America’s CEOs have a message for people who love working from home: Your happy days are numbered. Remote work is “suboptimal,” Jonathan Wasserstrum, the CEO of the New York commercial-real-estate company SquareFoot, told me. “I believe that work is better when most of the people are in the office most of the time together,” he said. As if to prove his point, at that moment our phone connection grew fuzzy, prompting him to sarcastically add, “Oh, because remote is so great, right?”
What really gets Wasserstrum’s goat is when people say no one should come into the office, because that would be more fair to the people who don’t want to come into the office. He said that although he wouldn’t fire someone for asking to work remotely full-time, SquareFoot is a real-estate company. “If somebody didn’t believe in the value of an office at least one day a week, they probably shouldn’t be at the company anyway,” he said. At a recent Wall Street Journal conference, WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani cheered cubicle life even louder, saying that the most “engaged” workers are those who want to work from the office most of the time. “People are happier when they come to work,” he added confidently.
Perhaps you’re thinking that People are happier when they come to work sounds like something a literal office building would say. Of course Mathrani and Wasserstrum extol the virtues of putting on work clothes, sitting in traffic, sharing an elevator, and trudging to your desk: Their companies won’t make money if people work from home. But the pushback against remote work hasn’t come only from real-estate executives. Earlier this month, Washingtonian magazine’s CEO, Cathy Merrill, wrote that workers who want to “continue to work from home and pop in only when necessary” are practically begging their bosses to change their status to “contractor,” thereby cutting their benefits and pay. Her op-ed prompted a wildcat strike among Washingtonian staff, but ultimately she can still make changes to her employees’ lives at any time. She is, after all, the boss.