I really resonated with this post. I'm an auditor at a Big 5 accounting firm - I am used to having a flexible work environment. I could be in the office or at a client. I work on the train, on airplanes, at home, in coffee shops, or the public library, but working from home consistently for so long and isolated from my peers/co-workers has been exhausting.

I'm lucky; I'm middle management. I live in a spacious flat with my husband and have a dedicated workspace in the sitting room/dining room.

The partners of the firm have garages or dedicated home office rooms and stay-at-home spouses who deal with the kids.

Our staff - who are between the ages of 18 to 29, aren't so lucky. They are living in flatshares or at home with Mum and Dad, and so now their workspace is their bedroom. Parents complain that they work too much for so little pay, flatmates on furlough or laid off day drink while they are closeted in their bedrooms for 10 hours a day trying to zoom.

One day our COO sent out an email about how we were as a firm 'thriving' under lockdown and working from home, and I was livid because it's easy for him to say that. At the top, they can't believe how much they see their children now and think it's lovely. Meanwhile, our core staff are suffering immensely. I got on the phone with my regional department head and explained how the corporate response was completely unacceptable. Thankfully, he listened to me and said he would feed that up to the top, and the messaging changed, but still, it's hard, and they're already re-imagining work in the future. Many of my clients are now slashing their sq. footage and implementing first come, first serve hot desking. London's business landscape will be changed forever.

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This is maybe a bit out of left field, but Kathryn Lofton's "Consuming Religion" has a couple of chapters, well, thinking about work in religious terms, which might be an avenue to consider although not your main focus. I'm thinking in particular about the chapter on the Calvinist origin of cubicles and about the chapter on how Goldman Sachs is, in fact, a religion.

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I'm a WFH evangelist. Been doing it for about 3 years now, after spending my first 3 years with the same company in a traditional office set-up (40 hours a week with a set schedule and half-cubicles, although not 9-5 hours). I hate the excessive video calls, I hate worrying about if I will get passed up for promotion by not being in person, I hate feeling like I have to call in for meetings on my day off because I'm clearly not actually doing anything else. But the benefits have been so huge. My mental health/anxiety/sensory sensitivity has vastly improved -- I have way more control over temperature, ambient noise, distractions, even what I wear. I have more of a home life because I can easily scrub some dishes or pop some veggies in a slow cooker while I'm working. I never minded my commute before, but I don't drive so the walking portion in the 100+ degree heat where I live was ... bad. Being able to wake up and start my shift in 5 minutes is much better. It would take a massive pay increase for me to give up working from home, and I've used my experience with this primary job to encourage other secondary jobs to let me work remotely too (with mixed success). The big caveat here is that I'm child-free so I only have to worry about my partner and our cat being underfoot as I try to get shit done. I am sure my view of WFH would be vastly different in different circumstances, but I can still see how it would be a better option for me financially and logistically. And one last thought is that I didn't notice any difference between working from home before all this and doing my job from home amid the pandemic, I don't think. Most of my coworkers were already full- or part-time remote, and aside from three months of furloughs, the contours of the job didn't change. Again, not having to worry about child care and schooling certainly plays a huge part in that.

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I'm one of the knowledge workers contemplating permanent work-from-home--to facilitate a move out of the hostile city I've wanted to leave for years, to a near-by, lovely city I love. I have concerns about feeling isolated, when others are back in office. I actually legitimately like almost everyone I work with and love having impromptu chats in the kitchen as we get tea. And my work is highly collaborative, which we've done fine with (frankly, shockingly well) over Zoom, Slack, etc during the pandemic, but I wonder if I'd miss it.

One thing I absolutely wouldn't miss is the windowless office that sucks every ounce of joy, energy, and life in my soul. And the commute. And the culture of coming to work sick which, as an immunocompromised person, means I'm constantly sick. It'll be interesting to see how that culture changes in the wake of the pandemic. I usually take probably 12-15 sick days per year, due to the above-mentioned petri dish that is my work. This year, I think I've taken four--two pre-pandemic, one due to food poisoning, and one due to a chronic illness flare-up. It's been pretty incredible to not be sick all the time.

Another concern, that I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on, is in a future world where you have the option to work remotely but not everyone is, is whether promotion pathways will be impacted negatively by working remotely (with or without occasional days in office).

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My answer to our society's work problems seems so obvious that I almost hesitate to write it, but I keep going back to it (in part because of how much happier I was when I lived in a country with a saner work culture than the U.S): Shorter work days. What the labor movement used to advocate for. One idea: Workers can only receive and send work messages within the hours of their work days. When your work day is over, if you send a message, it doesn't get delivered until the next day, nor do you get messages. In contemporary American society, something like this would of course be portrayed by some as a restriction of freedom, but as more people get burned out, I think we'll be forced to address it, the way we had to address cigarettes. After all, setting boundaries, rules and limits is often how we become free. Anyway I so look forward to your book. Such an important topic.

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the worst thing about this article is the fact that I badly need my boyfriend to read it and yet i know he won't, because he's too busy with work.

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This did not resonate with me at all, perhaps because I don't have kids, I have a new house I love, MS Teams meetings are once every 2 weeks and mostly just chit-chat for an hour, and I was totally miserable working in the office for ~10 yrs. However it provides a small insight into the lives of people who have a different situation.

