To think of the modern office is to think almost reflexively of something sterile and static—bright fluorescent lights, stale bitter coffee, monotonous rows of suspended ceiling tiles looking down on monotonous rows of cubicles. However dull and deadening, office work has nevertheless become the subject of excited speculation in the wake of the pandemic and the widespread adoption of remote work. One 2021 McKinsey report estimated “that about 20 to 25 percent of the workforce in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. This,” the report continues, “represents four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic and could prompt a large change in the geography of work, as individuals and companies shift out of large cities into suburbs and small cities.” A Bloomberg writer went even further, declaring the battle over remote work “the great class struggle of our time.” An Atlantic columnist calls the spread of remote work a “revolution” that will “warp every corner of the labor force.”
Broader political economic trends are far more decisive than remote work technological adoption in changing office work and shaping its future.
These business class musings are not entirely without merit. By spring of 2022, office entry card swipes were down by half of what they were before the pandemic, while office vacancies by the end of 2021 had risen by 4 percent. Office occupancy rates have remained depressed at 43 percent according to one study of the ten largest business districts in the United States. These, however, are imperfect measures of the impact of remote work today. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) more representative population surveys suggest that the adoption of remote work has, in fact, been overstated in most mainstream accounts. For all the business press talk about the supposed office-turned-home worker revolution, what is new about office work is not at all unique to office work itself. The battles over remote work are important not because new technologies enable any broad-scale transformation of work as such, but rather because they are a symptomatic feature of a labor market more favorable for workers than anything workers have experienced during the past half century or so. Broader political economic trends are far more decisive than remote work technological adoption in changing office work and shaping its future.
Remote Work: Who Does It and What Is Its Impact?
The recent trajectory of office work is one of sudden change and readjustment. Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated only 5.7 percent of all workers worked from home. At the start of the pandemic, however, one study estimated that fully 37 percent of jobs could be performed remotely. And, at least at the beginning of the pandemic, whatever work could be performed remotely largely was performed remotely. In May 2020, more than 35 percent of the workforce went remote. While initially the workers who could work from home skewed heavily toward those with a college or advanced degree, the pandemic still sent home to work more than 15 percent of workers with only high school diplomas and 25 percent of those with only some college or an associate’s degree. Gender and racial difference also defined remote work adoption: of all employees who worked remotely due to the pandemic in May 2020, more were women (53.2 percent) than men (46.8 percent). White workers made up more than 78 percent of all remote workers, while 9.9 percent were Black, 9 percent were Asian, and 11 percent were Latinx. While the racial and ethnic makeup of the whole remote workforce shows profound differences, the percentages of remote workers among ascribed identities show a more equal distribution: 35.3 percent of white workers teleworked, while the figure for Black workers was 29.3 percent, and 23 percent for Latinx workers. Asian workers were outliers with 51.9 percent teleworking due to the pandemic.
Much of this would change two years later. Remote work has now seemingly returned to its norm as a domain of a modest portion of the workforce. By April 2022, only 7.7 percent of the total workforce worked remotely due to the pandemic. Only 13 percent of the entire workforce consists of full-time teleworkers, and only 22 percent teleworks some of the time (part- or full-time). In other words, the vast majority of workers still have to show up physically to their jobs. Of those who worked remotely in May 2022, 70 percent were white and 15.9 percent were Asian, while Black (10.5 percent) and Latinx workers (9.3 percent) made up a much smaller proportion of remote workers. There was also considerable change among racialized remote workers: only 6.8 percent of white workers, 6 percent of Black workers, and 4 percent Latinx workers worked from home. By contrast, slightly more than 17 percent of Asian workers worked remotely. Workers that hold bachelor’s or advanced degrees now make up nearly 80 percent of remote workers. The occupations in which remote work distribution was high included “management, business, and financial operations occupations” (37.5 percent), computer and mathematical occupations (15.8 percent), and “office and administrative support occupations” (11.6 percent). Moreover, while remote schooling undoubtedly skewed the gender and sectoral distribution of remote work initially, by March 2022 remote work returned to being essentially a private-sector affair: government workers (federal, state, and local) made up only 15.6 percent of remote workers whereas private industry made up 77.6 percent.12 By contrast, in May 2020, public-sector employees made up nearly a quarter of the labor force that worked remotely—not an insignificant fact given that public-sector employees make up about 15 percent of the total workforce, with one in every four public employees being Black women.
