The Malevolence of The Metaverse and Web3 Conversation

If you’ve been reading about the metaverse recently, you’ll notice something is missing: a semi-cogent explanation of what it actually is. 

The Times’ latest op-ed about metaverses isn’t bad, per se, but it continues the frustrating trend of “this word is now important because a big company has said it enough.” WIRED’s “What Is The Metaverse, exactly?” is a rambling attempt to nail down what it could mean, but the article makes a very good point:  that the metaverse sort of already exists:

It's difficult to parse what all this means because when you hear descriptions like those above, an understandable response is, “Wait, doesn't that exist already?” World of Warcraft, for example, is a persistent virtual world where players can buy and sell goods. Fortnite has virtual experiences like concerts and an exhibit where Rick Sanchez can learn about MLK Jr. You can strap on an Oculus headset and be in your own personal virtual home. Is that really what “the metaverse” means? Just some new kinds of video games?

Well, yes and no. Saying that Fortnite is “the metaverse” would be a bit like saying Google is “the internet.” Even if you could, theoretically, spend large chunks of time in Fortnite, socializing, buying things, learning, and playing games, that doesn't necessarily mean that it encompasses the entire scope of the metaverse.

There are several hundred more words that go into varying different discussions of people’s “visions” for the metaverse, however, including some stuff about holograms and Microsoft mentioning the metaverse and virtual reality and augmented reality and a bunch of other things that are not useful for readers but are extremely useful for the big companies “making bets” on the metaverse.

The entire metaverse discussion is engineered by companies that are looking for new and innovative ways to raise funding and extract money from people. If the metaverse is a digital world in which  you “live,” then it’s sort of already here in the form of virtual rooms and video games.It’s  also so incredibly far away from the trite comparisons to Ready Player One and Snow Crash (neither of which are pleasant tales of the future!) that to act as if they’re even in the distant future is journalistic malpractice.

Take this quote from the WIRED article:

If VR and AR headsets become comfortable and cheap enough for people to wear on a daily basis—a substantial “if”—then perhaps the idea of a virtual poker game where your friends are robots and holograms and floating in space could be somewhat close to reality.

What an utterly clownish sentence. The substantiality of that “if” is not “hey, maybe we’ll work this out,” but “we are not even remotely close to doing this on a very basic level.” If you’ve used an Oculus HTC, or Sony  VR headset, or any other of the various bespoke VR experiences, you will know that they are janky, even if you can get the hardware to fit well.  

Some of the experiences are cool and interesting, but they are not practical. You could not “live” inside them. There are so many VR experiences that feel like alpha or beta experiences, which suggests that we’re not simply decades from a metaverse because of the lack of technology, but also based on the lack of developer tooling.

Nevertheless, we are experiencing the capitalist lathe of heaven where the sheer force of rich people’s dreams have started to alter our perception of what is possible, at least if you work in the media. Seemingly every major outlet has bought into the idea that “metaverse” is the term to use, despite the fact that it  fails to provide the basic utility required. It is not a useful catchall term, it is not descriptive in any way, and because it can apply to things that exist today (such being in a video game, or using the Internet), there is a great deal of work being done in the media to give companies credit for “building the future,” even though they’re only doing things they were already doing.

The only reason people are giving this term the time of day is because Facebook (successfully) used it to distract from the larger conversation about how much they suck. And because seemingly everybody will fall for everything, Microsoft was able to ride a wave of metaverse press by simply saying the word where everybody could hear it.

The reality is that the metaverse is either already here - you’re experiencing it through online communities, to which I say “come on, it doesn’t need a special term” - or it is so far in the future that reporters covering “people’s ideas about the metaverse” is like sports reporters writing “what if a running back could run a 40 yard dash in 2 seconds?” every single week.

Bored and Rich Capital

Naturally, the meaninglessness of the term makes it catnip for fans of decentralized communities and autonomous companies, also known as Web3.

In my twelve years doing PR, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the venture community unite around pumping two more specious industries - and that includes the rest of crypto - with such passion and froth. Every major influencer-investor - the ones that seemingly do not do anything other than post on Twitter and release  4-hour-long podcasts - has done some sort of 30-tweet thread about how web3 is the future of the economy, but also communities, and that is where the metaverse fits in. Confused? Well, they think you’re an idiot and they’re going to block you if you question it. .

These ideas are perfect for the current era of vast global inequality, because they can be quickly connected to personal enrichment. Web3-blockchain-MMORPG (ugh) Axie Infinity costs $1000 to start, but players can “play to earn” by selling weird Pokémon ripoffs on the blockchain. The idea, of course, is that “everybody wins” because the value of a token goes up, and“it’s decentralized and thus no big party wins,” as long as you don’t think about who has the most tokens, who invested early, and who is or isn’t manipulating the price. The public lie is that you’re playing or participating  because it’s a fun game, and because you want to “own your data,” but the reality is you’re trying to “invest” in a system that was built to monetize you.

By connecting the term “metaverse” with futuristic science fiction, venture capitalists and founders can take something that isn’t really that impressive and claim that  it’s part of a new movement that, if it even exists, probably sucks. Web3 is the natural counterpart to  this vacuous conversation because it is a direct way in which the capital going into these meaningless terms can seek liquidity under the auspices of giving people “value,” and letting them “own their data.”

And just like NFTs, these companies aren’t really focused on doing things you need or want to do better, but in trying to sell you a way to remove the Fear Of Missing Out On The Future, even if the product in question is bad. Every explanation of the wonkiness of these experiences is some form of “oh, we’re early days” or “this is going to be the future,” and because so many people feel like they missed out on investing in companies like Apple and Amazon early, they are really being sold a chance to get in on the “ground floor.”

I’m not against the idea of discussing the future in its early stages, but I find these narratives pointless. What are people actually doing with the metaverse? Why are we fear-mongering about how we’ll  “go to work in the metaverse” when the interfaces for most metaverse products range from unusable to impractical?

The very rich people have decided they want us to have this conversation for a few reasons:

  1. Companies like Microsoft want to appear future-forward. There is a vague sense that this is a thing, and it’s a term that investors want to hear because they have big chunks of cheddar cheese instead of a brain.

  2. Venture Capitalists are excited about the idea of investing in something early enough that sensible people will likely ignore it, and it’s very likely that their earlier successes have made them blind to the fact that the metaverse isn’t remotely close and none of the tech we’re discussing today is part of it.

