Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

The true dread of going back to the office, hilariously realized

What will it feel like when your bosses encourage you -- no, force you -- to go back to the office? Watch and wonder.

Worried Businessman Got Virus and Data Loss on Laptop Computer

Why am I here, when I could be at home?

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tech companies are worried.

What if their employees continue to adore the working-from-home thing and consider the office entirely redundant?

Every time that Apple, Microsoft and Google call their people home, a Covid variant appears. And then the callback is postponed.

But the longer working from home is made the norm, the more, perhaps, many will come to see the benefits.

The horror of commuting is just one facet of a lifestyle so many have left behind.

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Whoever really enjoyed sitting on a Google bus with fifty of their co-workers, as they ignore each other and desperately try to put in another hour of work? In the assumption that everyone on the bus is doing the same.

Yes, there are drawbacks -- the kids being at home, for example. However, even that is slowly receding as kids go back to school.

On the other hand, how lovely to have a happier pet, one that constantly rubs up against you, while you try to focus on a strategy meeting that is, as usual, devoid of thought.

Tech companies may not yet realize how hard it'll be to get their people back.

And, with impeccable timing -- in all senses -- a Belgian sketch show called De Ideale Wereld thought it would present bosses with a brilliant expression of the challenge before them. 

Here we have besuited workers returning to the office and being taken there by their little kids.

In a beautiful reverse, it's the kids who are being adults about it, while their parents are behaving like little children.

"Come on, you'll see your friends again," says Frank's little daughter.

Dad is unimpressed. Head bowed and shaking, he realizes now that his co-workers aren't his friends.

They're his rivals, his enemies. They're people who try to talk over him on Zoom calls. And now he must look them in the face and play nice with them in real life? Again?

His manager greets him and tells him she's just as nervous as he is. However, she adds: "But we're going to have fun today. We're going to draw spreadsheets, have meetings about quarterly results."

Frank has likely been involved in this sort of activity remotely. But he's had the luxury of learning how to place his phone just above his laptop screen and watch other things or text his friends while the quarterly results meeting is going on.

This is all played for laughs, of course. But the stern reality is that some employees are already quitting at the first sign of being summoned back to the mothership. A new study suggests 1 in 6 employees quit if ordered back to the office.

There is genuine and justified conjecture as to whether the office will play a markedly different role in the future from the one it's traditionally known.

As Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and friends develop more sophisticated tools for making remote work more enjoyable -- I'm sorry, I mean palatable -- the attraction of the office will dim.

Companies should never underestimate the joys of being able to spend your whole working day in your underpants.