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MIT Prof: Good Luck Getting WFH Employees Back to the Office



Young working father talking on the phone while babysitting his playful daughter at home | MIT Prof: Good Luck Getting WFH Employees Back to the Office | featured

MIT Professor Thomas Malone wishes company bosses good luck in ordering WFH employees to return to the office. Work from home (WFH) workers already proved they can produce the same output remotely.

Instead, companies should expect resistance from those asked to go back to work.  

RELATED: 6 Reasons Why Americans Refuse To Get Back To Work

The Future of Work Includes WFH Employees

Young woman working remotely from her home kitchen-WFH Employees

Malone wrote the book about the future of work. He published “The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style and Your Life” in 2004.

In particular, he described a decentralized work world powered by digital communication. Malone is now releasing a new book: Superminds. Specifically, the book explained how workers can perform better when using digital tools. 

In addition, the MIT professor is a former research scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center. He’s also the founding director at MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence.

In particular, the CCI focuses on sophisticated human-digital collaborations. In a Washington Post article, Malone shared some of the thoughts behind the book.  

No Reason To Return To A Traditional Office

Malone said that during the early months of the pandemic, many workers realized they can do a lot of work online. This means doing work that used to require coming to the office or showing up at a customer’s place.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of jobs that require a specific workplace, but many jobs also don’t. 

According to Malone, senior officers in the company are often the last people to latch onto the WFH employees idea. Moreso, he thinks that many of the people who end up on top of the organization often are good with face-to-face interaction.

This is why they put an excessive value on physical presence. He added that superminds, or those who know and can work remotely, are an emerging force in the workplace.  

Will Executives Get What They Want and Bring WFH Employees Back to the Office?

Asked by WaPo if he thinks executives will win and get WFH employees back to the office, Malone said absolutely not.

“If companies make employees who can do their jobs at home go into the office, it will be harder for them to hire, and other companies will benefit,” he said.  

However, not all executives would insist. For those who do, they might find less employees interested in the jobs. Malone recounted his conversation with executives about WFH employees.

“I was talking to a very senior executive at a major bank, and we were discussing that Jamie Dimon quote that everyone has to absolutely come back.

And the executive said, very carefully, “That’s fine for Jamie Dimon.” And I said, “What I think you’re saying is that it’s good for your recruiting.” And he said, “That’s very intuitive of you.”

Water Cooler Argument

Additionally, Malone addressed the argument that employees need to socialize with fellow employees. This is so that they remain in touch with each other and appreciate the serendipity of the office walls.

He completely agrees with the need for water cooler conversations, where employees can talk non-business with one another. However, Malone says he doesn’t think workers need an office to do that. Technology for this sort of thing is already in place. 

The MIT professor and author claim that he and his colleagues already have a prototype for these water cooler conversations. “We’ve used it in a couple of conferences.

It’s a way to have that informal mingling you’d normally have after a meeting. You see a list of people on one side of the screen and you click on those you might like to talk to,” he said.

A videoconference will start once everybody responds positively to the invite. 

Watch Dimitri Bianco’s video ​​discussing “Back to Work” nonsense:

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