  3. Venture Capitalists have realized that this is a great way to pretend that something old is new, and, in connection with web3, they can sell the idea of a pay-to-enter virtual world in which  they control the central currency and liquidity. 

Both web3 and the metaverse conversation remind me of Clubhouse, in that they are both ideas that are either bad or too early, but that forces of capital want us to believe are both current and valuable. The media is covering them out of what I’d argue is a misguided sense of duty to the reader - since  money is going into these things they must be  important - but for some reason continues to pull their punches when it comes to discussing whether these ideas make a lick of practical sense. Despite the fact that many members of the media have remained crypto skeptics - as they should! - both the metaverse and web3 (despite its relation to crypto) seem to have skated on by because enough powerful people have invested in them.

No matter how I think about or read this conversation, I cannot get over the sense that people are being misled by its very existence. To call it “the metaverse” is to suggest a metaverse exists in the way that it’s being described - your virtual worlds are still being accessed via game controllers or keyboards, and your virtual reality experiences are janky, buggy and uncomfortable, and even though they’ve dramatically improved, they’re still many years away from being mainstream products. We lack the commonality of graphical processing power and physical technology to make VR accessible to most people, so how the fuck are we discussing the metaverse as if it’s already here?

I believe we’re in a place where extremely (and moderately) rich people have become desperate and scared that they’re losing their grip on what the future is, and they’ve decided to try and create it themselves through sheer force of will. They tried to do so by claiming Clubhouse was the future, and it failed. They’re trying to cram the Metaverse conversation through, and it’s succeeding only in taking up oxygen. 

The reason that I am randomly bringing up web3 in this case is because it’s the natural escape hatch for metaverse investors. It’s a way to make sure that “the future” for  venture capitalists actually comes true - there just has to be enough hype in the tank to get the price of whatever token or NFT or asset they’re selling alongside it to a point that they can comfortably and quietly exit and make a massive return off the backs of the people they’ve fooled.

It’s that simple: you are either being sold a dream so that someone else can profit before it comes true, or you’re being sold something that already exists as if it’s brand new. In any case, someone else is going to get rich as long as you conflate avaricious obsession with something also being valid.  

The Charlatans Profiting Off Of Anti-Remote Rhetoric

I am so tired.

I don’t mean this in a weepy, complaining way. I am just so exhausted by the disconnect between those who do actual work - that do things that actually make companies money - and those who make the decisions that these workers face. FastCompany, an outlet that really needs to stop publishing management experts’ opinions, decided to push another wonderful story called “Remote Work Has A Downside.”

These articles, I feel, are being written to fight a tide of totally imaginary “remote work is good” stories. It’s the only explanation that really makes sense (other than the boss-led propaganda to get people back to the office) - a well-funded, well-promoted, awfully-written campaign against the theoretical feeling that “everybody thinks remote work is good.” It sucks, because what’s actually happened is that very few outlets are really writing positive remote work pieces - the Times and Journal have worked hand-in-hand to fuel terrible bosses’ pro-office fever dreams, for example - and thus the entire narrative has become people that run companies arguing with those that actually run the companies.

The FastCompany article in question is written by a guy called Mark Crowley, a “Leadership and Sales Management Consultant.” His LinkedIn starts with a rather weird quote:

Why is it that, even in the midst of a pandemic, millions of people quit their jobs each & every month? Research shows a bump in pay isn’t all the great. And how is it that employee engagement & job satisfaction remain stalled at near record lows across the globe?

Excuse me mate, what was that? What’s that about “a bump in pay isn’t all that great”? You haven’t worked a real job since 2010, when you were the SVP of Sales Leadership for an advisory firm that you worked at since 1995, where you appear to have been the “First Vice President” as well as “Senior Regional Manager.”

Of course I’m going to get to throwing this article in the toilet and flushing so hard I break the thing in two, but I really want to focus on something - this person, like many of these people, have absolutely no connection to real work, let alone real workers. Someone who’s job for the last twelve years has been consulting for other consultants has no place talking about “leadership” - my friend, you have led nothing in quite some time - and they have no place to talk about why people are or are not quitting their jobs.

It’s the same problem I have with asking managers about working from home - these people are likely not going to feel any of the consequences of the actions they’re promoting. In the case of Crowley’s article, it starts off with one of my favourite “more sources needed” quotes:

Despite how popular the idea of working from home permanently has become for many people today, I’ve come to believe that working remotely full-time is detrimental to human well-being, not to mention organizational success. Without working some days each week in the office—when everyone else is there too—the harm to all of us is far greater than we might ever imagine. 

You’re a professional speaker! What place do you have talking about any of this? What organizational success have you experienced in memory? The answer is none, but because he’s an “expert” he’s allowed to vomit his poorly-cited and argued drivel. His opening anecdote - about a 75-minute commute to work that eventually allowed him to work from home two days a week - raises one major question: what decade did this take place in, Mark?

…after two years of being a resentful road warrior, my boss shocked me by saying I needn’t make the trip every day anymore. She said it was perfectly fine if I worked from home one or even two days a week…

But after missing only a few days in the office, I had the sudden epiphany that the time I spent with my colleagues in person is what made my working remotely possible. The convenience of not having to drive 150 miles every day was great, but my success in leading a team virtually was also dependent upon the true connection I attained from meeting my boss for a quick lunch, running into people in the halls who supported my business or pulling my team into a conference room for an ad hoc pow wow.

When did you last have a boss? Based on your LinkedIn, it looks like you last had one in 2010? Hey, FastCompany, did anyone ask the guy who said he leads from the heart wasn’t talking from the ass? Because this entire anecdote seems totally made up! Why does a guy who is a “leader” have a boss? What’s going on, Mark!?

When you say that “[your] success in leading a team virtually was also dependent upon the true connection I attained from meeting my boss for a quick lunch, running into people in the halls who supported my business or pulling my team into a conference room for an ad hoc pow wow,” what was the team? Who was your boss? What company? There might be an innocent explanation here - perhaps he was working remotely in the mid-2000s, which would be interesting if not somewhat useless, or perhaps he currently has another job that, for some reason, he doesn’t publicly disclose. A job where he has a boss.

I’ve emailed Mark to ask for some clarity here. I’ll update the weblink of this article once I have it.

Anyway.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, customer service representatives at one major credit card company worked in call centers where they interacted with one another in meetings and on breaks. But ever since these employees were deployed to their homes to work (now permanently) turnover according to management has “skyrocketed.” Workers who quit said the isolation they felt was dispiriting—and not having friends around to lift them up after dealing with an angry customer made the job lonely, joyless and gave them little reason to stay.

