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People love working remotely (usefyi.com)
422 points by galfarragem on Aug 20, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 361 comments

I was full-time WFH for 6 wonderful years. I was happy, my productivity was off the charts, I was saving tons of money because I didn't have to spend it on my car and clothes, I had extra time that I wasn't wasting on my commute, etc.

Then, we had a big shake-up. A bunch of senior people left, and new "leadership" came in to "transform" our workplace. All WFH was cancelled in our division (in spite of still being officially encouraged by corporate policy). The big boss said "a 15 minute fact-to-face is better than a multi-day email chain". My response to that is "What about the other 99.9% of my work time, when I don't need to interact with anyone?" Sigh.

Since I had left the office, they had redone everything to be open plan, low walls, brighter lights, white noise over the speakers, etc. Contractors are packed like sardines, the noise is insane. We're also "Agile" now, so we spend a ton of time in useless meetings.

I'm not very happy anymore.

Happened to me. What I did was go into the office and constantly talk to the vp's and ceo. Not about anything important really boring weather/how are you doing? The more removed the person from my department the more I would go out of my way to talk to them. Start asking difficult questions at the all staff forums. Always threw in doubts in meetings with non-tech people.

I asked for a special chair for my back. Started challenging our processes.

Funny thing happened. People started to see me as an important person.. an expert. I started to work from home again slowly.. then never came back. A year later others were encouraged to wfh because of office space concerns.

Get in there and make sure they regret pulling you back. Show your face everywhere. Make your voice heard. Take on all issues and then drop them.

This is straight out of the CIA Simple Sabotage Field Manual, see Section 4.11 General Interference with Organizations and Production.


Re: a special chair for your back... "Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don't get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work."

> "Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don't get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work."

Memories work in funny ways. The first thing that jumped to my mind was the Asterix book where the Romans capture the druid (Getafix, in the English versions) and want him to make the magic potion. He insists that he must have fresh strawberries to make it, which are out of season. He doesn't really need them, it turns out, but it delays the whole project as the Romans dispatch someone to points far to the south to try and fetch some and bring them back while they're still fresh.

Off-topic, but, it's very interesting how they translate the Asterix and Obelix character names across languages.

In Spanish the druid is called Panoramix for whatever reason :)

For those who are non native English speakers: Getafix can be read as Get A Fix, meaning getting drugs that you need if you’re addicted to something. Getafix deals in potions. Always thought that was amusing (coincidence or not).

Almost all the names are plays on words that relate to the character, like 'Geriatrix', the village elder. I posted a list of the names on wikipedia elsewhere

It's also Panoramix in the original French, isn't it?

I remember this! It is quite hilarious.

I find it fascinating that the word «quisling» was already in use, coined after the Norwegian traitor from WW2.

Im looking forward to your new book, Machiavelli.

Well played!

In the TV show "What we do in the shadows" this is called an energy vampire. (you suck out other energy) Also a great show.

Wow I only knew about the movie. Now I have a new TV show I have to watch.

The TV show is pretty recent. Which reminds me I need to catch up on it (only watched the pilot when it aired).

> Take on all issues and then drop them.

Seems like a quick route to the unemployment line...no thanks!

Yeah, sometimes.

Waste their time... quite diabolical. ((tips hat))

This sort of sabotage wouldn't get past the management where I work. They'd see right through it and fire me.

But maybe that same competence would prevent them from making self-sabotaging decisions like cancelling a long-standing WFH policy.

That's precisely what the did though. The new VP is a frightening mix of extreme competence and pointy haired boss.

Do you need that kind of sabotage, then?

They must be either good, or you need to run away, fast.

Sounds like you could try one of my favorite strategies from the same source:

'When possible, refer all matters to committees, for "further study and consideration." Attempt to make the committees as large as possible - never less than five'

Ah, the noble psychopath way.

> The big boss said "a 15 minute fact-to-face is better than a multi-day email chain"

I can't believe that people who are so out of touch with reality are still given so much responsibility at companies which they effectively unknowingly misuse to make everyone's life miserable.

There's nothing wrong about a multi day email chain. Sometimes it's the best communication tool, because non-critical/important things can be more efficiently being discussed in an email chain which doesn't disrupt everyone's work day. Secondly it is a nice way of keeping a log of ideas, thoughts and compromises which essentially lead to the final conclusion/solution. This gets documented for free and people can reference back to that email chain in the future which is hugely valuable, especially when the "big boss" conveniently likes to forget his own decisions.

Face to face lacks all of those nice features.

Secondly... there's A LOT more alternatives and other options inbetween F2F and long email chains. People can work 99% remotely and travel into an office one every couple weeks or per month for team bonding time.

Video conferencing is another great way of getting a F2F conversation done without the hassle of everyone being in the same physical place. More often video conferencing calls can even be more productive, because people are more conscious about the time spent in the call and also about the people who frequently contribute and those who just got invited along but never really participate. Makes it easier to trim attendees down to the ones who really need to be there and those who just can be sent a summary afterwards.

I can only hope that your new big boss will quickly get sacked and replaced by some young blood who has heard of instant messaging and video conferencing. Good luck!

> There's nothing wrong about a multi day email chain.

Email chains can work for some things, but they mostly suck compared to face to face meetings. You never know if someone else is silent because they agree, they haven't read the whole email, or they haven't taken time to write a response.

Most things able to be solved by email chains are better off in some sort of issue tracking or wiki system.

Face to face meetings also suck because the extroverts own the floor. You don't know if people didn't pipe up because they agree, or because they aren't rude enough to stop Bob talking, and now it's too late.

The same thing happens in email chains as well.

A good meeting lead can make sure they get everyone's input in a face to face without necessarily putting them on the spot. Sadly those are few and far in between.

I worked with one and they were excellent meetings. They got ideas out, and predicted possible issues better than any other meetings I've been part of.

I know both extroverts and introverts who are really bad at email type text communication.

Fair point.

I was mostly just making the counter point, however to expand on this, at least with the email thread you can take longer to compose your response or go talk to someone about it if you think it's important. It's viewed a bit weirder to follow up a face-to-face meeting with your counter points in an email.

But I actually just think communication is hard for a lot of people. Locking people in a room and expecting them to come up with a decision is a pretty poor way to work. Combining both text and talking, and giving enough time between discussion and decisions is probably a winner.

Communication is a fundamentally hard problem. How to tell if a given semantic state has been replicated in the brain of the others. Really until people repeat back in their own words you have no idea; even then, they may have alarming different versions of some of the concepts used in the semantic state.

Equal playing field.

You’re missing it. Check your textually-adept privilege.

Seriously. I’ve always been a very good writer but people in STEM often aren’t.

And then when it's face to face, you have people who aren't lingually adept, what then? Take someone who speaks English as a second language. They may not be able to process what's being said in a face to face as fast as the topic is moving, but in an email thread they can take their time to read it all, and compose a response (which may take longer for them due to English being a second language). It's not as simple as either of you make it seem.

> Most things able to be solved by email chains are better off in some sort of issue tracking or wiki system.

In my experience, nothing except "bugs" and "customer support issues" are better in an issue tracking system. Issue trackers add too much overhead for end users, and the "structured data" features encourage people to adopt processes that require every user to think about what level of the hierarchy some issue belongs at, what tags to assign, who "owns" the issue, etc. For most communication, there ends up being a serious impedance mismatch between the structure of the data in the issue tracker and the natural flow of communication.

A face to face meeting is no silver bullet either. I've been to many meeting where someone with a strong opinion and with the manager's blessing takes over the conversation/agenda.

What I like about an email is that it allows you time to digest the information and then respond to someone.

It’s almost like both approaches have their pros, cons, and appropriate times when they should be used.

I like a combined arms approach. Start an email thread and if there is no timely reply, or consensus is getting hard to reach, walk over to the other person’s desk for a chat or call a meeting.

Exactly. The ‘best’ communication method for an issue is entirely contextual.

if only we could instantly message each other...

I haven't found any mode of communication that's as effective for building trust as face-to-face interaction. Video conferencing, email, tickets, etc. all work well for the "Let's make a decision on this issue" or "Let's get this specific thing done" use-case, but it's much harder to actually get to know someone and build trust over those mediums. That's unfortunate, because trust between people on a team is a huge force multiplier for getting things done.

