That being said, while there is an interesting and at least plausible reason to believe there is some connection between such phenomenon and technology, i think the article is a bit too quick to proclaim that its things like "technology", "emailing" and things that have lead to a lack of empathy in the modern workplace.
On the contrary, i think organisational size and governance lines (which is in some ways connected to technology, admittedly), globalisation, outsourcing, and just the general economic and social realities of the modern workforce lead to a necessary degeneration of trust and respect between workmates and the organisation.
My company, for all its "values", will throw me under the bus to save itself, or for a quick buck. I cannot rely on it to support me into the future: even if it wanted to put money into a pension, i can't rely on that actually remaining solvent. I don't even know if my field/expertise is going to be around for the next 5 years. It is always looking to screw me over, outsource my labour, etc, etc. Its not "too much emails" that does it: its that I know I'm essentially working for a short-term psychopath that couldn't keep its promises to me even if it wanted to (and it doesn't want to).
If you raise people in harsh cutthroat conditions, don't be surprised if empathy falls by the wayside, or expect the lamb to lie down with the lion.
Reid Hoffman makes a great point about how companies truly aren't like families. https://hbr.org/2014/06/your-company-is-not-a-family quote:
In a real family, parents can’t fire their children. Try to imagine disowning your child for poor performance: “We’re sorry Susie, but your mom and I have decided you’re just not a good fit. Your table-setting effort has been deteriorating for the past 6 months, and your obsession with ponies just isn’t adding any value. We’re going to have to let you go. But don’t take it the wrong way; it’s just family.”
I'll take it to another extreme. Loving families (I won't say real families, because there are clearly examples of families that don't do this) will stick with you through thick and thin during your substance abuse, put you through rehab, and still do their best to help you when you fall off the wagon again and again.
I do this that technology will give more flexible work hours. I think it is just that changing a social process is hard and is unlikely to happen in an existing structure.
At GitLab we've embraced remote work and work hours are truly flexible. The only exceptions I can think of is that our team call (attendence optional) is at a fixed time. And that we expect service engineers to work 5 days a week on normal weeks to make sure we meet our next business day SLA without bouncing a ticket between many people.
I think remote only http://www.remoteonly.org/ will become more popular but it will take new companies to get there.
Thought there's a difference in being disowned / disinherited, and in simply not being the primo genitur -- the offspring who will inherit the title.
I'm thinking of Ludwig von Wittgenstein, born to one of the wealthiest families of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the late 19th century. In his case, he chose to leave the family, or at least its wealth, though AFAIR it remained reasonably supportive of him. I'm not sufficiently versed in nobility/royalty to think of other instances offhand.
It seems like that's the solution to the pension issue. If the company goes bust you still have your retirement savings.
There is little that is "psychopathic" about it; it's just mildly complex mathematics, the sort used in accounting.
It's just a reflection of "space does not care".
I think it's much, much simpler. The defacto standard for a firm is everyone underfoot, whirring away. Those who deviate from this are blamed when tightening occurs. This is reported as "remote work is on the wane." That becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Likewise, one failure in coordination and remote work is blamed.
Wanna know what's worse? Shorting the ability of many, many people to remotely work is probably the right bet.
I've seen and also participated in an employment model that's a bit "feudal" in nature - where the prime loyalty is between the worker and the team + team leader, not the larger megacorp. This allows the manager to get stuff done well and thus often but not always avoid excessive pressure from outside/above and thus keep any promises made even if they're not legally binding; and if they are thrown under a bus (which happens, sometimes for various unavoidable circumstances e.g. change in ownership) then this simply results in most of the team re-assembling in a company that treats them appropriately.
I'm not sure I completely agree, but it does seem to be at least a part of human nature.
Are you saying that all business owners (including small businesses) are sadists?
Either you have worked in only really bad workplaces or you have a really distorted view on reality.
Every business owner I know would prefer for their employees to be enjoying their work. What possible motivation could their be for them to desire the opposite?
Will you also throw the company under the bus to save yourself, or to make a quick buck? Can the company rely on you for your support through thick and thin in the future, even if they have to, say, quit paying you for a while until finances improve?
If it was my own company, my local or town company, my community, or my family's, I would actually want to support it or fight for it. I'm also at a point of life where I've afforded to buy a house and am actually willing to sacrifice or put in effort to make things better in my community. I'm actually looking for a job nearby that I can sit in for the next few years. Does such a job exist anymore at any scale? I realise that many people can't afford to even buy where I live or into their local community any more.
But my current employer is a giant organisation. Some of my bosses aren't from the same nation, let alone the same community, they have an off-shoring agenda. I've been through 2 restructures recently and lost two bosses and several workmates.
I'm not looking to apportion blame, I know who I'm working for and why.
