The perils of #WFH when the company wants you #WFO


Photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash


“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”
– Andy Warhol

It’s taken just 14 months for that mood to pass. You know which one I mean. The mood that suggested we would live in a kinder, gentler world, those of us who have made it until this point.

It’s been 14 months since the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic. Planes were grounded. Office staff were sent home. Zoom became the chief mode of faux in-person communication. For all intents and purposes, the world stopped, or at least stopped rushing so madly. Commuting became a distant memory. Journalists like me wrote pieces about the changing world of work. We larded our articles with expert opinion that it was unlikely office routines would ever fully return to what they once were. #WFH (working from home) became #WFA (working from anywhere); their hashtags making the concepts seem solid and here to stay.

But a mere 14 months on, and things have started to change. JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said he was “done” with all his Zoom meetings and employees in the US should begin getting used to returning to the office. The goal, he said, was for 50 per cent of workers to rotate through the company’s offices by July. “We want people back to work, and my view is that sometime in September, October it will look just like it did before,” he said. “And everyone is going to be happy with it, and yes, the commute, you know people don’t like commuting, but so what.”

Then there was Goldman Sachs’s memo to staff about how the “culture of collaboration, innovation and apprenticeship thrives when our people come together”.

And the CEO of ‘Washingtonian’ magazine, Cathy Merrill, wrote a newspaper op-ed, spelling out the risks for employees who decide they like #WFH more than #WFO (working from office). “I estimate that about 20 per cent of every office job is outside one’s core responsibilities — extra’,” she wrote. “It involves helping a colleague, mentoring more junior people, celebrating someone’s birthday — things that drive office culture. If the employee is rarely around to participate in those extras, management has a strong incentive to change their status to ‘contractor’. Instead of receiving a set salary, contractors are paid only for the work they do, either hourly or by appropriate output metrics”.

In other words, if you’re still #WFH when we want you #WFO, do it at your own risk.