Want to lose your best employees? Make them return to the office.

Adam Feil
3 min readMay 13, 2021
“I should work somewhere that doesn’t make me commute five hours each week.” thinks this man. Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels

Since mid-March 2020, many office workers have been working from home. It was a big adjustment for everyone — figuring out logistics, IT issues, communication issues, setting up workspaces at home.

In the early stages it was chaos — people working from their beds, webcams out of stock everywhere, Zoom meetings getting porn bombed. But we worked through it. It’s pretty amazing to think about the scope of changes that were made in less than one year.

In fact, some studies show working from home has boosted productivity slightly.

What excites me is that remote work has been successful even during a pandemic. If that can work, how much better could it be post-pandemic? As I’ve written about, the combination of remote work plus in-person social gatherings seems like a great combination.

The water cooler is calling

So why, when we’re on the cusp of an even better work from home experience, are so many companies looking to go back to the office? I’m sure the reasons differ, but they typically include “promote a good culture,” and “good communication.”

The unspoken reasons probably include “I don’t really trust my employees, and since I can’t put a baby monitor in their home office I’ll do the next best thing and force them to work where I can see them.”

Here’s the thing, some of those benefits sound nice — everyone loves watercooler chat, gossip, getting out of the house, etc. But what many companies are not considering is the cost — to employees — to obtain those somewhat nebulous benefits.

Water cooler chat is great, but how many hours per week would you spend commuting to get it? Even a relatively short commute to work means roughly 5 hours per week commuting, and for many it could be 10 hours or more per week. When you add on top of that the time you’ll have to spend dressing yourself from the waist down, the value proposition of going into the office falls far short.

We don’t yet fully understand the benefits of remote work

When you realize employees are, you know, actual people with families and hobbies and lives, it becomes clear…

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Adam Feil

Educational Psychology Ph.D., business analytics nerd, computer scientist, President @MakeStickers