But I do think it's more of a logical outcome of our modern society and economics, even though I have a strong urge to contribute locally, and I actually want to settle down somewhere long term...that's really hard/risky...
No, it's actually quoting "Sherry Turkle, director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology", and maybe you're a bit too quick to dismiss the amount of thought she put into such claims.
It's really not.
It also helps to keep in mind the distinction between logical fallacies, used in a strict logical sense, and strength of argument. The case here is one of "what is the evidence to support a belief?", not "are the argument's predicates and conclusions logically valid in a strict sense?".
The original argument was that the article was "too quick to proclaim". The rejoinder was that this wasn't the article's conclusion, but that of an expert on the subject.
The discussion has been advanced, the initial claim invalidated, and additional relevant information provided.
To reject the conclusions of the article simply because of an appeal to authority, without also presenting a stronger claim that the authority is invalid, doesn't advance the argument.
To persist in that is tiresome.
A key question is whether or not the authority in question is credible. I've engaged in any number of discussions where showing credibility is at issue, and showing a particular source's good faith or record of admitting error (or not relitigating falsehoods) is crucial to qualifying or impeaching a witness. Again, you've not done this.
Paul Graham's "How to Disagree" is popular around here for various reasons. The derived graphic on hierarchy of disagreement is also strongly recommended.
You might also want to catch up on your logical fallacies and how/when they're appropriate or not.
Note that key to these is the question of expertise.
There's no condition requiring the subject matter to be outside her area of expertise, in fact it wouldn't make sense there - since she's not an authority on areas not her expertise, it can't be an appeal to authority in that instance.
Sure - trust her to know the data in the space better than some random doofus. That's sensible, and why we have experts.
That doesn't mean you can grant her extra consideration when evaluating the soundness of the argument she makes with that data as support - the logic contained in that argument does NOT depend on her being a domain expert, but on being a good logician. That's what the fallacy points out.
I don't think we're disagreeing, but I wanted to clarify the distinction between her being a field expert and her being an argumentative expert.
But when I look at my home country technology has helped us escape the government propaganda, understand our own history better, realize the scam of the ruling party that virtually rules all the years post independence and feel far more hopeful about future.
Indians are better informed, more free and are able to exercise their choices because of technology.
The temptation to micromanage every aspect in the field from afar would lead to defeat in this day and age.
your arguments support the article. its very hard to argue that globalization and outsourcing isnt fueled by tech (Voice over IP for example). your skills becoming obsolete also point to the fast pace tech. not sure about the general economy and social realities, although i feel facebook does more to separate people than to connect them.
I'm sure you could tell when the East India company got to a certain size.
Interesting point given the parent comment (quoted). I'd assume the East India Company, regardless of size, still operated in a fairly federated/independent manner. You can't very well micromanage across 4-6 months travel time.
Could you point me to some of these essays? I would like to have a look at them.
The trust issue referenced in this article is one element but there are many others:
- Many people don't handle the level of autonomy well, or don't stay motivated in isolation
- Harder to engage a remote employee in company culture and values
- There is a big difference between remote in the same time zone/country and remote on the other side of the world
- Management invariably has less control over a remote employee and less ability to command their immediate attention
I think comparing "remote work" with "not remote work" is a massive oversimplification of the issue that does everyone a disservice. There is the group of remote contractors you've never met, there's the team of fulltime employees that live within a few hours' flight of each other and meet several times a year, there's the guy who works in the office 3 days a week and at home from 2. So what are we really talking about? Generalities are not productive.
The dark spectres hovering over the head of remote work are that remote employees often end up being less productive and less available when you really need them.
For certain types of work and certain types of people these issues are more or less pronounced... this is not a black and white thing. But I am pretty sure we will never see a future where everyone is a fully remote worker.
I may be the exception though since I was 'trained' in remote work starting with my very first job out of school. Even though I had to go into an office, many people I worked with were somewhere else in the US. The majority of them I never met in person and mostly either emailed or spoke on the phone.
I will say though, the hardest remote work situation to manage is an extreme time difference. Managing people in Asia while living in the US was tough.
Now I'm back in an office doing 9-5, and everything is a chore. My stress levels are significantly higher than previously, etc...
With tools like group video calling, conference calls, email, Slack/chat, etc... It's incredibly easy to stay "close" with your team while being remote.
But if you can work remotely from home/desk, so can people who are willing to work for 10% of your salary. In person means "Im on the radar, im there to consider, and there to help". Someone over a chat client doesnt have the same presence.
Now, this might/probably change with the advent of AR and VR workspaces.
That's just capitalism. Choose a profession where you're not so easily replaced by someone who will take 10% of your salary.
If you're so unskilled as to be that replaceable, there's no reason to feel comfortable in a non-remote job, either.
