- Working remotely at times prior to the pandemic, Dennis C. was excited about the transition to full-time remote work.
- When told at his office that he had to come back three days a week, he decided to retire instead.
- Now working remotely full-time, he believes this will slowly define the future of work.
Dennis C. would rather retire than return to the office full-time — and he did just that.
The 65-year-old Alabama resident, who confirmed his last name, previous employment and salary range to Insider but asked that those details be withheld to protect his privacy, got a taste of working from home years ago. In 2018, supervisors at his workplace presented him with a day of remote work as a reward. Until 2019 he worked two days remotely and three days in the office. He said the schedule was “fantastic” and he thought he would never retire: “This is perfect, this is heaven.”
But as 2020 rolled around and everyone sent home, he discovered he loved full-time remote work even more.
“We went five days a week and we were like, ‘Oh, I thought two would be good, five is the sweet spot,'” Dennis said. “There is no reason to return to the office.”
He loved remote work for the same reasons he thinks other people do: more time to focus and fewer meetings. He could turn off his camera, mute it, and still unplug it. His commute to work went from 20 to five minutes.
“If I wanted to do something and time wasn’t limited, I could stop work and continue later in the evening,” he said.
He’s not alone: some remote workers are living like students again, using their afternoons for fun activities or errands and returning to work later in the day.
“The more choice we have, the more autonomy we have, the happier we are, I think,” Dennis said.
But then, in April 2021, Dennis was called back to the office. The company wanted him to come in three days a week. Dennis, who was technically retiring and had already started scouting for new roles, said it was the straw that broke the camel’s camel.
“When they said I had to come back, I emailed them saying I was retiring,” he said.
Dennis had already secured a job offer as a defense contractor elsewhere. With the new role, he would take a slight pay cut, taking his salary from a six-figure amount to a little less. But since he’s receiving new monthly pension benefits from his old federal job, he’s still technically bringing in more than he did before.
His new role is also completely distanced, a must for him. He said it was “fantastic,” in one word.
Remote work eliminates the need for supervisors
Dennis is not alone. Felicia, an Arizona clerk, previously told Insiders that she too would be leaving behind a six-figure salary due to a forced return to the office. Their bosses suffered from productivity paranoia and couldn’t believe that the people who were working from home were actually working.
Dennis said that, in his opinion, the only people who utterly fail at remote work are those who went to meetings in person, walked around with a piece of paper, and looked busy — but actually didn’t get much done. But self-starters and motivated people with goals can also excel at remote work.
But working remotely also challenges a boss’s purpose, he said. A boss’s mission statement, whether they say it out loud, is to make sure their employees get their jobs done. And that’s why those employees need to be there, in front of them, so the bosses can make sure they’re working.
“It’s almost like, ‘If I don’t see you work, I have nothing to do. What’s my goal?’” Dennis said. “So I think that’s the main reason for bringing people back.”
With the pandemic, the spirit of remote work is out of the bag, Dennis said. At his old job, he was once rewarded with remote work by supervisors. Now there is a “group of people” who know they don’t need to be in the office to be productive.
And that will lead to a reckoning with the bosses.
“Managers, especially middle-level managers, will still want to see people. It’s a kind of justification for her job,” he said. “If everyone can work remotely, that’s a new model for the manager.”
Even though remote work has declined slightly in the short term — the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently found that nearly 73% of companies surveyed offered little or no remote work in September, compared with 60% of respondents in 2021 — Dennis still thinks so that this will slowly increase over time, especially as office leases expire.
“I’m a baby boomer, so we’re starting to die out,” he said. He added that as baby boomers “sort of leave the scene,” some of their traditions will disappear as well.
“I think a lot of people who have experience working remotely will say, ‘Hey, that worked,'” Dennis said.
Did you quit because of going back to the office? Are you a manager fed up with remote work? Email this reporter at email@example.com.
The story was originally published in May 2023.