Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen have tips for working from home : It's Been a Minute Has working from home during the pandemic been frustrating for you? You're not alone. Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen's new book Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working from Home tackles how remote work can improve, no matter what industry you're in. They talk to Sam about how companies can create sustainable and flexible work environments, the history of workplace culture in the U.S., and how employees can maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Working from home doesn't have to suck. Here's how 'Out Of Office' can be better

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Hey, y'all, you're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. And because we're talking about work today on the show, let me share with you a little fun fact right now. I'm recording this intro to this episode from underneath a bedspread in a closet in an Airbnb in San Antonio, Texas. And the chat you're going to hear next - I taped that in a sublet in LA.

As you probably already knew, the whole team at IT'S BEEN A MINUTE - we have all been working remotely since March 2020. And, you know, what I've realized is that I like it a lot. I can work in any state I choose. I can take a lot of my calls while walking the dog. I've come to accept that I do my best writing and research right around 7 or 8 p.m. most days, and that's totally fine now. And my commute - I mean, it no longer exists. My two guests this episode know this life very well, and they've written a book all about it.

What's y'all's current work-from-home setup?

CHARLIE WARZEL: The house that we live in has this, like, very strange little, like, quarter attic.

SANDERS: That is Charlie Warzel. He is a contributing editor at The Atlantic.

WARZEL: You need a ladder to get up there. But it was fashioned by the former residents into this, like, little office. So I love the fact that I don't feel like I have to be tethered to one specific place, but also this idea that, like, I have no, you know - sorry, my - our dogs are fighting in the background.

SANDERS: I hear it. That's not good. That's not good.

ANNE HELEN PETERSEN: Hold on. I'll take care of it.

SANDERS: And that's writer and author Anne Helen Petersen. She has been on this show a lot, talking about everything from celebrity culture to burnout.

PETERSEN: Charlie's up in the ladder so he can't come down.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

Charlie and Anne - they are co-authors and partners working from home in the same house, and they've had this setup since before the pandemic. The book they wrote together, at home - it's called "Out Of Office: The Big Problem And Bigger Promise Of Working From Home." Charlie and Anne tell me about how we came to think about work the way we do and how the pandemic might change a lot of that for good.

PETERSEN: So one thing that we start the book with and is kind of a mantra throughout the book is whatever you were doing for, like, the last 18 months during the pandemic - whether it was, like, those dark days of winter last year or even in the last few months - that's not what working from home has to be moving forward. You know, we were - whatever you were doing, it was not working from home. It was working from home during a pandemic. And so a lot of the things that are so great about flexibility - whether it's working with friends or working at a coffee shop, like, being able to have full-time childcare - like all of the things that really make full-time flexible work possible...


PETERSEN: ...Those things weren't necessarily open to everyone.

SANDERS: No, it's so true. And, I mean, like, I've just been thinking a lot about - especially reading the - y'all's book the last few days - what I would call this period that I've been in the last almost two years. You know, I don't go into the office anymore, and I have not. But the way that I've been working hasn't been a traditional work-from-home setup. I've actually been without a permanent address because I put my stuff into storage in the midst of the pandemic, and I've kind of been a nomad for a while. And it's like, how do you - how do we - how should all of us think about what the last two years of pandemic work was? Because it really can't be categorized. It was so out there, right?

WARZEL: I think that's so important to kind of silo this off, right? And, I mean, this is almost like a control group for everything, right? And I think it's a good way to look at it like an experiment because you can take the parts of it that work, the actual true nuggets of flexibility - right? - but you can also take the things that are sort of now vestigial elements, right? Like, not everything has to be a Zoom, or if it's a Zoom, you don't have to have the camera on for everything. It's...

SANDERS: Come on, yeah.

WARZEL: ...About evolving.


PETERSEN: I mean - and I have a question, Sam. Through this sort of nomad lifestyle - because I know some of it's with family and some with friends - like, do you feel like you are actually closer with your - with those people in your life because of your ability to actually be at their kitchen table?

