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  • Adrien Book

AI is Killing Remote Work

In 2020 and 2021, many a breathless think-piece was written about the Future of Work. The Old World was never coming back, and we all had to adapt to the reality forced upon use by COVID, or be left behind.

Visions tended to vary, but most agreed: Work from Home was here to stay. How could we ever go back to cubicles after a once-in-a-century plague forced us to take stock of work-life-balance’s importance?

Oh how we were wrong. Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Disney, Dell… so many companies have asked employees to come back to the office over the past months that it may be easier to name the ones that haven’t done so (Airbnb? Coinbase?).

Employees have fought back, but the fight is not long for this world. They will all come back of their own volition. And the rise of General Artificial Intelligence is at fault.

As we witness AI becoming proficient in the ways of mundane corporate work (making presentations, helping clients, generating financial reports…), we get more anxious about our replace-ability. We ask ourselves “What can I do that can’t be automated?” “How can I make sure I come out on top of this technological revolution?

Sure, we crack jokes with our colleagues about the mistakes ChatGPT makes. We write sarcastic little Tweets saying “our jobs are safe, fam”. But we’re all asking these same questions. We’re scared.

The smartest among us will have realized that the talents still unique to humanity are interpersonal and best exercised in-person. Collaboration. Leadership. Creativity. Brainstorming. All matters of soft skills. In fact, work that can’t be automated is the personality you bring to the office. No amount of technology seems to be able to replace this… because it can only happen organically.

And so, as white collar jobs get increasingly automated, workers will willingly go back to the office, where they can show that they’re more than three ChatGPTs in a trench-coat. And those people will be the one to survive and get promoted; show me work you can produce alone at home and I will show you work that can be off-shored and/or automated.

Remote work was a zero interest-rate phenomena. That world is dead.

That’s not to say this is a positive. Work-from-home allowed a flexibility that many benefited from. The ability to be at the office from 8 to 8 is, after all a privilege — in a twisted, capitalist way. But the world is changing, and togetherness is where the value is now.

As we experience the five stages of grief for a world some of us feel we no longer have a place in, there is still time to improve the corporate hellscape we are all going back to for fear of being left behind.

Instead of thriving for work-life balance, we can use AI and automation to make the “Work-Life Integration” concept come to life. Technological innovation can make some work happen anywhere, at any time, while other tasks can only be completed through in-person-collaboration.

Allowing employees to desperately organize both types of work around their daily lives will be key to employee retention. That sounds a lot like “hybrid work”… but that concept does not go far enough. If teams want to meet at a restaurant or in a park at 9pm (after spending quality family time) to brainstorm, let them!

Which leads us to the concept of physical work spaces. They need to be re-imagined. The cubicle is dead. Office towers are next. 15-minute cities have already been prophesied… and need to include 15-minute offices : spaces near the home where quality organic work can happen for a short while. And I don’t mean WeWorks. Those should remain buried.

Artificial Intelligence in the office

Remote work is dead. It doesn’t mean the Old World is not equally so. We can evolve. We can do better.

Good luck out there.


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