The other thing is that there are two small children running around my house. I simply can't work there, or else I'd never get anything done. Our house isn't large enough to have a separate, dedicated office-space. I'd be constantly interrupted.
I like the concept of remote working, even in a shared environment, but if I were working at that company and I no longer had a free place to go do work, I'd be looking for another gig.
I thought I'd like working at home, as it turns out I didn't at all because once you're working at home, it's hard to draw the line.
I learned it well working for myself. After 5pm, no work unless it's a real emergency and those might happen 1-2x a year.
Having gone back into the workforce, people were always amazed I didn't carry the latest greatest phone (only got an iPhone once they added GPS, currently using a Lumia 1020). I don't need a computer in my pocket. I'm in front of a computer roughly 12-16 hours a day, that little time I'm not, I'm okay with being away from email, etc.
Even though I'm on my computer at night (like now). I never check work emails, they're also never sent to my phone. Only personal. If it's an emergency, call. It better fucking be an emergency (why I left my last job, owner didn't understand boundaries). I also don't work overtime. If you want 24/7 support, hire it.
Honestly, when you think about it, if it's over email, it's not a "real" emergency. Someone in a real emergency would just call.
I realized that almost nothing on my phone is important enough to interrupt me whenever.
Same thing here, nobody understands why I'm sticking to a nokia 208.
Working from a shared office means that I'm out of the door by 10-11AM. I chose a shared office that was very close to my place, so my commute is 15 minutes at most.
It's also easier going to the gym after work when I'm already out.
Wouldn't do the work from home thing unless it was absolutely necessary.
Gets me dressed and out of the house.
When working remote, it becomes conscious effort to seek out social activity and to connect. This extra step is difficult for some.
it's quiet, and well lit, and cool. i can work an honest 8-10 hour day with occasional breaks without a problem. every full time employee (except interns) has a view. it's nice, but it's not "luxury" space. it's not very expensive, less than the cost of one junior employee.
i will never work in any other kind of environment ever again -- maybe a dedicated home office, but even then, i do like a (very) short commute for the same reasons you do. there are a handful of other tech companies here (it's mostly law firms, finance, psychiatrists, etc.) and they seem to have the same idea, and are doing well.
it's kind of like the black turtleneck theory -- the office is not something we think about, like at all, so that we're free to spend our mental energy on other more productive things.
That's not the flip side, that's what the article says they're doing: converting office staff to a co-working space (via their "perks"):
"Those in San Francisco who worked in the office now have
moved into coworking spaces, which Buffer pays for as
part of our team perks."
You didn't stop having an office. You just realised you could save money by sending the few guys using your office to a shared space.
I think I'd be a bit miffed if I was a non-office employee there - suddenly the old 'office guys' are getting this 'team perk' that doesn't apply to me.
It would be more in the spirit of the whole 'openness' thing to say "here's $X, spend it on office space, coffee, whatever to improve whatever working environment you choose".
My main point is just that the article content "those employees who were in our office are now in company-paid co-working space" is pretty different from the headline "we're ditching the office completely".
But apart from that, I'm with you in your conclusion that an equal amount of money for possible work environments is probably the most structure agnostic solution.
"Going to work" is now considered a "perk of the job"? Now I have heard everything.
Just last night a friend in hospitality was telling me how tips were pooled and shared out, and money was taken out of the pool against staff parties (okay, kind of defensible) and breakage (wtf!?). He said the place was even dicier than it sounds - when they did have the staff parties, the boss made it sound like the money came out of his own pocket, rather than sucked from the employees tips. Some "perks" are definitely less valuable than other "perks"...
This is explicitly illegal in California, Massachusetts and New York (among other states). There are also states where it is legal.
However if I work at home for the long term, then here's what that will cost:
10 years X 12 months X 360 per month = $43200
If you are as old as I am then 10 years won't seem like a long time and $43200 will seem like alot of money.
In your shoes I'd put a chair and a desk in the garage, presuming you have one or similar.
Like OP it makes a break between work and home. Plus, a few times clients have dropped by to see something. Also, I get dressed and see neighbors from adjoining offices on a regular basis. So I don't become a totally socially inept nerd.
I don't have any kids but if I continue with this, I fully expect to get more than 43,000 worth of value out of the office over a 10 year period.
But even if you do maintain a schedule with 40+ hours of work a week, working from home still leaves you with more time, since the time eaten up by commuting disappears. Now, imagine that everyone in your neighborhood is doing this. Instead of the vast majority of your local community spending the vast majority of their time outside of the community, they will actually be present. And they will all desire the natural human need for social contact. I expect that this will result in a rebirth of the local community. Long commutes, ever-growing work weeks, ever-shrinking vacation time has pretty much decimated the whole concept of a local community. But when those things disappear, you're going to end up with a lot of people wanting to get together and I'm sure they will eventually figure it out and block parties, back-yard barbecues, etc will become a regular occurrence.
Transitions are always fraught with difficulties, and I think the social contact issue with working from home is just one of the temporary ones as our society moves toward people working from home, most being self-employed.
I think you'd be much more likely to be able to keep the arrangement you have now if you became an employee of a company like this than if you became an employee of a company that had a traditional office.
So, remote working is definitely not for everyone! You must really appreciate your "freedom" so much that you'll want to have the trouble to organize your life around it. You have to be a very organized person "internally", if you know what I mean.
As for the lack of social life, as some people say, I found that hobbies are great solution to that problem. You get to do interesting things outside work while meeting other people. For instance, I think my diverse interests in life and the hobbies that I pursue describe me better personally than being a "developer doing.. things.."!
