Paying Strangers to Watch Me Work?

absofuckinlutely not

Wed, 20 July 2022

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen inane articles about remote work from the New York Times, but here’s a fun article from last week. There are people working remotely who are so desperate for the “office experience” that they pay $40 a month to sit in Zoom sessions where strangers can watch them work. And how does the New York Times report on it? With an article entitled “Would You Pay $40 a Month to Have Strangers Watch You Work?”.

I find it hard to believe that people miss the “office experience” that much, but neurotypical extroverts are weird. I still remember what it was like to work in an office, and I don’t miss it:

I have a hard time suppressing the urge to laugh when people talk about going “back to the office” because in my case I’d be leaving my office to return to half a desk in a half-height cubicle in the middle of an open-plan hellscape where I can’t crank up the headphones high enough to drown out everybody else’s “spontaneous conversations” because I’d be risking both hearing loss and a reprimand for disturbing others. I also have a hard time laughing when people talk about being lonely while working at home, especially when they talk to me. As somebody who’s introverted being around people is generally a stressful and draining experience. As somebody who’s also on the autistic spectrum and thus feels obligated to mask, navigating a world not made for people like me is even more tiresome.

You might be lonely for lack of social interaction in an office, but I was lonelier at the office than I’ve ever been at home. Having other people around is no good when they aren’t your people, and my coworkers aren’t my people. They were generally kind enough, but unless they needed or wanted something from me I was part of the scenery.

I won’t go back to on-site work if I have any choice in the matter, so why would I want to pay $40 a month for a poor emulation of the “office experience” over Zoom? If I’m to have strangers watch me work, I should be getting paid for that, not the other way around.

Besides, having strangers who aren’t necessarily employed by the same company as you or on the same team watching you work over Zoom probably has security implications. They might not necessarily be able to see your screen, but if you aren’t careful about muting before you think out loud or indulge in rubber duck debugging you might find yourself leaking confidential or proprietary information.

I wouldn’t risk it, no matter how lonely or nostalgic for the experience of having strangers look over my shoulder I might get.