Apr 8, 2022 - Economy

WFH revolution showing signs of wear

Illustration of a pillow on a couch in the shape of a wifi symbol

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The work from home revolution, grudgingly embraced by Corporate America, has evolved into a thing that workers both love and hate.

Why it matters: This week, an Atlantic article confirmed something knowledge workers have known for a while: Remote work has led to much longer hours, and a grueling schedule of meetings that underscore the limits of flexible arrangements.

Driving the news: JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a notorious scourge of remote work, abruptly reversed himself in his annual letter published this week.

  • Dimon’s volte-face is a reflection of a broader vibe shift on Wall Street, bowing to the realities of a workforce still reluctant to return to cubicle life.
  • But some employers are hitting workers where it hurts – in their wallets – to get them to return to the office, according to Fortune.

What they’re saying: NBCUniversal News chair Cesar Conde told Axios’ What’s Next Summit that “a hybrid, flexible work environment is a net-net positive and will be an ongoing part of our culture.”

  • Yet Conde also emphasized “the power of proximity” (i.e. in-person interaction) as something the news giant aims to “recreate.”
  • And in his letter, Dimon insisted that remote arrangements would “need to work for both the company and its clients.”

State of play: Demand from digital nomads have spurred a boom in co-working spaces, but raise questions about why it’s more suitable to camp out in a public space than a traditional office. Meanwhile, some employees have sued their employers to recoup unreimbursed costs from WFH outlays.

Out thought bubble: Axios' Emily Peck and I have both chronicled the growing downsides of being a member of the Zoom class, including virtual meeting fatigue, and the resulting drag on service sector activity.

The bottom line: The way we work now has clear benefits, but comes with trade-offs. In the coming months, some bosses may well decide that WFH isn’t worth the compromise, or the strains it puts on employers and workers.

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