If I got a real job again, I'm not sure that I could afford to have a $360 monthly bill.
I have childish coworkers running around the office, so I can barely get any work done there and I am constantly interrupted.
I am definitely the "no fun employee".
It got too distracting so management put the kibosh on it after about a month, though.
But back when I worked in a "real" office, I had the exact same situation you just described. It was just as noisy and loud as it is here at home.
In either place, I have to learn how to work with distractions in the background, and learn how to ignore them efficiently. So why not do that at home?
Here, I have an "open door" policy, so that I can help my wife out with any homeschool tasks that might be better suited for me.
It can be challenging sometimes, but it's extremely rewarding.
And I'm just as productive here (if not more productive) than I ever was at a "real" office.
On the subject, eventually the house's temperature goes to the heights. But I'd never worked so much before and the parenting experience gives a great sense of achievement. It's like a family business with its own departments, and its own kind of clashes.
Just saying I pay N is nearly useless without context.
Provide a real office environment for every knowledge worker.
You know ... a door that shuts ... a window ... space to allow your gaze to adjust.
Things that are ... human.
It's really simple.
And before you say it costs too much, it doesn't. The problem is that you're in denial about how much your current offices with open floor plans are costing you. You merely think the cost is equal to the rent. It's much greater than the rent, though, because of lowered productivity, lowered morale, increased superficiality of important inter-worker communication, incessant interruptions disrupting developer flow, more sick time, etc. etc.
If you didn't pretend like those aren't affecting you, and you actually counted their cost, you'd see that the extra cost in real estate for offices is well worth it even in short-term scenarios like 1-year where you're using your start-up runway to pay for it.
Even in San Francisco. Even in Manhattan.
IMO, most managers are paid very nicely to babysit employees and use unspoken threats and coercion to make them feel scared and threatened enough for their livelihoods where they will sit rather quietly and produce work at a measurable-yet-uninspired rate.
Much like elementary school.
I know I'm older then most of the IT workers here are and due to that, my personal experiences and insights may not reflect the current realities of many here, but they have been real to me over my 30 year career.
I have been working remotely now, for myself, for the past 3 years.
It was difficult in the beginning to have the discipline to actually keep my head "at work" for the required 8 hours, but now...I couldn't really imagine ever wanting to go back to an onsite gig.
My boss could not be happier with the arrangement as he is realizing significant cost saving as well...it's a real win-win but both sides have to be willing to do their parts for it to work.
What did you do yesterday / What you did today / What are your issues <=== this is similar to what some elementary schools ask their kids to do
What? The schmucks are not happy with coding in the human equivalent of a bucket of crabs? Did you try giving them coffee? Did you try saying the phrase "unlimited vacation"? Did you jingle your keys?
It should be called undefined vacation, because there's clearly a limit, unless taking half of the year off is fine.
That definitely hasn't been the case for me. I've had unlimited vacation and take off 4 weeks a year + assorted random days off (2/month).
I would never work somewhere with constrained vacation. Having to file paperwork for a random day showing family around town is ridiculous.
That being said, I think "untracked" is the best definition. It's obviously not unlimited, but there's also no hard limit. And the limit depends on behavior (leaving for 6 weeks is frowned upon, but 3 random days off every month is fine).
I've taken as many as 44 days off, which is a lot more.
While I agree with the status analysis, I don't think that's why programmers are forced into open offices.
Traders are high status, but work in a terrible environment (wide open trading floors).
Traders work in an environment where very quick turnaround matters.
Most software development roles are nothing like this.
The engineering team pushed for "quiet private space". We avoided asking for "offices" so that the focus was on what sort of environment we needed, and didn't jump straight into the status and/or cost issues.
It never happened.
The main reason wasn't cost savings (though that was definitely a factor) or management paranoia (which wasn't too bad) or status/ego. It was simply a total failure to understand the process of software engineering, despite being told by the people who were employed to do that job.
The people planning the offices were from a sales background. They were extroverts. They hated quiet spaces. They'd walk into the office and immediately start up some useless conversation that broke everyone's concentration. No matter how many times we tried to explain to them that we got far more work done if they'd just shut the f* up (we'd usually put it more politely than that), they'd keep on thinking that he most important thing was to have a "cool", "vibrant" space and, to them, that meant open-plan and loud.
They both illustrate you suffer from the same condition they are: that neither one of you respects the way the other is. What silence is to you (an me perhaps) social interaction and "pointless chat" is to them. If your productivity went up by them not talking, theirs will go down for the same reason.
- Person A works requires social interaction to be productive.
- Person B works requires silence to be productive.
- Person A is actively disrupting Person B's work to be productive.
- Person B is not actively disrupting Person A but Person A is left unproductive as a result of non-action
The only practical solution is to have Person A work with other Person As and have a separate work area for Person B's. The solution is not to sacrifice Person B's productivity for Person A's benefit. This is a managerial and office layout problem, characterizing it as a problem of Person B's ability to be understanding is not fair nor a rational course of action.
Yes, often they'd carry on a conversation between themselves, which was an interruption, but was a symptom of the poorly designed office space. It's hardly their fault that their job and/or personality thrives on conversation. That was why the engineering team wanted a separate quiet work space for our team, so they could do their thing without breaking the productivity of the dev team.
But what I meant with They'd walk into the office and immediately start up some useless conversation was that they'd start it with us. Partly because they wanted conversation but also because they thought it was good for us. That the office was too quiet and we needed to liven it up a bit. That the reason we weren't talking is because we needed someone to break the ice for us.
That failure to understand what makes an engineering team productive led them to try and do things that were totally counter-productive, but they just didn't see it. It's in that context that they really needed to just stop.