And this is why you have occasional gatherings. To help establish trust and a better sense of community. Every remote position I've held has had at least a yearly get-together for just this reason.

Also you can have small remote social gatherings. Have a lunch together from time to time (video, online) and chat about non-work things. Have an unlisted #team-offtopic channel. Things like that work in my experience if they're just available and not forced.

and... if you start 2 weeks after the last yearly get together... you're on the outs for a long time.

nothing against yearly meetings, but would hope people have ways of getting together more often if the group decides its necessary.

You can have different forms of meet-ups as well. My current company has the yearly gathering, plus the employees who live locally have a monthly lunch. None of them are on my team, but it still makes for some nice work-oriented socializing.

I've chatted online (in text) virtually my entire life, way more than I've actually talked, face-to-face or otherwise. My reading/writing comprehension's really developed as a result. Not only do people like me (even in my age range) seem relatively rare though, but it feels like talking IRL has some... weird clarity to it.

Maybe it's because the lower info bandwidth but higher emotional bandwidth (?) forces a kind of expedience you can't get otherwise. This seems especially useful in open-ended, "planning" conversations.

Maybe you can hold on to a lot of that with video/audio conferencing, but lag and tech issues are always salient. (But I'm technologically proficient and physically lazy, so I'd still rather deal with those than going somewhere.)

How's the typing speed and habits of those opposed to text chat? It's not often asked about in interviews, but I've noticed some co-workers do not view typing as being fast and effortless like I do.

A non-trivial number of very senior people simply cannot read or write. They can process information about other people very quickly in f2f interactions, but when things are written down they are at sea. Video is also significantly less useful for these people.

I have seen it in dozens, maybe hundreds, of execs I have interacted with over the years, including people I have worked very closely with.

Sometimes it is varieties of dyslexia, sometimes ADD. Could be any number of other "disorders."

It's not a preference/policy. It's just how they engage. Often it is best to recognize it, and engage with them on the terms that work best for them.

And of course this is not new. Illiterate leaders have been with us since there has been literacy.

As remote work increases (and capital starts flowing consistently to remote-oriented companies), I think we're going to see a shift in the personality types and skill sets of successful managers. Specifically, touchy-feely socializers are going to have a harder time because a) more documentation of previous communication makes backtracking more difficult and b) social manipulation is distinctly different when verbal vs text.

I get 100+ emails per day. I'm almost certainly not reading the multi day email chain unless someone IMs me to ask for my input on it.

Anyone ever had a company forum? Like Discourse or similar? That seems like a better format. Chat + forum.

I think that's what Slack is supposed to be - especially with Threads. So far it's just IRC with gifs where I work.

Slack has nothing in common with forums except that they named that feature "threads." It's only to pull a chat convo aside in a chat app.

That's what email rules are for. If there is a long email chain and I am not directly @mentioned in the body of the email, it automatically gets filtered away into a separate folder and stays unread there, while my inbox stays clean and up to date.

If my participation is actually needed in the thread, I will be inevitably @mentioned by someone, and the email stays in my main inbox folder.

Managers meet - that's what they do. They can be profoundly out of touch with what engineers do. Thus, stupid statements like that one.

I'm on my 2nd week back on-site after being remote for nearly 2 years, it's been a tough transition. On-top of getting what feels like a large pay-cut (1 hour commute, car maintenance/fuel, etc) and having to deal with a cramped cubicle in a noisy area, I feel that my family life is also suffering. My office hours end later than I like (5pm) and with my commute I am home just in time for dinner and to put my young kids to bed. I feel awful burdening my Wife with ALL Doctor appointments, getting kids off to school, making dinner, picking them up from daycare all while having a full-time job. We've discussed moving but that would improve my situation at the cost of the rest of my family (switching schools, further from family, etc).

Why did we end up coming back on-site? My manager (who works in Finance!?) couldn't explain to the higher-ups what we have been up to (very non-technical person) and they decided we were too disconnected from the rest of the company. Never even had a chance to plead our case or discuss alternative options... not sure how much longer I will be here.

That's why you need some sort of productivity journal.

Show that you were completing X number of tasks per month, and after a couple months show them that your productivity is down 10-20% in terms of tasks completed.

Make it extremely easy to present, and if your Manager agrees to work with you on it, make it look like the work to compile this report was all theirs. In other words make them look good and do their job for them.

My FAVORITE EXAMPLE in the road map for Star Citizen. That game's development is at an agonizingly slow pace, but if you were the Manager who put together their roadmap it would be instant promotion. It's goddamn BEAUTIFUL. And their is no way the team could be fucking up if the Roadmap looks this good.


I've actually begun doing this now, but the company has decided to eliminate all future remote jobs (our department was the experiment I suppose). I would like to pass this journal keeping idea to anyone else remote. It likely would have saved me.

25 years of this and not once has someone responsible for implementing the open plan included themselves in that plan. Sales and marketing somehow require offices as well. I've heard of the mythical "president in a cubicle" but never seen it.

I would really have more respect if they just came out and said, "we're going cheap."

Ours do sit in the same open-plan desks the rest of us do, but naturally (as others have remarked) they spend all of their time in meetings anyway and don't actually USE their desks. And again, naturally, they have a whole bunch of meeting rooms and 'private collaboration spaces' marked off for their exclusive use.

I actually did see it. The CEO and VPs all had noise-canceling headphones.

Actually saw it in practice, I toured KnowBe4's office, their entire C-suite is right there in the open office, a few at standing desk, but all right there in the open

Our structure is low-level employees, like me -> squad lead -> tribe lead -> VP -> SVP -> CTO. VP and above have offices. SVP was the one who cancelled WFH. The open plan office thing predates the SVP and CTO, who are the main part of the new "leadership" that came in over the last year.

Not true of any of the four places I've worked, startup and FAANG. Directors (at FAANG) and CEOs (at startups) sat at the same kind of desk the rest of us did (though of course, spent the vast majority of time in meetings)

For us, everyone except HR and Accounts are on the open floor. Even the executives/VPs have to look for seating.

When I was an intern at Mozilla 2 years ago the open floorplan included the CEO.

Our sales and marketing is in an open floor plan actually. HR, however, is not.

Same, HR and c level are the only ones left with real offices.

This has basically been the story of every job I've had, except instead of being 100% remote I was wfh once or twice per week.

I'd join a company under the condition that they allowed flexible hours and wfh. Then 6 months later managers would change and all of a sudden the way we'd been operating would no longer be acceptable. Always the person leading the charge towards eliminating wfh and remote work is some non-technical idiot who wants to make his mark by demonstrating his "leadership skills" and has no idea what engineers actually do.

So D don't even take promises for flexible hours and remote work seriously anymore unless it's a fully distributed team. I hope the trend of increasingly distributed workforces continues to rise so that developers don't have to deal with this "ass-in-seat" nonsense anymore.

I've never understood these sorts of posts - surely at that point you just leave? You've effectively been fired anyway?

I mean, I've taken remote jobs for which I could well be living 200+ miles away. Saying 'come in to the office' - lol, sure, perhaps once a week or something for a catch up.

What gives?

If my boss suddenly decided to no longer employ me as a software developer and instead "pivoted" to making hand grenades or something equally random, well, yeah, bye then?

In the US, that could be construed as "Constructive Dismissal," where your job changes so much you have to resign. In California, at least, you'd have a strong claim for unemployment while you looked for your next (remote!) job.


Well yea, that's why I eventually quit both jobs.

Although that's not the attitude of the managers at my current company, the result is the same: remote work is discouraged to the point of being exceptional. Which makes me want to look for remote-only jobs, that unfortunately are relatively rare in Europe.

Get it in writing.

We're also "Agile" now, so we spend a ton of time in useless meetings.

Might be lost in translation - but agile shouldn't require a ton of meeting time and should work fine remotely. And hey, one of the principles is that you give teams the environment they need to get the job done, not the environment management thinks they deserve.

Unless you mean "Agile" as, say, UK government terms it, also known as waterfall. In which case, yes, you can expect to be required to be in meetings all day in a terrible office space. Feel my pain.