Just take a software engineer for example. LOC is fallible in too many ways to take seriously. Number of function points coded? Number of bugs fixed? They are all very fallible.
How about mentoring? How about reviewing code? How about documentation? How about professional development?
Depending on the situation, reading a technical article can weigh higher than a support issue. How do you develop the weighting for the different factors? Can it be applied across organizations?
To confound it further, people tend to take on work that doesn't fit their title. The smaller the organization, the larger the diversity of responsibilities.
Then there are soft factors like knowing which issues to address immediately in order to keep them from percolating up to your manager, working well within a team, communicating effectively, etc.
My opinion is that we are unlikely to see objective, effective measurements of productivity for the Tech Industry anytime within my employment life. It's not a failure. The number of factors involved, not to mention the ability to gather the measurements, is staggeringly complex. After all, we're not factory line workers producing pre-defined widgets.
Depending when you were out at the pool, I can imagine you got a few instant messages from your boss that you didn't reply to.
That's the thing. Over the last 10 years the vast majority of my colleague, client and bosses were in remote countries. I worked with a guy that was the only one in the office for his team. His whole management hierarchy, all his colleagues where in other countries. Still management insisted he needed to come to work, wearing a suit as it was the standard in that office. (note that there were not even anybody to "see" that he was there, I guess the only reason is that remote working for permanent employee is quite difficult in the UK: you need a home office assessment, the company need to provide specific stuff, ...)
I'm curious what sort of company insisted on that.
To be fair, I worked for a company previously that didn't provide facilities for remote working as a general rule (i.e. access VPN that existed for sales), but I still had 1 colleague in my team that was working from home full time (i.e. using the VPN).
So I guess it must be random.
I might sound a bit cynical here, but company culture and values (and everything surrounding it) is essentially the glue that sticks the suckers together. Employment is, in the simplest sense, nothing more than an all eggs in one basket business relationship.
You can make friends with certain people while employed, but companies (the entities as a whole) have, almost always, zero loyalty towards their employees. How many companies are touting "we're all in this together, guys!" only to turn around and fire 10% of their staff for whatever reason?
Also, why would one have to share the values/culture of the company you're employed at, if you're getting the work done professionally + at a high standard? Almost always these "values" are used an excuse to abuse the relationship (i.e. free overtime, "cause we're all doing it!", "can't give you a raise, because no one is making more than $XXX,000 per year at this company!")
I think this belief is wrong. There are very few successful companies that don't go to great lengths to minimize employee turnover because it's economically beneficial. Hiring and training new staff is almost always more expensive than retaining someone who delivers good performance.
For a manager one of the biggest benefits of a person who is a "culture fit" is that they tend to be less likely to quit.
Sure people get laid off and fired in the world of business. I have yet to see the mustache-twirling villain who relishes doing this. It's basically the worst part of the job.
The relationship between employee and employer is economic. When either party decides it no longer makes economic sense they can end it. No one should get confused about that, and getting engaged in the company's culture and values doesn't have to contradict that. The ideal is that it equates to having some other reasons for sticking around and enjoying yourself while you're there. If you're a good employee then trust me they want you to stick around (many employees, including myself at past points in my career, think they're good employees but they're not). All this abuse stuff you're talking about certainly happens in some places but I don't think it's the typical case.
That's not loyalty, it's a cost-benefit analysis. If you applied the same logic to your personal relationships, you'd rightly be seen as a psychopath.
Loyalty is not minimizing turnover when the times are good. Loyalty is
going out of one's way to protect the other side even when something bad
happens to either side of the relationship.
Any clues on how to test if I'm in that position, or am I actually a good employee? Is there a chart somewhere I could fill and see my actual "employee desirability" score?
My problem is I finally, after many years of battling impostor syndrome, believed that I'm not that bad a programmer. So now I started worrying about this thing you mention...
You mean you've started to get impostor syndrome again?
As I've started being 'in charge' of more people this has been the hardest thing for me to adapt to. I've always operated with a high degree of autonomy. Now that I'm in the position of assigning work to other people it's been a shock to me how much handholding most people need to get something done.
But just because that is true for a number of people doesn't mean it is true for all.
I don't work from home anymore, but, personally, I always felt happiest when working from home.
I did have a remote job which sucked, and part of it was because it was remote and I didn't have as much familiarity with the code or the company and part of it was that the job just really sucked.
I think though that if you are already familiar with the code, know the people you are working with well, don't have significant problems interpreting what others say via IM/email and need to speak with them in person to get context, and just get a total morale boost when working from home because you are in your own world and can concentrate better, then- please!- work from home!
Harder to engage a remote employee in company culture and values
We don't pretend we're gay.
We always feel that way,
Because we're filling the world with sunshine.