That's the problem. You have to insist that an engineer is on the office planning committee.
I pushed hard to be included in the choice of office space at my last startup and managed to get us a "silent" room. (Almost as good as private offices.)
I remember Fogcreek came up with an interesting design that used angles and transparency to get some good light, etc: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/BionicOffice.html
In open office I rarely talk to people because it's so loud.
Yeah, old school, and it worked well, better than later work places with various cubicle themes and shared conference rooms that you had to compete for if you needed quiet or privacy.
I was hoping that mid-range/business laptops would go in a similar direction with power-and-thunderbolt connectors, so you could have you monitors, network etc all through one connector, and just pick up your laptop and move to another desk.
It looks like we might be getting there with USB-C, but it seems much delayed to me.
And now you can actually talk to each other which you can't really do in an open space...
The problem is that rent is easy to measure, and the productivity your staff would have, once things were settled in, with an appropriate work environment is less easy to measure specifically (there may be studies which provide an approximate basis for estimating it, but that's different than a direct and company-specific measure.)
Btw, any manager out there that has not read Peopleware, please make yourself and your team a favour and get yourself a copy (and read it, of course).
Also, are the people that make the budget decisions the type of people that thrive on collaboration and open plans, or the type of people that prefer quiet and isolation? if they are the type of people that thrive on open plans they might feel negatively about private offices period, which leads to making your case about their positives even harder.
On one hand you have hard data, open offices cost x, open plan costs x/2, on the other hand you have "engineers say they could be more productive with offices" against "do you remember when we were small and working in a single room, that was awesome, we were so agile and communicative" (whether or not that is applicable at your particular company size or stage, burning the midnight oil on your stack to cobble together a demo for a pitch is not the same as writing production level tricky security code)
Not to mention that part of why you do that then is so you don't have to do that anymore.
But clearly for the people with more introverted working styles it won't work.
So let people pick. Want to sit in the communal workspace? OK, do so. Want your own office? OK done.
From time to time you'll need to intermix. Sometimes a social butterfly needs to tune out the distractions. Provide a place for it. Sometimes a hermit crab needs to sit with the team for 1/2 day and pair program. As Picard says, make it so.
This is not rocket science. The important part is that company management has to recognize that getting this right is one of the most important financial investments they will make. Instead of seeing space as a cost sink ... something to be standardized, minimized, and papered over with free lunch and dumbass "team building" shit, they need to recognize that of all the places to spend money, spending it on compensation for rewarding hard working employees is number one, and spending it on creating a humanity-affirming physical work environment is number 2. In visibly healthy companies, everything else hinges massively on those two things. Companies that have been so distorted away from humanity that they grind out success (generally for senior level people only) despite humanity-disaffirming workplaces ought to be seen as the frightening panopticons they are.
Sometimes it's the opposite, and you definitely do want meat flap acoustics often, and silent digital communication less so.
For any given company, you need to understand this. You can't just assert that an open floor plan "is collaborative." It is one kind of collaborative. It may not be the right kind for you. And worst of all will be to assert that it definitely is the necessary kind merely as an excuse when your real motivation is to minimize financial investment into physical space.
The headphone solution is also insensitive to people with extreme aversions to distracting sounds, such as sufferers of misophonia. In a lot of cases, if you are embedded in an open plan, there is no such thing as "opting out." It's a fixed decision mandated upon you.
This was a great system in medieval buildings where most doors opened directly to the outdoors, which in itself is a great privacy feature.
It's really easy to find an extrovert-friendly workspace, much harder to find an introvert-friendly one, because pretty much all managers are extroverts (they have to be, to succeed at management) and they are the ones that decide the office layout.
Makes me wonder sometimes how deaf people can manage in today's vocal-collaboration oriented workplace, which is sad as the type of work we do lends itself extremely well to text-based communication.
< http://homepages.se.edu/cvonbergen/files/2013/01/Reversing-t... >
Also consider that despite Peopleware, literally nobody builds offices for programmers as if they were attorneys. And yet we muddle through.
Having been involved in office planning to support moves 4-5 times... Costs were 5x-7x more for build out for a fixed office design vs. modular and would take much much longer.
Just in terms of labor, you're talking about dramatically higher costs for drywall, electricians, and carpenters. If you're retrofitting, construction triggers full code compliance ($$$), and in major cities you often run into labor/prevailing wage problem.
Office productivity, morale, collaboration, and communication are higher than open-plan. The degree to which those things are higher is enough to more than make up for the higher rent, even over relatively short periods of time.
If you're building from scratch, up-front costs are higher, and long-term gains from productivity, etc., are also much higher, once again more than offsetting the higher up-front costs and making private offices a winner from a net-present-value perspective.
Higher rent + long, time and attention consuming build outs + accounting nightmares are more expensive than you think.
Look at Joel Spolsky's story. 4x rent plus $500k in extra buildout. http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/12/29.html
Do you think Joel would not attribute a significant amount of the financial returns his companies have seen to his cultural choices about providing the best workplaces, even when it cost him a lot to do so?
Of course, since you can treat programmers as adults, you can just explain that to them. And, with whatever funds and free variables that you can work with, you can focus on providing the healthiest workplace available at your budget.
I don't see a lot of companies running into this issue though. If you're at the point of receiving VC funding, then you can afford to give everyone an office. 4x rent + $500k up front is round off error for a lot of firms, and even for some firms where that would be feasible-but-expensive, it's probably worth it.
What I don't see, though, is a bunch of firms actually running the numbers here. No one is pragmatically checking whether they can give their employees this thing that would be super great for the employees and for the company. Instead, I see a lot of people looking for excuses, a priori, to not invest in it, and to instead put the money towards over-the-top, opulent expenses, and designing a workplace that functions more like peacock feathers than as a workplace.
