The benefits of remote work are obvious and overwhelming, for both employer and employee. So why did so many employers resist this opportunity to cut expenses, benefit the environment, and boost human health? Inertia likely played a big part. Old customs die hard. Before March, 2020, many organizations were still resisting. It took an act of god to force the religion to change. There will be many beneficial results of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, and the general acceptance of remote work as “normal” will be at the top of my list.
Employees can also resist remote work, too, with insecure thoughts like “if I work from home then isn’t that proof that my job can be easily outsourced?” Those of us who work with security clearance and-or sensitive data are more immune to out-sourcing. But either way, if you contribute real value then the answer is “yes,” you’d be better off working from home.
Another reason for the resistance to teleworking could be there isn’t enough knowledge work out there to sustain all the jobs our economy needs, so the theater must continue, and the office is the stage. There are entire industries that are useless in terms of improving the human condition or increasing quality of life. In these settings everyone must play the part and act like they’re doing something useful, so they fill up the day churning up more useless nonsense and doing pointless busy work to keep the boss satisfied. The boss in turn does the same thing for her bosses, and on rolls the giant parade of nonsense on up to the board of directors and investors.
The Golden Rule of Sniffing Out Bullshit in the Office
For knowledge workers, the need to be present in a traditional, brick-and-mortar office setting is proportional to how useless the job really is. The stronger the need to be present in the office, the more likely the job is fake. Everybody knows who these people are. The meeting organizers. There’s zero impact on anything if they disappear, except maybe for an uptick in productivity for everyone else. There’s nothing like working remotely to reveal whether a particular job is fake. If there’s no measurable output, then it should become obvious in the first week.
In the IT sector of knowledge work, there has been a decades-long, non-stop effort to make our services cost-effective, automating and outsourcing the work. Many of us work hard each week to slowly put ourselves out of a job. Eventually these jobs become fake, too. And when the economy crashes, it’s a private sector clearinghouse for fake jobs.
Government jobs are another story. If all the blubber was boiled away there’d be nothing left. But this never happens. These jobs exist to prop up a fake economy, in a way. It should be no surprise that the US Federal government has more people on its payroll than any other organization on Earth. The US Defense Department by itself is the largest employer in the world. “Work” has become a kind of adult day care for a massive chunk of the workforce, millions of people who do not fit easily into the system we’ve made. For better or worse, government’s answer is a kind of social welfare system disguised as employment. Most of these jobs are fake.
There’s no such thing as a totally lean workforce. If all fake jobs were eliminated then unemployment would be thirty percent or more. Something must be done for these people, or the cost comes back around to those of us with so-called real jobs.
This touches again on the idea that “the inter-subjective experience becomes real”. It’s something along the lines of what Harari writes about in his book Sapiens. We have to be careful when talking about fake jobs and fake economy, because all our systems are fake if we look at them through a certain lens. There’s nothing real about money, religion or state. These are all concepts we’ve agreed to accept as reality, and the agreement itself makes them real.
If we agree on positive concepts and social structures then the world becomes a better place, but with negativity machines like social media driving cultural and political polarity, this becomes a steep challenge to overcome. Most internet memes probably start off only partially true, if they have any truth at all. We mistake popularity with truth, and many false ideas become accepted as truth over time. We become what we imagine, whether good or bad.
A lot of good can happen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fiasco in the States. As with the aftermath of 911, it all depends on how the cards are played. The acceptance of remote work is one positive change that is sure to come, and it’s long overdue. But we can expect other big picture changes, too. What else will be exposed as obvious and overwhelming as a result of this fortunate act of god? In America, the crippling costs of health care, housing, and higher education enforce a wage-slave system, and this needs to change. (Higher education needs a separate post titled Education Is Not a Place.) We’re entering into a time when everyone knows our traditional systems are outdated. Everything needs to be rebuilt. Let’s start with rethinking the way we work, and embrace the beneficial technology of Virtual Private Networking (VPN).