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WFH

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, which is definitely an organization we should be listening to about the future:

Jamie Dimon said working from home “doesn’t work” for younger staff or bosses, the Wall Street titan’s latest salvo against remote work. […] Dimon also said remote work can “help women,” given the caregiving duties that disproportionately fall upon them. “Modify your company to help women stay home a little,” he said.

How progressive of him.

Younger knowledge workers, in my experience, tend to be great remote workers. Those who are new to the workforce are used to remote schooling; the ones who are a little older have had a couple of years of practice. They’re energetic about cultural change and aren’t set in their ways. They don’t miss the office because they were barely ever there.

I’m also personally offended by the idea that women - by which he really means birthing parents - should get different work-from-home privileges to other workers. As I write this, my four-month-old baby lies on a mat next to me, playing with his rattle. I’ll change his diaper quite a few times today, and already have; I’ll bottle-feed him; I’ll sing to him. I can’t lactate but I can be here for him. If I couldn’t work from home, I wouldn’t be able to do this. Dimon’s attitude cements two inequalities: that women are disproportionately left with caregiving duties, and that men don’t get to spend as much time with their children. Make no mistake: I want the time with my child.

As a C-level worker, I’m also offended by the implication that I can’t do my work remotely. I have regular conversations with my peers and my team; I help brainstorm and ideate; I make decisions and take effective action. There are certainly a great many jobs that don’t work as remote positions. Knowledge work, however, can absolutely be done anywhere there is a quiet space, a working internet connection, and power for a laptop.

I do not intend to get a full-time in-person job again. The perks, compensation, or meaning would need to be wildly good to overcome the time away from my child, the lack of freedom to be anywhere, and the commute. That isn’t to say that I won’t go into an office: there’s a lot to be said for company retreats, quarterly team get-togethers, and one-off meetings to get around a whiteboard. Those things, though, don’t necessitate being in the same place every day, every week, or even every month.

The biggest reason to have everyone in an office is to watch them. It’s not to build culture (which you can certainly do in a remote-first organization); it’s not for productivity (a University of Chicago study found that most workers are more productive remotely); it’s not for training (which studies show is 40-60% more efficient remotely). It says much more about insecurity from the top and a conservative-minded inability to change than anything else.

And that’s another reason to only take jobs in remote-first organizations. Forcing in-person work is a sure-fire sign that leadership is stuck in their ways, unable to change, even in the face of evidence that it’s detrimental to their businesses. And who wants to join a company like that?

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