Workers that hold bachelor’s or advanced degrees now make up nearly 80 percent of remote workers.
Given the disproportionate number of college graduate professionals making up the remote workforce, it is no surprise that more affluent households have disproportionately been able to work from home during the pandemic. While college wage-premium growth has slowed since the late 1990s, the financial well-being of college-educated workers is still considerably better than workers without college degrees. One analysis of metropolitan regions in the four years prior to the pandemic shows that “the share of college educated workers is an important predictor of remote work, as occupations that disproportionately employ college educated workers tend to be more amenable to remote work.” As such, high-income regions and their high-income households led the way in remote work adoption: nearly three-fourths of households earning $200,000 or more annually were able to work remotely during the pandemic while fewer than 13 percent of households earning under $25,000 did so. For households earning incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 that figure was slightly over 32 percent. The general trend, in short, is that the higher the income, the likelier that a worker has been able to work remotely.
The implications of this stratification go well beyond workers’ health and convenience. Most notably, a non-negligible number of high-income households who no longer commute have opted to upgrade their existing homes, purchase second homes in less dense areas, or purchase bigger homes, all of which has had a profound impact on regional political economies. Prior to the pandemic, households with remote workers not only tended to have higher incomes than those without remote workers, they also tended to spend more of their income on housing. This pushed prices higher in housing markets with a large remote worker share than in places with smaller shares. As economists Christopher Stanton and Pratyush Tiwari have shown, prior to the pandemic, remote workers “consumed more housing” (i.e., they tended to own or rent dwellings that were bigger or had more rooms to accommodate home offices than households with no remote workers)—a trend that was only accelerated with the pandemic. A more recent paper by economists John Mondragon and Johannes Wieland suggests that the pandemic-induced adoption of remote work accounts for more than half of the skyrocketing housing costs since the onset of the pandemic. They show that regions with a higher distribution of remote workers before the pandemic had a faster rate of housing price growth than those with lower distributions. Those same regions that already had high exposure to remote work households had, predictably, even higher exposure to remote work at the onset of the pandemic than those with fewer remote households. In other words, while somewhat modest in absolute numbers, remote workers made an outsized impact on regional economies due to their high incomes and, through homeownership, large amounts of wealth.
. . . [P]andemic-induced adoption of remote work accounts for more than half of the skyrocketing housing costs since the onset of the pandemic.
The increase in demand for either larger houses or renovations that added square feet led not only to higher housing expenditures but also increased inequality.17 After all, low-income workers who rented were essentially locked out of buying and squeezed in the rental market. To some observers, remote worker’s contribution to housing inflation might be one more factor contributing to the inequality produced by the “asset economy.” As sociologist Lisa Adkins and others have argued, the central driver of inequality today is not labor income inequality, but rather the purchase of assets “that appreciate at a faster rate than both inflation and wages.”18 Homes are just such an asset. While the equities market mania of 2021 has subsided, home values continue to rise or hold steady in most regions.
Yet, however much appreciating assets are a key driver of inequality, it nevertheless remains the case that only a tiny segment of the population can primarily live on capital income. Work—and the wages that enable some office workers, though certainly not all, to have enough capital to allocate to asset purchases (including not only homes but equities as well)—remains at the center of our political economy. As such, office workers, including relatively affluent ones with the luxury of working remotely, are still subject to the power dynamics intrinsic to capitalist workplaces, albeit in attenuated form.
Watch Work, Past and Present
Political economy, of course, is not solely shaped by incomes and capital. What happens within workplaces themselves matters, and that is profoundly shaped by the broader economic landscape. Thus, if underemployment and unemployment generally rise and office jobs become increasingly precarious (as they have since the 1980s), then office workers themselves become evermore subject to the arbitrary whims of employers, whatever the perceived and real privileges and power this segment of the workforce may have. If the majority of office workers still work on site, rather than in home offices, it is worth taking stock, albeit extremely briskly, of their recent history. That history reveals that while technologies and cultural trends might change over time, the intent—indeed the compulsion— of employers to control and surveil workers remains unchanged.