I almost want to contact someone at FastCompany about this piece, because every paragraph seems to lack even the most basic information. What call center? What credit card company? Which workers? This is obviously your standard anti-remote work anecdote, sure, but this doesn’t say anything other than someone - a non-specific number of people I might add - quit because of the dispiriting isolation of working from home, as opposed to the dispiriting isolation of working in a call center, one of the most miserable jobs in the world.

God, this article sucks.

People who argue in favor of working remotely full-time will tell you they have all the social contact they need outside of work. But according to the behavioral scientist, Jon Levy, “It’s only one-in-a-million people for whom this is really true.” Author of the New York Times bestseller, “You’re Invited: The Art And Science Of Cultivating Influence,” Levy wrote, “The greatest punishment we give people in society is either solitary confinement or banishment from the group. It’s because we’re not meant to be isolated and—without connection to others—we suffer psychologically and emotionally.”

Calling Jon Levy a behavioral scientist is like calling me an engineer because I work with tech companies. He got his Bachelor of Science in [data missing] from NYU in 2002. This isn’t simply disingenuous, it’s also totally wrong. And Levy is the entire foundation for this article. I also want to answer his question:

“Now that we have all the technology that could support it, do you think it would be a good idea to move all elementary school, middle school, high school, and college education exclusively to remote learning?”

As you might imagine, Levy quickly confirmed that most of us would answer his question with an emphatic “no.” And that begs another question, “If we wouldn’t isolate our children like this, what makes us believe being isolated ourselves is such a good idea? 

Yes.

Because work is not the same as school. You do not go to school because you’re paid to, you go because it turns you into a person who lives in the world (in theory). And even then, there are plenty of high school-level things that could be done remotely. It is a perfect straw man for an article written by a guy who’s principle citations come from a “behavioral scientist” with no published academic.

Also, crucially…working from home isn’t isolation. I talk to people all the time online. I Zoom with them. We chat on the phone. We DM on Twitter. It’s really easy when you’re not 400 years old arguing in an op-ed that people need to be working in an office to be “happy” when there’s little evidence that you’ve worked in an office since the 2010 midterms.

There are still some nuggets to dig into, though:

In a 2018 study referenced in Jon Levy’s book, “You’re Invited,” Wharton organizational behavior professor, Sigal Barsade, found that lonelier employees feel less committed to their employers and also to their co-workers. In moments of stress or conflict, lonely employees are more likely to decide that certain relationships aren’t worth the effort. And when the connection between colleagues begins to wear, distrust infects communication and collaborations. “Entire teams and even departments can suffer.” 

If I had to guess, he’s not quoting a study from any book, but from this Harvard Business Review piece by Professor Barsade from 2018. The article in question has absolutely nothing to do with remote work - and crucially includes a quote that says “there is very little research on how the experience of being lonely plays out in the workplace.” The study of 672 employees across 143 work groups (and their 114 supervisors) covered industries including a service and manufacturing outsourcer, with over 41 different positions, as well as clerks, truck drivers, managers, engineers, and police officers.

I wonder why this quote was left out of Mark’s piece?

In other words, even though the person may desperately want to connect with others, they see their environment as threatening and become hyper-vigilant and overly sensitive to the responses of others.

Hey, this sounds like something an office would actively hurt! Oh well, no need to actually read the stuff you’re quoting, right mark?

And one more thing:

Research by Brigham Young University professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad shows the most important predictor of living a long life is social integration–meaning how many people we connect with every day. And a new study from the University of Chicago confirms this by showing it’s the routine interactions we have with myriad people, including workers from different areas, cafeteria workers, and people we see at the gym that sustain us. According to Holt-Lunstad, the impact of lacking social connection is equal to the risk of smoking 15 cigarettes a day – greater than the risks of obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise. In the words of Vivek Murthy, “Quite simply, human relationship is as essential to physical, psychological and emotional well-being as food and water.”

So I went and dug up Holt-Lunstad’s study, and there’s one crucial detail to add: it is almost twelve years old (published in July 2010). While the connection between mortality and social interaction is valid, what this has to do with work - other than the vague line between “we need to see people” and “we see people at work” - is questionable. To conflate “needing human contact” with “we need to go to the office” is an abominable leap of logic that only a guy who has not been to one in a long time would make.

The Anti-Remote Work Influence Boom

The reason that you’re seeing so many of these guys pop up to attack remote work is because it’s good business if you’re in the business of selling hot air, promising to teach people how to “do influence” or “be a great leader" for a five-or-six figure fee while you crush the workers you’re claiming to help them lead under your foot. Levy himself has an extremely questionable op-ed about why “hybrid work won’t last” that includes a totally insane paragraph:

Working from home can be too convenient. Things that are convenient aren’t necessarily good for us. Lifting weights is hard, but it makes us stronger. Similarly, it is more convenient not to have a commute or change out of our pajamas, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Having some commuting time, whether it’s walking, on public transit, or in a car, gives us an opportunity to let our minds wander and explore ideas. In these moments, you replay conversations from the day. Maybe you plan your discussion with your boss about a raise. You have time to process. Office life forces transitions and breaks throughout the day, as people shift between meeting rooms, desks, and meals and coffee. Of course, remote workers can plan breaks into their days, but most people aren’t very good at putting boundaries on their time.

As usual, it’s always a good job to check their LinkedIn, and Mr. Levy’s job appears to have been some form of “founder” or “consultant” since 2010. Which would be totally fine if he wasn’t trying to claim that remote work is “too convenient” or that we need “belonging” in an office. As I’ve said many times, it’s extremely easy - significantly easier than finding a place where you belong! - to find an office where you don’t belong. These are all things you learn from talking to regular people!

But that’s the point. While these articles may seem to be trying to prove a point, what they’re actually doing is selling the person in question’s services to the higher-ups that will use their oafish half-wit “arguments” to confirm their biases and send people back to the office. When Crowley is next hired to do a “leadership summit” or somesuch business, he’ll be able to do a long, meandering speech about how “great leaders know that the best work is done together.”

None of these people want to actually know the truth, otherwise they’d speak to the people working at companies over those running them. The Internet can basically prove any point you want with enough googling, and these articles are catnip to executives that want to justify the warm and fuzzy feeling of forcing people into the office that they’re in a few days in a month.