Agile introduces and requires meeting time. If you were doing Just Shut Up And Get It Done before, Agile is definitely meeting-heavy. Agile is agile compared to Waterfall, but overall it’s a process of no one trusting the workers to take on work and hit deadlines if they’re not in meetings telling you about it.

The only constant between every Agile organization I’ve been in is the forced meetings. Everything else was up to interpretation.

> but overall it’s a process of no one trusting the workers to take on work and hit deadlines if they’re not in meetings telling you about it.

I mean... sometimes you need to course-correct, no? And cross pollination is useful, isn't it?

"Just Shut Up And Get It Done" workflow means that people might be spinning their wheels building the wrong thing (or duplicate things) in their silos.

Come on, there's got to be a few meetings to synchronize vision, scope, etc. within a team.

Meetings? Sure. Rituals? No. We have meetings because we're supposed to have meetings, whether we need them or not.

It's practically impossible to get rid of that bit of the cargo-cult thinking. It's funny because it's not even really a part of "Agile", just Scrum. The best Scrum team I've ever worked with (and best team really, that's probably part of it) decided to drop daily meetings and it was great. We did keep the end/start of sprint stuff, because that was important to us.

One thing mentioned in Sutherland's book on Scrum I rarely see repeated is the idea of also delivering happiness, and the sprint "kaizen" (or "improvement").

One person on our team suggested the daily standups were dumb, and we should try dropping them as next sprint's kaizen idea. Everyone else disagreed, but he felt really strongly against meetings, so we did it, it was only one sprint. And it turns out he was entirely right, at least for our team. We kept it that way until eventually that project was completed and the team was shifted around to other teams. We can't convince any of our new teams to try any of these things, but the same dynamic also isn't there to really encourage that.

We unfortunately have some Agile/Scrum cultists who bring everything to a grinding halt with their mindless adherence to their view of how it should be done. Completely paralyzes our team when they start bloviating.

The usual Agile Methodologies (the manifesto had something to say about methodologies) have all the wrong meetings. The only ones that can correct the developers course are a sprint away or after the feature is complete, while all the daily or weekly ones are pure bullshit where nobody present can decide anything.

People keep talking about "waterfall", but I have not seen real, actual "waterfall" in the last 15 years, anywhere. Last time I've seen it was at Microsoft in early 00s, and even there it wasn't super-strict, people just spent their "planning" time prototyping stuff so as not to have to work as hard when the "design" phase ends.

Moreover, for certain types of work (such as, for instance, building platforms) a forced "design" and specification phase would probably be a net benefit. As they say, "half a year of coding can save you two weeks of planning". Except when you also release your shit to users you can't fix your old design mistakes because everyone depends on them now.

I mean "Agile" as in, whatever stupid thing our current "leadership" wants it to be. regardless of what "agile" should stand for, it was immediately corrupted at our workplace to be "business as usual with a new name".

Wish I had a fix for that.

I've started rotating agile manifesto principles in my email signature as a slightly passive aggressive way of trying to get the message across. It's not working.

Wow, I’m definitely doing that from now on, brilliant idea.

I had 10 wonderful years. You also save money on food. I'm too lazy to pack a lunch so working in the office means buying lunch every day. At home I just grab some leftovers in the fridge and heat it up. My favorite part is doing my shopping in the morning on a weekday when no one is there versus on a Saturday when its nuts. I was doing freelance work my schedule was totally flexible.

> We're also "Agile" now, so we spend a ton of time in useless meetings.

One of the crazier things that has happened.

When the XP folk said "we do a standup", the idea was that meetings are useless and awful, you shouldn't have them, but if you're going to have them, then let's "encourage" brevity by having everyone stand.

Add a few decades of agile certified consultants, sc(r)umification and now "agile" means "lots of meetings".


We recently spent weeks doing a backlog grooming meeting every day to get work lined up, only to have our priorities completely changed and all of the work discarded.

Why would you spend weeks doing backlog grooming meetings every day? We do a single one-hour backlog grooming meeting before each sprint, to plan the work for that sprint. If you're planning out much further than that, that's not agile.

True agile teams never need to do backlog grooming. If a team has a backlog which is so big that it needs grooming, then they are not agile. An agile team build something, releases it to its users, and afterwards react to the immediate feedback/next important request.

Teams which constantly re-prioritise items which some fake product manager came up with a few months ago is not agile.

> Teams which constantly re-prioritise items which some fake product manager came up with a few months ago is not agile.

I don't disagree with this. However,

>True agile teams never need to do backlog grooming. If a team has a backlog which is so big that it needs grooming, then they are not agile. An agile team build something, releases it to its users, and afterwards react to the immediate feedback/next important request.

This is like saying the first test should always fail because the tested code doesn't exist. While that's a good start, it usually takes a few sprints to release anything useful; especially if you have any hardware involved. Therefore, having a number of stories in a backlog really helps, especially if you do have to re-prioritize because hardware is delayed, etc.

The backlog is not large and we don't use this meeting for prioritization.

Our team uses backlog grooming to point tasks and assign them "definitions of done". This is done to solve two problems: getting everyone on the same page as far as how the task will be done, which also speeds up diff reviews, and to determine if the task should be split up into smaller tasks.

When would you perform these tasks?

> Teams which constantly re-prioritise items which some fake product manager came up with a few months ago is not agile.

This is not at all what we do with this meeting.

We had had our priorities completely shifted, we changed POs twice in just a few weeks, and our previous work plans were tossed out. We met daily to build up the backlog, then had our priorities changed completely again, and invalidated all of the planning.

I agree 100% that it's not Agile.

I'm so glad my team is distributed across different offices and we do our stand-ups at our desks. Having hypermobility in my knees, and most other joints, I get tired from standing still more than 2-3 minutes...

...and only have those stand for whom it's not a burden.

It seems nowadays the "standing" up has become some weird ritual that one must undergo, without questioning, as a sacrifice to the gods of "Agile".


All the practices have a purpose. If they don't fit, don't do them. Figure out what works for you. Adjust, adapt. Think!

No, the planes of productivity will not come to your fauxgile wooden landing strip.

Next time someone insists on standing, I'll counter with do pushups while you're talking instead. Should shut most people up fast enough.

Agile and stand up meetings get a bad rap when poorly performing companies adopt the practices. There's no such thing as having just half of your house on fire. If a fundamental business element like customers or leadership is missing, everything else will be bad. Waterfall and agile methods are equally damned when the something else is causing a company to under perform.

> Agile and stand up meetings get a bad rap when poorly performing companies adopt the practices.

I was talking to the CTO of a large non-tech company and he was so excited how the whole development organization had adopted agile. Later he told me that after the conference he had to fly to a huge meeting where they plan and schedule out the next 6 months to a year of development work.

Are you sure he wasn't referring to roadmapping? You can plan what projects to take on in the next quarter or two with a product team while the engineering team remains agile in their operations.

Nope. It was a multi-day meeting where the entire development organization waterfall planned the next 6-12 months of work. This included due dates and all. For their org size, maybe that's how they have to do development, but it was nothing like any agile I've ever done.

> a 15 minute fact-to-face is better...

Good thing we have better tools for videoconferencing than ever. I can have a 15 minute face-to-face with anyone in my company, no matter where in the world they are.

They cite this particular bit of idiocy from the Agile Manifesto:

> The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

They fail to realize that when it was written in 2001, communication technologies were far inferior to what we have now. So that face to face should be updated to something like "immediate" or "real time".

What they also failed to realize, which was also true then, is that the person I need a face-to-face conversation with is neither in the desk next to me nor at my employer's site the next country over: he was in my desk last year, works somewhere else now, and didn't write anything down because Agile™ told him it wasn't ‘effective’.

This is a poor understanding of "comprehensive documentation."

You should absolutely be keeping documentation. However, you should not require hundreds of pages of specs and design documents before a single line of code is written.

Instead, documentation should be written at the same time as the code, and should follow what is actually needed for and by developers and the organization rather than being subject to a "gate".

It's about writing the right documentation. Some of that documentation is harder to write: For example, writing a specification that can literally run against the software, like in behavior driven development. (This is one of many potential tools. It may not be applicable for you.) It may look like a wiki. It may look like a set of UML diagrams and a formal spec. It depends on the team and the domain of the problem.

