- Dennis C. sometimes worked remotely pre-pandemic and loved the switch to full-time remote work.
- When his office said he’d have to return three days a week, he decided to retire instead.
- Now he works remotely full time, and thinks it’ll slowly take over the future of work.
Dennis C. would rather retire than return to the office full time — and that’s exactly what he did.
The Alabama-based 65-year-old, who verified his last name, former employment, and salary range with Insider, but asked that they be withheld to protect his privacy, got a taste of working from home years ago. In 2018, higher-ups at his job handed a day of remote work out as a reward. By 2019, he was working two days remotely, and three days in the office. He said that schedule was “fantastic,” and he thought he’d never retire: “This is perfect, this is heaven.”
But as 2020 rolled in and sent everyone home, he discovered he loved full-time remote work even more.
“We went to five days a week and it was like, ‘Oh, I thought two was good, five is the sweet spot,'” Dennis said. “There’s no reason to go back to the office.”
He loved remote work for the same reasons he thinks other people do: more time to concentrate, and fewer meetings. He could turn off his camera, mute, and still plug away. His commute went from 20 minutes to five minutes.
“If I wanted to do something and it wasn’t time constrained, I could stop work and pick it up later that evening,” he said.
He’s not alone in that: Some remote workers are living like college kids again, using their afternoons for leisure activities or errands, and then picking work back up later in the day.
“The more choice we have, the more autonomy we have, I think, the happier we are,” Dennis said.
But then, in April 2021, Dennis was called back to the office. The company wanted him to come in for three days a week. Dennis, who was technically eligible to retire and had already been looking for new roles, said it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“When they said that I was going to have to come back, I sent them an email saying I’m retiring,” he said.
Dennis had already secured a job offer elsewhere as a defense contractor. With the new role, he’d be taking a slight pay cut, bringing his salary from six figures to a little less. But since he receives new monthly retirement benefits from his old federal job, he’s still technically bringing in more than he was before.
His new role is also fully remote, a must-have for him. He said that it’s been, in a word, “fantastic.”
Bosses are made obsolete by remote work
Dennis isn’t alone. Felicia, an administrator in Arizona, previously told Insider that she too was leaving behind a six-figure salary over a forced return to the office. Her bosses were suffering from productivity paranoia and could not believe that people working from home were actually working.
Dennis said that he thinks the only people who fully fail at remote work are those who went to meetings in person, walked around with a piece of paper, and looked busy — but weren’t actually getting much done. But self-starters and motivated people with goals can excel with remote work.
But remote work also calls into question the purpose of a boss, he said. A boss’s model, whether they voice it aloud, is to make sure their employees get work done. And so those employees have to be there, in front of them, so the bosses can ensure they’re working.
“It’s almost, ‘If I don’t see you working, then I don’t have anything to do. What’s my purpose?'” Dennis said. “So, I think that’s the main driver of bringing people back.”
With the pandemic, the remote-work genie is out of the bag, Dennis said. At his old job, higher-ups once doled out remote work as a reward. Now, there’s a “bunch of people” who know they don’t need to be in the office to do productive work.
And that’s going to lead to a reckoning for bosses.
“The managers, especially the mid-level managers, still are going to want to see people. That’s kind of justification for their job,” he said. “If everybody can work remote, it’s a new model for the manager.”
Even as remote work has fallen off slightly in the near term — the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently found that nearly 73% surveyed of companies offered little to no telework in September, compared to 60% surveyed in 2021 — Dennis still thinks it will slowly take over, 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 “leave the scene, so to speak,” so will some of their traditions.
“I think a lot of people that have exposure to remote work will say, ‘Hey, that worked,'” Dennis said.
Did you quit over returning to the office? Are you a manager fed-up with remote work? Email this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.