I feel like I’m pulling my punches, so let me be blunt: there are very few “leadership experts” that are not completely evil. It is an evil career - it is taking George Bernard Shaw’s quote that “those who can’t, teach” and stretching it over a human skeleton. They are the professional version of inspirational quotes, intelligent-sounding and framed statements that fall apart under even the slightest scrutiny, shipped to executives that just want to feel good and that they “got a lot out of a session.” Indeed, anyone who claims to have “expertise” in something that they are not actively engaged in on a daily basis is morally corrupt - it is intentionally misleading.

The reason that these people keep getting published places is because it’s very hard to quantify whether someone is actually an expert in something, and sometimes the easiest way to tell (if you are doing absolutely no research into them) is to see if they call themselves an expert. And I’m going to guess that these op-eds are extremely good traffic-drivers - the responses to these articles on Twitter are furious, and, of course, people regularly hate-share things (agh! How did I get hooked on my own petard?).

You may think that these people would be naturally pro-remote work - it’s future-facing, young people love it, and it’s vaguely technological. But the truth is that there is a much larger, wealthier subset of people that will pay to be told at length why they’re very smart for doing incredibly stupid things. Executives that have little connection to or understanding of the working world don’t want to have to think about work - they want to be told that their workers are demanding and ignorant of the bigger picture of “what’s good for them.”

The Myth of Mentorship, And How We've Failed Entry-Level Workers

I woke up this morning and had a thought - what if I had nothing to write about? What if, by taking a few days off to recover and enjoy Thanksgiving, I’d find a world devoid of things to comment on. And I was wrong.

Last week, the New York Times published an adapted essay from Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen’s book about the future of remote work. It’s called “Remote Work Is Failing Young Employees,” and it is as infuriating as the title suggests, and I have to say I’m utterly shocked at the fact that two people I otherwise respect would put their names on something like this.

It is the same crap we’ve all been making fun of for months, except it’s published by two pro-remote work people:

With time, she grew accustomed to the daily cadences of her job. But she still felt like a stranger at her own company, whose remote policies were haphazard at best. To chat, employees used an outdated version of Skype; in Zoom meetings, almost all co-workers left their cameras off. Months into her job, she could identify people only by their chat avatars and voices. At one point, she says, she began “obsessively stalking” her company’s Glassdoor reviews, just to try to get a sense of the company culture. She was, by her own admission, unmoored, totally unmentored and insecure, with no way to learn from her colleagues. It’s one thing to start a new job remotely. It’s another to start your entire career that way.

While their companies adapted their workflows to function outside the office, few spent the time to craft policies to mentor young professionals, many of whom found themselves stuck on their couches, attempting to decipher cryptic emails and emojis sent over Slack.

Charlie, Anne! Come on! You’re better than this!

“I think I’m missing out on a lot of the soft skills that one picks up in the first few years of working,” Haziq, a 22-year-old living in Ireland, told us. He’s found it nearly impossible to socialize with colleagues and lacks the confidence to casually ask a question of his manager or teammates. “If I was sitting next to my manager, I could just have a quick chat and move on,” he said. “But I’m much less likely to Slack my manager and ask something because I don’t know what they’re up to at the moment. The amount of on-the-job learning has reduced dramatically.”

I’m despairing here because there is so much being assumed- wait, hold up-

For Kiersten, who had never set foot in her company’s office, professional life has come to feel like an abstraction — to the point that she’s sometimes not even sure if she’s employed. (She is.)

I am so god damn angry reading this because that is quite literally an anti-remote trope published by the New York Times. Every sentence in this article is infuriating, because so much of it is just hearsay, written for the benefit of managers and executives to specifically create an image that companies are doing good things, and that mentorship and training actually exist.  

While we believe that the spontaneous water-cooler interactions of the office are often romanticized, we also recognize the ways in which gossip, after-work drinks and even body language come together to teach new employees the standards of behavior in the office. Small talk, passing conversations, even just observing your manager’s pathways through the office may seem trivial, but in the aggregate they’re far more valuable than any form of company handbook. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be translated into a remote or flexible work environment.

This paragraph makes several questionable assumptions:

  1. That managing and training happened in these companies.

  2. That body language, small talk, passing conversations, or “observing your manager’s pathways” have any real effect on doing your job, even in aggregate.

  3. That “the standards of behavior in the office” matter, and also that you, the reader, know what that means.

I say this as someone who admires these writers - this is a worrying piece, especially considering it’s directly coming from a book that will likely be used as a cornerstone of companies’ remote work (or lack thereof) plans. It is going to be used to fight against remote work.

The reason I’m particularly annoyed is that this entire piece is hinged on - which sucks, I cannot explain how angry I am at it - the idea that the office was good and that everything there was right, but now remote work is here to offer a “different perspective” on an otherwise good thing. Specifically, it is entirely built on the concept of workplace training and supervision that simply does not exist, and mostly takes the idea that they’ve been able to identify several companies with dysfunctional leadership and threads the needle to the idea that remote work is causing these problems.

I also deeply resent the idea that training or mentorship is commonplace in the office. So I went to Twitter to see if I was wrong:

I am certain that by the time I am done writing this I’ll have many more replies that are similar - that companies just do not seem to actually tell anyone what to do, let alone train or mentor people to be better. As I’ve said before, I’ve had one manager in my career, and the “mentorship” he gave me mainly was pointing me in the right direction once. My PR career is entirely built on working things out fast enough that I didn’t get fired, and 98% of the knowledge I have is self-taught or learned through breaking my nose walking into walls at high speed.

I am infuriated that this piece exists because it is - deliberately or otherwise - anti-worker. The worker is an idiot, lost in the winds. The manager is overloaded and poorly supported by [vague gestures]. The corporation is well-meaning but misguided.

Truly flexible work may seem breezy and carefree, but it’s actually the product of careful planning and clear communication. It requires peering around corners and attempting to identify needs and problems before they fester. It may seem onerous at first, especially when “Let’s just go back to the way things were before” seems like such a clear option.

Okay, Charlie, Anne, you are indirectly telling people to go back to the way things were, because you are not really offering any solutions other than “this is a problem”:

But it’s not. We’ve moved past that point. If we’re serious about building a sustainable future of work, we can’t leave a whole swath of employees behind. They’ll just develop bad habits and waste endless hours trying to piece together the rules of the game when someone could’ve just told them. Businesses have to decide: Are you going to pretend the problem doesn’t exist, allowing it to tax your organization in all sorts of tangible and intangible ways, or are you going to invest in the sort of intentional mentorship and structure that will yield dividends down the road?

