A millennial quit a job he loved rather than return to the office. Now he’s making more money and working for bosses that don’t suffer from ‘productivity paranoia.’

Tom Werner/Getty Images

A millennial who moved nearly 600 miles away from his office quit after he was ordered back.
Now, he makes more at his remote job and is still productive and happy at job.
He said the transition allowed him to maintain a strong work-life balance and have autonomy.

In 2022, Timothy Done was on vacation in Egypt when he received the dreaded Slack message — he was being called back into the office as part of new mandatory return-to-office policies.

There was just one problem: Done, 35, had moved nearly 600 miles away from his office during the pandemic.

“It was like, well jeez, how am I going to commute 550 miles three days a week?” he told Insider. The news came as a shock; he said he had team members who settled across the country after the pandemic hit, and there were no foreseeable plans for returning to the office. When his wife received an offer in Denver, Done and his family decided to take the plunge, moving away from his office’s home base in Utah in October 2020.

Done had been working successfully at home for nearly two years as an ad tech contractor. It had been “a really great place to work,” with a culture “almost like a work family.” Now, he was being told that he had to leave his job or return back to the office. He tried to work something out, even proposing flying in for a few months and then flying back out, but his company would not compromise.

“I made the decision that I wasn’t going to return to office, that it wasn’t viable for me and my family,” Done said. It was a hard decision and one of the scarier moments in his life. But today, Done is in a new, all-remote role. He’s making more money, and he’s able to maintain work-life balance and autonomy. 

“I’ve more than doubled my income. I’ve got great benefits. It’s permanently remote. It’s awesome. It’s wonderful,” Done said. 

Done’s story shows a continued tension between how bosses think businesses should run and how their employees want to work. Workers have chafed at heavy-handed attempts to micromanage, especially when it comes to firms yanking their employees back in. It’s a strategy that might backfire for employers; Done says he’s just as — if not more — productive in a fully remote role, where he has the trust of his company to get his work done.

The great remote work debate

As part of the war over remote work, employers and employees alike have debated whether or not a mandatory return-to-office policy actually works. While some recent research has shown workers are more productive at the office, other studies reveal workers may quit if companies mandate fully in-person work.

This all comes down to trust — if you have faith your workers will get the job done, the work may get done more efficiently and effectively than micromanaging workers in an office.

“If you really feel that you cannot trust the people you’ve hired, then maybe the best solution is for some type of oversight system where managers are walking around your desks,” Sam Eitzen, CEO of photo and video solutions company Snapbar, previously told Insider. “But I just think that for me, that doesn’t seem like a great long-term solution.”

Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom has reiterated that workers have kept up their productivity at home, citing data revealing the US is still on the pre-pandemic growth trend even with the number of remote workers quintupling.

Bloom told Insider that the opportunities for constructive leisure at home are much higher than in an office, which has led workers to take more profound breaks or do workouts to keep their minds fresh.

“In the studies, you see the valuation put on work from home is equivalent to about an 8% pay increase, and the biggest driver of that is avoiding the commute, which is hardly surprising,” Bloom said. “But the second-biggest driver is flexibility, and I think that reflects the fact that breaks are just much more valuable at home.”

And businesses expect the current amount of remote work to continue into next year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s most recent Empire State Manufacturing Survey and Business Leaders Survey. Around 17% of service firms expect to require more in-person work next year, reporting declines in workplace culture, cohesiveness, communication, and training and mentoring of employees.

Additionally, according to new research from Envoy, 80% of bosses regret their initial return-to-office plans, noting how they made these decisions without much awareness of office attendance and amenities usage. The risk of losing top talent has kept some companies on their toes about adopting stricter mandates, and the Envoy study further suggests a disconnect between what leaders and employees feel about return-to-office policies.

Not to mention, mandatory return-to-office policies could exacerbate the climate crisis, which could have an impact on the US economy down the road.

The era of micromanagement is over

It took Done about five months to find a new job. He didn’t want a hybrid or in-person position. With two kids at home, the flexibility of remote work — coupled with no commute — was a boon. When he finally landed his new role, it was worth the wait. 

“The quality of the work-life balance is unbeatable. It’s truly unbeatable,” he said. 

At his new role and firm, Done said he has the freedom to get his work done on his own terms. There are still meetings and regular training, and everyone is engaged. But there’s no micromanagement and nobody telling him to get into the office so his work can be watched over — or what Microsoft calls productivity paranoia, in which leaders don’t trust their workers are actually getting stuff done.  

“Having been in a work from home environment for going on four years now, it’s become just kind of second nature that you’ve got to take ownership of doing things,” he said. “If you have a company that really embraces those values, it actually, I think, drives productivity — as well as just overall employment satisfaction — drastically up.”

And even as the labor market cools some, and the job-switching power of the Great Resignation fades a bit, workers still know what does and doesn’t work for them — part of the reason that remote work debate has become so contentious. As Done puts it, “the days of micromanagement are well behind us.” The pandemic showed that there was an opening to rethink how businesses function.

The firms that are succeeding at remote work have saved money from giving up office leases and are making their employees feel happier along the way. 

“You’re not constantly micromanaged,” he said. “You’re still in meetings, you’re still engaged, but you’re not under the thumb of somebody — not treated like a child.”

Have you quit over remote work, or are contemplating it? Contact these reporters at [email protected] and [email protected].

Read the original article on Business Insider

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