Tap the brakes on WFH strategizing

Editor’s note: We’re big fans of NYU marketing professor and podcaster Scott Galloway (profgalloway.com and The Prof G podcast). Recently, in answering a listener question about the future of office culture and increased adoption of remote work, Galloway offered the sort of insightful rant that makes his podcast must listening for business leaders. The questioner had a job opportunity in another state, but was reluctant to move for it. She wondered whether she should take the job hoping to shift it to a remote position through strong performance. Galloway’s response:

“Truth has a nice ring to it. I would be very transparent about your in-state goal. What you don’t want to do is show up to a job expecting that they’ll have a change of mind-set that will flip to your desires. You might find that they are more flexible than their initial complexion.

Work from home is going to be a huge cultural shift. Loosely speaking, you can tell how people feel about it by how old they are. If you’re my age [mid-50s], we’ve kind of arrived in the sense that we have our kids, we have a decent home, we have the primary relationships — a spouse and kids — that we want out of our lives. We’ve orchestrated, or hopefully architected, a decent base of friends.

But if you’re under the age of 35 or 40, and you’re looking to develop your interpersonal skills; you’re looking to meet a mate — one-third of people who get married are with someone they met at work; you’re looking to establish long-term professional friendships; you’re looking for that buzz and that intensity and that culture, which is hugely rewarding at a great corporation…

It’s just an entirely different gig for a 25-year-old. If you’re willing to live in a high-cost area, you’re willing to put on a suit or a dress or some reasonable facsimile of both of those things, you’re willing to play nice with others, you’re willing to figure out a way to develop EQ, those people should receive additional compensation.

It’s also fun to go to work at Google and go to the cafeteria. It’s fun to go to Friday lunch-and-learns at work. It’s fun to grab a coffee with your friend and complain about your boss or get help and establish mentorship roles with people above and below you.

Work can be very rewarding, and it’s a fantastic training. It’s like training to become a Navy SEAL and then trying to do it remotely — it’s just not going to work as well.

Also, there’s a dark side to remote work. Do you think Mark Zuckerberg telling people they can work remotely isn’t a function of his desire to just cut costs? Because, if your job can be moved to Denver, guess what? It can keep moving east, and at some point your job is going to be moved to Delhi.

I don’t think it’s as simple as we’re all going to work from home and it’s going to be a remote culture. There is a certain creativity, there is a certain electricity, there is a certain benefit to “ideas having sex” that only happens when people are bumping into each other. Also, there is just a certain level of Zoom fatigue, a certain inability to read the room, a certain inability to make decisions remotely. We’re going to find that office space becomes a feature, not a bug, for the most talented young people in the world.

The reality is the greatest ROI on any asset in the world is a talented person under the age of 30. They typically don’t cost much. They typically have low health care costs because they’re not having babies or they’re not getting sick. They typically are willing to work 18 hours a day because no one is calling them and bothering them to get home for dinner, or they’re so stupid they don’t recognize that life is short, so they’re willing to work 18 hours a day. And they are better-skilled, better-trained and better-educated than my generation.

This is the most productive asset in the world, and what do they want? They want to be in an office.”

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