Since their inception, offices have almost constantly been the subject of reinvention. These reinventions begin with their basic physical design. Although hard to believe today, those dreaded cubicles that are the source of cultural derision and personal despair were imagined in the 1960s as a tool for dismantling workplace hierarchies. Designer Robert Propst first imagined what would become cubicles using three interlocked, movable walls. He believed that the lack of fixed walls could help create a workplace that would encourage interaction, communication, and, above all, meet the personal needs of workers rather than cementing workplace hierarchies. “Whatever its aesthetic value,” notes author Nikil Saval, “forcing all employees, whether bosses or staff, to wade into a sea of flimsy partitions was more egalitarian than having most out in a snake pit with others snug, in closed-door offices, let alone executive suites.”
This leveling vision of moveable walls began in Silicon Valley and spread quickly, changing in form as it did so. Managers, Saval’s history of the office shows, quickly abandoned whatever lofty visions Propst might have had and turned those flexible walls into fixed cubes. These cubicles soon became the object of popular ridicule. This phenomenon was perhaps best illustrated by the success of the cult classic film, Office Space (1999), where coworkers’ shared both a loathing of office work and a profound fear that they might lose their “cubicle-d” life in a round of company layoffs. The film found a massive audience among those discontent with office life. And this discontent was hardly lost on managers. In the 1990s, offices across the country had begun tumbling down cubicle walls and embracing open-plan design. When open-plan offices first emerged as a growing trend, managers and designers claimed this office configuration was not only cheaper to create and more amenable to change, they also believed (or perhaps hoped) that they could increase communication and spur spontaneous collaborations that could create the next lucrative idea. Incidentally, these were precisely the same hopes held for cubicles. When managers failed to create anything new of value, the least they could do was rearrange the furniture.
But that, of course, was not all managers did. The embrace of open-plan offices also coincided with a broader change to office workplace cultures that was spearheaded, as is so often the case, by the tech sector. In the 1990s, management increasingly embraced casual dress codes, allowed “flextime” and remote work, and began modeling offices after college campuses by containing a host of recreational amenities within the workplace. By providing laundry services, catered meals, and pickup basketball games, employers could keep workers’ lives under their watchful eye. With many new offices, much of your life outside of work could be brought into the office. With new laptops and smart phones, much of your work could follow you everywhere else in your life. Whatever their employers’ designs, for many malcontent office workers, “work could still not love workers back,” to borrow writer Sarah Jaffe’s memorable slogan, but it could stalk them.
One recent survey found that “92 percent of executives at medium to large firms think workers who turn cameras off during meetings don’t have long-term futures at the company.”
While the twenty-first century began with a belief among some of the business class that open-plan offices could generate evermore collaboration and innovation, this belief in the power of design had its skeptics. As we unknowingly crept toward the pandemic, article after article in the business press—from Forbes to Harvard Business Review—would decry how open-plan offices in fact failed to create the “spontaneous collaborations” managers had hoped for and, even more perniciously in the eyes of management, actually hurt productivity by creating more distractions for office workers. While management grew concerned with productivity, one worry for workers with open-plan offices was their function as a landscape of surveillance—with no walls or privacy to speak of, every worker could be watched every minute on the job.
The rapid adoption of remote work during the pandemic did not end the surveillance of workers. As workers were sent home, managers scrambled to find ways to track employees and ensure work discipline. For some employers, this meant something as simple as insisting workers turn on their cameras during meetings. This was not just a nuisance for some workers. It could also be a threat. One recent survey found that “92 percent of executives at medium to large firms think workers who turn cameras off during meetings don’t have long-term futures at the company.”
Other companies got even more creative. Employer spending on surveillance software more than doubled since the onset of pandemic. The intrusiveness of this software varies from tracking keystrokes and monitoring time spent on websites to video recording in workers’ homes. “Companies such as Teramind, ActivTrak, Hubstaff, and Workpuls,” Sam Blum reports, “have developed tools that log keystrokes or capture randomized screenshots of whatever workers are looking at. Reports are compiled that distill—albeit incompletely—what exactly a worker did with their day.”
The fact that working mothers are three times more likely to be a child’s primary caregiver may help explain why polls consistently show women prefer remote work more than men.
