Is remote work dystopian?

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Microsoft has a new advert out, and David Heinemeier Hansson thinks it’s deplorable. He argues that Microsoft are pushing a dystopian idea of work that never stops, and busywork expands to fill the time wherever we are.

I’m not sure I agree, though I’ll definitely admit that Microsoft’s advertising people have done a poor job with the wording. One of the reasons I’m inclined to take their side is that I’ve suffered from the other extreme, when I’ve had to miss out on activities because I have to wait around in the office doing busywork just in case I’m needed while an important demo takes place or deal is signed.

The question is whether you work in a job that requires a high volume of routine work or one that intermittently requires skilled judgement for brief periods. Automation and outsourcing are killing off the former (aside from customer service, which can’t be done from a bar during happy hour anyway). Maybe I’m giving Microsoft too much credit, but it seems to me that they were aiming their pitch at the latter sort of work, in which case working (i.e. providing brief high-value responses) from your children’s sports match is liberating.

Ultimately it’s not Microsoft’s job to set boundaries in our work, we have to do it for ourselves. Technology isn’t the solution to managers who demand too much of us, but it isn’t the cause either.

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