Posted on March 30, 2022

No One Wants to Go Back to the Office as Much as White Men

Reshma Saujani, Time, March 29, 2022

Nobody wants to get back to the office quite like white dudes. White dudes in finance, white dudes in media, even white dudes in politics who famously work from home—at some point over the past two years, they’ve all decried remote work and urged us to step back into the fluorescents.

Let me just say this to get ahead of the inevitable trolls: No, #NotAllWhiteDudes are pushing this return. In fact, just over 30% of white men want to get back to the office full time, making them a minority, and an extremely vocal one at that.

And yes, this merry band isn’t all white or all dudes. New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Washingtonian Media chief executive Cathy Merrill have both waded into the discourse (with the latter’s Washington Post op-ed on the subject prompting a brief strike from her employees and a public apology). But the same study that found that about a third of white men wanted to go back full time also found that only around 22% of women (Black and white) and only about 16% of Black men wanted the same.

Anecdotally, my girlfriends and the mothers I’ve met through Marshall Plan for Moms, the movement we built to support moms through the pandemic, aren’t exactly itching to go back to their cubicles either. For most of us, and especially working moms, remote work has brought a level of flexibility and self-determination to our lives that we can’t afford to give up.

Our employers can’t afford to give it up either—in addition to allowing us moms to balance care work and professional work more efficiently, remote work sparks creativity and even raises profits. And despite our bosses touting the benefits of building better “company culture” in-person, studies show flexible working arrangements can increase our sense of belonging—particularly among Black workers.


The office—in the traditional, Mad Men sense–was designed to be the workplace of breadwinners: a place where men pulled in the money while their wives stayed home doing all the work to maintain their home and family (for free, obviously). It was the American postwar iteration of separate spheres ideology, the era’s way of giving men comfortable distance from their needy, messy, somehow-always-sticky kids. And like sweet potato puree on a working mom’s blazer, it’s stuck around.


{snip} The standard of “professionalism” is based on white male sociality, hence the “boys’ club” mentality that allows many white guys to climb the professional ladder just by hanging out and being themselves. {snip}


Eventually, I learned that the only way to avoid being summoned during my precious hours of “me time” was to simply not be home.

And I began to understand the masculine urge to go to the office.

But not the office as we know it. That office is built for the logistical, social, even physical comforts of a far more homogenous workforce than the one we have today. That’s why we need to start thinking about how we can build a new one.


It would address its biases: assuring that performance evaluations account for output over face time, not passing over remote workers for promotions they deserve; encouraging people of all genders to take parental leave and not punishing those who do; and rooting out the myriad forms of discrimination that keep employees from achieving their highest potential.


In the coming weeks and months, many white men will continue telling us we should all just go back to how things were before the pandemic. But it’s our job to make sure that if we do “go back,” full-time or otherwise, we go back to offices we actually want to be in—just as much as these guys want to be at Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price.