Nobody Has Thought About What Happens if Going Into the Office Gets Cancelled For Good
The worst-case WFH scenario isn’t what you think
As governments and corporations alike cast caution to the winds and roll away pandemic precautions, people are worried companies will force workers to come into the office again.
I save money on commuting and lunches. I get to spend quality time with my cats. I enjoy 3 pm runs and flexible schedules, and bunking off work early because I’m done for the day.
Forcing employees to come back would be terrible. But what’s concerning to me is nobody has considered the opposite end of the spectrum: what if they kill the office entirely?
The privilege of the home office
When I was a typical 9–5 employee, I spent about $3,000 on my home office, including laptop, headphones, desk, chair, external monitor, and stationery.
Beyond that, I chose to spend an additional $400 a month on rent on a house that included a home office room. I’m not alone. Research conducted in 2020 found that the average out-of-pocket spend for new WFH-ers was $572. While my company covered up to $1000 of office expenses and the cost of a coworking membership up to $400/month, they did not cover rent or any expenses beyond that.
Luckily, I could afford that expense, and it came in handy once I went freelance. But not everyone can. People are working on couches, squinting at crappy laptop screens, suffering from backaches because they can’t afford the right office chair with lumbar support.
If companies saw the increases in costs and ponied up, that would be OK. But they haven’t. Some have even suggested the opposite: Deutsche Bank issued a report considering that workers should be taxed 5% for each day they choose to work remotely.
Working from home remains a privilege in two ways. First, only a few can afford to do it comfortably. Second, companies view it as a concession they should get to pay you less for.