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Why Office Mandates—Even From Petulant Billionaires—Won’t Fly

Thoughts on Tesla, Twilio, and proximity bias.
Jun | 20 | 2022

Jun | 20 | 2022

Dennis appears to work hard because his manager sees him regularly clock in and out. For her part, Denise (couldn’t resist) is twice the performer but everyone assumes that she’s a slacker.


Because she works remotely.

Welcome to the world of proximity bias. Few problems vex management, HR departments, and organizations these days as the Dennis-Denise Dilemma. (Check out an extensive Future Forum report on the subject here.)

There’s a simple way to eliminate this thorny issue: level the playing field. This means either mandating in-person work à la Elon Musk or bidding adieu to the office altogether. (Hello Twilio.)

Here’s a simple visual from Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace:

Pick one and you instantly and magically resolve the issue, right?


The problem is each solution to level the playing field isn’t practical. Put simply, these these types of mandates won’t fly—at least over the long term and in the United States. Thank the following:

Prediction: Tesla employees compelled to return to the office every day will immediately start exploring their options. Switching jobs is far more palatable when your employer’s stock price has plunged nearly 50 percent in the last six months.

I’d also wager that many in-demand folks no longer consider Tesla a viable employment option.

For many if not most knowledge workers, the future of work will be hybrid.

As for the remote-only remedy, its limitations are far too numerous to list in a single post, but here are two biggies. More than two years into the greatest WFH experiment in history, organizations continue to struggle to provide basic support to their employees. Beyond that, certain types of work don’t work nearly as well asynchronously.

Brass tacks: For many if not most knowledge workers, the future of work will be hybrid. There’s just no way around it. By extension, the future of project management will be as well. And, generally speaking, hybrid is really freakin’ hard. (Yes, even holding effective and inclusive meetings.)

And that, in a nutshell, is why I wrote the new book.

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