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. I'm closer to family and friends who have blessed me with space to work or been around them to work the last year-plus. But I'm also just, like, more in touch with myself, you know?


SANDERS: Like, I've realized now that, like, I do my best with meetings and interviews in mid- to late morning and early afternoon, and I do my best interview prep and research and reading and writing at night, like after 6 p.m. And so what I've gotten in the habit of doing, even with y'all's book, I read the books at night. I write at night. And I used to feel guilty for doing that, but now I'm like, that's my workflow and I like it. And I've just kind of become more attuned to my body's and my mind's rhythms. And I would have never had that freedom in the office, and I would have felt guilty for literally just trusting my body.

PETERSEN: Yeah. I mean, 9 to 5 is such an arbitrary time, right?


PETERSEN: It, like, privileges - it privileges a real style of work that not everyone shares.


PETERSEN: And, like, I - there's something about Friday afternoons or even just Fridays in general - I, like - I do not want to be working. Like, it feels like a day of prep, of getting excited for things, of, like, doing something different - right? - whether that's outside, with friends, whatever. But then I really like working on Sunday mornings.


PETERSEN: And so you can kind of flip those things around and figure out, OK, what feels good to me? What doesn't feel good? That's what truly flexible styles of work really looks like.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let's get into the book. I don't want to give it all away because folks got to buy it and read it, but there are four big sections in here - flexibility, culture, technologies out of the office and community.

Can we start with culture, because you've already kind of alluded to it? And reading that chapter was kind of a big reset for me. Something that y'all wrote in the chapter that totally just hit me like a brick in the face - and I was like, oh, yeah, that's it - this idea that all offices, they don't just have a culture; they have a monoculture. You kind of alluded to that, but talk more about it. What do you mean?

WARZEL: So, you know, the monoculture is - it's this sort of unstated way that you need to carry yourself. And it really is - it's stifling for a lot of people. It's set by industry norms and things like that, but it's also set by the norms of executives and the founders. And that can date all the way back, you know, decades or hundreds of years in some cases.

And there is a certain type of person who excels in the monoculture. And I think that, you know - I notice this just using, like, a personal anecdote. Like, I didn't realize until I started working from home just how much I benefited from the monoculture, just being a straight white guy, right? You know, when I was at BuzzFeed, I was somebody who was relatively early to the company, which gave me another form of that privilege. And so I loved the office because I could walk around feeling super comfortable in every single scenario - workplace dynamic. I was, you know, just naturally near the sort of top of the food chain. But it felt to me like that was culture that everyone had, and obviously, that's not the case.

So I think the pandemic has kind of exposed that for what it really is to a lot more people. And I think it's also why you see people pushing back on that now because it's - the subtext has been turned into text.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

PETERSEN: Yeah. I think that the monoculture also manifests in these ways that, like, people don't necessarily understand as, like, part of culture. And so some of that is, like, we go to drinks on Thursdays after work, right? And think about that in terms of, like, a bonding experience and who that excludes. It excludes people who don't drink or don't like to drink or feel uncomfortable in drinking scenarios.

SANDERS: People with kids, yeah.

PETERSEN: And it excludes people who have to pick up kids after school, right? Either it's people who don't have kids or people who can pay other people to take care of their kids or...


PETERSEN: ...Cannot be the dominant caregiver in their family. And it also includes elder care. I'm trying to include that so much more when I talk about these things because it really is invisibilized in a lot of ways.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah, yeah. And then it's like - I think about - I've been at NPR now 12 years, and I can perform the culture of NPR...


SANDERS: ...(Snapping) like that. I know how to do it. And some of the things - they're, like, funny, but other parts are kind of pervasive and not good. Like, I think that, like, for years, when I first got to NPR, I had to convince myself that I liked bluegrass.


