Author Malcolm Gladwell thinks that remote work is hurting society and that a recession will likely drive employees who are “sitting in their pajamas” back into the office.
The bestselling author of “Blink” and “The Tipping Point” grew emotional and shed tears as he told the “Diary of a CEO” podcast hosted by Steven Bartlett that people need to come into the office in order to regain a “sense of belonging” and to feel part of something larger than themselves.
“It’s very hard to feel necessary when you’re physically disconnected,” the Canadian writer said.
“As we face the battle that all organizations are facing now in getting people back into the office, it’s really hard to explain this core psychological truth, which is we want you to have a feeling of belonging and to feel necessary.”
“And we want you to join our team,” Gladwell continued. “And if you’re not here it’s really hard to do that.”
“It’s not in your best interest to work at home,” he said. “I know it’s a hassle to come into the office, but if you’re just sitting in your pajamas in your bedroom, is that the work life you want to live?”
“Don’t you want to feel part of something?”
Gladwell added: “I’m really getting very frustrated with the inability of people in positions of leadership to explain this effectively to their employees.”
“If we don’t feel like we’re part of something important, what’s the point?” he said. “If it’s just a paycheck, then it’s like what have you reduced your life to?”
Gladwell’s message would likely be well received by New York Mayor Eric Adams and San Francisco Mayor London Breed — the leaders of two cities that were hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Both cities have urged workers in finance, tech, and other sectors to return to the office in order to support small businesses that rely on foot traffic.
Shake Shack, the fast food chain, told investors that its sales missed Wall Street forecasts because the rate at which office workers are returning to their cubicles has slowed.
Kastle Systems, the security company, released a report which found that that office occupancy in 10 major US metro areas average 44% in the week ending July 27, according to Bloomberg News.
In San Francisco, an estimated one-third of the city’s’ workforce is remote. City officials said that remote work cost it $400 million in tax revenues last year.
New York is second to San Francisco when it comes to office vacancy rates. Earlier this year, Kastle Systems found that New York’s office occupancy rate stood at just 36%.
Tech companies and financial giants are hesitant to force employees back into the office for fear that workers could quit their jobs in favor of others that offer more flexibility.