As a long-time remote work advocate, consultant, and advisor, I’m happy that you see the reality of the situation unfolding around you. Employees clearly prefer choice over status-quo, and remote work appears to be a permanent fixture. Several of the quotes you shared in a recent Fortune article suggest that you have a good pulse on how working flexibly is impacting your corporate endeavors and the labor marketplace as a whole. You stated:
Broader research is telling as well…
I’d love to stop here and let this be another nail in the coffin of return-to-office demands, but remote work the way you described it is a major risk to the sustainability of your workforce as well as every employer that follows your lead. Here’s the excerpt from the article that raises the alarm:
"The tradeoff for workers, he noted, is there’s “probably less private time on weekends.” He said he feels free to call his employees at any time on any day of the week. ‘That’s the deal. If you don’t work in the office, I can call you at two in the morning if we’ve got a crisis. And they’re gonna answer. That’s the way they’re used to it now."
My big concerns are as follows:
Treating a completely viable working model as a concession that allows you to make unreasonable demands on employees is out of date and should be out of the question!
Your statement suggests that in-office employees aren’t held to the same standard as those working flexibly. Rewarding presenteeism while creating an environment where remote workers sleep with their phones on their nightstands with notifications on and ringer volume up is a near-sighted operational model. The old-guard power struggle that hides behind the acceptance of remote work only serves to intensify the struggles that remote workers report.
Personally, as an employee who has been roused from sleep at 2 AM by a boss in “crisis”, that was on-call 24 hours a day, your approach is doing more harm than good.
Your reach as a TV personality and investor is exceptional. People will follow your lead, and the path you’re suggesting leads to reduced retention, engagement, and employee satisfaction. It’s a bad approach to remote work and it's bad for business.
It’s also illegal in a growing number of places around the world. Ontario, home to Canada's largest city and a booming tech scene, has recently enacted a “Right to Disconnect Law” to protect employees from bosses like you. They’re not the only ones. Spain, Portugal, and France have also passed similar legislation.5
I’ve consulted organizations where employees felt the need to pull off the highway during their commute to respond to direct messages and emails in order to keep their bosses happy. They were always ‘on’ and were afraid of their leaders.
Rather than doubling down on a power play that gives you the right to access employees at any time of the day or night, consider the following suggestions:
I urge you to embrace more than just the inevitability of a flexible workplace. Embrace and lead the way for a human-centric working experience.
I welcome your response, but please, don't send it at 2 AM.