Companies do not invest in intentional mentorship and structure. Maybe big corporations do, but most companies do not. Hell, I had to work out some degree of doing so myself because my first instinct was to just hire people who didn’t need training, and assume they knew everything (which was wrong, by the way) - the truth is that most jobs are done by learning roughly what to do and experiencing the nuance at high speed. It isn’t the best way to do it, but it’s worked because actual training and mentorship are hard.

The vague anecdotal interviews in this piece betray one staggering problem - it fails to interrogate the foundation of the problems it identifies. It isn’t just that remote work is the cause of this loneliness, or that none of these companies have any idea what the hell they’re doing as far as actual communication goes, but that the writers have assumed that work is where you socialize, and that work is not simply a transaction of labor for work, but a thing you do to make yourself not feel lonely.

It also assumes that the office has fixed any of the bullshit that they’re saying remote work needs to.

Had Joe’s office implemented a remote plan, it’s possible his supervisor could have changed her schedule to fit her needs or delegated portions of her work across other employees and departments.

I did a big belly laugh when I read this part, because I cannot think of a time when a manager has moved around their schedule for my benefit. In my Here Is My Problem column, I regularly run into people talking about inflexible managers, or specifically a total refusal to bring on staff to delegate work to. Instead of taking this piece - and I really hope it isn’t isn’t the case with the final book - from a perspective of remote work and the pandemic being a way to address the many, many problems of the office, it seems that Warzel and Petersen have simply assumed that the physical office worked - that offices commonly did things right and that communication was easy with your manager because you were in person - and that remote work must learn from the good lessons of the office versus being treated as something else entirely.

Dysfunctional management is going to exist in any form you let management exist in, and remote work’s problems are problems that were often exacerbated by physical communication. The exhausted trope of “feeling lonely” because you “aren’t close to any of your workmates” is so utterly weak - I’ve worked in offices of hundreds of people where I knew two of them, because…guess what, you don’t hang out with them, you work there. In my first job, I once got screamed at by my boss for talking about popcorn. In other jobs, I’ve received texts from management in another state asking the group to stop “chit-chatting” and get back to work. While one can say that this is the same kind of specious use of anecdotes that I am angry at (and you’d be correct!), it’s not hard to find people who have very similar stories about the office.

I also want to be clear that a lack of mentorship and training hurt me on a psychological level. I moved to this country in 2008, and basically had to work out this career on my own. You want to talk about isolating? Imagine sitting in an office of 10 people that basically only talk about how much they hate their jobs, being told you have to do a job you’ve barely been trained to do, and when you ask for help you’re ignored or, at best, given really crappy advice or critiques. I am still extremely twitchy when people walk up behind me specifically because of my managers at my first job in America. And a lot of what hurts is because I was given a great deal of orders and absolutely no guidance as to how to execute beyond “call journalists” (who did not want to be called) and “pitch stories” (which I was not told how to do in anything other than the vaguest terms.) 

As a society we have rejected the idea that people need to be trained or mentored because it’s expensive and time-consuming to do so. We do not invest in young workers - as I wrote in the Atlantic, America disrespects entry-level workers, leaving them bereft of training or mentorship, expecting them to work it out from HR documents or orders from the manager. The reason that companies are not making formal plans to adapt schedules or workflows for remote work is because they barely make formal plans to adapt schedules for in the office - almost everything is done based on the arbitrary views of a manager or VP that does not do the actual job. 

The first week of remote work, Joe’s supervisor canceled their check-in without rescheduling a new one. “We went months without emailing over the rest of the fellowship, and we only spoke on the phone once over that time, and weren’t in any meetings together,” he said. On his last day, there was no exit interview or procedure at all. “I sent out a goodbye email to about two dozen people right before leaving my laptop in the office on my last day and cc’d my personal email, but only one person wrote back,” he recalled.

It is utterly offensive that this got published. I’m so - I’m - Anne, Charlie, I think you’re marvelous, but this sucks. You know what actually caused this? A badly run company. Had he been in the office, he’d also probably barely spoken to the manager. Every one of these things that happened would have happened in an office. Why is this called “a classic example of how flexible work — absent intentionally designed support systems — can hurt the most inexperienced employees in an organization”? It seems like a classic example of poor management shitting on entry-level employees. No consideration is made, even once, that the system itself is corrupt - no, the assumption is that well-meaning companies are fumbling the ball when it comes to remote work, and thus remote work is a “problem.”

Had this manager been in an office with “Joe,”  I guarantee you they’d have been just as helpful. Not a single thing in this story is a specific remote work-related problem. And, in fact, I’d argue that the majority of the anecdotes involved have a similar problem - you can very easily work at a company and not socialize with anyone, you can feel alone in an office of one thousand people because, well, your workplace is not where you socialize. Take a look at this: 

Others wanted more scheduled sessions for employees to come together and bond. “Zoom meetings are not enough,” Joe told us, though he struggled to articulate exactly what kind of bonding might work. “Maybe take something that people already do and bring it into the workplace — pub quizzes, pen pals, video games, a book or movie club. I feel stupid writing those! But you have to try something.”

Joe, what the fuck are you talking about, man? Pen pals? What? Pub quizzes? Excuse me? What are you talking about man, when do any of these things occur? Movie club? What? I’m lost, because so much of this is the vaguest anecdotes used to make extremely big and meaningful points. And the one time they get specific they seem to totally miss something:

But that early professional hunger for structure extended far beyond Zoom meetups. People wanted opportunities to sit in on calls with senior members of different teams — the equivalent of silently sitting in on an in-person meeting — if only to get a better sense of what others’ jobs entailed. They wanted access to email templates for specific kinds of intra-office and out-of-office outreach. They wanted to know what time was normal to reply to emails. In short, they wanted to be told what they were supposed to be doing at work and how to do it successfully. Even those who admitted that such guidance could quickly become stifling agreed that it was better than flailing around with vague expectations and zero guidance.

None. Of. These. Are. Things. That. The. Office. Had. Get a fucking grip. These are all things you could (and likely have!) missed in places you’ve worked physically, because they are all, in their entirety, “office culture” bullshit that you learn by messing up and someone yelling at you. “They wanted access to email templates for specific kinds of intra-office and out-of-office outreach” - first of all, great sentence, extremely hard to parse in any meaningful way - but also, these are very much things that, again, you would not get in an office.

