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What's behind institutional resistance to remote work? πŸ”—
1636128408  

Ever since lockdown policies began 2 years ago, most of the white-collar workforce started working from home full-time. About six months ago management began to get anxious to get the workers back into the office. Looking into the data, this frankly appears irrational. The reduction in productivity is so small as to be easily outweighed by office costs.

Similarly, firms and employees remain irrationally attached to W4 employment. In this environment the home office environment very much lends itself to a favorable tax & regulatory situation via 1099 resulting in higher take-home pay for the worker and less administrative expense for the employer. Why is this organized irrationality the case?

I think the most persuasive case against the return to the office is laid out here by a blue-collar worker. This is also the case observed by white-collar WFH offices by and large. All the mandatory policy meetings my friends used to have to put up with mysteriously stopped over the last two years. Similarly, tedious manager interactions have slowed to a trickle, begging the question as to why any of these people are being paid.

Anybody paying attention to the ratio of administrative staff to workers has noticed troubling trends over the last 50 years. These numbers should have gone down in this age of automation rather than increased as it has. Nobody can make a serious case that we need more administrators per worker than we did in say, the 1970s. Many of the compliance & regulatory fears that have motivated this rise evaporate without an office. This cannot help but produce some degree of existential fear in middle management. As such their advocacy for a return to a useless and costly office makes sense.

Similarly, the reality of employees maintaining their own office space will have to be recognized at some point. For many years, courts have converted 1099 workers into W4 employees due to the application of the duck rule to working conditions. Such legal issues have ruined many an in-sourcing firm. The application of various mandates, regulations and tax policies on employees bearing the costs of maintaining their own office will eventually bring this to a head. Most remote workers both look and act like independent contractors, and would benefit from this being official.

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