of touch. Really, though, it also speaks to a larger issue around the perception of what productive time looks like. Allowing people to have mental breaks to socialize and clear their heads as they transition into a new task is positive and essential. As someone who’s also worked in-person, I can confidently say I got a lot less done.

My best work is done on walks and when I take a break to make my bed because I’m stuck on a complex problem. When I return, the problem is a lot less complex, and my ideas are more creative. And yet, this would be labeled as an unproductive waste by those clamoring to defend an anti-remote work stance.

So much of this mess is based on propaganda and uncertainty around how to manage remotely. Figuring out how to make this work despite the challenges is empathetic and good management. It’s forward-thinking and smart, but it requires strategy and work–work that will be rewarded with top talent and employees who are more fulfilled, not spending their nights looking for a better job that meets these valid lines in the sand.

Remote work has shaken up the power dynamic in place to assert control. This has scared many people, and they seem to be lashing out and railing against data and common sense as a result. When in a position to do so, I think change starts with openly discussing how idiotic and damaging this all is, even if it sometimes just feels like a rant–this is worth publicly ranting over.

See you tomorrow over the final breakfast (I will still keep eating breakfast, just not while also writing each day).

February 28, 2024

A tiny project byJoni Trythall inspired by friends at Wiggle Work.