I would totally agree with you if I looked around and saw a bunch of VC firms or founders going "shit, I'd really like to make a healthy and productive workplace for my employees, but the budget is just too tight." But I don't see that. I see people who a priori place more value on the status aspects of workplaces than the functional or humanity-affirming aspects, and as a result want to confirmation-bias their way into rationalizing decisions to make every wall a transparent soap marker surface cuz it looked cool in A Beautiful Mind.
That is not being impacted here. And in most cases, an extra month or so does not make a difference.
And how does that compare to what you're paying for personnel? It's like arguing that you can't afford the best computers for your developers.
Edit: to be clear by "important" I don't mean that it's a good thing, I mean that it has an unfortunately big impact on PR, hiring, and it's something that the people in charge take seriously. Personally I prefer individual offices, regardless of the coolness factor.
This is an important lesson for undergrad CS majors. Instead of working really hard to master dynamic programming or taking that extra course on programming language concepts, you should instead just watch Michael Bay's Transformers movie so that you know when to say "Furrier Transform" at the right moment.
Seriously. Go right now and buy a pair of purely decorative eye glasses. At work tomorrow, got stand by the coffee machine and let your glasses slide slightly down your nose. Wait for an important-seeming person to walk by and then push your glasses up and say "Furrier Transform" -- this is a much faster way to a promotion than coding at your desk.
Be wearing a slim-fitting hoodie if at all possible. If your MacBook doesn't already have stickers reflecting which causes you SJW on reddit, get some now!!!!11
I can't quite tell if you're mocking InclinedPlane's comment or the mentality it points out.
Sad though it is, there is a lot of cargo culting around startup office management in SF these days - and presumably elsewhere too. I doubt people really think deep down that having the cliche startup office - tightly packed open plan desks, plenty of microbrews in the fridge, a few bottles of expensive whisky, a wall of snacks, a hoverboard or two - will make or break the success of their compamy. But no one wants to be the first to try not doing it and find out.
Much of that cargo culting is driven by idiotic investors who want to be able to pop into the office and gawk at a veritable army of hoodie-clad brogrammers who look like they came from someone shaking a VHS copy of Hackers a little too hard. As sad as it is, founders and start-up executives often choose these knowingly-dysfunctional offices because it's the most rational choice they can make under the constraints that dummy investors are placing on them. If they go to the investor and say, "boy, for 4x the rent and a buildout cost of $500k, we could really get the product teams humming at a fast pace" they'll just be told to hold onto some ass pennies . But if they say they're going to turn the entire office into one large lazy river waterpark ride, where developers get their own inner tube and a waterproof laptop and everyone wears GoPros all day which will live stream their entire workday to their new spinoff business Constagram ... well now the investor is listening.
But I agree that in a huge number of cases, it's just cargo culting for status. It's probably even damaging their ability to recruit workers, but the cargo cult status matters more.
 < https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DO1Q7F23DxM >
Where I am we have stunning giant metal photo prints covering most walls (and floors and ceilings), mostly-private offices (metal mesh walls with doors that close, and often with giant photos covering the mesh to make it more private).
Everyone who sees it seems to think it looks a helluva lot cooler than a generic open floor plan.
Every employee also gets a modest decorating budget for their offices, so the insides of them look pretty cool too. More importantly, it sends a signal that we respect people's need for quiet and private personal space to get work done. We have shared spaces as well for those who want to be more social, but we don't force it.
Seems to be working well for us.
This isn't always true and I would never want to enforce it dogmatically. For some people / teams / companies, significant remote working is very successful. I just don't believe it's always or even frequently better than a physical office with adequately private and quiet working conditions.
I do believe fully remote working is probably better than the shambolic open-plan disasters that are common these days, so if someone makes you believe in a false dilemma pitting fully open-plan versus fully-remote, then fully-remote is probably the lesser of two evils.
I did read the parent article. I responded as I did because I am dumbfounded that the idea of paying for the cost-effective extra benefits of private offices is not really even considered -- we've come so far on the path to destructive workspaces that we don't even think about it any more.
I still don't agree. In my experience, the added productivity gains from working in a Peopleware-ideal office, where I could occasionally stop by a colleague's office to ask a question, were not much greater than what could be accomplished through video and chat. The personal "comradery" gains were slim to nil as well.
The negatives are tremendous. Wasting time traveling to the office. Wasting time appearing to work, which is probably 50% of the average office workers day if we're being honest. Having to arrange your life around work instead of the other way around.
If nothing else, I think a fully broken-down cost analysis of your office layout plus the higher cost-of-living expenses built into employee wages when hiring in a big city would convince you that remote is the way. Probably looking at 30-50k per employee savings for hiring remote vs SF, and getting happier, more productive employees.
Still, your points are well taken. On the other hand, if a company is really looking at fully-remote work as a way to avoid paying higher wages, that would be a red flag for me. I'm very good at what I do, and even if I'm not co-located in Fancyopolis, I expect to be earning a competitive wage based on the value I can add to the business, not how much a gallon of milk costs for me. It comes off as extremely petty and divisive for a company to intentionally play cost of living to their advantage like that. And further, what stops a person from choosing to live in a more expensive place? Your company is in Milwaukee but I want to live in London and work remotely.
The kinds of risks that employees face are very asymmetric when compared with what employers face. For a lone employee, the single number that is your annual compensation is a big deal. Other companies might force you to tell them that number if you seek a new job. And whatever that number is, that's going to determine your pay. Those other companies won't give a shit about cost of living.