The problem that the manifesto was talking about was one of documentation as a deliverable that was not properly updated and only written to pass a requirement of the process.

I wish the agile manifesto had included a bullet point that said 'favor working code over comprehensive documentation%'

% where working code != the code will work if all stars align and no invalid data is input and comprehensive documentation != a single typed character more than what is forced out of your tortured fingers by those who have to support your code at 2AM

I love my job :)

* "while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more" suggests that you should do enough of the items on the left such that the job gets done.

* "Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done." implies that the ops team also needs to be given the environment and support they need from development.

* "Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility." where "technical excellence" implies an understanding of working code that isn't dependent on valid data.

* "At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly." means that if ops can't do its job, then the development team needs to reflect and adjust its behavior accordingly.

So, sadly, they tried. We just went too far in the other direction in some organizations, and that needs to be stopped. If it isn't working, change it - agile shouldn't be in the way.

This is a problem with reading documents without understanding the time and context they were written in. If you’re a twentysomething developer who’s never worked in a process and documentation-heavy organization, the agile manifesto will sound like it is advocating something it is not. It was a reaction to the prevailing thinking of the time.

On top of that, they were looking for brevity over writing a novel, considering that it came out of a group of like-minded people over a long weekend.

They also fail to realize one of the most important bits of the Agile Manifesto is you're supposed to tear it apart and over time redesign it to work for your own org.

Anyone who just says "We do X, because that's how Agile recommends it" is not actually doing Agile.

I actually still think face-to-face meetings are the best way to communicate. That does not, however, outweigh the disadvantages of forcing people to commute to an office.

Videoconferencing is OK, but it is still common to have issues with it. Bad image quality, setup by lowest common denominator etc. Often you use that 15 minutes just by trying to make it work properly.


My neighbor owns a consultancy. They’ve started shipping the Meeting Owl camera to their bigger clients to improve their meeting experience. It’s has a 360 degree camera, eight directional mics.

The camera stitches together a full view of the conference room up top, with the bottom 2/3 intelligently shifting the focus across multiple speakers. It will even put a whiteboard into the focus of the frame, if someone starts drawing. I thought it was pretty cool.

Disclaimer: I just thought the product looked cool after my neighbor mentioned it. Nothing more.

Yeah, agreed. Even places I've worked with wonderful internal IT still have problem users who can't figure videoconferencing, or have damaged/misconfigured their device in a way that prevents it.

It often comes down to the one person who actually knows the specific flavor of videoconferencing walking around and fixing everything for everyone, and everyone remote just mumbling and leaving the meeting.

As I work at an Apple shop, I wish Apple would come up with some decent videoconferencing application that would work with our Apple TVs and MacOS (no, Facetime does not count, neither does Zoom and it's glaring vulnerabilities)

Video conferencing is a problem that cannot be solved with software alone. I like to call it the 'last meter problem', as video conference issues are almost always caused by crappy consumer grade equipment.

Wireless routers are the biggest culprit. Convince people to use a wired connection and be amazed how much better video conferencing suddenly becomes.

It's probably a software problem at heart though, if you include firmware level. Since VGA-connectors went out of fashion I'm still to use a projector that Just Works without having to use it 10 times before figuring out all its quirks.

Not if you use it every day, like remote workers do. It is a standard mechanism for communication, and becomes reliable for the team.

I work remotely and have a minimum of 1 morning video meeting, often more in a day. Cannot agree with this comment. The only thing that's gotten reliable is when certain things fail we kind of know what it is from past experience. "Jim. Please plug in your headphones or mute yourself, this happens once a week. JIIIM. JIIIIIM. Can we kick Jim from the call? Who has permission to kick someone from a call here?"

To the conferencing software's credit, it's generally user error. But when you have 10 people in a call, and only 2 of them really understand or even care about their conferencing software setup, things break a lot. I have to explain the concept of changing your recording device more than once a week. Usually to the same people again and again.

Well, this is the same kind of people who just drop stupid jokes and stuff on the floor during meeting, don't care about what happens in the meeting and are generally poor coworkers.

The only problem with remote is that incompetence is much more visible.

All you need to do is standardize quality equipment so everyone on your team has a similar setup and make sure your internet connection is good.

It's a relatively simple problem to solve. The amount of conference call failures I've experienced working remotely for an all-remote team is substantially lower than when I was working in-office, despite I'm probably on 5x the number of conference calls now.

This has not been my experience for years. The tech has matured greatly.

At least in our company, it works pretty much flawlessly. We rarely have technical issues, and if we do it's a wider outage from our conferencing provider.

Those sound like issues with your IT department, employer, and/or video conference provider rather than issues with working from home. Any company with remote employees should require a consistent, stable solution

What videoconferencing software are you using? We have this issue with some software, but Zoom has been excellent.

We just use Google Hangouts now. We rarely have meeetings with people outside our team but it always works fine.

Funny coincidence because just few days ago I was using zoom for the first time long time. The image/sound quality for sure was crappy and it was lagging/spotty multiple times. On the other hand there was like 7 participants. I also don't like how you have to install separate app to use it - and I heard the OS X version had vulnerability issues.

When I'm hosting a video call I prefer google hangouts. Works OK without installing apps.

> "a 15 minute fact-to-face is better than a multi-day email chain".

It could be they really believe that. But it is often one of these real reasons:

1) They want some people to quit, but they don't want to lay them off explicitly to avoid looking bad. The idea being some employees won't relocate or enjoy driving to the office every day so they'll just leave.

2) They think people are lazy and don't work when they are at home. So they want them in the office to supervise them.

3) It makes them feel important walking around and seeing all their subordinates right there in one place. Sometimes it is just as simple as that.

>white noise over the speakers

W-what? I know some people swear that white noise makes them concentrate better, but forcing everyone to listen to white noise? Wtf. I'm not even sure that's legal from an occupational health & safety standpoint.

It's the most common kneejerk reaction to employees that complain that the open office is too noisy - that loud conversations in the room or, hell, right over your shoulder are distracting you from focusing properly on your work.

Instead of investigating the social fixes to the problem (asking people to take phone calls in private rooms, having arguments/meetings in private rooms, enabling sidetone in noise-cancelling headphones so people don't scream into conference calls), the proposed answer is a Simple Little Widget(tm) they can buy that will fix everything: the white noise generator.

Except now you have a layer of white noise on top of all the loud conversations. And white noise doesn't mask human speech at all unless it's louder than the speech itself. So nothing is fixed.

It is common. You have likely experienced it without even realizing it. The point of the white noise is to reduce the distance voices carry in open environments so they are less distracting. Some places crank it pretty loud, though, to the point where it becomes an irritant.

NASA Enterprise Applications Competency Center (yes, that's a thing), Marshall Space Flight Center Bldg. 4601.

Offices for the important people, high cubicles for semi-important people, shorter cubicles for the peons. White noise generators to reduce the excess conversation interruptions. (It didn't help me, my cube was outside one of the few large, unallocated meeting rooms, which got used by everyone at MSFC. I got to listen to the meetings until I started working from home.) Oh, and the AC goes off at 3:00p.m. to save money. By 5:00, everyone still working is rather sweaty.

I had a very similar experience at a previous company. Leave, management does not value you or your inputs to the business. You will be much much happier at another company that embraces remote work instead of grudgingly tolerating it. It's easier than ever to find remote first companies.

Don't make the mistake of thinking management is mistaken and just needs to be educated. The big shake up, changing WFH and open office plans are all giant neon signs that say management is attempting to line their pockets off the misery of their employees.

Time to find a new job. I've worked fully remote my whole career, first by necessity and then by choice. There are lots of companies out there.

how do you find those companies?

* Search "Who's Hiring?" for remote - https://hnjobs.emilburzo.com/#%22remote%22



and of course, word-of-mouth / loose social connections.

Adding on to this;

Linked-in recruiters. Say what you will about the constant cold emailing, if you set sane guidelines for them (only interested in 99-100% remote positions with comp above $x, using y or z technologies) there is an entire industry of people who will go and do a lot of the work for you. Just make a copy/pasta of your desires and reply to their copy/pasta with it; ask for job descriptions up front along with comp ranges, once they show something you like you can move forward with actually getting on the phone with them.

