It’s also ignores the realities that many people don’t want to WFH. Many of the parents with young children at home are dreading the loss of their office space right now.
I also expect that the shift toward WFH will not be a positive thing for highly paid Silicon Valley engineers. Once people are working from home most of the time, it’s not much of a stretch to hire cheaper engineers from a few states over at literally half the cost of a SV engineer. From there, it’s only a few more levels of difficulty to unlock international talent at 1/4 of the price.
I don't understand the appeal of doing either full-time. I can see myself being comfortable with a mix of home and office, there are advantages to each in different scenarios.
It's not just tech, lots of jobs are tech adjacent or tech-augmented and can do this. More so than we thought ten years ago.
But in short, it's not for everyone. I'm bored of it. It makes work part of my life one way or another. I like directly interacting other humans sometimes.
There's gotta be a balance, as with most things in life.
The office is 5-20 minutes away. There is a good work culture. You have friends at the office. You can easily go home for a quick errand at lunch. WFH wouldn't be as appealing.
The office is 1 hour away on a good day. Traffic is very frustrating. Parking is expensive, same with transit which is hard to get an hour away. You get home at 6 if you're lucky. After 2 frustrating commutes and a rough day at work, and having to wake up very early to make the commute, you don't feel like working out. You get the point.
A year or so ago we moved 20 minutes from my office. Some stuff happened with management etc that they wanted people to at least come in a couple days if possible. So I did. Being only 20 minutes away I didn't mind it as much. I had also been migrated to a new team that I really got along with. We lunch together, we shoot the shit if things are chill, I get pulled in on more interesting projects because I'm right there and if I hear someone talking about something I know I'd be helpful on I chime in "Hey, I can help with that" - things I'd have missed out on getting to do if I were at home waiting for someone to send me a Jira ticket or mention it during morning standup. I also have more visibility with our VPs and directors.
Anyway, IMO, WFH is fantastic - especially when you live far away - but some office face time is also great. Good for people, good for careers. I feel incredibly fortunate to have stumbled into a position where I have the option to WFH, but also enjoy 3 or 4 days in the office.
WFH is right that autonomy is good (being away from a boss) and commutes are bad, but denying the social nature of our species when work (for better or worse) consumes so much time is ludicrous.
I used to have that, my office changed location to 1h commute and the 2 days of wfh still mean more commute time than no wfh previously.
I've had 50minutes commute before, but it was just one uninterrupted subway ride which meant I could follow some online courses, but 1h of commute that involves 2x 10 minutes walks and 2 subway changes, its just hell.
I feel that the bank just had to let people with 2 wfh days, lest people quit en mass.
I think the key is to create lacunae in the office that allow the culture to form. Watercoolers or smoke breaks or 100% informal happy hour beers, etc. Once leadership makes it "a thing" it loses its dynamic.
A friend and I are starting to do "workcations" several times per year (he typically works in office, I work 100% remotely).
We go somewhere, work our during the day then go do something in the evenings - typically skiing or mountain biking. It's an amazing setup. We both typically get more done at work, because we're focused and wanting to get to our evening activity. 4 hours of skiing or biking in the evening is more than enough (especially when we do it 8 days straight).
That is one perk, I will never give up. Working on a 100% remote team has made me care about vacation days much less. Instead of taking a 3 to 4 day trip somewhere, I'll simply take a full week and work during the day (possibly still taking some time off.)
Many of the midwest hills near major cities have night skiing nearly every day of the week.
Steamboat is probably the most well known "big resort".
EDIT: probably the most compelling reason to go into the office is that the company hasn't made working remotely an optimized experience.
I have the option to work remotely and in the office (office is 20 minutes away when there's no traffic), I prefer going into the office when my work requires collabing with a colleague (dev work). But when I'm working on stuff solo I prefer to work from home, as there are no distractions there. I think I get more done in half a day at home than I normally do in a full-day at work.