With I.B.M. machines,
We've got the finest means,
For brightly painting the clouds with sunshine.
I believe the proper posture for reciting these is "face down, 9 edge first", but I could be wrong :-)
I've noticed that when I have worked remotely, that I spent more time anticipating the care and feeding of the management ... interface, where when I'm onsite, I'd just allow normal Brownian motion of humans in the office to take care of it.
This latter method is by far the easier method, for everyone. I have worked remotely quite a lot, using both methods, and the second method is far more sustainable, in my opinion. (I mean, you just sync your hours with your workmates, and just make sure you're always online in the online chat application; if the company doesnt chat in your absence on online chat, well, it might not be the right company for you; but many do. A lot).
What if, however, I'm an engineer that's working on a new piece of machinery? This is a project that requires the involvement of many highly skilled workers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, computer programmers, etc. I might be responsible for a single system or even component, but my work directly relies on several other's work, and it may change depending on the circumstances (say the mechanical engineer has designed an arm that would damage a critical electrical system). Now you've got a moving target. One day your work was x, now the circumstances shifted and it's y. With potentially hundreds of people involved it would be very difficult to asses what any one person's contribution was based on your standard above. Indeed, if you could asses that from the beginning, you wouldn't need all those engineers to design your machine since you had already done that work.
This generally means that you're better off being less efficient while still meeting the deadlines/goals.
Of course, there's a tradeoff since proving yourself to be more efficient than expected could result in more work etc, but it's not as clear cut as being rewarded for efficiency.
When I look at past and current people I've managed my feeling is maybe 1 in 4 would respond really well to the "results only" workplace and the other 3 might quit.
I think the whole discussion of remote work is colored by the fact that there is a particular personality type - smart, introverted, self-motivated, results-oriented - which operates very well remotely. A lot of these people gravitate toward the tech industry. Some of them get a taste of remote and then they talk it up like it's the future of work for everyone because it is so great for them. I totally get it, I prefer remote myself, and if those people produce then I'm happy to let them be as remote as they want to be forever.
It's just that those people aren't 100% of the workforce (probably not even 30%).
It is more expensive to control the results than to control the process.
Especially in software development, you need quality assurance throughout the whole process, because checking the results or result modules in a blackbox-fashion may lead to catastrophic results.
I know some programmers who were always able to produce code that fulfils the spec, after a few corrections. But any small change in the spec, and the whole thing falls apart. Show them their own code a few weeks later, and they won't be able to maintain it. Leave them alone a few months with their code, and they will refuse to work on it anymore, because they literally can't make any sense of it anymore.
Alas, it was a C program, and any significant change in the (batch) input data would cause the thing to dump core. I'm not blaming the QA for failing to provide all possible variations of the client data (spec???), just the chumps who couldn't do "defensive programming" (e.g. - I/O error or null pointer checks)
Leaving these guys unattended for any length of time would be a disaster.
I also think that remote work practices should be taught and we can't assume because you know how to use Slack, GitHub, Google Docs, and Skype you know how to work remotely.
I worked from home for a year and found it very stressful. There was a lack of human interaction and no clear line between home and work.
My current employer gives me a good balance. I usually spend 3 days in the office and 2 days at home. This is mostly because of the 2 hour commute into London. I'd love to work close to home and visit the office every day.
Looking at some of the comments here (for example: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12311632) it seems that the new work culture is being based around the approach adopted by a proportion of the population whose need's are different. These people thrive in this environment.
There is an assumption that the way that this group works is the future, and that it is just a matter of time before everybody else follows (See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12311689).
There are others, like myself, who find this way of working to be unpleasant. We would like to continue working the old way, but that doesn't seem to be an option anymore.
I used to enjoy having my own desk. I had a shelf of reference books and my personal belongings were locked away in the draw.
This is no longer allowed. Every job I've had for the last decade has been 'hot desking' and I have to carry everything with me every day.
Is a desk of my own where I can do a little nesting really too much to ask for?
I have poor personal discipline at times so working from home is distasteful to me. My wants and desires for fun / chores / etc don't mesh well with "being by computer or phone waiting for contact" - I get edgy. Then how can I unwind, I'm already home?!
I'm aiming to one day be self-employed, preferably in screenwriting. Should the financial compensation reach the point of the luxury of quitting my full-time employment with benefits, my first order of business will be to sign a lease at some type of office. I want to work 8-12 and then, as my brain shuts off, go home and spend time on personal things, chores, amusements, cooking, etc. I crave structure and therefore feel empowered by recognizing this characteristic in myself.
If we give you that, then you might start to think you're an individual, instead of a replaceable cog.
> And, truth be told, you probably don’t trust most of your colleagues
> or your boss, either.
Even if I include the time of my apprenticeship in an East German (GDR) chemical factory of several thousand employees, even there the majority of people did a good job at work and were competent.