This shouldn't be your only lead generation tool during a job search, but it is a ruthlessly effective force multiplier.

FYI: I would also add angel.co/jobs

AngelList has the largest amount of remote jobs right now out there

(Disclaimer: work at AngelList)

What's a good strategy for hunting on AngelList? During a recent job search for remote roles, AngelList was one places I searched.

I found a less serious crowd compared to indeed or linked-in about hiring now. Previously when working full time I connected with a founder over a two year period and ended up working on a year long project.

What's the best way of connecting through AngelList? Are most people connecting over a period of time or do you find most are using it like a job board where they try to fill a position asap?

Networking with people who manage/hire for distributed teams is really helpful.

Also having a good reputations with other engineers who also work remotely, they'll get you in places you wouldn't have heard of otherwise.

>white noise over the speakers

I'm fine with open spaces, but this would be the final straw for me

I know it seems crazy, but I've been in several offices that had this. It most cases it worked well and I never noticed it until it would occasionally quit working.

The offices where it's worked best were not open, though. They had thin doors/walls and a small speaker (also doubled for the fire alarm/etc) in the ceiling of each office. The white noise was unnoticeable until it was off or you really looked for it.

The main advantage was that you no longer heard every conversation on the floor. You'd still overhear bits of things in the adjacent rooms, but that's hard to avoid. When the white noise stopped working (happened every few months), you could hear every voice on the floor and every phone call...

All in all, it sounds like torture, but done well, it's actually a really nice way of damping distracting ambient conversations/etc.

My partial hearing loss is such that I can understand conversations in an otherwise quiet room, but if someone turns on a fan, or intentionally plays white noise through overhead speakers, the conversation needs to be about twice as loud in order for me to understand it. Normal speaking volume isn't quite enough any more. That tiny bit of white noise overwhelms those frequencies that I can still hear to differentiate between similar speech sounds.

For me, blowing fans are unpleasant. Piped in white noise would be torture. Like gratuitously flashing strobe lights into the eyes of someone with night-blindness.

Maybe this could be used as the basis for ADA complaints against open offices? I can't understand why anyone would think that's a good idea, but then again, I don't understand open offices either.

(I also prefer 2-day email chains to face-to-face conversations, because I can both understand what I read much faster than I can understand listening to speech, and refer back to it later.)

Our ventilation system seems like it's purposely loud enough that you can't hear someone clipping their nails. I like it a lto. It's not white noise and easy to ignore.

I interviewed at a place with open offices and their ventilation system was so loud that it made it hard to hear myself think.

Everybody seemed to like me except the PM who was either a little Kruger Dunning or straight up Peter Principle. He wanted very much for me to know how smart he (thought he) was. Pessimism != smart (something I have to remind myself of regularly). In an interview I'm supposed to be convincing you how smart I am, not comparing dick sizes.

I have no doubts that particular brand of insecurity that looks an awful lot like ageism cost me that job. But dealing with a boss who is uncomfortable around anyone who has more experience than them, especially with that tin roof of an office space would have been torture. Bad fit all around.

But it's rare that I find a place whose business model is terribly engaging. The hazard of experience is that a lot of problems start to look similar, a lot of verticals sound more meaningful than they really are, and you won't devote the rest of your life to making up for how you got the money in the first place. If you even get the money (I've skipped step 1 and gone onto step 2), which statistically you will not.

I like the white (or pink?) noise. I expected to hate it and found the idea ridiculous, but it helped focus in an open space office.

Heh, painfully pinching your skin also helps at the dentist.

I prefer smacking myself in the head with a hammer.

In an open office, that is. The dentist is less painful.

Yeah, that sounds like actual torture.

Especially when they turn it on and off randomly. So weird...

> a 15 minute fact-to-face is better than a multi-day email chain

What if it takes you 4 hours to come up with a good answer?

I've had plenty of face-to-face conversations with my boss demanding an answer to an immediately problem that basically ended with me saying, "I need to look into this," repeatedly until the conversation ended and I could actually work on it.

Ugh. I have to go through this all the time. Boss asks for estimates for things I haven't looked into. I tell him I don't know. He pesters me for a guess, which I refuse. Round and round we go...

It's not going to put your life back together, but these earmuffs really changed my quality of life for the better when I was working in offices; particularly those offices where people say things like "it's just white noise".


> Contractors are packed like sardines, the noise is insane. We're also "Agile" now, so we spend a ton of time in useless meetings.

Contractors in general might be better off working in an office if they aren't in a gig which is well paying. As remote work takes off, a greater percentage of those people may not be getting paid enough to make working from home a viable option, yet they'll still have to fake it. Sure, you might have the problem of your car breaking down on your way to the office because you can't afford maintenance. But at home you can still run into computer issues or a spouse who makes your life difficult. I think we tend to imagine WFH scenarios as being well paid and cushy, but there's that other side as well. WFH could still put up barriers between people who can afford it and those who can't? OTOH, affording working from home is way cheaper than affording to move.

> We're also "Agile" now, so we spend a ton of time in useless meetings.

So true.

> "a 15 minute fact-to-face is better than a multi-day email chain"

This truism seems to never get old. It's carelessly tossed about but never proven. It's mostly just accepted as-is and hardly ever challenged:

Why is it better?

Do you really have be in the office every day, the whole day, just because a situation where a "15 minute face-to-face" is required might come up?

If so how often does this happen?

Why does this need arise?

If you have to clarify matters in personal conversations all the time doesn't that tell you that your company's processes and communication behaviour are lacking?

There are times when a face to face sorts out problems like nothing else, but there are a lot of people who value face-to-face over all else who are using those situations in bad faith. They know some social engineering tricks and they use little meetings as a stopgap for big deficiencies in other areas.

Developers are smart. You might con them into a bad idea in that 15 minute meeting, but someday they'll figure out they've been had. Most won't take it lying down.

In my experience, and talking to my peers, engineers don't come straight at you when they feel slighted. Especially if you're a big talker. They may not even gloat when they feel that the odds have been evened up. Not all 'bad luck' in companies is just bad luck. Some of it is work stoppage or malicious compliance by someone with a grievance who doesn't enjoy confrontation.

> Why is it better?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but being remote does not exclude having face to face meetings. There is (finally) easy and reliable technology that facilitates that very thing.

Highly diverse timezones can be a problem, but I've never know anybody working remotely to resist attending a relatively rare video conference call in order to quickly hash something out.

> The big boss said "a 15 minute fact-to-face is better than a multi-day email chain"

The big boss[0] would not like me. I follow up all conversations with an email. It eliminates the he said/he said conversations. I have an email that I can refer to as needed.

[0] Boss seems to be appropriate here as opposed to manager or something. Doesn't sound like they manage well.

In so many ways, your direct management team influences heavily your quality of life at work.

If you're not tight with your manager (or whoever else is a strong dotted-line with power over your employment situation) then it's time to move (or at least make your discomfort known).

>The big boss said "a 15 minute fact-to-face is better than a multi-day email chain".

If only we had some sort of technology that allowed us to be able to get ahem FaceTime ahem while remote.

What a wondrous world that could be!

I'm not sure about the 15 minute meetings that could have been emails, however, I will say that pair programming and XP are useful tools. I'm not sure how easy that is to replicate in a fully remote office.

Super easy remote. Hard in an office because people feel like they have to find a conference room. It’s weird people blab loudly all day about nothing but look at you weird if you are talking quietly to someone about actual work on a video chat.

It's easier in a fully remote office. I've paired with people across the ocean using tools like Zoom and committing continuously. When specialty software is required, I've also worked on a common AWS instance used as a desktop with the driver connecting to the instance to type.

To be honest, that doesn't sound easier to me.

I've never understood how people think pair programming is a good thing. Unless you're working with a junior and training them, it's ridiculous to have two people sharing a single keyboard and trying to code together.

> a 15 minute fact-to-face is better than a multi-day email chain

I agree with that. But 15 minutes phone or video call works just as well as a meeting in person.

Speaking from experience, I’ve been working from home for 8 years now.