This is what I do today. I eat lunch with my wife and kids, and I am always home for breakfast and dinner, but I have space to focus on work (it is crucial IMHO to separate your work and home spaces, based on six years of remote work) and an area to have meetings if needed. There is no reason this model can't scale up; less WeWork, more Mr Money Mustache's coworking space . Some travel might be required occasionally, but I've found all remote roles and orgs experience this; it's the entry ticket for having an amazingly higher quality of life compared to an "on site" role.
Alternatively, I know people who work 8-9 hours in an office complex with 100 mile round trip commutes. Hard pass. You want help building a coworking space? I will help you build a coworking space. This is the future of work.
That's pretty much my situation. On top of that, we have 8-person rooms (as opposed to hangar-like open space) and plenty of bigger and smaller conference/private work rooms for times when you want to isolate yourself. Add excellent coffee (no free food though - this is Europe, free food is not widely adopted here yet). Working in such office is pretty cool and even though I have option to work remotely 100% of the time, I still come to the office 3 or 4 times a week.
The average commute is 26.9 minutes, and that is heavily skewed by metropolitan areas. Some data here.
Now let's consider the worst case WFH scenario: you're paid less, promotions are less frequent, there is less comradery among your team, you feel lonely because you spent your whole workday alone. You get the point.
Obviously, the best case scenario is to allow workers to decide what they want to do. Picking the form of work that fits your personality, your career, your home life, your values, etc and then trying to force that on 300+ million people is absurd. The good news is that a substantial amount of people do get to choose.
So already that is, on average, 1 hour lost per commuting. A huge portion would have commutes worse than that. That data would always be skewed by metro areas - that is where most people live, and where housing would force people to take long commutes.
> Now let's consider the worst case WFH scenario: you're paid less, promotions are less frequent, there is less comradery among your team, you feel lonely because you spent your whole workday alone. You get the point.
Why would you argue this, if in the very first sentence of your reply, you stated the worst case "doesn't really tell us anything?"
Back to the straw-man point - no one is suggesting that anyone be forced to do anything. Just pointing out why many would like an option to WFH whereas others may not. I agree overall that more choice and flexibility is good.
For example, my commute is about 40 minutes door to door. But I walk to work and listen to podcasts as I go so I'm getting some light exercise and catching up on things I want to listen to. If I didn't do these as part of my commute, I'd have to find other time to do them. I also find it helpful mentally to have a "transition" time between home and work to get ready for my day or wind down after work when things are getting more stressful, and I've heard others say the same.
Friends who commute to work on the train use the time to read books or sleep. Again, if they didn't do these things then, they'd need to find some other time to do them so the actual amount of lost time is pretty small.
I think it's a mistake to claim something as subjective as a fact.
To me it's lost and that's that. I don't want to isolate myself with music or podcasts. I dislike earplugs because they make my ears hurt, I don't want to lug around big headphones, I like it when I can put everything I need for going out in my pockets, and I also don't process learning material well while I am physically moving (or waiting for my transport to move me around).
You simply made the best out of your way of life and that's cool. Just don't assume everyone else wants to do the same.
To me all time spent going from point A to point B -- in a work setting, mind you, I quite like travelling outside of work -- is lost in a meaningless way.
Same here, they also set off my tinnitus.
Seems pretty close minded. All of the things you mention can be achieved on a commute. Leave your computer in the office and don’t isolate yourself with music or podcasts on the walk.
You might call it close-minded which is not a productive way to discuss. I call it a preference, one I had a long time to realise I was having. I tried being productive on commutes, never liked it and it was even making me tired very quickly.
Nitpicking on the format of my comment like you are doing isn't helpful though so let's just stop. :)
It also gives me the chance to explore a bit on my way home (since I don't have time constraints).
Here's a great study about the complexity of associating well-being and commuting:
Whether your commute sucks depends on the direct context: modes of transport, time of day,... But it also depends on why you ended up choosing to accept the commute and the trade-offs you made that made you end up in that position.
The study does report that longer commutes have a clear negative impact on subjective well-being. Sure, it's nice to read or sleep on a train or bus. But if you're spending 3 hours a day between doors, you're not spending that time on other, deeply personal, pursuits: taking care of your kids, taking a walk through the park, spending time with family or friends, cooking a proper meal for yourself, working out, etc. etc.