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Those at the top who think that WFH is the future will not be at the top for too much longer. Why:

Creativity - teams / zoom is no substitute for walking over to someone and talking - or bumping in to someone in the street. There is an impedance in calling that is similar to calling someone in another office. It works fine once the relationship is there but what if there is no relationship there yet.

The future - how is that 20-30 something going to gain the soft / hard skill that makes her a middle manager if you are not in the same place a lot of the time. The answer is much much slower to not at all.

You may not realise but your institutional knowledge is slowly decaying or being further concentrated in the hands of a few 'priests'

So, imo wfh is a bad thing for any knowledge based organisation here you need communication and teamwork and a relationship beyond a 'supermarket checkout' with the client.

It is also bad for any organisation that wants to have a long term future,

Having said all that, I can see why individuals are not keen on returning to an office.

I know some colleagues who used to commute from colchester / southend to london. Both junior and senior. This can cost 400-600 GBP per month and take 2-3+ hours a day.

For the last 6 months this has been your life. How do you feel about a 7k / 5-15% pay cut and an extra 3 hours on your day (whether you have children or not).

Also for the smarter, being the 'person who knows' is pretty comforting in a time where job security is not too good. It is _really_ hard to spread complex knowledge.

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I work a job I'm too smart for...........if you believe some of my family members, friends, etc. My mom said I could always be president. That idea horrifies me. I like very little responsibility. No one ever died and said damn, I should have worked more. My sanity, mental health, hobbies, family, etc are way too important. I make a choice to work a 40 hour week and hourly not salary. I've seen friends and family work 60+ hours a week and been miserable. I don't want that life. I've had those same people say, "I wish I could be just like you and be just a ____________." Well, you can I say. Give up the million dollar home, and designer clothes, credit card debt, and all the other trappings you can't afford. I like those fancy things too but I'm not willing to sacrifice the other things to get them. We already spend the majority of our lives at work. I have the things I need on order to live. Sometimes I splurge sometimes I don't. But none of that fancy stuff makes me want to work more in order to get it.

For me, this quote stuck out, "It can allow you to actually live the sort of life you pretend to live in your Instagram posts: liberating you to explore the non-work corners of your life, from actual hobbies to civic involvement. But it can only do those things if you commit yourself to refiguring the placement of work in your life. Instead of changing our lives to make ourselves better workers, we have to change our work to make our lives better." I don't live to work I work to live. Do I wish I had more money to travel or had more time off? Yes. But I don't want to work the kind of job that requires that. Am I a slacker? Maybe to some people. But I get my job done and I leave.

I get it done ever better at home. I've worked from home for a year now due to COVID. I don't have kids and I'm pretty introverted and love the fact that working from home allows me to be more productive and efficient and at the same time not have the anxiety of people and a workplace.

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Enjoyed this. Fun to read, thought-provoking. Subscribing. “Deceases” for “decreases” - an apt if accidental substitution!

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I don't have cogent thoughts to share yet...just wanted to say that as I read about what you and Charlie were working on, I felt exhilarated, a common sensation for me in these "plastic times." We need to talk about this. I love my work, but I have never loved the ways I am required to do that work, goddamit.

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Oh wow. Someone sensible at last who is thinking exactly the way I have been thinking for so long. And I was only having a conversation this morning about just this thing. Definitely forwarding this on. I’d love to be a part of the ride and could share my experiences from a mental ill health perspective. Am currently looking to start a Community Interest Company in England that thinks outside the box! Thank you for being such a breath of fresh air and making me feel less lonely in my thoughts about the world of work! Unfortunately because I have a very low income (reliant on my husband until I get funding for the CIC) I will be applying for the freebie newsletter but would love to donate later on. Huge thank you! X

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An Australian writer and thinker on some of these issues that may have flown under your radar is Tim Dunlop https://twitter.com/timdunlop https://www.patreon.com/timdunlop

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I don’t think it’s utopian, but before you answer the questions you’ve asked, please answer. “Why do we work?” Keynes predicted a century ago that, by now, we wouldn’t have to. Our material needs would be satisfied. As a society, we can easily afford a universal basic income. But we don’t. Why not?

I believe it comes from a deep-seated aversion to free riders. We can’t stand them. We work to prove to others that we’re not free riders. And the harder it is for others to understand our contribution, the busier we pretend to be. That’s why so many white-collar workers are always “complaining” about how busy they are. They have bullshit jobs (a la David Graeber) and they know it.

It’s harder to prove you’re not free riding working from home. Nobody can see you work. Possible solutions to free riding: lots of meetings, electronic surveillance, high levels of trust probably from a long working history, providing clear objectives that performance is easy to measure against... Of these, lots of meetings is the easiest to implement today. Electronic surveillance (eg recording when you log in and log out) will be the easiest shortly and that’s how I expect employers will monitor remote workers.

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Sounds like a great project.

You may find this twitter thread (as well as the company which is using it to promote their services) of interest: https://twitter.com/chris_herd/status/1313202750818312192

They're promoting a far more optimistic spin on things than I find realistic (for all the reasons in your post).

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