Employers have also commanded more of workers’ life through more conventional measures: through the conquest of more and more of their time. Atlantic journalist Derek Thompson reported on a recent Microsoft study that reveals that the number of online meetings doubled through the course of 2020 and continued to grow in 2021. The increase in meetings during business hours has forced remote workers to spend late evenings catching up on work that could not be accomplished during the day. While remote work undoubtedly grants more flexibility in where and when workers choose to live and work, it appears to do so at the expense of how much time they get outside of typical work hours. “According to company research,” notes Thompson, “the average workday has expanded by 12 percent—about an hour—since March 2020, and average afterhours work has increased by twice as much.”
For all these extended hours and heightened surveillance, many office workers nevertheless insist on remote or at least hybrid work arrangements. This insistence is not evenly distributed, and this unevenness is a byproduct of social hierarchies that existed long before the pandemic. First and foremost, the increasing precarity of social reproduction has made remote work essential for some office workers. With childcare providers and schools forced to occasionally close due to Covid outbreaks, parents—most often women—have been forced to abruptly put aside work and care for their (often sick) children for days and sometimes weeks at a time. The fact that working mothers are three times more likely to be a child’s primary caregiver may help explain why polls consistently show women prefer remote work more than men. Even beyond having the flexibility to attend to the unwaged reproductive labor with which they are inequitably burdened, for some women remote work has helped reduce the number of informal work gatherings and cliques that often exclude them and thereby empower their male peers.
Black workers have also demonstrated a greater preference for remote work and greater resistance to a return to the office than their white male peers. The reasons revealed by surveys are not too surprising. Seventy-eight percent of the labor force, reflecting broader demographics, is classified or self-identifies as white while only 13 percent of the workforce is Black. For many who make up the small minority of Black workers employed in overwhelmingly white office workplaces, working from home reduces the relentlessly awkward and painful politics attendant to having to face the white professional class daily.
The Labor Politics of Office Work
Whatever workers’ preferences or needs, the fact remains that a minority of all employees work from home today. There are, to be sure, a number of major employers who have adopted hybrid or permanently remote work models, but, generally, worker insistence on remote options has been met with begrudging acquiescence or outright resistance. Most notably, Tesla owner Elon Musk wrote to his employees that those who failed to work “a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week” would be fired. But it is not just firm owners and managers that demand a return to the office. Commercial real estate interests are obvious constituents who yearn for a return to offices. City governments and other downtown businesses dependent on a mass of office worker traffic also demand a return to offices in sometimes outrageous fashion, most notably by New York City Mayor Eric Adams who scolded remote workers: “You can’t tell me you’re afraid of Covid on Monday and I see you in a nightclub on Sunday.”
For many who make up the small minority of Black workers employed in overwhelmingly white office workplaces, working from home reduces the relentlessly awkward and painful politics attendant to having to face the white professional class daily. Yet for all the struggle over remote work since the pandemic, a crucial question undeniably lurks: What does all this look like in a weaker labor market? The struggle to keep employees from jumping to other firms that are willing to accommodate their needs or pay more, rather than the desperation of workers, has shaped recent labor dynamics for blue- and white-collar workers alike. With sub-four-percent unemployment, rising labor participation rates, and rising nominal wages, today’s labor market is better than anything most workers’ have seen in their lifetime. Yet there are signs of things changing for the worse. The rollback of pandemic benefits like the child tax credit and enhanced unemployment insurance, along with rising prices—especially in food, rents, and gas—has kept workers vulnerable to employers. The Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes intended to reduce inflation will only weaken workers even more (See “Who Pays for Inflation?” by Samir Sonti in this issue). Indeed, while labor markets remain historically strong, the Labor Department’s May 2022 jobs report showed filings for unemployment benefits “increased to the highest level in nearly five months,” suggesting that the Fed’s attempt to sacrifice workers at the altar of the inflation fight—despite little evidence of worker’s wages being the driver of inflation—is already having its intended effect. This might be of particular concern for office workers who have recently enjoyed remote arrangements. Tech employers have some of the highest numbers of remote workers, but recent interest rate hikes have driven down the values of even profitable tech firms. The threat of unemployment in this industry and other office and remote-heavy industries could thus begin to loom larger, weakening labor power even as firm owners themselves experience diminishing paper wealth.
