Op-Ed: ‘In-office attendance’ — The obsolete strikes back, idiotically

Google and other US tech giants have been under intense scrutiny in Europe over their business practices – Copyright AFP Philip FONG

There’s a huge thing recently on the subject of in-office attendance. Google made headlines out of including office attendance as part of performance reviews. Elon Musk said working remotely was “immoral”. It’s a sort of last stand of totally obsolete business models.

It also happens to be the exact opposite of what most employees want. No great surprise there. Whoever heard of “employer comprehension”, anyway?

I worked in the employment sector for years in Europe and the US – Remotely. Other staff were in India, Belgium, etc. It worked seamlessly.

During that time I saw people on two continents relating the pure hell of the modern workplace in every imaginable form. This was particularly the case in the US where I had the excruciating privilege of doing some time working in the nursing sector.

…From which you may gather that I do have some insights into “office attendance” as well as my own additional 20 years of in-house customer relations.

Let’s start with the economics of office attendance for employees. Employees are the people who actually do something. This is the breakdown:

  • It costs time and money to come into the office.
  • You lose money out of whatever pittance you’re paid in the process.
  • It can easily add 4 hours in unpaid and totally unproductive commuting time.  
  • You can be seriously stressed, killed, or injured commuting if you drive to work.
  • Upon arrival at work, you are instantly immersed in the blissful rhapsody of the modern workplace. You can catch up on the latest workplace psychoses.
  • At some point, you get a performance review. A performance review is based on Key Productivity Indicators, and whatever gossip middle management has heard about you. It has little or nothing to do with actual in-person management and evaluation. Many modern managers think performance reviews are absurd.
  • On the positive side you can tell your managerial dinosaur to go to hell in person, but that’s about all.

From the employer’s side, the outlook is equally rosy:

  • You can pay an actual fortune to operate a workplace if you have those newfangled things like water and electricity.
  • You can pay top dollar for all statutory employee support services with no legal options whatsoever.
  • You can catch and spread any pandemics going around.
  • You can surround yourself with resentful, underappreciated people who make nothing a year and sycophantic, untrustworthy, vermin.
  • You can watch CCTV and make sure nobody’s using the bathroom or otherwise threatening to be hygienic. This is also illegal in most countries, so you can grab some of that sweet employer’s six-digit legal liability while you’re at it.
  • You can incur any amount of OH&S liabilities in the form of anyone on the premises. That’s per day.
  • You can referee fistfights with customers and staff or, just for a refreshing change, dodge a few bullets.

Are you out of your brain-dead allegedly business-qualified minds?

There is absolutely nothing to be said for office attendance, even by yourself. Any office can be replaced by a phone. The expression “office in your pocket” is now at least 20 years old.

The costs to employers and staff vastly outweigh the benefits. Consider risking your life and using up a lot of time going to work as a busboy on the other side of town. Consider doing the same thing working as a consultant. The pay scales and relative costs are different; the risks and wastage are the same.

You are paying for the privilege of spending two to four hours of your life commuting. The employer is paying for roughly the cost equivalent of a hotel for all staff in attendance, per day.

Then there’s the added advantage of looking at people you may or may not be able to stand the sight of, for at least eight hours. No stress there. You get the equivalent of a live Zoom call, and that’s it, for all this effort.

Remote workers can manage their time much more efficiently. In the office, you have constant interruptions. Remote workers often work outside office hours to stay on schedule. In the office, that costs overtime and more in-house resources.

Friction between people is the norm in any workplace. Remote work reduces those interactions. Your next job vacancy with a remote job probably won’t be as a result of a workplace murder, too.

Modern workplaces are basically stress factories. Between office politics, nutcase supervisors, and personality clashes, it’s a part war zone, most of the time.

This is the last gasp of “The Office” as a workplace. When AI and proper automation come in, the workplace of the past will be in a museum, along with “in-office attendance”, KPIs, and out-of-touch employers.


The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

Op-Ed: ‘In-office attendance’ — The obsolete strikes back, idiotically
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