Let's say you used to live in SF and made X-thousand per year. Then you took a new job in Austin, TX, and someone convinced you that you should accept something like 0.7X per year, because Austin is cheaper and 0.7 still leaves you quote unquote above market there.
A few years later, you're looking to move to New York, well guess what, you're salary is going to be pegged to 0.7X, not X, and you might have to negotiate hard even just to get it back up to X in New York, let alone arguing for whatever premium the 0.7X might have been above market in Austin.
That's just how these things work. Have you negotiated pay when considering a move from a major city to a city with lower cost of living? I have before, and one of the major points of discussion was that salary actually should not decrease in response to cost of living changes. That's just an unpleasant side of it that the hiring company has to eat. The risks facing the lone employee are too high that they'll never recover the "downward adjustment" amount if they ever find that they need to move on to another area again.
When I speak with HR reps about this, I've never had a problem. Sometimes they will say they are not looking to pay in the range I am seeking, but they universally understand and fully expect it when candidates say that their salary should not decrease purely due to cost of living decreases.
I don't believe this question is interesting because I think we know that most HN readers will prefer remote working instead offices. It doesn't matter whether it's semi-private cubicles or noisy open floor plans. Offices suck. Commuting sucks too. Probably 95+% would prefer remote work if they could get it.
>Do you think we should have kept our office or closed it?
The more interesting question & answer is how the 100% remote strategy helps your business. Yes, you save $86k/yr in office rent. However, does the remote arrangement boost your employees' productivity so much that it helps Buffer beat other competitors (Hootsuite, Sprout, etc.)? Is the remote productivity enabling the ability of engineers to add features at a faster rate that you noticed subscriptions going way up? Etc.
That's the business calculus that's more interesting to discuss. To be fair, it looks like author Courtney Seiter's background is writing/marketing and not business/engineering so it's understandable if she doesn't emphasize this angle. Also, the blog post is only 4 months old so they don't have a year's worth of financial performance to evaluate its effectiveness.
I know some HN'ers like to pit this as BigCorp simply trying to save money/control the workers, but in fact, if you're a true knowledge worker, it might be worth it to build you a small castle with a butler. The leverage a good worker creates is peanuts compared to any kind of working arrangement.
So, as you pointed out, we get to the nitty-gritty part of this: do whatever you want for whatever reasons you want, but at the end of the day, is it helping you execute your mission better? Much better? Then keep doing that until you find your next improvement.
86K/yr for an office is nothing if your productivity suddenly starts tanking, or you're unable to adapt to rapid change. In fact, it's comparing a static number with a highly dynamic one. I'm not sure if such a comparison really makes much sense.
Then, as time passed, I realized, the distinction between your workplace and your leisure space is an important one. Later, I rented out a moderately expensive serviced office space by one of the local providers and it had served me well. Even the people around you can perceive this distinction and respect your boundaries if you work in an office-like atmosphere that can be perceived.
To be clear, it's not wrong to work from home. IF you have a separate room for your work and you treat it like an office room, it's actually the best way to go (convenience and savings). But if you were in a situation like me where you had to choose between the bedroom and a leased office space, go for the latter and it will definitely add an improvement to your quality of professional life.
In general, I think I needed the discipline of dressing as for the office and working in my dedicated office for a time but feel less need for the structure today.
Like you, I need to have some variety. Working from home can get extremely boring, and I never really thought that I needed a bunch of social interaction until I began working from home. I really enjoy doing it (been going strong for about 3 years now), but I can't just sit at my desk all day either. I like to get out, go to coffee shops, friends houses, co-working spaces, and even the office about 2-3 days a week.
I personally see working from home not as I'm literally working from home, but that I'm not tethered to my desk in the office. As long as I have an internet connection, I can work from anywhere. It's really nice.
I have the option of working from the office or from home, at least 2-3 days per week depending on what I have on. I much prefer working from the office. I enjoy hanging out and talking shit (and working) with my colleagues/friends, grabbing coffee, lunch somewhere nice, and when I leave at the end of the day I can flip from 'work mode' to 'home mode'.
This is by far the most important decision criterion: the psychological cost.
If I didn't enjoy the company of my co-workers I'd probably just find a new job.
1. Create co-working opportunities. I have a standing co-working day with a group of other work-from-home'ers every Monday. Sunday afternoon we text to coordinate where we're going to meet up. Its reliable. Its social interaction. We have an in-group. On top of this one, I have a couple other people I less frequently co-work with, both coffee shops and kitchens.
2. Its not all about work. This WFH shift for me has given me an even stronger excuse to get out and do my group hobbies even more. For me, its performing in a comedy group. Nothing more social than getting people to laugh.
3. Yes, it is a bit lonely. Happy hours are less likely to happen. But when they do, its with people you actually wanted to hang out with, not just whomever happened to be at the office that day. Casual desk drop-by's are mostly gone, and I actually like that.
All in all, not that lonely, unless you let it be.
I just joined a local group and they do lunch meetups, happy hours, etc.
The underlying assumptions have changed. The myriad costs associated with offices are no longer outweighed by the benefits they provide. That's partially due to the development of technology, and partially due to other changes, such as the adoption of productivity-poisoning 'open plan' offices. Our whole setup of how we work is based on manufacturing, and it hasn't been adapted to the very different work being done now. Even though technology has made individual workers so productive that the company can survive an open plan office and still not be able to provide most workers with enough to do to fill 40 hours a week, we still force them to have their butt in a chair for those 40 hours - more often more than that, the majority of which is done solely for appearances sake.
There are many factors at play here, and a mix of this must be made by each company to suit its industry and personnel.