But, for now, so long as the labor market remains relatively strong and workers find it relatively easy to find other jobs that accommodate their preferences, managers can dream of mass firings all they want but they will still have limited power to do so without likely suffering harmful prolonged staff vacancies. Ultimately, office workers are not and have historically not been only passive (or even complicit) professionals. Despite the office being the habitat of the infamous “professional managerial class,” the space has not been immune to worker rebellion. In the 1970s, the 9to5 movement, in collaboration with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), fought aggressively for women office workers for better pay and an end to sexual harassment and discrimination. More recently, SEIU and other unions have focused on organizing nonprofits, newsrooms, and other professional office spaces that have seen a profound casualization of work.
While the 2021 strike wave was historically weak (falling slightly below the average of annual work stoppages in this century), the recent efforts to unionize workplaces tells a different story. From October 2021 through the end of March 2022, union election petitions increased 57 percent compared to the previous year.36 And it is not just the number of union elections that has been impressive, it is also the companies in which they are taking place—most notably the vehemently anti-union employers Amazon and Starbucks (See “Teamsters Confront Amazon: An Early Assessment” by Ellen Reese and Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and “High-Octane Organizing at Starbucks” by John Logan in this issue). That workers are unionizing successfully in Starbucks shops, of course, has little direct bearing on the fate of office workers.
Nevertheless, strong labor markets of the kind we have seen recently create a political economy in which workers can leave the workplace or demand control over it with less fear of punishing poverty. This has left employers and even some liberal economists yearning for more sluggish growth and higher unemployment—not because having slack in labor markets is good for business but rather because it is seen as the practical way to tame inflation. But for millions of previously politically moderate or disinterested workers, what the pandemic has revealed is that the economy is not like the weather, that it is not an agentless abstraction that changes randomly and is outside of anyone’s real control. Dramatic interventions by way of stimulus checks, supplemental unemployment benefits, child tax credits, eviction and student loan repayment moratoriums, to say nothing of the incredible expansion of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, have shown that the state has an incredible capacity to shape the economy to empower workers even when firms remain overwhelmingly privately held. Deploying state capacity to improve the lives of millions of people, in other words, is a political choice. But it is a choice policy makers are unlikely to make unless there is a large and strong enough social bloc that is willing to demand it.
1. Susan Lund, Anu Madgavkar, James Manyika, Sven Smit, Kweilin Ellingrud, and Olivia Robinson, “The Future of Work After COVID-19,” McKinsey Global Institute, February 18, 2021, available at https://www.mckin- sey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19.
2. Adrian Wooldridge, “Workers Are Winning the Return-to-Office War Because They’re Right,” Bloomberg, April 25, 2022, available at bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-04-25/workers-are-winning-the-return-to-office-war- because-they-re-right.
3. Derek Thompson, “The Five-Day Workweek Is Dying,” The Atlantic, February 23, 2022, available at https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/ archive/2022/02/work-from-home-revolution/622880/.
4. Governor Christopher J. Waller, “Red Hot Housing Market: The Role of Policy and Implications for Housing Affordability,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, March 24, 2022, available at https:// www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/waller20220324a.htm.
5. Adrian Wooldridge, “Workers Are Winning the Return-to-Office War Because They’re Right,” Bloomberg, April 25, 2022, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-04-25/workers-are-winning-the- return-to-office-war-because-they-re-right.
6. Charlynn Burd, Michael Burrows, and Brian McKenzie, “Travel Time to Work in the United States: 2019,” U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey Reports, March 2021, p. 1, fn. 3, available at https://www.census.gov/con- tent/dam/Census/library/publications/2021/acs/acs-47.pdf.
7. Jonathan I. Dingel and Brent Neiman, “How Many Jobs Can Be Done at Home?” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 26948, April 2020, available at https://www.nber.org/papers/w26948; “News Release: Employment Situation Summary,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2022, available at https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm.
8. “Table 1. Employed Persons Who Teleworked or Worked at Home for Pay at Any Time in Last 4 Weeks Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020, available at
https://docs.google.com/ viewer?url = https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bls. gov%2Fcps%2Fcovid19%2Fcovid19-table1-2020-05.xlsx. I should note that the racial/ ethnic distribution exceeds 100 percent. As the BLS explains in a note: “Estimates for the race groups (White, Black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.”