The problem is that companies are usually very good at telling you what they want but extremely bad at telling you how to do it. You are “meant to have gone to college and “learned how to do this stuff,” and the reason that it comes up with remote work is because people are actively looking for ways to tear down remote work. Where were these articles (other than Harvard Business Review which appears to have covered every subject under the sun, despite nobody I’ve met from HBS actually seeming to know anything about management) two or three years ago? Where was all this deep, meaningful analysis of the physical office? 

It wasn’t there, because nobody gave a shit. The reason that it matters now is because lots of people went remote at once and realized it was better, and those in power got mad at it. People like Warzel and Petersen, while generally good at this, seem to have fallen into the trap of “hearing out both sides” and in the process have joined the corporate agenda of identifying the problems with remote work.” While one may argue there is an innocence here - it’s just an excerpt, you should read the whole book, and so on - there is also a true lack of responsibility in writing this both as a problem that young workers are facing and, on some level, that it’s a problem caused by remote work.

And god, how the hell do you act as if mentorship and training were commonplace? It’s offensive, because it’s actively fighting against young people. This entire article reminds me of Trevor Strunk’s Stephen A Smith Tweet - remote work has all of these opportunities…BUT! 

It’s frustrating, because the perspective of this (and many!) books are so anti-worker. They do not really evaluate worker problems or care about worker stories - these anecdotes are dressing for a larger message that remote work is not something that can “easily happen” - it is something that “takes “real work” - all framed as positives with an underlying sense that perhaps this is all just a little too much work. That’s why the underlying sense that the office actually fixed any of these problems is such an issue to me - remote work doesn’t create real work” that you shouldn’t already be doing - the only point of this article was to undermine remote work. That’s why the Times took it in the form they did. I don’t think Warzel and Petersen are against remote work, but I do believe they needed to do a lot more thinking about and investigating of what working in an office has been like or is like.

We will keep having stories like these, because there is an agenda to defend the established order of the office, even if it requires you to lie. And there are lies - perhaps unconscious ones made through unchallenged assumptions - that will keep being told about how “things were before was good, but needed flexibility, versus that things before were bad, and need to be interrogated and thoroughly analyzed rather than waved at from a distance.

The Endlessness of The Internet Has Broken Our Brains

Before we begin: I’ll be taking a break after this newsletter until next week to enjoy Thanksgiving. As a reminder, email me at ez@substack.com with the subject “Please Help Me” with any personal or professional problems for my “Here Is My Problem” newsletter. I also had a piece in The Atlantic yesterday about burnout and working remotely.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving if you’re off, and if you’re not, well, I am. Sorry!


I wanted to write a very serious newsletter today, perhaps about the future of work or remote work, or maybe burnout, but then this happened. Kid Rock, a man who is 50-years-old but could be anywhere from 40 to 70 at this point, has made a song that perfectly encapsulates the right-wing echo chamber of weaponized victimhood that has equated “rules can be added to keep society safe” with “this is a dictatorship.” The song itself, “Don’t Tell Me How To Live - ft. Monster Truck,” is a kind of aural plague, a song complaining non-specifically about the weakness of this generation, millennials being offended, and one too many uses of the words “homie” and “hoes” from a guy who looks like a skeleton with Jeff Foxworthy’s skin stretched over it.

This is the kind of product that could only be made in 2021 and only really makes sense in 2021, in that it nails the vague grievance-mongering of several generations of conservatives that (while telling liberals that they’re too easily offended) spend most of their days offended by something new. Perhaps it’s Dr. Seuss or Nicky Minaj, or just the general sense that “woke” exists, and they’re upset about that. It’s something that’s equal parts offensive and confusing, the white noise of perpetual misery with no real attachment to any real problems. The Critical Race Theory controversy was entirely engineered knowing that being a conservative in society means that one’s axe is ready to grind at any given time for any given reason.

This has become so powerful thanks to the wonders of the modern Internet - a little bit of everything, all of the time, delivered instantly anywhere in the world. People looking for a reason to be upset can’t just find what to be upset about, but can find the specific reasons and the specific ways to be upset, on their phone, 24/7, waiting for them. Despite many conservatives claiming to be free-thinking geniuses, they are easily united under the banner of causes ranging from vulgar to obtuse, creating national news stories because, as a movement, they are capable of all agreeing that something is bad at once without having to understand why it’s bad or, at times, what it is.

Without going down the “both sides” hole, this is also something that anyone is vulnerable to. The current state of the Internet accelerates this because it’s so easy to connect with (or connect to) people that we admire or appreciate the viewpoints of. As a result, we are - as many people do in real life based on the people they hang out with - likely to absorb other people’s opinions that we feel close to. Conservatives are so quick to absorb and disseminate these ideas because their big talking heads - Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino, etc - have benefitted heavily from parasocial relationships. The fact that you can follow and hear every weird little thought that comes out of their head, get “breaking updates” from them on Facebook, or listen to their podcasts makes you feel a degree closer to them than you would if you would saw them on TV.

To quote myself:

The imprinting of a relationship onto a form of mass media is something that’s been obvious for a long time - talk shows are inherently conversational, talk radio basically exists for people to feel like they’re “in the room” or being talked to directly by the host, and so on. TV shows are intentionally or otherwise made with characters that either exhibit qualities to make them likeable (or unlikeable) and attract people to feel a certain way about them - creating, consciously or not, a relationship with a totally fictional character. Hell, I think we all know someone that’s said (or have said it ourselves) that a particular song “feels like it speaks to them.”

The reason that I think that these relationships have become so important is that they define a great deal of interactions on social media. The popularity of influencers is something that’s grown because of how they expose themselves via social media, even if said social media is extremely mediated or contrived. Celebrities and influencers can post whatever they want and respond to anyone they want (theoretically), and as a result there are many fans that believe that there is an actual relationship taking place when they interact on social media, despite the very high likelihood that the celebrity or influencer has never nor will never see the interaction.

When you’re also peddling ideas based on the concept that those in power aren’t simply corrupt but actively working against every single idea you hold dear, you naturally create an incredibly volatile and loyal fanbase. You’re letting them behind the curtain into your life, and then telling them that their way of life is under assault and that those that reject these ideas are simply ignorant. Kid Rock’s song perfectly nails the hypocrisy underlying most of these ideologies - the musician claims that “nobody will tell him how to live” as if he isn’t worth $80 million, declaring that it’s “my way or the high way” as a rich white guy that has very likely not had any sort of impedance to his way of life in the last 50 years.

And it’s going to do really well with people who want to symbolize an extremely vague power struggle against a society that still overwhelmingly benefits white men and where a white man is President. It is the kind of thing that would not have gone anywhere if the Internet didn’t exist as a way to unite around these ideas and appeal to appeal to the least-oppressed people on Earth with ideas that frame them as rebellious heroes in a very specific way.

