Don’t get too cozy in your at-home office

BY D. LARS DOLDER, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/24/21

Isn’t it nice working from home? Less time on the road and more time in your derrière debossed La-Z-Boy.

Well, don’t get too comfy. The office beckons.

It’s true, major companies …

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Isn’t it nice working from home? Less time on the road and more time in your derrière debossed La-Z-Boy.

Well, don’t get too comfy. The office beckons.

It’s true, major companies worldwide have announced plans, or at least options, for remote workers to keep their at-home vigils. Dropbox, the online file hosting service, announced it would permit all employees to work from home permanently.

Facebook, the social media giant, will let half its workforce stay at home forever.

Microsoft will keep a 50% at-home schedule, with options for full-time remote work subject to manager discretion.

It makes good financial sense — employers can downsize office space, save big on limited business travel and, presumably, eek more productivity out of their time-flush workers.

The numbers, too, suggest resounding success from pandemic-piloted remote work programs.

The engineering recruitment agency, Apollo Technical, recently synthesized data from several studies and concluded that “on average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week and are 47% more productive.”

That’s pretty generous, though. Many reports, based on a consequential 2015 study in China, cite a modest 13% uptick in teleworker productivity.

But don’t be fooled. Widespread remote work is the employer’s coup de maître — not the employees’.

While that 2015 study, conducted by Stamford economist Nicholas Bloom, has been widely used to extol the benefits of remote work, Bloom’s findings suggest at-home work can tank career prospects. Employees working from home are less than half as likely to receive promotions as comparable, in-office colleagues, Bloom concluded.

“Leadership is in the office generally,” Jessica Reeder, an expert on remote work who works on strategy at GitLab, recently told Axios. “So if you’re going in, you have access to leadership. You see them in the halls, and you’re visible to them. That applies to promotions.”

Without face-to-face networking, you may stifle and shortchange future job opportunities.

But that’s not even the worst of remote work’s consequences. Chances are, those of you most concerned with job opportunities — I’m looking at you, ages 18 to 25 — can’t stand remote work anyway, and your mental health is faltering (plus, you don’t even own a La-Z-Boy).

According to a recent Microsoft survey, which polled more than 30,000 workers in 31 countries, about 40% of respondents said they might leave their jobs, Bloomberg first reported. Gen Zers were the most widely represented group among negative responses.

The problem? Remote work has no boundaries. Work is home and home is work. It’s madness, and some can’t take it.

All those great stats on worker productivity are true, but they’re achieved at the worker’s expense. Most in Microsoft’s poll were nearing burnout; another 39% said they were exhausted.

In contrast, business leaders who responded to the survey said they were “thriving.”

“Leaders are out of touch,” Microsoft Vice President Jared Spataro told Bloomberg. “Sixty-one percent say they are thriving — that’s 23% higher than the average worker, so there is a disconnect there. They’re like, ‘This is great!’”

In a pandemic, the hallmark of which is widespread isolation and disenfranchisement, it’s no surprise that employers and employees are disengaged.

To Chatham business leaders, then, I implore you: touch base with your employees — individually. And go back to the office when it’s finally safe. Humans need schedules. And we need boundaries.

Other business news

• Need a lawyer? Soon you can find two of Chatham County’s longest tenured attorneys in the same place.

Ben Atwater and Joshua Lee announced on Monday their plans to merge Moody, Williams, Roper & Lee and Atwater Law Firm. They will become the law firm of Moody, Williams, Atwater & Lee.

Former judge and Siler City native J. Lee Moody began the law firm that would become Moody, Williams, Roper & Lee in 1927. Moody’s son, Jack Moody, joined the firm in 1955 and practiced with his father until 1970 when Sam Williams began practicing with the firm as Moody, Moody and Williams. In 1960, Todd Roper came aboard, and the group practiced as Moody, Williams & Roper until Joshua Lee joined in 2007.

Jack Moody and Sam Williams have since retired, and Todd Roper recently became the newest district court judge for Judicial District 18, serving Chatham and Orange counties. Roper replaced retired judge and Siler City native Joseph Moody Buckner on the bench.

Ben Atwater and Phil Edwards formed Edwards & Atwater Attorneys in 1977. They practiced together until Edwards’ retirement in 2004.

Moody, Williams, Atwater & Lee will have offices located at 122 South Chatham Ave. in Siler City, and 157 West St. in Pittsboro, providing services in most areas of the law.

• In a major snag for the Triangle, Google announced last week its plan to open a new cloud engineering hub in Durham, as first reported by the News & Observer.

The office is expected to host more than 1,000 jobs and will be one of Google Cloud’s top five engineering hubs in the U.S., the N&O report said. The other four are San Francisco’s Bay Area, New York, Seattle and Kirkland, Washington.

The announcement could foster new interest in Chatham County real estate from Google transplants and new-hires. The company’s temporary office will be at 200 Morris St. in downtown Durham, about 40 minutes from several communities in northeast Chatham, including Chatham Park, Briar Chapel and Fearrington. Google is still scouting for its permanent Durham location.

Have an idea for what Chatham business topics I should write about? Send me a note at or on Twitter @dldolder.


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