The Media

Malcolm Gladwell Says Workers Should Go to the Office. Have You Seen His?

Malcolm Gladwell gesticulates and holds a mic in front of an Ozy-branded backdrop.
Malcolm Gladwell speaks onstage during Ozy Fest at Central Park in New York City on July 22, 2018. Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

For all the crap he’s taken lately for his views on working in an office, Malcolm Gladwell probably wishes he’d stayed in bed.

Two weeks ago, the New York Post jabbed at the writer by surfacing some remarks Gladwell made on a business podcast in July. “It’s not in your best interest to work from home,” the Tipping Point author said during his appearance on The Diary of a CEO. “We want you to join our team, and if you’re not here, it’s really hard to do that.” Gladwell took exception to people who are content “sitting in your pajamas in your bedroom” and said it’s difficult to “feel necessary” when you’re not in the office: “If we don’t feel like we’re part of something important, what’s the point? If it’s just a paycheck, then it’s like, what have you reduced your life to?”

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The internet immediately had fun with Gladwell’s spiel, pointing out that the esteemed writer had previously railed against desks and celebrated working in coffee shops and restaurants while avoiding the offices of the New Yorker, where he is a staff writer. (I’ve even personally seen him working on his laptop in the kitchen of Slate’s Brooklyn office; his podcast Revisionist History used to be produced by a Slate sister company.) A week after the New York Post piece, Gladwell told CNBC that the type of work he once did remotely—writing books, freelancing for publications—was of a different nature than what he does these days: co-managing the podcast company Pushkin Industries, which he runs with Slate’s former editor in chief and chairman Jacob Weisberg. “For collaborative, creative work of the sort I do now, it’s really a question of what the goal of your work is,” Gladwell said.

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Following this back-and-forth, I was curious how much Gladwell actually appears in his workplace’s office these days. I was surprised to learn that the office has, in fact, come to him.

According to its website, Pushkin Industries is headquartered in Manhattan, though that’s not the only area where it resides. A travel piece in the Financial Times by Deborah Needleman—Weisberg’s wife—noted that Gladwell had bought and renovated a house in the upstate enclave of Hudson, New York, turning it into an “outpost” for Pushkin. That Gladwell is a Hudson Valley fixture is well-known, having been noted in pieces covering celebrity spottings in the area for years.

A Publishers Weekly item on Pushkin last year elaborated that “About half a dozen staff members work out of an old house that Gladwell renovated in Hudson, N.Y., and there are satellite offices in Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as well as in London.” Those six Hudson-area staffers are a sliver of the company’s 80 employees, though the town is listed as a residential option on Pushkin’s job listings.

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I looked into public records from Columbia County, where Hudson is located, and found two properties listed under both Gladwell’s name and a limited liability corporation called Pushkin Properties. While I couldn’t find out much about that LLC—other than that it was incorporated in October 2018—I did find that it shares a New York City address with Pushkin Enterprises, a domestic business corporation established under Gladwell’s name in 2006 that appears to have been involved with foreign-language translations of his works. (Clearly, he’s long had an affinity for Russian poets.)

Gladwell and Pushkin Properties’ real estate holdings include addresses in the small farming town of Ancram, New York—where Gladwell holds property and appears to live—and a renovated building in Hudson, situated within a commercial mixed use land zone. They’re about a 23-minute drive apart, which ain’t too bad for a car commute. Trying to understand whether Pushkin industries had sprung for the Hudson outpost for Gladwell’s benefit, I asked the podcast company for comment. Weisberg, Pushkin’s CEO, responded in an email that “Pushkin Properties has nothing to do with Pushkin Industries. We don’t own any property.” He did add, “We rent space in a building that Malcolm owns in Hudson, where several of our employees work, and where we have a recording studio. Malcolm has his office there as well.” (You can glimpse this studio in a recording of a virtual appearance Gladwell made last year for a conference by the business publication Signal360. The author himself did not respond to my requests for comment.)

What have we learned? That Malcolm Gladwell does indeed work from the office, although that office is a renovated house. That he’s not just a business owner and officemate, but appears to be his own company’s landlord. That he keeps reusing the name Pushkin? Perhaps the most important thing we have learned is that it is probably easier to advocate for working from the office when your office is so, well, home-y.

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