Even when I extend that to numerous summer jobs in a brewery, sausage factory, chocolate factory and a dozen others (non-food), I rarely had the impression that the sentence I quoted demonstrates.
That a job may be useless - okay, that happens a lot, but I can rarely attribute it to complete incompetence, most of it is much larger forces at work than an individual - even a CEO - can fight. And yes, sometimes people are in over their head, but that happens, so what. In the day to day operations I must have been incredibly lucky that my experiences are overall very positive? Hard to believe.
Since "trust" is the centerpiece of that article I question whether their entire premise is even true.
I trust my colleagues at all levels, say, not to steal £10 I leave in my desk. But the article is talking about the kind of trust to be working hard the whole time, competently, totally for the best interests of the company.
Given how common it is for us to moan about our useless and lazy bosses (and fellow programmers), I have to agree that trust of that nature isn't very common. I can't say whether it has got more or less common prevalent over time, though.
I can see now how a possible interpretation that surely somebody will come up with - whether they post it or not - is that I am clueless myself and that that's the reason I had such positive experiences. May be, I would be the last one to know, right? On the other hand, work as a well-paid freelancer who likes to not just not get fired but also to get the contract renewed would be hard if that was so, I think?
That previous paragraph shows I actually do have a trust issue: (now speaking generally, not in response to the comment) online I've come to expect bad things happening. You post something you think is positive and interesting and out of nowhere comes an interpretation that is dark and turns it all on its head.
Even in the GDR chemical factory, where it would have been extremely easy and would have had few repercussions, most people (actually everybody I ever worked with there, and I saw many different departments) voluntarily decided to do what it takes to keep things running as well as they could. When they didn't work it was because there really wasn't anything to do. I never saw anyone neglecting their duty. My apprenticeship was for a very technical job "BMSR Techniker" - measurement, control and regulation technology, so I never was an office worker but in the production line or in construction (electrical infrastructure).
I do remember that a (random) manager in the chocolate factory I worked for three weeks during winter break at university didn't trust me:
I had just fed a machine - more thoroughly than necessary - and had nothing to do until it would be finished 10 minutes later, so I sat down and read in my French lesson book - always with an ear for the machine next to me. I could not have done any other work even if I wanted, there was only that machine in that room.
In comes a manager (that I didn't know) - immediately assuming I'm a lazy SOB. It was the complete opposite - I LIKE to work, and I had until then - without any supervision or pressure - done much more than asked. That changed somewhat after that !$%"§$ manager treated me like dirt.
Okay, so there is this guy that I didn't trust, but he wasn't even my manager, he just happened to walk by, never met him again but he ruined the entire three weeks of work experience. I never bought anything that I knew was made in that factory again.
Since you mention scrum, I was on one project with "mild scrum". It was a very good project with very good people. Other freelancers came from non-IT (but STEM) field, they worked in IT because there was no money in their own field. Even they "knew their shit", in their specialization (an Oracle product) more than me, no need to check on them, they too delivered on time and good enough quality ("good enough" sounds bad until you factor in the usual business pressures, like accumulating ever more technical debt because there wasn't a penny for refactoring, and that project had outgrown its initial spec by orders of magnitude).
Anyway, I only ever read about the horror stories, never been in one myself. The closest may have been a few weeks in an already late project for the German government that I was added to for no other reason then to show the customer that we try. Nobody really incompetent either, the project was doing as well as it could, the actual problem was that in order to get the project my company had to promise more than is possible. You can't blame the government either though, if they don't go for the lowest bidder the newspapers and the public are up in arms about "government waste". Everybody actually seems to act quite sanely individually, much of the insanity is a system outcome. Change would have to come from everybody changing at the same time.
IMHO, the 9-5 is is useful because, in the pull the lever case, the lever gets pulled. More importantly, a substantial fraction of time exposed to The Problem. You have nine hours to kill, odds are good people will spend those hours possibly getting hooked on solving The Problem. There's little chance they'll solve the problem in those hours, but they'll get hooked on The Problem and think about it while washing dishes, in the shower, and sleeping. Once you're hooked, it's tough to get away from it without solving it.
Ultimately, i think anything repetitive will be automated away. But we still need some way to hook people on The Problem. Hours and hours of exposure is probably inefficient, but it's effective.
The desert is fine if that's what works for you. Most people (imho) grind away with no effect for days or weeks, and then have that flash of insight. A new thing to try. Most work is stupid, typing in stupid things to effectively prove the stupid thing doesn't work. This is more on the lever pulling edge of the spectrum. But then, eventually, there's that one insight that makes the whole thing tractable. In the shower. On a Tuesday. It only works because we've been thinking about the thing, in the background, for a long time.