SANDERS: I don't like bluegrass, you know? And I'm over that, and that's less a part of the company culture, thank God, right? But, like, there is definitely this culture and this performance of culture.

And what I realized over the last few years was one of the more insidious parts of NPR culture is, like, this performance of niceness. Like, everybody at NPR is nice. We're a newsroom where people don't yell. There's usually never a lot of confrontation. And that initially feels good. But sometimes what you end up with is no one saying what needs to be said, inequities being unaddressed because you want to be nice, and the real stuff happening in really passive-aggressive ways. And so I'm saying to myself, as someone who kind of has some power in the company now, how do I push back against that? Like, how do I push back against this part of the culture that we think is nice but is actually stifling?

WARZEL: You see it a lot in tech actually where the - it's the other way around - right? - where it's like a radical candor culture, where it's like, you say whatever - you're supposed to say whatever you want.


WARZEL: And actually, in truth...


WARZEL: ...Only, like, 15 people in the company can say whatever they want, and the rest of the people are fearful to step up and say that. But then - because that sort of radical candor culture, like, gives executives a shield to hide behind, right? And so it's like, well, why didn't you step up? Why didn't you say it? And I think what we noticed is, like, a culture is toxic or dysfunctional when the corporate stated culture does not match the lived experience of the employees in the company.


SANDERS: When we come back, how working all the time became the norm.


SANDERS: When discussing what happens to work monoculture, should we begin to dismantle it - on the other end of the spectrum, especially working from home, if you don't see your colleagues and you don't see your manager and your communication with them is a bunch of typed words and, like, video boxes, you could end up in a situation where the work is just work and you feel like there's no culture. And you have to have some sort of culture at work, some sort of community for folks to actually want to work with their colleagues. How do you know how much is enough? Like, a little bit right? Like, a little bit of monoculture?

PETERSEN: Well, so it's - this is so complicated - right? - because there are plenty of people who don't have any weird fetishization of, like, your work should be something that you love to do. The idea of loving what you do is - pretty recent phenomenon. Like, lots of people work because it is work, and they clock in and clock out, and that is your day. And, like, this is also, I think, an increasingly common attitude amongst millennials who burned out on their, like, nonprofit, do-something-that-I-love job because - where the culture was, like, we're a family here. And they're like, this is a really toxic family where you exploit me. And so they've kind of gravitated to the other end where it is the - this bloodless relationship to the job that you do. And I think both ends of that spectrum, like you said, are not ideal.

So I do think there are ways to cultivate friendliness (laughter) and care - right? - like, liking your fellow workers and, like, not being heartless towards them - without creating these expectations of performative friendship and - that are oftentimes offloaded especially onto women. Like, women do a lot of the emotional labor of making a good work culture, whether that's, like, facilitating a birthday party or, like, doing the heavy lifting of different interest groups at workplaces, which is labor that's oftentimes unpaid. This is also true of any sort of diversity group at a workplace, whether it's people of color or people with disabilities - like, that work is not paid work.

And the big thing that you can keep in mind is, like, if I can actually reorient my relationship to work in whatever way - whether it's something like what you've been able to do or even just figuring out how to have more time for people and ideas and causes in my life - then I'm not going to rely as wholeheartedly on the workplace as my primary source of friendship and care.

SANDERS: Exactly, exactly. And, I don't know, it's like, hearing y'all talk - it's like, all right, what is the proper kind of relationship to have to your job and to your colleagues? You don't want a pervasive, invasive monoculture...


SANDERS: ...But you don't want to be entirely detached from your colleagues. And I kind of feel like what you want is the relationship you have with folks - staff and regulars - at your local favorite neighborhood coffee shop or bar or restaurant.

PETERSEN: Yes, totally.

SANDERS: You know them. You say hi to them. They give you some updates about your life, but you can't be too prying with them, you know?


SANDERS: You can't get too personal with them. And there are certain boundaries and guardrails. Like, even if I love my favorite coffee shop, you know, I'm not going to get too involved, like, behind the counter. That's not my job, right?


