Why Bosses Don’t Realize How Awful It Is To Work in an Office

Offices are great for managers and awful for everyone else

Karla Starr
4 min readJun 22, 2022


You may have noticed something about all of the articles and propaganda discussing the “return to the office.” Guess who wants to return? The managers. According to a recent survey, three out of four executives want to return to the office—compared to only 1 in 3 workers. Managers are desperate to have workers return to the office, citing all kinds of reasons like “company culture,” “innovation,” and “team building.”

Free lunches, great coffee, and cozy chairs won’t fix what’s wrong with the experience of working in an office. First, as The Economist noted:

That points to another problem: many surveillance products aimed at boosting productivity are not well tested. Some risk being counterproductive. Research has associated monitoring with declines in trust and higher levels of stress, neither of which is obviously conducive to high performance. In one study of call centres, which were early adopters of surveillance tech, intensive monitoring of performance contributed to higher levels of strain, emotional exhaustion, depression and employee turnover. In a separate survey of 2,000 remote and hybrid workers in America by ExpressVPN, a virtual private network, over a third faced pressure to appear more productive or to work longer hours as a result of being monitored; a fifth felt dehumanised as a result.

It’s a pretty familiar list of symptoms to anyone who’s been in a highly regimented working environment:

  • Increased stress
  • Decreased trust
  • Strain
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Turnover
  • Feelings of dehumanization

A lot of times, we don’t realize how much something is affecting us until we make a big change, and the pandemic has made people realize how stressful is it to be micromanaged, monitored, and controlled—how much it can suck to work in an office.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Being controlled and watched hurts performance



Karla Starr

Speaker & author x2, inc. Making Numbers Count (w/ Chip Heath). Behavioral science, cultural history, numbers.

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