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Even for Techies, Work From Home Is Only a Remote Possibility

Froma Harrop on

The very tech companies that created the ability to do office work from home want their own people back at the ranch. Apple Inc. made headlines last spring when it told employees working remotely from home during the pandemic that they would have to return to the office.

This was rich coming from the company that had just produced an inspirational and very funny video titled, "Escape from the Office."

In the video, an authoritarian in a suit barks at four corporate underlings cowering in a parked car. The group then fantasizes about freedom from the office: "Start our own company." "Be our own bosses." "We can get our weekends back." They quit, race out of the parking lot and become amazingly rich with an idea to make a better shopping bag -- while being able to sit in on kids' ballet classes and stir big steaming pots in the kitchen at noon.

They make promotional websites on MacBooks. They share colorful business charts, produced on iPads, that show bag sales in the hundreds of thousands and soaring profits. Through an interview conducted on a Mac, they hire a finance director who, no problem, is in Alaska. And you see them checking their Apple watches for something or other.

But here's what was left out. Where did the bags come from? Who engineered the better bag? What factory made them? Did the escapees build a plant, or did they contract with someone else? And if that someone else was in China, how did they get them shipped and to what warehouse? And who trucked them to the customers?

Any of these activities required capital with a Karl Marx "C." And ready money was not something that these lovable former office slaves appeared to have. Nor did they seem the types to impress venture capitalists any more than they awed their tailored overlords in the old office.

Not to entirely rain on this parade, there are tales of individualists with great ideas who quit their cubicles and started great enterprises from the kitchen table. These stories are dangerous, however, because they often leave out details of how many hours these entrepreneurs put in to get their businesses going. Talk about lost weekends. Such heroic accounts tend not to mention all the promising new enterprises that failed. And face it, the guys who succeeded were often geniuses.

Apple CEO Tim Cook conceded that returning to the office would be an "unsettling change" for many workers. Nonetheless, he wants them back at Apple Park, his $5 billion "spaceship" headquarters in Cupertino, California -- and Apple offices across the globe.

 

Some workers found the order "insulting," especially in light of the "Escape from the Office" video, according to Bloomberg News. "The underlying message: Apple knows corporate employees -- using its products as tools -- can capably work from home. So why can't its own staff?"

These disgruntled workers apparently misread the message. The video was not intended to show how former office flunkies can create a great business at home. It was made to sell Apple products.

It's not just Apple wanting the techies back. Office building is booming throughout Silicon Valley as new public transportation facilities come online. Google, for one, is planning a new mixed-use development on 80 acres in San Jose.

Apple's Cook did talk of allowing some work-from-wherever setups but on a very limited basis. As he told workers, "We have an opportunity to combine the best of what we have learned about working remotely with the irreplaceable benefits of in-person collaboration."

Sounds like Apple workers still have a boss. It's back to the spaceship for them.

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Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

 

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