9. Michael Dalton and Jeffrey A. Groen, “Telework during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Estimates Using the 2021 Business Response Survey,” Bureau of Labor Statistics: Monthly Labor Review, March 2022, available at https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2022/article/telework-duringthe-covid-19-pandemic.htm#:~:text=At%20the%20time%20of%20the,involving%20teleworking%20rarely%20or%20never. As with footnote 8, racial groups do not sum to totals.
10. “Table 1. Employed Persons Who Teleworked or Worked at Home for Pay at Any Time in Last 4 Weeks Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2022, available at https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/covid19-table1.xlsx.
11. “Table 2. Employed Persons Who Teleworked or Worked at Home for Pay at Any Time in the Last 4 Weeks Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic by Usual Full- or Part-Time Status, Occupation, Industry, and Class of Worker,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2022, available at https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/covid19-table2.xlsx.
12. “Table 2. Employed Persons Who Teleworked or Worked at Home for Pay at Any Time in the Last 4 Weeks Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic by Usual Full- or Part-Time Status, Occupation, Industry, and Class of Worker.”
13. “Table 2. Employed Persons Who Teleworked or Worked at Home for Pay at Any Time in the Last 4 Weeks Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic by Usual Full- or Part-Time Status, Occupation, Industry, and Class of Worker,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020, available at https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bls.gov%2Fcps%2Fcovid19%2Fcovid19-table2-2020-05.xlsx; Joseph van der Naald, “The State of the Recovery in Public Sector Jobs, Part One,” The Economic Studies Group: The CUNY Graduate Center, August 25, 2021, available at https://esg.gc.cuny.edu/2021/08/25/the-state-of-recovery-of-stateand-local-public-sector-employment-partone/#:~:text=Source%3A%20National%20Current%20Employment%20Statistics%2C%2-0US%20Bureau%20of%20Labor%20Statistics.&text=Public%2Dsector%20jobs%20currently%20compose,in%20state%20and%20local%20government.
14. Joey Marshall, Charlynn Burd, and Michael Burrows, “Those Who Switched to Telework Have Higher Income, Education and Better Health,” U.S. Census Bureau, March 31, 2021, available at https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/03/working-from-home-during-the-pandemic.html.
15. Christopher T. Stanton and Pratyush Tiwari, “Housing Consumption and the Cost of Remote Work,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 28483, February 2021,
17. available at https://www.nber.org/papers/ w28483.
16. John A. Mondragon and Johannes Wieland, “Housing Demand and Remote Work,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 30041, May 2022, available at http://www.
17. Kristian Behrens, Sergey Kichko, and Jacques-Francois Thisse, “Working from Home: Too Much of a Good Thing?” CESifo Group Munich, available at SSRN 3768910.
18. Lisa Adkins, Melinda Copper, and Martijn Konings, The Asset Economy (Medford: Polity Press, 2020), p. 5.
19. Nikil Saval, Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace (New York: Doubleday, 2014), 261-63.
20. On the lack of innovation and productivity growth since the 1970s, see Aaron Benanav, Automation and the Future of Work (New York: Verso Press, 2020); Robert J. Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017).
21. Ethan Bernstein and Ben Waber, “The Truth About Open Offices,” Harvard Business Review, November-December 2019, available at https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-truth-about-openoffices; Jia Wertz, “Open-Plan Work Spaces Lower Productivity and Employee Morale,” Forbes, June 30, 2019, available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/jiawertz/2019/06/30/open-plan-work-spaces-lower-productivityemployee-morale/?sh=1690cad661cd.
22. Erica Pandey, “Trouble for Workers Who Turn Cameras Off,” Axios, April 15, 2022, available at https://www.axios.com/trouble-for-workers-who-turn-cameras-off-zoom-8b54035b-b365-4b51-8034-8de04bca18ef.html.
23. The use of surveillance software for remote workers prior to the pandemic proved a testing ground for its more widespread use since the onset of the pandemic. For a comprehensive report on these technologies see, Wilneida Negrón, “Little Tech Is Coming for Workers: A Framework for Reclaiming and Building Worker Power,” CoWorker.org, 2021, available at https://home.coworker.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Little-Tech-Is-Coming-for-Workers.pdf.