Why are open-plan offices being pushed so hard, relentlessly, everywhere, all the time - when nearly everybody hates working in them, and all evidence points to them being unproductive and harmful?

real estate is expensive?

What's this about white noise over the speakers? To sort of drown out other people's talking?

> We're also "Agile" now, so we spend a ton of time in useless meetings.

Haha about sums it up

Its not supposed to be that way though

Elephant in the room: how many of these people would prefer it to having a private office? Strangely, this article/survey/infographic never mentions that option.

I'd prefer remote work, too, over sitting in an open floorplan office, but I'd much prefer an actual office to either one. The easy "why" is: despite all the drawbacks, a lot of us will do pretty much anything to get out of an open floorplan.

Many would for sure like a private office!

But, there are big advantages of remote work over private offices:

1. Lower cost to the company. Private offices are expensive to build and maintain.

2. Less commute time to the employee. Private offices still require commuting which impacts the environment and the employees personal time.

3. Job flexibility. Home workers have (or will have) more options for employment.

4. No relocation expenses. Relocating an employee costs a few thousand dollars, hiring them and letting them stay put is cheaper.

5. Maintain ties to community.

6. Distribute income geographically. Offices concentrate incomes into a small geographic area. The effect is compounded by global companies as the worlds revenue streams feed into a single area. Think about how inflation and costs are out of hand in Silicon Valley.

#6 might be the only real chance the US has of having less divisive politics. Moving the upper middle class and wealthy out of cities could change the game entirely by making the political extremes less concentrated geographically.

rural broadband would need to be improved for this to work in general.

I'm extremely hopeful for Starlink and similar services. <100ms ping rural internet would change the game in a lot of significant ways.

5G may help to at least some degree. Most people don't need Gigabit or anything like that. But it's nice to have a better alternative to satellite and (sometimes) hotspots which are your only options if you can't get broadband today.

There are disadvantages too, though:

- Accountants/lawyers are also expensive to employ, and remote workers that live in N different states will require accountants/lawyers that are experts in tax/employment laws of said N states.

- Requires much higher quality of team communication and coordination (of requirements, workload, work scope, expectations, etc), which can be hard to achieve.

> 1. Lower cost to the company. Private offices are expensive to build and maintain.

You're just pushing that cost to the employee. Are you paying them the amount saved, to furnish their own private offices? Or are you just penalizing the worker to save a buck?

> 3. Job flexibility. Home workers have (or will have) more options for employment.

I have not seen this. Most companies still don't offer remote work.

> 4. No relocation expenses. Relocating an employee costs a few thousand dollars, hiring them and letting them stay put is cheaper.

Again, maybe it's different now, but I've worked at several tech companies, and never been offered "relocation expenses".

> 5. Maintain ties to community.

What does this mean? The company? The worker? It seems like the company not employing local workers, and the worker not leaving their house, would be worse for community all around.

> What does this mean? The company? The worker? It seems like the company not employing local workers, and the worker not leaving their house, would be worse for community all around.

No, like an actual community. Like people who live near each other and don't necessarily share a corporate brand but take care of each other and share memories and build traditions. People naturally have communities based on place, so getting hired and forced to move for that job disrupts communities. It's better for the everyone's social and psychological well-being to stay put.

> 1. Lower cost -> You're just pushing that cost to the employee.

This one does seem to be a relatively common thing, at least in recent job posts I've seen. I can imagine it's not all that common if you take a step back, but quite a few companies have given what I consider very generous monthly stipends for use in personal offices or (co-)workspace expenses.

I agree with the rest.

If you're actually working from home as opposed to a co-working space, home office expenses are usually easily offset by commuting expenses, lunches, even clothes that you incur by going into an office.

I mostly work from home and incremental work-related expenses are pretty small. Maybe I buy some computer gear I wouldn't have if I worked at home less. But the expenses are pretty much trivial relative to commuting.

> 5. Maintain ties to community. What does this mean?

I have gotten to know my neighbours from nearby houses much better after starting to work remotely, because I spend much more time on the nearby park.

This just goes to show you how path dependent things are. I have been given an equipment budget for home office (not to mention the cost savings of no commute), and I have also had relocation expenses covered for multiple moves, including international.

Not me. Not most of my remote team. Most of them do have a private office, in their own home. The flexibility to work when you want, where you want, live where you want, visit family without needing to take vacation, etc. That all adds up to a great working life. One of our guys even spent the summer road tripping out of a custom camper van, and working the whole time from various parks.

The problem people have with remote work is when they don't change their lives to embrace its flexibility. When they try to emulate their office life, just in their home. Not only does that not help them reach their peak efficiency, it completely misses out on the opportunities of remote work.

How do you visit family without needing to take vacation?

I guess you're blurring the line between "full-time from a stable remote (home/coworking/etc.) office" and full on "digital nomad".

I work full-time remote and I think there's a huge difference between working from a stable office and wandering around working from a camper van or ducking out for personal travel while on the clock? It's hard to imagine that the latter type of employee would be ready to quickly respond to incidents, to sync with their team on short notice, etc.

Everyone I visit has an internet connection and a quiet place I can work. I spend much of the day working, and then walk out and spend time with family. And yes, I am blurring those lines. That was kind of my point - that working remote can be far more than just locking yourself to an office in your home and working the same as you would in an office.

Sure, if you take business days off to fly across the country, that could go badly. But I tend to travel on weekends. And my family understands that I might get a message and go hop onto work for an hour or two.

Most of the remote workers I know would turn down a job that expected 8 hour shifts of "butt-in-seat"-style working environments. The whole concept of "on the clock" is alien to how my teams work.

Not the person you're replying to, but my family works too, so I can visit them and then we hang out on the evenings and weekends. Everyone is still working during the day.

Where I work, we have core hours (12-4 Eastern) that everyone is supposed to be online, but otherwise your schedule is up to you, so it allows considerable flexibility. In practice though, it's even more flexible. Part of remote work is that you're no longer glued to your desk. Your output is what matters, not where your butt is.

I do it by working during the day and spending time with my family and friends at night. I typically "work from home" for a week around Thanksgiving and Christmas where "home" is my home town instead of my personal residence. The day is spent working, the evenings are spent with family and friends I wouldn't otherwise get to see. I can even use my lunch hour to take my nephew to the park. I'm no less available than I would be in the office or at my apartment.

Depends on the role. Some dev jobs don't have a support role where one has to "quickly respond to incidents". Or if they do, those incidents are rare. Regardless, you can always call the person if something urgent arises. I have found remote workers more likely to be available than "office" employees, because the latter are in more likely to be in meetings, or at lunch off site.

I had a private office with a door (clouded glass) for five years. It wasn't large but it was quiet, interruptions where rare. It was great and I preferred it to working from home (I've done four years working from a home office).

I don't know. For me commute is the most pointlessly wasted time a person could do. And I have played lineage.

So as long as your commute is 10 seconds home office beats real any time. At least until we get the whole teleportation thing nailed down.

I thought so too, but now, after WFH for 2+ years, I'd tolerate up to 2h commute a day total - assuming I'm not driving - for a private office at the workplace. Home is much more conductive to focused work than an open plan, but it comes with its own set of distractions.

I dislike commute in general, but as long as I can read a book or use a laptop over it, it can be even more productive time than spending it at home.

Yes, I have a baby here. My ideal imaginary working condition changed from 'working from home' to 'working from a place that is a 10-20 minutes walk from home', and maybe with some colleagues. (And talking to people by typing gives me almost none of that human connection...)

It depends a lot. When I commuted from Redmond to Seattle, that was just a ridiculous amount of time to fill, and transportation options are limited (bus, car, or a really long bike ride). Now I work seven miles from the house, I ride an electric push scooter (Boosted Rev) or the bicycle. If I decide to whip back into ultra marathon shape, I can run to work. I'm not the type to just take the scooter out for a joy ride, so it gives me the opportunity every day to go for a ride along the river. Probably would not have even purchased the scooter if I had no commute, which means I'd still be driving the car three miles down the road for milk. But now I just take the solar-charged scooter if I need something from the store, et. al.

But that same commute in a car sucks ass, so your point stands.

