“It is not in your best interest to work from home” – Malcolm Gladwell 2022

17th January 2023
WFH is bad for you

When Malcolm Gladwell announced in an interview in July 2022 that  “It is not in your best interest to work from home”, the internet went mad in opposition. “What does he know?” “He doesn’t have a 1-hour commute” etc.  There was so much backlash that Malcolm Gladwell actually felt it necessary to step in again to reassert his position that “offices really do matter”

You can watch the excerpt from the interview about remote working from the interview on Facebook.

The benefits of remote work are obvious: less commuting, more flexibility, more family time… the list is endless.

The problem, according to research, is that Malcolm Gladwell is right. Despite the obvious immediate advantages of remote work, the long-term disadvantages may outweigh them, and it actually may not be in your best interest to work from home. 

In this article on entrepreneur.com, they summarise his argument quite nicely: “When it comes to remote work, what you need and what you want are two entirely separate things.” You may think you want to work remotely because it gives you autonomy, but it would be best for you, for your mental health, for your innate need for connection, to go to your office.

The author of the article likened the overwhelmingly negative reaction to Gladwell’s comments to when you take the car keys from a teenager. The moment the keys are taken away, the teenager feels devastated because they’ve lost their autonomy. People felt their autonomy, their right to remote work, was being attacked. 

First, I would like to point out that we will not be asking our Secret Source team to come back to the office, if they don’t want to. Although, as no one knows yet what the long-term consequences of remote work will be, we need to tread carefully and we need to listen to the research. 

These are the facts: 

  • Potentially there may be real negative consequences of working from home for long periods.
  • Remote working is here to stay and any company that forces their workforce back into the office will find it more and more difficult to find people to work for them. 

We need to look at this sensibly. Malcolm Gladwell is not going to force every programmer back into their office and our evolutionary need for social connection is not going to suddenly disappear from our DNA. 

Photo by Bennett Tobias on Unsplash

As a company whose workforce predominantly work from home and who care passionately about their team’s wellbeing, we have taken a pragmatic approach. We allow remote working and, at the same time, we try to maximise their social connections as much as possible. Our team comes into the office when they want. We encourage them to come in more but don’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. For those who do choose to work from home, we ensure they connect to their colleagues both socially and professionally as much as possible. No one works alone and everyone speaks to their team members at least 2 or 3 times a day, usually for extended periods. And while we don’t all sit down together for lunch everyday and discuss the latest Netflix series, we do regularly hold events so that our team, if they want to, can fulfil their need for connection.

With remote working on the increase, as employers, it’s our responsibility to look after our teams and not just assume everything will just be OK. Malcolm Gladwell may just be right.

If you’re interested in how we’ve built our happiness-first culture as well as how we’re continually challenging ourselves to make a happier company, please follow us on LinkedIn to get regular updates on our progress, and, if you’re curious as to how far we’d go at Secret Source to keep our team happy, check out the interview with our founder on The Karmic Capitalist podcast