SANDERS: And it's like, I feel like what we're asking for is that kind of level of relationship and boundary with our jobs - familiar, but not all-encompassing.

WARZEL: And just acknowledging that it's transactional, right? Like, you're...

SANDERS: There you go. I came for coffee.

PETERSEN: (Laughter).

SANDERS: I came for Wi-Fi. You know, I don't love you.

WARZEL: Goods and services are being exchanged here. Like, we can all say that...

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

WARZEL: ...And not be bad people about it. I think that's so key, and it's why that whole we're family thing - it's really, really toxic.

SANDERS: Yeah. It seems like letting go of this monoculture at work could be liberating for lots of employees. But I also assume it must be maddening for managers who probably think that that work monoculture was an esprit de corps, right?

PETERSEN: (Laughter).

SANDERS: All of a sudden, they're having to scramble to keep some semblance of community amongst their ranks. How - or what's the, I guess, top tip for managers managing remotely, having to navigate a loosening of a work monoculture? Does it scare them?

WARZEL: It definitely scares them, and I think actually for good reason. Like, I think we should - if we're really committed to trying to make work better for everyone, there should be, like, some sympathy towards managers because a thing that's really difficult - right? - is if your job is less quantifiable, right?

You know, a lot of the work of managing is, you know, dealing with people's expectations, emotions, setting them, responding to them, giving them the tools they need to succeed, et cetera. And often that work can be invisible if it's not done in an office, right? A manager gets to perform in an office, especially a bad manager, right? They get to walk around, tap people on the shoulder, not actually solve the problems, but look like they're doing that. And this changes, like, how managers are supposed to do their jobs. And so, like, I understand why that's scary. But the thing that works the best is if - managers need to kind of humble themselves. They need to be vulnerable.

SANDERS: Say it again louder. Oh, my goodness.

PETERSEN: (Laughter).

WARZEL: They need to perform vulnerability as a main part of their job. That is what fosters trust, right? If you say as a manager, I am struggling, I need to take time off, if you talk about your pain points, the things in your life that are going wrong, it gives your employees permission to do the same thing.


WARZEL: And that is how you establish trust. And that is what's going to be crucial if we want to make any sort of distributed flexible work situation go swimmingly.

SANDERS: Yeah. Y'all talk a lot about the history of the way that we as Americans began to conceive, like, the ideal worker, the way that we think we're supposed to function when we're happy with our jobs. And you kind of point out that, like, it's wrong. Y'all go to great lengths to talk about the idea of the company man and how that changed over time and kind of gave rise to, quote-unquote, "hustle culture." Both things can - both ideas, rather, can be exploitative, this idea of the company man, this idea of hustle culture. Can you briefly define both of those for us? And start with company man and where it came from, and then we'll talk about why we should probably push back against those ideals.

WARZEL: Yeah. So the company man - the sort of the seminal book on that topic is "The Organization Man" by William Whyte, which - I think it was written in the '50s.

SANDERS: That sounds right - postwar boom, I get that. Yeah. Cool.


WARZEL: But it talks about exactly that, that sort of postwar - like, all the precarity and sort of trauma of, you know, surviving the Depression. There was this idea that, you know, like, the company was, like, come on into the warm embrace of the company, right? Like, the company is going to take care of you. The company is going to - like, if you give them everything that, you know, you've got - if you give them the best of your creativity, if you give them, you know, the bulk of your time every day - they're going to provide, and you're going to have all that stability and that safety net. And it was so pervasive that, like, the suburbs were legitimately created as an extension of a lot of companies, right? Like, you go into this area. And families became sort of, like, tools...

SANDERS: Tools of the company.

WARZEL: ...As extensions of the company. Yeah, exactly.

SANDERS: And, like, the kids would go to soccer practice in soccer leagues where their jersey T-shirts had the name of the company on the back 'cause they sponsored them.

