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Ask HN: As programmers, why are we still going to the office?
35 points by aecorredor 2 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments
I’m stuck in bad traffic and started thinking that the status quo for the office is pretty unnecessary.

I actually enjoy regularly seeing the people I work with, and working in the office is somehow less distracting sometimes than working at home (where the desire to do anything but work is a bit higher).

Also, this title should have a 'Ask HN'.

It’s refeshing to hear this opinion on HN. I feel like every comment is “remote only or it sucks!”

Yes, I find huge value in flexible work times. Yes I find huge value in ability to work remote. But there is a lot more to most business than just implementing code. Those components are hard to do well with remote only (IMHO). Especially so if there is a physical component to the business/product.

Personally I like the human interaction and I like the separation of work and home.

Same here, I enjoy seeing my colleagues as well. But I prefer something like 2/3 days in the office and rest from home. This arrangement works better for me, covers all my needs/preferences.

As a remote worker of 6 years whose recently spent two weeks having to commute in the city. Thank god for my 30 foot commute from bed to across the hallway into the office.

Really wish the government would start forcing employers to pay employees for their average commute times. Would really encourage allowing remote work or relocation into smaller residential areas. It's hard to fathom why being stuck in traffic isn't considered work. Certainly feels like it.

> Really wish the government would start forcing employers

I understand your sentiment, but why is it that government coercion is necessary? You're allowed to run your own businesses as you see fit. If you work for someone else and don't like the arrangement, then fix it.

We already have that coercion in place. In the U.S., labor law [1] says if you work on-site a company is required to put you on the clock when you commute from your duty station to a remote client site.

(I've seen companies try to get around this by having people commute directly from home to the client site and then claiming that was their normal "commute")

So just redefine "duty station" from "office" to "place of residence."

After all, the commute is being done for the company's benefit, not the employee.

[1]: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/workhours/traveltime

But businesses generally don't care about employees stuck in traffic, pollution, global warming, accidents, etc.

That's right. If you disagree with it, the great thing is you're able to start your own business and run it the way you see fit.

It's a lot easier to point out what businesses are doing wrong than to start and run your own "the right way".

Because it's an externality, no company will take on an externality willingly

Because business is interested only in maximizing profit and government is (supposed to be) interested in protecting the rights of its citizens.

At first I quite liked this idea, but wouldn't it result in companies not willing to hire people outside of the inner city?

Does any engineer over mid-level actually still code for most of their day? I'm sure there are exceptions, but most senior engineers I've worked with spend most of their time communicating with other teams, laying out architecture, and code reviews.

I’m sure that depends on company culture. What you describe in a way sounds like big company culture. I am curious how this works in mostly-remote companies.

This thread is about programmers.

Been working remotely for 7 years. Started to think I might want to work in an office so I interviewed for an on site position. On the drive there I got stuck in traffic. On the drive back the same. Cured me of that idea real fast.

One word: communication

Software engineering or programming, whatever you want to call it is a social thing.

It is no longer necessary to relocate your body just to communicate with other people. Manufacturing (of material things) is still another story, but pervasive use of remote control, virtual reality, and robotics might change even that.

I've been working remotely for 2 years now and have begun to crave an on-site job. I'm rejecting remote offers nowadays because I really want to move to a different country and work with great engineers in an office where we can talk in person and not over Slack all the time.

It gets tedious and lonely when the nerdiest person I know around me is me. I can't even talk to my friends or family about the clever hacks I did because they couldn't begin to understand the complexity. I mean, sure, I give dumbed down versions all the time: but they're always met with a customary pat on the back (with a smile) and we move onto another topic that we all know very well.

Wow, this is surprising to me. I am the exact opposite position. I am rejecting offers that want relocation or NOT offering remote work. I get my social interaction from a few close friends and feel way less anxiety about not having to play office politics to get ahead. As another commentor said, it's especially a huge benefit to me in terms of getting my own te back instead of having a dreadful commute as well.

Why do you think there are no office politics for remote positions? Conversely, why do you think that on site must have more politics?

Maybe I’m an outlier, but at the company I built there is VERY little office politics. Most of us work onsite most of the time, but most of us also work remote sometimes. Some of my colleagues are about 50/50 in the office. We try to coordinate similar remote schedules to maximize in person communication when people are in the office.

We seem to be doing well with most engineers staying at least 5 years and many staying over 15.

I definitely feel that remote work reduces politics and I'm valued in terms of my performance than anything else. Your organization may have less politics than most, and I commend you but it's easier for politics to creep in on-site.

But when your performance is tracked empirically for everyone in the organization to see, everyone knows how much you're worth.

I suppose there are a lot of other factors at play here as well. You probably still have other physical developer friends, while I'm self-taught and graduated from an unrelated field. My friends aren't technical.

I hate commuting as well, but I also feel super unsafe in my country. An acquaintance of mine was running an educational platform online teaching basic and advanced blockchain development courses; their offices were raided because our federal government's investigative wing saw "Bitcoin". Every RTI requires a lawsuit to compel compliance. And so on.