I have found that offices do tend to improve communication through instant access to people and feedback, whereas remote work sometimes requires incessant scheduling of meetings. Instant messaging and such can help, but it is not as immediate nor is it a replacement for face time. However, working remotely is a great feeling of freedom and control over your personal environment, which can lead to better personal productivity, provided the person has enough discipline to ignore distractions (if the office is one's home).
It is also a personal preference. As a software engineer, I loved remote work because I could code in peace without distraction. However, some personalities could never stand this much solitude and prefer the hubbub of a traditional office, however distracting it could potentially be. I even knew people who worked remotely that would venture outside and chat at length with neighbors just to have that feeling of human contact that is sometimes lacking with full remote work.
That being said, with the industry I work in, my customers expect a traditional office. So, implementing a mix of remote and office time has worked best for us. There are some stipulations, however, for remote work we enforce - such as childcare must be taken care of by someone else (e.g. school, daycare, spouse, etc.) while working remotely and background noise is to be minimized so as to treat it as a true professional environment. Nothing is worse than when you're on a conference call with major clients and hear crying or barking in the background. And I say this as someone with children and pets myself.
One apparent consequence of all-remote working for Buffer is that having all the employees meet in real life is incredibly expensive and logistically complex: https://open.buffer.com/remote-work-retreats/
Citation needed. I'd never even heard of a corporate retreat before now.
The biggest benefit for us is that our team is able to have a better work-life balance and keep a high level of productivity. e.g. One of our engineers used to have a 40 minute commute either way morning and evening. Now he works from home and can spend more time with his family instead of in his car.
It also lets us hire from all over the World. Our full-timers are all in the USA and we have people in Ohio, Florida, Maine, Washington and Tennessee. So it's a really diverse group but we're also very tight knit even though some of us have never met in person yet. Several in our team work in small towns so they enjoy a slower pace and more quiet time which (coming from a small town myself) I think lends itself to solving complex problems.
I'd agree that it's all or nothing with remote teams or you risk alienating half your workforce.
The best advice I can give any company going remote is to get Slack or an equivalent like IRC. It does a fine job of replacing the day to day contact you have with team members. Also twice weekly all-hands calls to sync up are great - we do voice not video and we go around the room and everyone updates us on what they're working on. In a way we have a greater sense of what everyone is doing than some brick and mortar companies I've worked for.
I think for software businesses remote working will be the way everyone works 20 years from now. It'll take a while for larger companies to make the shift because there is no very large company that does this yet but there will be and they'll prove the model and the imitators will follow.
It's also way better for the environment.
I have no idea what the rest of the post was about but I'm pretty sure that I never want to deal with buffer.com again.
Office space cost them 2.1% of all of their monthly costs.
This is "not-insignificant"
Am I reading this right? If anything, they are under-paying for their office space.
To be clear, I find it refreshing that they just come out and say it. It seems obvious to me that when you work remotely, you're paying for the office space, and any company that believes the savings in pushing the office-space expense onto the employee outweighs the benefit of holding offices will start moving in this direction. (Since this particular company pays for coworking space, they're not pushing the cost to employees. I'm speaking more generally)
Having worked remotely for a substantial portion of my career, I have found the best for me is a mix of working at home and working from the office. That's my personal feeling, but still I think there are more downsides to remote work than many would like to consider.
Also, there is no "going to the bar after work for a couple beers", which for many is fine. But still humans require some measure of being physically near other humans, so you need to be much more proactive about socializing and seeing friends/family. If you aren't diligent about this you can become kind of a hermit. If you have young kids this is probably not a big deal, you'd be too busy anyway.
Plus, like I mentioned before, you're now on the hook for the office space. Working remotely can lead you to justify paying for more house or apartment than you otherwise would have, because "well I need an extra room for my office". The freedom it affords is quite nice, so many would probably be fine with the extra outlay. But you should be clear about what you're paying for, and why.
So about the disadvantages :).
Having worked in multiple types of non remote places (closed plan, open noisy, open quiet), my feeling so far is that the information flow has never been inferior. It's been equal and in many cases better. A lot of this boils down to the hiring process that buffer has where over a 45 day trial period, we ensure people can handle this type of work style. A lot of the focus during this period is communication. Even the parts about isolation. We like to ensure that people have found their stride in this aspect and they know how to handle it. So far, I believe it's worked. When I have something immediate to ask, I jump on slack. When I have something I'd like a more asynchronous communication to happen around, we use discourse. Our team discovered that we are more productive by ditching the daily video call in favour of using a daily updated Dropbox paper. So that's how we've tackled this very valid concern and so far, it feels like it's working well.
About being diligent about not turning into a hermit, spot on! Many of the team members take breaks during the middle of the day to shift locations, do a run, or even pop into a fitness training/yoga session. It's encouraged and it works well.
About being on the hook for office space, if a co working location works for you (or sharing office space) buffer even offers to reimburse this (including additional net connectivity that you might need to get to ensure smooth communication as you move around).
So yea, all valid concerns and these are how we move around them. Would love to hear your thoughts on this. It's a lot of work for sure, but we do love it and we all jump in to make sure everyone has a good time. The company is extremely supportive and I think that's essential for remote working environments like this :)
The average WeWork space is 600-900 USD/month for a single-person office in NYC and SF. And there is a lot of turnover amongst coworking businesses that offer space for any cheaper. So, below 600/mo does not seem to be viable, at least in these two markets.
If you offer to reimburse all employees' coworking leases, at an average of 600-900/mo, then your total office expense would exceed your prior 7k/mo after about 10 employees.
