The tech industry needs a labor movement

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Imagine yourself working at Apple. It’s April 2022. You’re told by the line managers that you need to come back to the office – by which I mean you read a Slack message on your laptop. You go about your work day, furious that your bosses don’t seem to understand that you can do this work remotely.

Then someone sends you a YouTube link to a nine-minute ad for remote work, telling the story of a group of people who left their companies after being forced back into the office. The advertisement is from Apple, which is currently telling you to return to the office. You hit your desktop so hard that your screensaver turns off.

It’s strange that the companies that have made so much money from remote work seem to be the most allergic to its possibilities. Google, which literally lets you run a business in a browser, forces employees back into the office three days a week.

Meta, Apple and Google are industry leaders, but they’re pushing their industry backwards – to offices where people will be doing the same things they’ve been doing at home.

Meta, which has lost billions trying to keep us living in the computer, has also taken people back to the office. Reading almost every article on remote work that has been published for my research for a year, I have yet to find a single compelling argument as to why employees should return to the office.

“In-person collaboration” and “serendipity” are terms that make sense if you live in Narnia and believe in magical creatures. In reality, office environments resemble our remote lives, only with more boring meetings and the ability to sniff out our colleagues’ lunch choices.

The tech industry claims to be disruptive, but is following a path set by older companies like Goldman Sachs. How come Apple and Google, the companies that have effectively given us the ability to work remotely at scale, seem to be reading a generic New York Times anti-remote op-ed?

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