It’s the result of the growth of mass communication laced with 20 years of Americans being told to be terrified of their neighbor, all while the gutting of social services reached fever-pitch. People are angry - and I’d argue should be! - at how hard things are and how difficult living a basic life is, and are being fed virulent truth-adjacent statements like “millennials don’t work as hard!” and “they want to teach everybody that white people are all racist!” because it’s far easier to be angry at something very immediate and personal rather than the larger, uglier, harder-to-grasp erosion of the social safety net that makes life suck for most people.

People want answers, and the Internet is so good at giving you them. On top of that, most people want “the” answer rather than realizing there are many answers, and that while that may be an answer, it isn’t necessarily the right answer. Hell, the thing in question might not even be true, but it’s said into a nice microphone with a nice camera from a guy that kind of looks like you - so it must be right. Why would they lie?

The Internet is also really good at making you feel like you’re smart because you found a lot of sources (please do not say I’m doing this, it’s very rude). You can find research or reporting to back up almost any viewpoint, and as a society, we have really failed to update people on what “good” reporting or research looks like, or what critical thinking actually is. The result is a polarized mish-mash of people saying they’ve “done the research” because they’ve found a medical journal with 4 or 5 names, all of which have PhDs, that back up (in the Abstract) what they believe if you read it the right way. And when you’re specifically dealing with people sourcing things that are being told not to trust those in power, the natural reaction to any source that you send them will be “I don’t trust that source,” at which point all logic and reason are gone…but they did their research.

We can confirm any bias from anywhere in the world, and we have people that helpfully will confirm our biases for us and tell us that those who don’t confirm our biases are either liberal wusses or politically-funded spies. The Post-9/11 growth of surveillance and paranoia - along with the general shit deal that most people get - made the Internet a perfect place to go to when you’re scared or angry, with so many well-groomed sources to tell you that all of the things you’re mad at are valid, and all of the things you’re worried about are worse than you thought.

Someone is going to sound off in the comments and claim that this is what the liberals do, and I’m not going to have that debate because you either know what the deal is here or you’re actively engaged in denial. Conservativism has grown so bloated and paranoid because the Internet is so perfectly-made for engaging people that are incapable of introspection and always want somebody to blame, and, frankly, angry headlines sell. People love being pissed off. Reading is difficult - this is a universal, apolitical statement - and oftentimes it’s easier to be told you’re mad and what you’re mad about so that you can focus on being mad and then find the reasons.

The problem is that most of the problems we’re facing are messy, convoluted, and have no real villain. The reason that “Eat The Rich” as a statement (and a podcast) has become so popular is that, while the actual villain here is a little more complex (the systems that make people billionaires, the systems that allow billionaires to continually avoid taxation, the politicians that fight for these rights, and so on), it is very easy (and, honestly, true!) to look at someone who has multiple billions of dollars and does not pay their fair share of taxes as a villain. The people that jump to protect the billions of people like Elon Musk claim that he’s “worked for his money,” and because the Internet is so good at spreading factionalized anger, people will jump to his defense because they too aspire to be a wealthy person, and have mixed the idea that someone should be able to have money with the idea that someone should be able to have a billion dollars and not pay taxes.

People are also lost - even outside of (say the line, Ed!) remote work, people have fewer friends and are less religious, and spend more time online than ever. We are more likely to obsess over the endless Internet, to give extreme importance to those people online, and to be led by others as we do so. We crave community and acceptance, and the Internet will happily provide both - but that provision may come with the catch that said the community may inform our values in a negative way.

This is not a newsletter that ends with much of a solution, other than that we need to educate kids early about how the Internet works and how people’s agendas may operate. While the right may claim that the Times or Washington Post has “liberal agendas,” they are still papers with rigorous editorial standards and lack a hard-line agenda (other than that we should go back to the office) as you’d find with a Fox News or Ben Shapiro. The problem is that understanding the nuances involved - the occasions where biases have been involved - is never blamed on human error or an editorial mishap, but on a cruel force intent on destroying conservative lives.

Perhaps an easier way to critique an agenda is to ask who benefits from it. I don’t believe for a second that Kid Rock really cares about cancel culture, or vaccines, or anything, really (his song is deliberately empty so that people can project their own thoughts). What he does care about is money, which is what he will make from people streaming this song. Why did Fox and others push the Critical Race Theory debate? Because angry people click things and buy things and share links about the things they’re scared about, and keeping people angry and scared is good for business.

It’s a greasy, nasty business to be in, one that is focused entirely on monetizing misery. And it works, because the Internet is so, so good at spreading it.

The Many Lies That Executives Tell Themselves About Work

When I started my agency, I remember making one specific rule: no hourly billing. It was partly because I hate calculating hours and partly because I think that it gives the wrong kind of incentive for the type of work I do, where you start doing stuff to bill more rather than doing things that do stuff. The real reason is somewhat connected, in that I don’t believe, and never have believed, that human beings actually work for eight hours a day, nor that a solution to a problem is always “more hours.”

Studies have suggested that the ideal workday is three hours long, and that people can only really stay focused for about 20 minutes at a time, and most people have only about 2 hours and 23 minutes of productive time in their day. I’ve been fascinated by this idea for a few days because I am burned the hell out. I am so burned out that I am finding myself less productive every day toward the Thanksgiving break, likely because I’ve been sleeping terribly and this year has, despite being better than 2020, still been a lot on me (and I don’t have it hard! What’s wrong with me?).

In any case, I think that the idea of “full-time” employment and the 8-hour workday are central to a lot of the problems that we’re seeing with remote work. The malfunctions in bosses’ brains that we’ve seen (and the injection of nightmarish surveillance software into remote workers’ days) may be about control or power, but it’s also around millions of powerful people realizing that despite paying people “full-time,” they have no real way to guarantee they’re “getting their money’s worth” beyond having people at an office.

Conceptually, we hire people to do a job for us and be available within certain hours. If you’re not someone with a big piece of rebar instead of a brain, it’s realistic to understand that they are not working that entire time, and that, indeed, you are not paying them for their hours worked but for their output - an exchange of money for labor. Philosophically, I believe that many bosses have never really thought about what they’re getting from the person they’re hiring beyond a job description and the guarantee of a certain amount of hours’ worth of effort, and any further consideration of said hiring is about whether they’re “doing a full day’s work.”