24. Lindsay Lowe, “What Is ‘Tattleware’? How Employers May Be Tracking You at Home,” Today, February 23, 2022, available at https://www.today.com/news/news/can-companiestrack-
25. Sam Blum, “Employee Surveillance Is Exploding with Remote Work—and Could Be the New Norm,” Morning Brew, January 19, 2022, available at https://www.morningbrew.com/series/the-years-ahead/stories/2022/01/19/employee-surveillance-is-exploding-with-remote-work-and-could-be-the-new-norm; Danielle Abril and Drew Harwell, “Keystroke Tracking, Screenshots, and Facial Recognition: The Boss May Be Watching Long after the Pandemic Ends,” The Washington Post, September 24, 2021, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/09/24/remote-work-from-home-surveillance/.
26. Derek Thompson, “This Is What Happens When There Are Too Many Meetings,” The Atlantic, April 4, 2022, available at https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2022/04/
27. Rani Molla, “For women, Remote Work Is a Blessing and a Curse,” Vox, July 13, 2021, available at https://www.vox.com/recode/22568635/women-remote-work-home.
28. Molla, “For Women, Remote Work Is a Blessing and a Curse.” Erica Pandey, “The Gender Divide in Remote Work,” Axios, May 13, 2021, available at https://www.axios.com/the-gender-divide-remote-work-men-women-childcare-4fc29dba-4e1c-4e96-9cf3-64db61ba23e5.html.
29. Matthew Boyle, “Remote Work Has Vastly Improved the Black Worker Experience,” Bloomberg, October 5, 2021, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-
05/return-to-office-black-workers-are-happier-more-valued-working-from-home; Khristopher J. Brooks, “Why Many Black Employees Don’t Want to Return to the Office,” CBS News, October 26, 2021, available at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/black-workers-return-to-office-future-forum-workplace/.
30. Angelica Puzio, “Who Wants to Return to the Office?” FiveThirtyEight, August 11, 2021, available at https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-post-pandemic-offices-could-be-whiter-
and-more-male/; Veronica Combs, “Slack Survey Finds 97% of Black Knowledge Workers Want the Future of the Office to Be Remote or Hybrid,” TechRepublic, March 11, 2021, available at https://www.techrepublic. com/article/slack-survey-finds-97-of-black-knowledge-workers-want-the-future-of-the-office-to-be-remote-or-hybrid/.
31. Katrina Nicholas and Dana Hull, “Elon Musk Tells Tesla Workers to Return to the Office or Lose Their Jobs,” Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2022, available at https://www.latimes.com/
32. Bernadette Hogan and Bruce Golding, “Mayor Eric Adams calls Out NYC Workers to Return to Offices,” New York Post, February 17, 2022, available at https://nypost.com/2022/02/17/eric-adams-calls-out-nyc-workers-to-return-to-offices/.
33. Lucia Mutikani, “U.S. Weekly Jobless Near Five-Month High; Labor Market still Very Tight,” Reuters, June 9, 2022, available at https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/us-weekly-jobless-claims-rise-more-than-expected-2022-06-09/.
34. Julie Bykowicz reports that “Remote jobs in tech jumped by more than 420% between January 2020 and last month [April 2022], growth that was intensified by the pandemic, according to a jobs data review by Tecna, a trade group for regional tech councils.” See Julie Bykowicz, “Tech Industry Warns That More Remote-Work Jobs Are Headed Out of U.S.” The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2022, available at https:// www.wsj.com/articles/tech-industry-warns-that-more-remote-work-jobs-are-headed-out-of-u-s-11652175000; On recent tech sector valuations, see Jordan Novet, “Tech GiantsLost More Than $1 Trillion in Value in the Last Three Trading Days,” CNBC, May 9, 2022, available at https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/09/tech-giants-lost-over-1-trillion-in-value-in-last-three-trading-days.html.
35. On work stoppages, see: “Economic News Release: Work Stoppages Summar,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 23, 2022, available at https://www.bls.gov/news.release/wkstp.nr0.htm.
36. Office of Public Affairs, “Union Election Petitions Increase 57% in First Half of Fiscal Year 2022,” National Labor Relations Board, April 6, 2022, available at https://www.nlrb.gov/newsoutreach/news-story/union-election-petitions-increase-57-in-first-half-of-fiscal-year-2022.37. The classic analysis of this dynamic, of course, comes from Michael Kalecki, “Political Aspects of Full Employment,” Political Quarterly 14 (1943): 322-30.
Joel Suarez is an assistant professor at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and is writing a book on work and freedom in U.S. history.