The tech industry needs a workers’ movement

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Imagine you are working at Apple. It’s April 2022. You’re being told by the upper class to come back to the office – by which I mean you’ve read a Slack message on your laptop. You go about your workday, angry that your bosses don’t seem to understand that you can do this work remotely.

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

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

Meta, Apple and Google are market leaders, but they are leading their industry backwards – back to offices where people will do the same as they do at home.

Meta, which has lost billions trying to make us live on the computer, has also caused people to return to the office. In reading nearly every article on remote work published for a year for my research, I haven’t come across a single compelling argument about why employees should go back to the office.

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“Personal cooperation” 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 tedious meetings and the chance to smell our colleagues’ lunch choices.

The tech industry pretends to be disruptive, but follows a path charted by older companies like Goldman Sachs. How come Apple and Google, the companies that basically gave us the ability to work remotely on a large scale, sound like they’re reading from a widely anti-remote New York Times op-ed?

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