Pushkin Industries cofounder and President Malcom Gladwell made headlines in his book “Outliers: The story of Success” by concluding the key to achieving true expertise in any skill is simply a matter of practicing for at least 10,000 hours. But a corollary may now be get back into the office two years after the pandemic sent many into a work-from-home lifestyle.
“As we face the battle that all organizations are facing now in getting people back into the office, it’s really hard to explain this core psychological truth, which is, we want you to have a feeling of belonging and to feel necessary,” said Gladwell. “And we want you to join our team. And if you’re not here it’s really hard to do that.”
In comments made during an interview on the Diary of A CEO podcast, Gladwell said he believes it not only serves the company’s best interests, but also the employee’s.
“It’s not in your best interest to work at home,” he said. “I know it’s a hassle to come into the office, but if you are just sitting in your pajamas in your bedroom, is that the work life you want to live? Don’t you want to feel part of something?”
Gladwell said like all companies, Pushkin Industries has employee turnover. But he has concluded that the people who leave tend to be the employees who are the most “socially disconnected” from the organization or were based in another city. “It’s very hard to feel necessary when you are physically disconnected,” he said.
Requiring employees to return to the workplace is something Gladwell believes more executives need to do.
“I’m really getting very frustrated with the inability of people in positions of leadership to explain this effectively to their employees,” he said. “If we don’t feel like we’re part of something, then what’s the point? If it’s just a paycheck, then what have you reduced your life to?”
Gladwell said the point was driven home during recent meetings in Los Angeles and the business he was meeting with had a shiny new building but an empty parking lot and rows of empty desks. They say it’s because of COVID, but it’s not COVID. Everyone has just decided they want to work from home. “This is a business that is in the business of forging an emotional connection through storytelling to an audience, and they cannot even form an emotional connection with their own employees,” he said.
Gladwell said if there is an economic recession it “might be easier” to get employees to return to the office out of worry of losing their jobs. “It’s sad that it’s going to take a lot of pain,” he said.
In addition to running a podcast company and hosting the popular Revisionist History podcast, Gladwell is also an author – he has written six bestsellers – and a public speaker. Gladwell has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1996 and he servers on the board of the RAND Corporation.
Gladwell said he “probably” spends more time working than many of his counterparts, and takes less vacation. But he dismissed the idea that makes him “less happy.”
Last month Revisionist History began releasing episodes for its seventh season. In this season Gladwell will focus on various experiments -- natural experiments, thought experiments, failed experiments, experiments that end up in salt factories and file drawers filled with carbon copies, and experimental endings to Hollywood classics and a deep dive involving the sitcom “Will & Grace.”