A benefit no one has mentioned, afternoon delights with the wife.

assuming your wife is also WFH or not working

Mine comes home for lunch. Quick break brightens everyone’s day.

Or with Mr. Right

I like combining my commute with workout. Cycle, run or walk to work. Especially running to work in the morning gives me very nice energy for the day.

This is only an option for most people if there are locker/shower facilities at the office (most do not have this)

Every company I have worked for has had showers. Even the lousiest office I was working in back in the days had this kind of shower installed in the cleaning room. Did the trick.

That is an exceptional situation. Far, far, far outside of the norm.

2/3 of my offices have had access to showers too, pretty neat.

The commute at my last job was around 2 minutes (walking), 5 if I stopped at Starbucks on the way. Not as low as 10 seconds, but still a great life.

I'm a ~20 minute walk away, and it's perfect - it's just far enough that I can decompress or get my mind in gear.

A while back I could go from my apartment's front door to my desk in my office in under 4 minutes if I hustled. That was pretty great. Had to move for family reasons and my commute was almost reaching 2 hours one-way on bad days. Couldn't do it anymore.

Not to discredit your opinion, we're all different. For me the commute is worth the benefit of human interactions, seeing my coworkers for lunch and I also go to the gym next to my office. If I could only have my own private office it'd be great...

What prevents you from going out on a lunch with someone or the gym while working remotely? You just have to live in a metro area, not suburbs. I generally have done that for the last 13 years.

Well, you answered the question for me "You just have to live in a metro area, not suburbs".

I'm not saying I couldn't do both of those things when working from home, merely that as an added bonus of working out of an office I end up doing those things more often.

I had a private office for a couple of years. I've also worked in open plan landscapes as well as offices with 4-8 people.

This year, however, I've started working from home a lot. I like it much more than any of the above and generally get so much more done. I can relax and breathe in my own home. Make some tea and sit in the garden when I need to think. My focus, productivity and well being have been through the roof. It also helps that connecting from home saves me an hour's commute each way.

Some things can't be done effectively over VPN (mainly working on Xbox or PS4 specific bugs), but for most tasks it's great.

Maybe I'm missing it, but these still sound like variations on the theme of "my office is lousy so working from home is relatively nicer".

An hour commute is just nuts. According to statistics I found, that's more than double the average. I've worked at places with a 5 minute commute, and they're great. I realize not everyone has infinite flexibility in where they live, but a workplace would have to be pretty amazing in every other way to make me spend an hour every day getting there.

I've worked at places that had a garden or park right outside, and it's terrific to go out there and think. Why don't all knowledge worker offices have this? When I look at what the big tech companies are building, it's certainly not that they can't afford a garden.

We used to know this. Do an image search for "university campus" (those other places where people sit around and think) and you'll see buildings in a sea of grass and trees. Yet do an image search for "company campus" and it's all steel and glass, with greenery only to fill in the small useless spaces between the parking lot and the building.

What good is a workplace for thinkers, if it doesn't include good places for thinking?

You have a few valid points, but seem to be missing a few things, as well.

You say an hour is terrible and talk about an average. Average for whom and where? I live in Sweden, 30km outside of Gothenburg. It's a nice 15 minute walk through a wooded area and along a stream, then a 25 minute ride with the commuter train. On the train I read the latest articles while listening to music or play on the Switch. Once in Gothenburg it's a ten minute walk from the station to the office.

The office isn't terrible and has a lot of good things going for it, including a beautiful rooftop terrace. It's also quite social, filled with people who very passionately share my interests and with whom I play magic over lunch.

The main issue is that it's very busy and I often need peace and quiet. Even when I had my own office and could think uninterrupted it still wasn't as good as being home. It's the comfort of being home, with all my things and a beautiful house in a peaceful neighbourhood with a large garden at the edge of the forest. It would be unreasonable to expect an office in the busy downtown area to be able to compete with that. Also, when I need to think at home I often do household chores, and then they're done and i can spend my whole evening playing with my kids or spending time with my wife.

In Toronto and the surrounding communities, a typical commute is 15 minutes through traffic-choked local streets, 30 minutes on a train, and 15 minutes walking through tunnels downtown. Each part of mine is longer, although I am able to work on the train and count it against my hours. But that's absolutely normal for any tech worker in this city. It's insane. I come in and have a conversation or two over the several hours I'm here, which I could easily have over the phone, and then I begin the monumental journey home.

My home workspace is an airy attic office with a view of trees and houses. My downtown office is an open-plan wreck with exposed pipes and broken chairs. I am pretty certain which one is more conducive to productivity, let alone which one means a higher quality of life.

An hour commute is short in the Bay Area... A 35 minute drive will literally take two hours if you have to arrive at 10.

I have a private office, but we also work from home two days a week (often more than that as various things come up for people).

I come in to the office every day because my wife stays home with our 3 kids. Work from home when home is four people that want your attention doesn't work out very well. The few times I tried it, everyone just got frustrated that I was present but not available.

Maybe in a couple years when the kids are in school working from home will seem appealing. Honestly a ten minute commute and the entire office to myself twice a week isn't half bad.

The difference for many people is more than a ten minute commute. I'd enjoy 20 minutes a day of quiet time, but in my situation it'd be an hour per day.

The trick to making family understand when you're on the clock is training them to treat the closed office door as though it was locked. If you come out of the room, your attention is free game at that point, but once that door is closed, you're not home. Takes awhile of effective communication and discipline, but once enforced makes remote work incredibly enjoyable, even with family at home.

That makes it hard to come out of your office to accomplish a specific task, like grabbing coffee or visiting the restroom. Then your attention's not free game, and you still have to sneak around.

...until summer rolls around...

Having worked from home when only a partner OR 2 kids were present, I can only imagine the additional pressure faced by that situation.

But speaking as a single parent of school-aged kids, summer vacation is... a challenge.

I work remote, and have for ~10 years. I'd take it over having a private office.

Of course, I've arranged my home space around this. I have an "office" at home, with a door and everything, where I can work. I still do a hefty amount of my working in coffee shops, though, which is somewhat akin to the open office experience. I also preferred remote working back when I first started it, and was just occupying my kitchen table or couch.

If I was in SF and thus able to access our office, I might well go in sometimes. But I suspect we'd top out at once a week, or when I really wanted to catch up on that hot nonprofit gossip. Commutes really are horrible things.

Floor plan and commute. I love remote work, but would be perfectly fine going to the office every day if I could afford to live less than a 10 minute walk away and had a private/small shared team office. Since neither of those is likely, remote work all the way.

I'd still rather work remotely. Commuting is one of the majors factors that makes me prefer to work from home

A private office is the worst of both worlds for me. I have to go to the office, be out of everything that is comfortable for me, to be closed in an office for most of my day? No thanks!

I don't know. I'd assume the order would be remote > private office > open office. I'm full time remote and there is no way I'd prefer a private office. That'd mean a commute, being away from my family and an inferior work environment.

Why would you prefer an office to home? The only situation I could imagine where I'd like to occasionally go into an private office would be if I were single and living alone, so I could see people occasionally.

There's a middle ground I like, which is office rooms that have 2 - 4 people.

I've worked in private offices, home office, open floor plans and small shared rooms. The worst are large open floor plans. My favorite have been offices with rooms for 2 - 4 people. That's the sweet spot, I think.

My favorite of all is mixing that with WFH. e.g., Office M/W/F and WFH Tues/Thurs.

I still vastly prefer the flexibility, cost-advantages, and productivity gains from remote work.

That being said, you have to invest in it. Have a separate room with a door. Spend some money on good ergonomics. Have a good, stable internet connection.

I'm pretty sure this describes exactly what went wrong for me. I worked in an open plan office for 6 years and then for a variety of reasons fled for a WFH arrangement for 2 years with the same company (under the guise of moving to a different city where an office didn't exist). I think in the end I liked being in the office much more than WFH but that what it really represented was a private workspace for the deep no-interuption work. However, I missed being near my co-workers so much that I eventually gave up on it. There's no doubt that I would have never left had I had a private office at the main office instead.