WARZEL: Exactly. I mean, like, I need to choose a, quote-unquote, "good wife" - right? - who's going to entertain real well and look good for the company...

SANDERS: Exactly.

WARZEL: ...When I bring my manager over. Like, and it was so pervasive because parts of it actually worked, right?

SANDERS: They gave you more benefits back then.

WARZEL: There was this...

SANDERS: There was a pension.

PETERSEN: Yeah, they had pensions.

WARZEL: Exactly.

PETERSEN: Right? There was a pension.


WARZEL: There was this safety net.


WARZEL: And so essentially what happens is the organization man persists for a long time until, you know, the '70s and until sort of, like, the economic turmoil when companies are like, oh, we got to cut the fat.


WARZEL: And then that whole promise is just - like, the bottom falls out of it, and the precarity is back, and these people who organized their whole lives around their companies were out in the cold. And legitimately, it was like a death in the family or like the death of everyone in their family. They did not know what to do. That's that, you know, kind of core, and I think we're all still kind of in that reactionary period.

SANDERS: You know, and then we end up with this version of, like, hustle culture where, like, you know you can't depend on the company so you got to have three or four hustles yourself, or you hustle to make your own startup. And then those startup dudes, those tech bros - they end up giving you the same lack of a safety net the corporations give you, just with, like, a pingpong table in the office.

PETERSEN: (Laughter) Stock options - you forgot about stock options...

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah (laughter).

PETERSEN: ...That never come to pass.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

PETERSEN: For sure.

SANDERS: Why is it then that America keeps glomming on to this idea in whatever form we call it?

PETERSEN: I mean, it's a perversion of the American work ethic, and I think that it's perpetuated - and this kind of keys into some of the earlier work that I've done on burnout - but, like, when you have people who are in a precarious situation, like, and you offer them a route that seems somewhat secure, they try to take it, right? And, like, the route for people who endured the precarity of the recession and the post-recession world, and that was their real introduction into the workplace - this is the norm, right? Like, working all the time is the norm, and it is incredibly difficult to unlearn some of those understandings of what work should look like, what you should be able to ask for, what unions can do. The gradual - how do I - what's the right word for this? - that...

WARZEL: Destruction of solidarity?

PETERSEN: The destruction of solidarity and the undercutting of labor protections and the refusal on the part of Congress to adapt labor protections to fit the way that we work now - like, there are a lot of ways that the gig economy could be really useful for people who want to actually and legitimately work part time, people who are disabled, people who don't want to work in the same industry forever. But they only work if we have safety nets in other places. Like, they only work if we have national health care, right? And the way that we're doing it now is just the worst of all worlds.


SANDERS: Coming up - how to push back against the culture of the company man.


SANDERS: So then if hustle culture, if company man culture is not good for labor, how can employees best use this remote work moment, this pandemic moment, this disruption-of-work moment to really fight back against it? I mean, there are small ways that I just kind of do it. Like, I've gotten to the point now where everyone that works with me knows that I don't have notifications turned on for anything work-related. I don't. Like, I don't get a ping for Slack. I don't get a ping for Outlook emails. I have my phone with me. I check it. But, like, it's going to be on my time, not the company's time. But, like, are there small things or big things that employees should be doing now to fight that company man culture, especially in this moment of disruption?

PETERSEN: Well, the first thing is that they can quit, right?

SANDERS: Come on, yeah.

PETERSEN: And I think that that is something that people have been doing, right? Like, whether you call it the "Great Resignation" or you call it a general strike, a general unannounced strike - is people have been pushing back against labor conditions that are not acceptable to them. And I think that that requires a modicum of financial security in some ways. But some people are like, no, I'm - you know, I don't have a ton of financial security, but also this is the rest of my life. You know, that's part of the paradigm shift...


PETERSEN: ...That I think, as a company, the...


PETERSEN: ...Pandemic is just, like, a clarity of thought in that capacity.