Clearly, others will do their best in different environments. The search for "one size fits all" is part of the problem here.
- Long remote: When someone is offshore or many time zones away (such as India or Eastern Europe).
- TZ remote: Same timezone, but requires airplane flight to meet.
- Local remote: Within driving distance.
Local remote is the best of both worlds and all companies should be doing this. It can be a 3-2 balance (3 days remote, 2 days in office) or 4-1, whatever makes sense for the team and company. Employees get the benefit of remote (flexibility, no commute) and in person meetings (such as designing a new system on a whiteboard). It's sad that so many tech companies (such as Google and FB) don't do this. Considering that it's tech that allows this (with video conferencing, git, slack, etc.), it's ironic that tech companies are so resistant to doing local remote.
TZ remote can work, but it should be only for employees who are already established at the company (spent many years doing local remote). The connections developed during the local remote years will help make TZ remote work. And they can fly to the office a few times during the year to refresh those connections.
Long remote has a lot of issues. The big time zone difference, lack of any history of in-person meetings, and culture differences make it very difficult for this to work.
The problem is that popular theories of management are about control. The CEO controls everything. His immediate in-group controls slices. Their in-groups control smaller slices still. If you control nobody, then you are lowest in the primate status structure.
Remote working undermines that, because it removes you from direct control. Managers and execs are in large part unable to usefully evaluate the work of the people under them. (The whole theory of the MBA is that it's a universal management degree, that understanding of a domain is irrelevant.) Which is why we have to spend so much time on control-oriented systems like plans and trackers and reporting. Managers, unable to actually judge the work, fall back on the obvious: physical presence and conformance to ritual.
To fix this, we need an entirely different theory of management, a shift from controlling to supportive. There are plenty of options here (Lean Manufacturing, Servant Leadership, "Teal" organizations, what the Zingerman's businesses are doing, even our pre-MBA business past), but approximately nobody is adopting them because the people with control like having control. And because we have these cultural assumptions that somebody is supposed to be in control.
I officially work 8.25 hours per day or 8-17 with 45 minutes of lunch, this is roughly the standard working day in Sweden.
As an example, my contract when I worked for the British government said, "You will normally be required to work a five-day week of 41 hours gross, Monday to Friday, including meal breaks".
The time allowed for lunch breaks was one hour per day, which led to a working time of 7h12m, and a total weekly working time of 36 hours.
I only notice now that this doesn't quite add up to 9–17h. That's probably because most people took about ¾ hour for lunch rather than the full hour, and left at 17:00 rather than 17:12.
(Or maybe I was doing it wrong.)
I don't know anyone that works 9-5 with an hour for lunch.
....although I must admit this is rare. The last place was 9-5 with half an hour for lunch, which was widely abused by others (eg. 2 hour pub lunch every Friday, clear off early, roll in late).
A previous place wanted 40 hours a week when I inquired about returning. A reevaluation of priorities led me to turn that offer down.
(I say average because you're expected to put in ~37.5h of work a week, and have the deficit/surplus at month end of +-5h)
I'm not a young go getter. Many of my colleagues get in earlier and stay way later. I'm not sure about them but I continue to get raises and glowing performance reviews.
I work from 10am to 7pm, with an unpaid lunch break at 1pm. That's considered and 8-hour working day here.
I believe Swedish law calls for a minimum 5 minutes break per hour? (Not mandatory but an entitlement)
At every company in Sweden I've worked the number was exactly 2 @ 15 minutes each.
Fika IS important to productivity though! Morale boosting if nothing else.
What we were promised is 30 maybe even 20 hours of work a week, the location hardly matters.
Instead we get to work even longer hours.
And worse even yet, if you are shown to be more productive, then you've incentivized all the others on your team to gently sabotage you. That sounds more paranoid than it really is. But I've had people say bluntly "we don't want to get this done too quickly because it'll wreck the project management calibration."
This is harder than it looks.
However, major parts of our current expense, like housing at desirable areas, are "competitive" in that if everybody earns ten times as much then the good would also cost ten times as much.
"Housing" in the sense as shelter somewhere is very cheap to make, only "housing" in an area where you (and everyone else) would want to work and raise your kids is expensive.
"Education" in the sense of simply obtaining knowledge and information is very cheap now, only "education" in the meaning of degree=certification that you're "better than average" is expensive.
I once calculated that I literally could live in semi-abandoned areas with the 1916 level of goods&services (+ a PC and internet) for 5-10 hours of work/week even if that was at minimum wage, and remote contracting often does much better. Including paying for the home - they're dirt cheap in places that people are leaving for the expensive places. However, the trouble is that I don't really want to and can afford to "do better" - and everyone else does as well.