Automattic, another distributed company, offers a stipend of 250/mo toward coworking rent. Basecamp (aka 37signals) offers 100/mo. In both cases, these are certainly better than nothing but are only a fraction of the market rate.
No. It is more than 9 people.
Dependents: For every person that depends on your income (kids, husbands, wives,
significant others, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.) we add an extra $3,000
per year in salary.
Also a good reason I would never work at Buffer (beyond their generally low pay). My pay shouldn't depend on who I support.
I'm not sure that is legal either.
Remember that Buffer underpays their engineers and also has a lot of non-engineering employees.
When I was working for someone, I hated working from an office because I had no freedom and the bosses/managers constantly watching me. It was stifling and I felt like I was in a prison.
It's funny how things change.
But I love it. One of my favorite things is I can play my own damn music as loud as I want!
And yeah It may not be psychologically ideal but humans are pretty adaptable. You just have to develop new habits and behavior.
Some of the things I do to help the work/life balance:
* My wife calls me at 4:30-5:00pm everyday to tell me to wrap up my shit or else... this is pretty critical as I can easily get in the zone and the heads up expectations for some reason works.
* I try to walk every day on the days I don't lift weights
* I have a home gym. And despite what people think you don't need a lot of space. There are so many space saving products out there (like quickly collapsable pullup/dip bars, weighted vests etc).
So people who care about a separate office could put it towards a coworking space, while others might use it to eat out every day (to get themselves out of the house), and others might use it towards ergonomic chairs/keyboards/etc in the home, another uses it to clean their home once a month, another might use it for a gym membership, essentially whatever is important to the employee to make them feel more comfortable.
Especially expenses that an employee might not be willing to pay for themselves if it was just considered straight up extra income.
and here is the real point. We can save money.
I think remote options are a great idea. I also think that forcing workers to take their work outside the office is a lousy idea.
There are no reason why payments over the Internet has to cost that much!
Unless you're a niche business, you better accept credit cards.
There is no reason why we can't have fast, low fee, micro-transactions via the Internet.
Perhaps, but I wouldn't bet your company on that.
Feel free to accept Bitcoin and alternatives, but it'd be suicidal to not accept credit cards.
The only problem is, I'm not sure I'd want to work that way myself if I were an employee. I think I'd want an office: preferably one to myself.
I currently work from home, and have previously rented office spaces (both shared and not) at my own expense; and at various times I've worked in the HQ, branch offices, and various combinations of all these things, for a few different tech-related companies.
I would probably rent another dedicated office right now, but my rental apartment has a guest room so it seems decadent. But I'm still tempted, and check the listings every couple of weeks.
I would say that for me, working in software development and also doing "creative" work, having a separate space easily made up in peace of mind and probably in productivity what it cost in money. (In a high-rent zone like San Francisco that probably wouldn't hold.) But I found a coworking space too annoying, and probably would not go back to that if I could avoid it.
I found the big advantages to a rented space were, in order:
1. Freedom from distractions (usually; neighbors make noise too).
2. Work-only nature of the space, i.e. you go there only to work.
3. Ability to set it up as I like (decoration, layout, etc.).
4. Got my butt out of the house and out amongst the humans more often.
5. Your feelings about Home don't get so mixed up with your feelings about Work.
6. You can still opt to work from home when you really feel like it.
Disadvantages vs home office:
1. "Shared resources" (kitchen, bathroom, etc.) might not live up to your normal standards of utility or hygiene.
2. Neighbors pay rent too, and are thus unlikely to change their habits at your request.
3. Expense (though this is very location-dependent).
4. Commute, while probably a good thing overall, eats time.
5. Your landlord, like most landlords, may suck.
None of this in any way contradicts the idea of going all-in on remote teams, but it does raise a question: if you're doing it for the competitive advantage of high productivity, might it be better to spend more on offices that are themselves distributed?
(FWIW: Married, no kids, and neither one of us works a 9-5 schedule.)
Having said that, and appreciating that both norms and technology infrastructure are much different than they were when I started in the industry, it's really difficult for me to imagine starting out of school as a remote employee. I think I would have found it enormously isolating and difficult.
If cost isn't the significant factor to being remote then time and convenience sure is. I have two or three extra hours of productivity not driving into the office (no round trip), settling into a cubicle, chit chatting, picking where to go to lunch and of course avoiding tension headaches and sleepiness from sitting in traffic. I also have time to work out that I didn't before. I'm more balanced in my life. I'm 10 years and going strong remote as a programmer/consultant with tons of energy and free time to do what I want while being highly paid. My wife is at home with me along with my kids and the most driving we do is your typical errands. Cost for me is much lower as we only need one car and I can write off office space in my house.
I have a hypothesis about these studies showing that onsite is better aside from being the business culture propaganda it is: People are generally social creatures and find communication most effective in presence as it strengthens learning via increased dopamine response (reward system), however, the outliers in the bell curve don't need this type of stimulation, in fact it may make them less effective.
Several remote workers I've met over the years along with myself simply don't need that and find video, chat, docs and email more effective in communicating over in-person meetings on whiteboards. As a programmer, I care more about the idea being presented or discussed than the people themselves. I find I personally work much more effectively in my own space and I know the remote teams I've worked with find a similar experience. This is probably the outlier which is why these studies find it more effective to the contrary. It depends on the type of person and that type of person not needing social feedback in-person is more rare. I would say I receive less dopamine overall or find the in-person experience less pleasant because of all the extra overhead (time) needed just to start the day. I simply hate inefficiency and see having to go in as very annoying, it reduces the social benefit to being pointless in my case.
