Malcolm Gladwell says it’s ‘not in your best interest to work from home.’ Nearly 20 years ago he said he ‘hates desks’ and writes from his couch

August 8, 2022, 12:13 PM UTC
Journalist Malcolm Gladwell
Despite speaking out against remote work, Gladwell is a longtime remote working aficionado.
Robert A Tobiansky—Getty Images

It’s not in anyone’s best interest to work from home, and corporate leaders should be telling their employees to get back into the office so they can “feel part of something,” according to writer Malcolm Gladwell.

Speaking on the Diary of a CEO podcast in late July, the Canadian journalist and author, whose works include The Tipping Point, David and Goliath, and Blink, said being physically connected helped people to “feel necessary.” And now that the podcast has come to light, he’s receiving strong pushback online.

“As we face the battle that all organizations are facing now in getting people back into the office, it’s really hard to explain this core psychological truth, which is we want you to have a feeling of belonging and to feel necessary,” he said.

Gladwell added that it was “not in your best interest to work at home.”

“I know it’s a hassle to come into the office, but if you’re just sitting in your pajamas in your bedroom, is that the work life you want to live?” he questioned. “Don’t you want to feel part of something?”

He added: “I’m really getting very frustrated with the inability of people in positions of leadership to explain this effectively to their employees.”

Spotlight on Gladwell’s WFH history

Gladwell, however, is a longtime remote working aficionado.

In 2020, Gladwell penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he admitted he had written in coffee shops for a living for “much of my adult life.”

He had told The Guardian in 2005 that he started his working day writing from home—but always from his couch as he “hates desks.”

With this contradiction front and center, many took to social media to criticize Gladwell’s seeming hypocrisy after a Friday NY Post article highlighted the Diary of a CEO podcast episode featuring the writer.

Others pointed out the benefits they felt they enjoyed through being allowed to work from home, with Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments—the payments firm that made headlines when it decided to pay all of its employees a minimum salary of $70,000—saying that remote work had increased interest in the company from job seekers and helped with both revenue and staff turnover.

A divisive topic

Last week, it was reported that Spotify’s “Work from Anywhere” policy led to a huge drop in employee turnover.

However, many employers appear to share Gladwell’s approach to remote working.

Tesla chief Elon Musk said in an internal memo in late May that remote work at the company was no longer acceptable, and later said on Twitter that remote workers were just pretending to work.

Despite a number of firms wanting their workers back in the office, many of America’s biggest companies are still struggling to encourage, or even mandate, employees to return to the office more regularly.

A recent survey found that 76% of Apple employees are unhappy with the tech giant’s return-to-office policy, which requires corporate workers to be on-site once a week.

Meanwhile, only around half of Goldman Sachs employees showed up to work at the company’s Manhattan headquarters when the office reopened in March, despite CEO David Solomon’s famous belief that remote work is “an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.” 

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