Also, the healthcare price increase is mostly by changing the "basket" of what we mean by "healthcare" - if we compare current healthcare with e.g. 1916 or 1966, then it's much more expensive but mostly because healthcare now includes expensive procedures for ailments that simply would not be treated back then other than painkillers to ease the death.
Land, labour and energy are the basic inputs. You could argue capital as well. Technology is a productivity multiplier. Some things are getting cheaper - much cheaper. But other things are getting heavily regulated, which drives flow-on price increases.
The problem is those flow on increases have swamped the price reductions from automation. Technology price reductions are gradual and incremental, whereas regulation can be applied on thickly at the stroke of a pen.
Where I live, heavy regulation on land use causes shortages, which drives up the price of everything. To sell tech in a shop requires silly rent, and paying someone to mind the cash register has been regulated to be high. So while the price of a 8Gb isn stick has crashed, the shop and the employee have rocketed up.
Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations has an interesting breakdown of factors contributing to wages, though he also maintains that a wage must always be sufficient to sustain not only the labourer himself (hey, this was 1776), but his wife and children, and their education so as to provide for the next generation of workers.
There are some other points I'll address directly to your parent's question.
Think of it this way: if you wanted to replicate the average life of someone who lives in the 1950's, it would be cheaper than today (I know housing kinda screws that up). No internet, a basic car without all the electronics and safety gear, no computer, smaller house, rarely flying anywhere, etc.
The trade off with improved productivity is this: you can either work less and make the same amount or you can work the same amount and make more. Most people choose the later.
Two of the three main goals of the money system, as stated in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, are to maintain stable prices and maximize employment.
So, not only does technological ephemeralization run counter to these explicit goals, it also cedes power from the super administrators who dictate the money supply which ultimately determines monetary prices across the globe.
First of: compared to when? If your baseline is, say, 1870 or 1770, life is far cheaper in terms of hours of work required to purchase basic goods. There's a long literature of basic worker incomes and expenditures, reading of which is fascinating.
If the question shifts to, say, 1950 - 2000, and your focus is the US or Western Europe (and we're considering a majority ethnicity male), I'd argue that life may or may not have gotten more expensive (though I think it has), but it's become tremendously less stable.
Lifetime employment means not having to worry about losing your current job, finding a new one, and supporting yourself and dependents in the meantime. Doing all of that on a barely-sufficient income (e.g., minimum savings), or worse, an insufficient income, becomes quite challenging.
Emma Rotshchild (yes, one of those Rothschilds), a Smith scholar, notes that his liberal philosophy isn't just philosophically liberal but materially liberal. Having income surplus to needs allows making choices. Or, as Eric Ravenscraft put it at Lifehacker: "When you’re broke, the only freedom you have is to make bad decisions."
He explains that:
Paying rent isn’t really a “good decision” so much as a responsibility. You don’t get a pat on the back for paying your rent. It’s great when you’re able to do it—you can’t always be sure you can when you’re poor—but it’s just treading water. You can’t choose to invest wisely or save for emergencies.
Putting yet another spin on this: a life in which you've optimised every decision and every action is one in which your only freedom, your only option, your only inconsistency, in any way, is something which will make your situation worse.
I can't think of a better argument for why a fully-optimised, fully-efficient life or existence would be hell.
Back to your question.
There are multiple elements of this:
1. What are market dynamics, and who has negotiating or bargaining advantage? Adam Smith notes that the upper hand lies with "masters" (employers), not labour.
2. What is price, and how does it relate to cost and value (and what's value, while we're at it) as well? To what extent are these givens, and to what extent are they fictions of market, ideology, or political strengths?
3. The Jevons Paradox. Another dilemma of efficiency is that making something more efficient is the same as reducing its cost, all else constant. Which means you'll increase demand, either individually or in aggregate. The things which have become cheaper (e.g., clothes) we now buy far more of (a closet full, rather than your work-day wear, and a suit for religious service).
4. Social signalling. Thorstein Veblen's contribution -- expensive information costs (both sending and receiving) make social signalling through appearance and consumption critical.
5. Price dynamics of wages, products, extractive materials, and rents. In particular, whilst some prices are drivers (higher-cost raw materials increase market prices), others follow general market prices (higher wages create higher rents). Unless supply of rented goods or services is fungible (e.g., Bay Area housing), well, you know what happens.
And I'm still tempted to go back to working 40 or 60 hour weeks. There's always... more. I could be saving up to buy a new car, virtual reality gear and a new PC, or investment properties. I could go on longer and more expensive vacations between jobs.
But for now, I've decided that I value my free time more than money.
You can't blame this on employees when it means they'd get fired if they refused, and therefore not be able to support their families.