I do not have any developer friends in the real world. The closest technical minded friends I have are at the level of IT helpdesk. That's okay to me; their technical chops aren't why they are my friends :)

Thanks for all the replies everybody. My bad for missing the “Ask HN” part, kind of posted this pretty fast. Yeah, I think that for me the pro that I give to working on site is the social aspect of it. But as far as productivity, I get much more done when I’m working from home. I also think that less people driving for god knows how many hours a year would also bring a million other collateral benefits for everybody. I live in Miami and I think about the infrastructure that we have for the number of people that live here, and it just seems crazy that it hasn’t improved at all in the 8 years I’ve been here. Hopefully autonomous cars + hyperloop really take off pretty soon. Anyway, thanks again for your thoughts on this random end of the day question ;)

As a remote worker of over 12 years I'm definitely enjoying getting back to in person interaction, especially during the colder months when people socialize a lot less. A mix of going to an office and working at home is hard to beat.

As someone who just went back to the office after working remote, I agree. Companies need to allow working remote more often. I don't need to be remote 100%, but having the option to work for a week or two somewhere else is great.

Because employers is hiring your service base on time and not according to delivery.

Need to devise a system where programmers are paid base on deliveries and not time.

It's also more fair to be paid base on deliveries instead of time.

Yeah. If I was paid the same for the actual output I produce I estimate I could hold the equivalent of at least 3 desk jobs simulatenously and triple my income. I suspect the same is true for many people. Large companies are not very efficient at utilizing people. Ironically I think companies in which people work remotely a lot tend to be the most results-oriented and less tolerant of people wasting time...because there is no way to keep up an illusion of productivity with “butts in seats”. So what you end up with is quite contrary to the myth of remote workers being unproductive.

I think it can be boiled down to: companies see potential costs but no potential advantages (for them).

Why we are going to the office? In most cases I saw it's because management wants to have more control, more performance and possibility to change our environment in any moment. Also most of the employers want us to work same amount of time daily and for all of the week. If it changes it will only if goverment will change the law or something big happens. It is simply more profitable for employers and they have upper hand for most of the people.

Was a remote programmer but I thought I needed human interaction to keep me sane but I think the horrible traffic is doing the opposite of my goal.

Suddenly, doing remote work and feeling like a shut-in is so much more comfortable.

As people in a world of machines and computers and extremely efficient farming, why are we still working 8hrs a day 5 days a week for food and shelter?

We aren't. Many on HN will have ridiculous amounts of spare cash once the basics of food and shelter are catered for.

Aaah you wan't to eat there and live in THAT part of town, and go on that holiday, and participate in those rituals, and get to that position in that company. Now you have to work 5 days a week.

Because any sort of talk about "redistribution of wealth and resources" conjures up deep fears of "communism" and "socialism" in older folks who were around when that was a popular thing.

Things I didn't bring into it at all.

Why isn't it more common for people to live on 2days/week work instead of 5days/week?

And I mean lots of people, and without the current stigma of "living in a van by the river" or the niche "tiny house" people" who have been accused of wanting the cost of living in a trailer park without the stigma of it - well, why shouldn't they want that? And .. why shouldn't everyone want basic housing and food, for a basic price, as a normal thing to do?

There may be more than one reason. Some people enjoy working; for others, going to work give their lives the structure they need; most people think that minimalism is silly and feel they need/want more than what is required for mere survival.

> Things I didn't bring into it at all.

Well it's pretty much implied. Not all industries can survive with employees working 2days/week. It would require 2.5x more employees to get the same number of worker hours in a 5 day period if every worker was limited to 2 days of work. Each of those workers would presumably be paid/compensated enough during those 2 days to be able to not only survive but also have disposable income (~2.5x pay per day in those 2 days). So 2.5x more workers, all making 2.5x pay/day each. It would be incredibly expensive and likely cause massive inflation.

The only way it might be feasible is with some redistribution of wealth.

I'm in complete agreement with you. The modern work system needs to change! We all deserve to be actually living lives instead of being forced into 5 day/week jobs if we don't want to!

No one is forcing you to work.

Many of us aren't, haven't worked anywhere but home in nearly a decade; full time remote work is great.

Without office space there is no networking. Without networking there is no real means to find a better job when the time is to move on. Humans are meant to collaborate and share perspectives. But again, it depends on what career path you choose on the next venture.

If you can’t network without office space, what have I been doing the last 10 years?

I'm still sitting in an office at an open team table, all Commons, no caves. #sad

A truly horrible environment for anyone with anything resembling ADHD. And probably those without difficulty concentrating as well.

I’m a consultant and I usually work alone in my own office (near home) but it’s nice to visit clients where I work on site for a few weeks once in a while. I would hate it if there was a big commute though.

It takes time expertise and investment to actually effectively track programmer productivity.

A lot of organizations don't have the resources to do that, so time in seat and making sure your workers seem productive is a decent alternative.

Managers want to literally see what they’re spending all that money on.

Middle management also appear less useful when there's only 4 underlings in the office.

A lot of the inertia to remote work I've seen was mainly about managerial ego/job security rather than any actual logistical challenge.

So true. At my last job, one of my managers used to complain that he wasn't "seeing" more of his people in the office. Never mind the fact that the stuff actually got done on time and under budget. He had a wife and 3 kids at home and office was his "refuge," and came into the office every single day. So, he wanted people around him.

He was also a smooth-talking backstabbing insert choice curse word here. But that's a story for another day.

I know I’m certainly not. I work for a major bank in Canada in their iOS application and we have one of the most robust remote working situations I’ve seen.

Compared to?

To anything else lostgame has seen, I presume. That's literally what the post said.

One word: "hygiene."

--> Only reason for taking bath daily.

--> Shaving weekly.

--> Keeping yourself clean and presentable.

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