Don't get me wrong, I seem very far from a nerd in person and am very successful socially in general with men and women. I'm the type of guy that tells jokes and has the zinger comebacks always on the tip of my tongue, can get everyone laughing and can communicate very well. The thing is I don't even miss any of this as I can do this on video anyway daily. It is a choice for me to come to the office or not and I simply don't choose to 99% of the time.
I am even thinking the bell curve outliers are starting to move toward the center as older people die off and technology becomes more "real".
So instead, you have to let your frustrations silently brew under the surface, always wishing your company cared more about employees and gave them adequately quiet and private space to get work done, or gave everyone a raise instead of spending the money on video games, gourmet coffee, etc.
Many engineers, especially experienced ones, are fully aware that all of these fringe "culture benefits" are just utter bullshit, and that they exist to try to hoodwink younger engineers into accepting worthless equity, criminally insane working environments, and exasperating, oppressive work culture that doesn't really permit good work life balance.
They aren't fooled or enticed by them. They simply have to put up with them because it's what everyone is doing. And they have to act like yes-men when people ask if you like the new foosball table or that killer company party. And HR thinks it's really working.
Your employees can't really afford recreation or adequate living space or decent meals based on what they are paid, so instead bring the recreation to work, bring the meals to work, and just have people stay at work all the time.
We're aware of this, and unfortunately until people start telling shitty companies 'no' and insisting on being treated better (or software unionizes) it's not going to improve, and everyone's going to continue having insane shitty working conditions, but paper over it with all smiles about how cool Whisky Thursday is or whatever other bullshit none of us actually care about at all.
It's also disrespectful to assume that your coworkers don't know what's actually valuable to them. Some people prefer an extra $5k in salary, some people prefer $4k of free meals. Or $6k of free meals that costs the company $3k because of scale. Or whatever. Some people are investing in their long-term growth by deeply immersing themselves in their careers (and perhaps working non-long-term-sustainable hours), and if the company provide some cheap bennies that make that easier to do, so much the better. Yes, the company profits, and no the employee isn't maximizing short-term earnings, but maybe it's still win-win.
If employees really can't afford recreating or adequate living space, then of course that's a problem. I'm skeptical that's a real problem in software, though. And if that problem does exist, btw, then I think the best solution is those employees going and finding careers/lifestyles that fit better.
I want to add that I found this comment particularly startling because most of the comments I most agreed with on this page were also by you, p4wnc6.
I think the OP is complaining about this "culture" being used as a weapon to trick, mislead, and bully people.
> So when you flat-out lie to your coworkers about your feelings, you're undermining the social fabric, for your pecuniary gain
Any company that forces you to lie about your personal non-work related opinions in order to keep your job is incredibly toxic.
> It's also disrespectful to assume that your coworkers don't know what's actually valuable to them.
The problem is non-monetary benefits are misleadingly marketed to prospective employees and are thus very hard to evaluate.
For example I've worked at companies that provide free dinner to employees. In reality if you took advantage of these "free" dinners you were expected to work late.
Likewise I've worked at a couple of places that advertise unlimited vacation days. At all of my previous jobs in tech I have had 4-5 weeks vacation per year. So naturally I'm assuming that unlimited is at least as good. In other words taking 5 weeks off over the year shouldn't be a problem at all. Bzzzzt! Wrong.
Likewise many companies say they offer great career progression and training and very few deliver.
It is false advertising. Plain and simple.
Actual free dinner is easily worth $5k/year to me. The ability to take extra vacation days here and there when I feel I need a break is easily worth $10k/year to me. A serious focus on career progression and a focus on training is worth another $10k/year to me.
Naive sheepmullet used to get tricked into giving up $15k in salary thinking he was going to get $25k in benefits (that only cost the company $5k) and everybody would win.
Jaded sheepmullet realises there is a huge asterisk next to most of these benefits and refuses to compromise on salary unless the benefits are written into his contract.
For example I'd love to take a lower salary for a job that offered serious training and skills development. Lets write into my contract that you will provide me 20 days off work for self-study + 100 hours of 1 on 1 mentoring by my manager + a conference budget + a 10% pay increase at the end of each year.
Alcoholic drinks at work sounds like a recipe for disaster, and a good way to get sexual harassment lawsuits on your hands.
And dogs at work sounds like a horrible idea. The last thing I want to deal with at work is dog barking and dog smells. What a pain in the ass. And what about employees who are allergic to dogs?
As for people telling shitty companies 'no', what really happens IMO is that people leave. Just look at the turnover rates in software. I left a job once mainly because of the lousy work environment; I can't be the only one.
Employee perks may be a part of the culture, as they famously are in Google. But there are more considerations. E.g. the architecture, the history (important), the campus, (most importantly imo) the staff, knowledge networks, energy, etc. It's hard to imagine what a company like Microsoft would be like without Redmond, or Apple without Cupertino, etc. They're just bricks and mortar, but they've grown to define companies. The culture that surrounds HQs are attractive for potential employees and current employees. Many of these companies effectively have cult-like status, and their office spaces are central to this.
Lots of things have nothing to do with getting work done. It's because we're not robots; we're people.
Seriously, if you're that upset with the "fringe benefits", then DON'T WORK THERE. There are lots of places to work that don't have any of these.
But when benefits become venerated to the status of "part of the culture" and good employees are labeled as "not a team player" if they don't visibly celebrate the benefits, then it's a problem.
I'm saying the problem is that these benefits are inane when they are marketed as part of the culture and not merely benefits.
I have worked with a purely remote company for a few years and I would have stayed with them forever if the business had actually worked out. Interestingly I collaborated and talked to my remote colleagues much more than I do now in the open office.
Obviously, to each his own. Some people like the office and some people like remote.