You see people working two jobs at once because there are plenty of jobs that can be done without working an entire “full-time” workday. The pearl-clutching by bosses and journalists around this idea is because they haven’t considered what they’re paying someone for - as I’ve discussed before, I believe that many bosses believe a salaried job is a form of ownership. When you hire them, you have their soul for the allotted time you agree, and you expect them to be working that entire time - the actual “work” in that case should, of course, be the consideration, but it frequently isn’t - the “if you can lean, you can clean” mantra that says every moment of your working day must be optimized For The Business (TM).

The problem is that what we consider “working” in the office is incredibly theatrical. Managers that love to be in meetings and constantly seem busy or frustrated were often considered “good workers” because they were evaluated based on the pantomime of work rather than their actual output, as many bosses are utterly disconnected from the actual output of the work itself. Removing the office - and yes, I know I’ve quite literally said this before - removes one’s ability to appear like you’re working.

But the nuance here is that the office was a way to fill time. By being in the office, you were showing your employer that they got value from their investment - there you are, doing something on the computer, and thus you are “working full-time.” Remote work (without surveillance software) isn’t particularly good at showing whether someone is working or not - because we have societally decided that “working” is “being at the office and doing something.” Society has disconnected “work” from “production” because it’s significantly less satisfying for bosses to pay someone for a service rather than paying to, on some level, own that person physically and mentally.

The Trouble With Full-Time

The real question is what is full-time employment? The idea of a salary is/was meant to be that it was a guarantee of a certain amount of pay regardless of the hours worked, with job security and benefits that went with it. Specifically, salaries exist to pay people who may have jobs that are wrong to enumerate in simple hours - executives and managers, for example - or where the output is not a sum of hours invested but in the ability to use one’s expertise to create a specific outcome. In many cases of specialized employment, people are actively trying not to pay hourly - either because the amount of hours involved would be more than a salary, or because the expertise of the person could be such that an hour’s work is worth a great deal more than you’d want to pay them hourly.

This confusingly-worded paragraph is central to the problem that remote work is causing. The frustrating back-and-forth about wanting people to be “collaborative” and “spontaneous” with their colleagues is a symptom of the many, many businesses that simply do not know what they specifically want from a person, and don’t have (or want to create) a way to enumerate their actual work product. As a result, they consider the office as a way of proving that someone is “working” - if they’re in the office, there’s a social construct that says dicking around on their phone or playing Dark Souls 3 all day would be bad, and thus they can be assured that work is actually done.

It’s also because (as I’ve said repeatedly) there are so many layers of managers that are fancy hall monitors. When you have a substrate of people that are not doers but monitors, it’s very difficult to justify their existence rationally without having an office - and people are promoted to manager in many cases as a reward rather than for company-related reasons. Without getting into another anti-manager piece, this is just another example of how so many things have been created that really only made sense in the office - just like the idea of a “full day” of work.

The cognitive dissonance you’re seeing in the newspaper about “getting back to work” is a result of so many people simply not thinking about why companies exist and what people are meant to do at work. While we want to believe that we’re focused on “doing work” by being in the office, the reality is that many people build illogical companies every day based on things they assume they have to do. They have 10-person companies with four or more managers or make “Work From Work Wednesdays” rather than thinking about what they do, because thinking about things pragmatically hurts. In short, people often build companies and hire people based not on whether the end result is profits, but because “the way to build a company” is to scale, and have lots of managers, and have an office.

So many things are done by companies because they think they have to - because they’re following what they feel is the right thing to do rather than what actually might work. While it seems counterintuitive to workers, I truly believe that there are executives that would rather have a company that made $1 billion and had everybody working 8 hour days than make $10 billion with everybody working 3 hour days, because they’re so obsessed with the aesthetics of success.

Sidenote: In my case, this is one of the reasons I’ve never had more than five people, and never had a real office space. People would tell me that I had to “scale up” to “deliver more for clients,” but clients seemed happy, and the people I had were doing good work. I am confident that nobody who has ever worked for me works for eight hours a day, and I do not care, because the clients are happy, and the work is done. I am not a paragon of business, nor even a sort-of-smart man, but I ignored many people because I am somewhat resistant to peer pressure and, honest to God, I have run into maybe eight people since 2012 I’d actually hire.

The reason that so many of the recent remote work articles are anti-worker is because they are written for and sourced from people that do not actually do work. They are executives who have reached their current position not by thinking about what people do or understanding their companies but by delegating work to people who delegate it. To remove the office is to remove their ability to conceptualize what their company is - and if they have to start admitting that people don’t work exactly eight hours a day with their eyes glued to their computer, they may have to start admitting that they’re ignorant. And there are, of course, the people that take satisfaction from being able to vaguely gesture to an office full of people, or to stomp through there when they’re in a bad mood with the knowledge that those around them with scatter out of fear of facing their wrath.

This conversation is also a deep point of vulnerability for many executives. They want to believe that they are participating in a meritocracy where their hard work has rewarded them with vast riches, when the reality is more that they may have done work, but their privilege and a great deal of luck led them to where they were. While there are exceptions, the vast majority of successful people (myself included) are a product of privilege and happenstance. As a result, when a self-conscious CEO doesn’t see tons of people working in the office, they are reminded that they too didn’t necessarily work a full eight-hour day to reach where they did, and that makes them feel sad. They may have also simply lied to themselves about the amount of hours or the difficulty of their corporate ascension - that it was because of their intellect, their genius, their fastidiousness, their grit, and all of those many hours of hard work.

It’s also because so many bosses simply don’t do any work. They are not active participants in the actual output of the company that enriches them, and it’s dreadfully uncomfortable to think about. Being physically in an office and in meetings has so much more pomp and circumstance and can give the appearance of activity where very little actually exists. In fact, they may realize that they have very little power outside of the office that they created - despite being important, well-paid and successful, they are, without the office, ultimately just another person walking on the street, even if they have nice shoes or an expensive haircut.

Ultimately, all of this is why people are so vague about why we need to be back in the office. They can’t attach any tangible business goals to the idea of physical presence because there really aren’t any. Once we had a full suite of cloud-based tools that let us send messages instantly or talk to someone instantly wherever they were in the world, it became ridiculous to have offices, but it also became obvious that executives had many reasons to have an office, or have people there eight hours a day, that were nothing to do with making the company money or doing any work.

And it feels bad for many people to admit that they didn’t pay people to do something, but because they wanted to own them and their time and their thoughts and their abilities for eight hours or more a day.

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