The relevant paragraphs:
In other words, the propensity for email, texting and quick-type apps has led us to forget some of our people skills, including distinguishing the nuances of language and meaning, fostering of a feeling of belonging among groups of people, and knowing our bosses and colleagues well enough to have confidence that others will pull their weight. That, in turn, has diminished implicit and earned trust among the people we work with.
Technology has disrupted the workplace – and not always for the better.
That lack of trust brings about fear, which goes a long way to explaining why we put in face time, even when we probably don’t need to in order to do our work well. It also can explains why we feel we’ve got to have our “butt in the seat” even if our work could truly be done from the corner café or the back garden.
Creative work, knowledge work, development, etc, are very much different kinds of work, and they tend to be done in a different way. They don't have the same requirements of factory work (no need for shifts to man machines 24/7 except in a few cases). And they don't take a personal toll the same way. Lots of people fall into the trap of thinking that sitting in an air conditioned office necessarily makes a job easy, even "cushy", compared to physical labor, but that's an archaic notion. The impositions of cognitive labor can be just as severe as physical labor. Stress and bad working conditions in cognitive work can lead to health problems, emotional problems, and shorter lifespans just as easily as physical work can. Stress, psychological abuse, oppression, emotional crisis, all of these things are potentially as life threatening and traumatic as black lung or broken limbs. But whereas we've spent decades and trillions of dollars setting standards for the physical well being of workers in manual labor conditions we have only scratched the surface, with mixed results, when it comes to cognitive well-being.
On the one hand, hours are somewhat tangential to those factors, but on the other hand, when there are conditions which are detrimental to cognitive well-being being the number of hours that must be spent at work often significantly increases the problem. There are many jobs that are tolerable even when they are at 60+ hours a week, and there are other jobs that are intolerable even at 20 hours a week.
There is no way to do that in the Boston area where I live if I have to drive to a office. Commutes here are usually about an hour per 20 miles driven during rush hour. That makes an 8 hour work day more like 10-11 hours. So somewhere between 20% and 25% makes up the difference.
I think it's a lot like the 'paper less office'. It was talked about for a decade before it happened and it wasn't a linear progression. At first it meant more paper, as people were doing all sorts of 'silly' things, like printing out and filing emails.
But today I can't remember the last time I printed something or read something on paper.
This is completely false given most employers have way more trust based on using tech to know what they're doing, where they are, etc.
Largest reason that "butts in seats" will go away is in fact due to tech via increasingly "smarter" tech.
My experience is that onsite work is largely driven by more trival concerns such as ego, socializing, etc.
Office space is a huge waste of resources for the major majority of businesses.
I'm still productive, but I'm the only developer working on this project, so I don't think it's ideal. I think I could be about 3x more productive if I was in "startup mode" with a lot of equity. But I don't want to do that for this project, and 4 hours per day suits me very well.
It can be hard to keep saying no, and hold onto my 20 hour weeks. The client keeps talking about bringing me on full-time, and I keep politely declining. But then I've been thinking about saving up to buy an apartment, or a new car, or a vacation to Europe... I might go full-time for a little while to save up for that vacation. But apart from that, I really value my free time.
I spend a lot of my free time working on side projects. But I also really enjoy the freedom to read, or work on filmmaking, music, or other hobbies. Or to go for a walk, sit by a lake, watch TV, or just do nothing at all. I'm also working during the night, so it feels like I have the whole day to do whatever I want.
It's sad that this article only talked about "flexibility", and didn't mention anything about shorter work weeks.
I've applied to http://10xmanagement.com/, but haven't heard anything yet. They have a huge number of applications.
I had a long story written but figured it might reveal too much and give away where I am. I work in a corporate hq, multiple subsidiaries in the same site. The difference in how they are managed is striking, I am in one I describe above. I work more at home than work and most of my on site time is more for me to maintain friendships than anything else.
The difficult part is that by looking at the people in upper management someone coming off the street would mix the two groups up if you told them the stark differences. So its something you either are going to find out from friends who are there or have friends at a location or be willing to spend the time to find out yourself. Just saying, some of the more progressive appearing teams were the most repressive I have ever been around and the so called old school worked up from the field groups were more you earn it you have earned it.
"In other words, the propensity for email, texting and quick-type apps has led us to forget some of our people skills, including distinguishing the nuances of language and meaning, fostering of a feeling of belonging among groups of people, and knowing our bosses and colleagues well enough to have confidence that others will pull their weight. That, in turn, has diminished implicit and earned trust among the people we work with."
How has has the use of quick-type apps eroded trust exactly? I don't follow this. Can anyone clarify?
To me this means 'butts in seats' will never disappear, because when you agree to an standard employment contract, you are generally agreeing to be available at the employer's location.
There's a reason it's called human resources. The human is a bit like a tool lying in a toolbox. Even if if the tool is not being used all the time, there is an advantage in keeping it available for when it is needed.