SANDERS: Totally.

PETERSEN: And then the second way that I think people are trying to protect themselves is actually by thinking about these protections less in terms of what the individual can do and more in terms of what the company can do. And so the idea that we have in the book is that - to stop calling these protections boundaries because boundaries have been broken over and over again. And when they fail, it is always the individual's fault for allowing them to. And the replacement word - this might be kind of hokey; I like it though - is guardrails.

SANDERS: OK, explain.

PETERSEN: And guardrails - this is kind of a Western thing. But, you know, on a mountain pass, you have these guardrails. They are maintained by a large organization - in this case, the state - and they are there to protect you from massive semis, like, to protect you from...


PETERSEN: ...Going off of the freeway, tumbling down the mountain.


PETERSEN: Like, they are there for everyone's protection, and they are maintained not by the individual - like, if I'm going down a mountain pass, I don't pull over and, like...


PETERSEN: ...Put up the boundary, right? And the responsibility for maintaining them comes from our tax dollars, right? So they come from everyone's input and participation in the organization. So...

SANDERS: I like that.

PETERSEN: ...Like, that's something that we think about in terms of organizational guardrails. Like, if you say it is not acceptable - it is not part of our company culture, to send emails after 8 p.m.

SANDERS: There you go. Just don't do it.

PETERSEN: People - if they work - you know, if they're, like, the type of person who loves to send emails at 9 p.m., like, that's their happy email spot, you can still write that email at 9 p.m. But you can also schedule send it so it arrives in people's inboxes at 8 a.m.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

PETERSEN: And the other thing, too, is, like, that, again, in terms of it not just being on the person, the individual, to maintain, is that if someone breaks that rule - right? - that doesn't become a low-key way to show that they are, like, working harder than everyone else. Like, it becomes a topic for a conversation between you and your manager. It is something that is not cool. But that takes a lot of work - right? - because we are so used to signaling our willingness to work all the time by working all the time.

SANDERS: Yeah. Or performing the idea of work all the time.

PETERSEN: Yeah, yeah. Like, and this is where managers, again, become so important, is they have to model that guardrail behavior. You can't be like, it's really important that you take some real PTO, and then the way that they model taking PTO is by being accessible the entire time.

SANDERS: Totally. You know, we have been talking a lot about how we can all use this moment to just make jobs better for us. But a lot of this book and its ideas and our conversation and the three of us are white-collar employees, and this conversation for some people might feel like it's for white-collar employees. But early in the book, you argue that getting remote work right for those kinds of employees - for us, for white-collar employees - and changing our relationship to work, y'all say it will also help workers whose jobs will never allow them to work from home, whose jobs are further down the line. How?

WARZEL: So I think it's worth being clear that, you know, the book is about knowledge work...

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah.

WARZEL: ...To some degree and, like - and there are going to be boundaries to this, right?


WARZEL: Or there are going to be places where this just stops. Like, if you work in a restaurant as a chef...

SANDERS: You can't flip a burger from home. You can't do it.

WARZEL: ...Like, it's just - it's not happening. Like - yeah.


WARZEL: And I think it's important to acknowledge that, that it is, you know, not equal in troubling ways. But the place where I think there is that overlap and extension that we've written about is in this sense of community and this idea of, if you do decenter work from your life, if you do manage to focus your efforts on other things other than this all-consuming job, you have this opportunity to turn your time, your energy, your commitments, you know, your devotions towards your family, towards your friends, towards your community. And that may sound almost, like, a little hokey, but I think it's actually really profound, and I think there are profound examples. You know, we used in the book this experiment that's going on in Tulsa, Okla., where they are paying knowledge workers $10,000 stipends to move to Tulsa. And, you know, these are privileged knowledge workers. A lot of them are in, you know, maybe the tech sector or something like that. They have, you know, incomes that are probably above, you know, the average income in Tulsa.

