WFH is not like an office expense

From Freddie deBoer Remote Work Shifts Costs From Management Onto Employees.

I think he’s off the mark here.

We don’t see other people at restaurants because we get food ordered in. We don’t see people at the grocery store because we get our groceries delivered.

Who is ‘we’? From my end, the food stores and malls as packed, especially on weekend nights, as if Covid never happened. I have never ordered food online or with app and have no desire to do so; same for airbnb.

We don’t see people on public transit because we get around with Uber.

He means the automobile?

We don’t see people in hotels because we stay in Airbnbs. We don’t see people at GameStop because we download all our games. We don’t see people at video stores because they were destroyed by Netflix.

The popularity of Netflix and online gaming is not because people are necessarily becoming more socially isolated, but because online services have superior selection and service. Blockbuster had late fees and limited selection, unlike Netflix. He’s also ignoring the role of multiplayer online/network gaming, such as Xbox Live, which has exploded in popularity over the past 2 decades. Playing computer or video games used to be mostly a solitary activity, but not anymore.

We need to understand ourselves in a context with strangers, as part of a polis. This is especially true for people with progressive political sympathies; to build support for social safety net programs, voters need to have a sense of the common humanity of people they don’t already know and care about. All of this also says depressing things about the average person’s feelings toward their fellow man.

I think the post-ww2 divide between the college-educated and everyone else, is the root cause of division in the US along cultural and economic lines, even within political tribes. This long predates Covid, but Covid certainly made it worse…same for the post-2016 rise of the ‘woke wars’ and ‘cancel culture’. Being avowedly pro-vaccine, pro-diversity, or pro-lockdown is a way of ingratiating oneself with the ruling ideology or intellectual class. Just because more people are using apps is irrelevant here. Any shared humanity has long since been lost.

What’s striking to me is how few of these remote workers seem to connect one thing to another: if you’re spending an extra $1000 a month on your rent or mortgage because you wanted extra space, space which was once assigned to you at your employer’s place of business, then you’re taking a $12,000 haircut in your total annual compensation. Space, electricity, internet, heat and AC, parking, furniture, office supplies, onsite tech support, ancillary stuff like free coffee – all removed from your total compensation package and the costs put on your shoulders.

This is way off. Working from home is not at all like taking a pay cut. This argument is just head-scratching as to how he could even conceive this. Working from home only imposes a tiny extra marginal cost, at worst, such as maybe having to keep the lights on longer. All you’re doing is repurposing some time you would spend surfing the internet for doing work-related stuff. You don’t need a separate office to work from home. And any extra cost is easily negated by not having to commute (gas prices are higher than ever, and less wear and tear on your car). A self-described leftists like Freddie should welcome WFH if it means less reliance on fossil fuels and less pollution.