I had a private office for eight years, its not really meaningfully different from a cubicle (I've never worked in an open floor plan). I mean, I could close the door rather than putting on my headphones if noise was bothering me, I could have phone conferences in my office, and I could have private phonecalls without stepping outside. I also had more room for all my crap (ended up with a few old computers sitting around). But those improvements are very, very minor.

Consider the option of open office two days and WFH three other days. I’d find that better than commuting 3 hours round trip through traffic for 5 days.

I'm a very social person (so much so that I wouldn't prefer a private office if I worked in an office), but I still prefer remote work.

I created a semi-private space inside my last big office job, and it made a world of difference; colleagues would come to me and discuss things without having to consider whether other people on the team would misinterpret what they were saying.

I think I was probably very blessed to have such an understanding and flexible company to work with, because thinking back, that was pretty crazy.

I just made my own private office in my home. Easily done with cost savings of remote work.

I suspect you mean private office at HQ, or alike. To which I'd say... that'd be a hell of a lot better than tradition or open office layout. But you'd still lose most of the remote benefits for what I suspect is little gain.

I have worked remotely since February, and the startup also rents a shared office, which is mostly unoccupied. However, I have used it only when there is a meeting.

I rather not use my time to commute, and prefer working at home, some cafe, or even nearby park or restaurant terrace on sunny days.

I think this is exactly it. Offices are prettier than ever and also less conducive to work than ever. I bet most people would choose an office with actual quiet workspaces -- even full-height cubicles! -- given that commutes were also reasonable.

I'd take private office and casual dress code over work from home. I live close to the city with a great commute but don't have space for a home office at home.

> casual dress code

Haven't seen this as an issue for awhile. I'm old enough that when I started programming I had to wear a tie to work (it wasn't a 'tech' company). Over time and different jobs it changed to golf shirts and khakis to now where if anyone wears more than shorts/jeans and a t-shirt we think they are going on an interview.

Should clarify I'm not in tech. I dress business casual for 4/5 days. It takes a lot of time and effort to deal with selecting, matching, dry cleaning pants, ironing, etc and it's less comfortable than true casual. We don't meet clients so I don't see the issue, just conservatism.

Shared team office is my favorite setup. As much as I derided working remotely in another post, anything, ANYTHING, beats an open-office plan.

Absolutely. Private offices FTW!

> Why Everyone Loves Remote Work ... 91% of remote workers said working remotely is a good fit for them.

There's a large gap between "the small fraction of workers who are remote love working remotely" and "everyone loves working remotely". My wife works remotely, and likes it a lot. I've worked remotely, don't like it at all, and am back in an office.

(For me, I'm just happiest if I'm in the same place as my coworkers. The place I worked at remotely seemed to do everything right, but I still felt disconnected and lonely.)

I love remote work too. But I strongly believe it's not for everyone. Not even 50% of the population. It would be a mistake to assume that it's easy for everyone. For me, going in the office means putting my headset on and doing my work till I need to leave, while having as few interactions as possible; so there are pretty much only perks on working from home. Most people crave engagement without even realizing it.

It also really depends on the job and the company. If remote working means never going off, I think it's a company culture problem rather than a problem of remote working itself. It might be true that since remote work is relatively new the boundaries and the culture might not be fully formed yet for many companies but I think everyone that works remotely should realize this and set expectations and boundaries accordingly.

Totally agree. I love remote work but you have to be cut out for it. A lot of people aren’t.

I also may enjoy going to an office more if I actually had an office with a window where i could feel comfortable instead of staring at a gray cube wall and listening to my loud neighbors the whole day.

These strange claims with no evidence. Working from home has to fight existing inertia, you couldn't WFH prior to the internet age, so no one did. Now it's possible and suddenly not everyone is cut out for it.

Not everyone is cut out for a 9 to 5, not everyone is a morning person, not everyone likes sitting in a chair all day. But they deal with it, because it's their job. The same will be 100% true for WFH, cut out for it or not, they'll adapt and make it work.

Definitely depends on the job and how you're utilized. I know people who work remotely 100% but have been at the same company, same position for years. It's hard to get promotions when upper management doesn't have a face for your name. I think if you're working remotely, you should either visit regularly or use your webcam often

It has been said enough already but worth repeating - if everyone or most of them is remote in an office then only remote works - not only for business but also for the worker (career growth wise).

I've been working remotely for my entire freelance career (~20 years). Very occasionally I'll go on site for certain local clients but that's not the norm.

There's huge wins for working remotely that everyone has already stated but the isolation factor is real, especially if you're single.

It might seem fun for a while (couple of months) to not wear pants at work and be able to put in 4 super productive hours of work before 10am if you wake up early and those are great things but I have to wonder if working remotely has long term mental health issues.

To get human interaction I force myself to leave the house (I walk a few times a day for exercise), have some friends and hobbies, run errands etc. but it's not the same as being out of the house for 8-10+ hours a day. I'd like to see a test done on single people who have been working remotely for 5+ years and seeing if they have higher levels of general anxiety than anyone working a job where they need to commute full time.

Even if you have a private office where you spend 95% of your time alone for ~8 hours, that's so much different (arguably better) than not leaving your house or apartment except for occasional short duration activities.

I worked remotely as a consultant for 12 years, before going back to full-time in an office job. The main driving factor for going back was the lack of consistent social interaction. I started my remote career in San Francisco, where I had non-work activities that were very active in the local community for nearly a decade. I was going out regularly and had many close friends. Being in a walkable area with decent public transportation was perfect for ease of social interactions.

I later moved to a city in southern California, which was a more suburban environment. It wasn't walkable, you had to take a car everywhere and I didn't know anyone other than my partner when we first moved here. I now was in a situation where I had to re-establish my social connections without my previous activities (I had stopped being involved a few years before the move) and I also didn't have a work environment where I had also made many social connections over the years.

For the first 5+ years, this was fine, I was able to make a handful of new friends but many of them started moving because of cost of living and starting new families. At this point, I feel like it really started to become determinantal to my mental health. Honestly, it took a long time for me to even notice and admit it was affecting me, but eventually, it was pretty debilitating. This wasn't the only source, but it was a major factor to be sure.

That being said, after being back in the office for 2 years (they have pretty strong no work at home policy) I am ready to go back to remote work. I loved the benefits of remote work but I also now am much more aware of the importance of getting out and finding more social activities to balance this out. Also, I wouldn't go back as a consultant. Having a rotating cast of people you interact with made it much harder to form longer-term social bonds and also there was never dedicated time planned to meet in person at regular intervals, as a lot of remote-first companies do.

I love and really miss the flexibility of my schedule and if I can find an environment that supports stable interactions with people and I continue to re-engage in more social activities outside of work, I would jump back into remote work in a heartbeat.

Possible solutions:

* Rent a co-working space

* Work out of coffee shops

* Make an effort to have a social life outside of your job.

Remote work can be great, but it requires two key things. First is the ability to actually do useful work at home or other non-office location. This is not hard (I suspect some people working remotely do goof off, but I suspect those people are not super useful sitting in the office either).

Second, much harder, is the employer support. Direct manager of remote workers should know how to manage them (which is a rare skill) and be interested in doing it. It means parceling work in a larger, independent chunks, planning integration and communication as needed and spotting and resolving problems early enough with no/rare face to face contact (and face to face does help for this).

Fail either of those and working remotely is inviting failure. My 2c.

>First is the ability to actually do useful work at home or other non-office location. This is not hard (I suspect some people working remotely do goof off, but I suspect those people are not super useful sitting in the office either)

You'd be wrong to suspect that. I am very productive at work but I just end up getting distracted at home. It is hard. It's a mentality thing. Additionally, when I'm at the office, I can talk to another person and just ask a question in 5 seconds that would take possibly hours to get a reply otherwise.

Agreed, clarification needed. I meant "many/most", but made the sentence read as if I meant "everyone".

>(I suspect some people working remotely do goof off, but I suspect those people are not super useful sitting in the office either).

I've thought about this a lot, and for me, as a remote working, I believe I have about the same amount of productivity as in the office. But instead of water cooler talk and socialization, I find I'm able to take care of chores and keep my affairs in order so that my free time is more free. It makes me much happier to work remote, simply because when I socialize in the office and commute, I find I have no energy to keep my affairs in order.

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