But they've created alongside this program this sort of on-ramp for people to come into the community, right? And what you see is people immediately start getting involved in volunteer work, in mentoring. You know, they build new things, or they find that, you know, their hobby is actually - is something that can be put to good use in the community. And that creates very sustainable relationships - not for a company, not just for the city, not just for the person, but for all these other people. It confers the - you know, the benefits widely. It really does kind of bleed into the fabric of society.

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

PETERSEN: Yeah, I think that the thing about working all the time is it makes it really hard to focus on anything other than work and you and yours - right? - like, your very immediate family. It really turns people inward. And when you turn inward in that way, I think there are a lot of ramifications for that, politically especially, right? Like, when you vote in a way that is incredibly focused on protecting you and yours, there are whole systems, whole understandings of how care should work, of how society should work, that get lost.


PETERSEN: And so I think anything that allows you to get outside of your own little sphere and also, like, understand who needs care in your world and also dedicate time to it - right? - not just money, that is what flexible work can help provide.


PETERSEN: And that's what I hope that we can kind of swing back towards. There's this great book called "The Upswing" by Robert Putnam, who's the author of - previously the author of "Bowling Alone," which really charted...


PETERSEN: ...The decline of social cohesion.


PETERSEN: Like, all of these groups that people used to be part of - like, boomers were joiners. Like, they were parts of things, whether it was...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

PETERSEN: ...You know, the Elks club or...

SANDERS: My dad was in so many groups.


SANDERS: My dad was a mason. He was in the Lions Club.

PETERSEN: The Lions, man (laughter).

SANDERS: He was on the church building committee. He was just in stuff.

PETERSEN: Right. And he - like, that was the glue of society, to be with other people and care about other people. And it really was reflected in the way that social policy worked in the United States. You can chart, you know, even something like the Johnson administration's Great Society stuff - like, all of that is at the peak of social cohesion.

WARZEL: And we talked before about that, like, you know, the restaurant transactional...


WARZEL: ...Or the coffee shop transactional relationship to work, right? And this idea that one of the biggest problems is we want work to be a family because we need that. Like, we need sort of the social fabric part of work, right? Like, we need friends. We need people we can talk to in this way.

SANDERS: There you go.

WARZEL: Well, if you have a richer relationship with your community...

SANDERS: There you go.

WARZEL: ...You don't need that from work. And it all feeds itself.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. Well, and, like, also, for me, the big message of the book is, like, all employees and all labor is helped when labor at every step on the ladder reconsiders the relationship between employee and employer. And if I'm questioning the ways in which these systems and structures might exploit me, then it's also going to help me question those systems and structures as to how they relate to the person who delivered my Thai food last night...

PETERSEN: One hundred percent.

SANDERS: ...Or the person who rings me up at the grocery store. It's kind of a mindset shift. And so much of what y'all's book has given to me is just, like, question it. Question the relationship to capital, to power. Question our relationship to employment and to our jobs. And when we question those relationships, we can hopefully begin to push towards solutions that work for all labor, regardless of where we are on the scale.

PETERSEN: Yeah, you - I mean, can you write that down and, like, broadcast that to people?

SANDERS: My communist manifesto? Yeah, I'll do it.


SANDERS: Hey. Well, thank y'all so much. You're an inspiration in terms of how to think about work. The book is called "Out Of Office," written by Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen. Thank you both. Please come back anytime.

WARZEL: We will. Thank you. You as well.

PETERSEN: Thank you so much, Sam.


SANDERS: Thanks again to Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel. Their book is out now. It's called "Out Of Office." Also, check out their newsletters. Anne Helen's is called Culture Study. It's on Substack. And Charlie's is called Galaxy Brain. It is at The Atlantic's website. All right, this episode was produced by Anjuli Sastry-Krbechek and edited by Jordana Hochman. And we had engineering support this episode from Gilly Moon. All right, take care of yourselves. We're back in your feeds Friday. I'm Sam Sanders. Talk soon.


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