Tons of people spend hours on the road or in the train between urban centers and suburban areas. Why? Because the former is where they'd find the job they need to be able to afford to live in the latter. That's how you come to see things like "sleeper" or "commuter" towns: partly deserted areas where a large part of the population has gone away for the day. Which, of course, impacts local economy and social structures.
Modern commuting is a relatively new evolution. Historically, work and home life bled into one another and people lived close to their work, depending on the context. There were absolutely obvious drawbacks, but you'd also see that society consisted of local communities with a strong social cohesion. Modern commuting is a side effect of the rise of the modern workplace from the early to mid-20th century on.
Commuting is also caused by a process called gentrification: the renovation of urban neighborhoods, and as a result the influx of a more wealthy demographic pushing out the poorer strata who can't afford housing anymore. Let's not forget that some modern hip and famous urban neighborhoods in New York, San Fransisco, Paris, Berlin or London historically used to be ghetto's where poor and destitute lived in tenamments.
Now, I don't think that a single flu epidemic or a recession is going to suddenly change how we are going to live and work overnight. Instead, I think we'll rather see profound changes over the course of the next 50 years as populations are ageing and our very lifestyle and Modern Way of Living - including commuting, views on family choices and high education levels - will (and already is) spawning fundamental and existential questions among young people.
Second thing, not everybody has a need or even a want to be around people during their work day. I have horrible ADD, socializing at work means I get nothing done. Further why do you get less promotions and pay and why does team comradery suffer? I can’t see a correlation between WFH and those items you listed.
I get the impression that much of the non-core software dev has already been sent to India. Much of what's left is core to the business and highly speed/quality sensitive, less price sensitive. Some of it even got offshored then reshored when management realized that time/language/culture/etc issues impose a variety of real costs that may or may not be acceptable depending on the project.
That said, a decade is a long time from now.
(Mind you, we avoided actual teleconferences like the plague, but even sending an email was problematic: "yeah, this needs to go to A in Malaysia. God forbid that it then needs to go to B in USA, and then to C in Europe, because that's two whole days until you get a reply, minimum". Persuading people to work night shifts didn't quite work, either.)
Sure, but that doesn't mean they're communicating in the same way. You've got to learn (or unlearn) cultural aspects, too.
Then throw in the timezone difference, and a clear level-of-effort difference aka "case of the fuck-its", and you get a workflow that is entirely different from the local office.
We got around the time difference by offshoring in Latin America, who are on the same timezones.
All of our employees loved being able to WRF or get an office wherever they needed, especially sales who could meet in a local space close to their meetings for that day.
Yet another YIMBY argument in disguise.
Plus the MMM guy calculated that each mile you shave off of your commute saves you like ~700 bucks a year (driving). I haven't owned a car for 3+ years so that's moot to me, but the not-having-a-car cost savings have been fantastic.
They probably don't enjoy the forced beer night outs with coworkers and mundane water cooler conversations either. They have real friends and loved ones they rather be with.
People go to work so that they can put food on the table, they don't go to the office to socialize.
There are plenty of better ways to interact with people other than the office.
I bet you, they also rather use their own private washrooms. Eat fresh food at home and be in their comfortable A/C home rather than a cramped office.
Just because the society demands that everyone joins the rat race to go to the office, it doesn't mean it's an acceptable status quo.
Many people, especially those in non-tech industries, aren't so introverted as most SWEs, and are actually friends with their coworkers and love the opportunity to socialize throughout the day while at work. Most everyone I know that works outside of tech would dread the thought of having to spend every day alone at home without people to chat with in the break room. Just because you apparently have such a negative attitude towards your coworkers does not mean that most others do.
We've all been there. The strongest bonds were made at my first few companies. Once you leave and are no longer friends hanging out you'll probably realize they are not true friends. But those times were great.
Besides we in tech need to go home to work on our side project.
I’m past that point, as are all of my friends. Nothing in my comment is changed by that fact.
If anything, coworker relationships actually become more important as you get older and your other friends start to drift away. Post age 30, work is one of the best (if not the only, for most people) opportunities to socialize and make friends. I’ve noticed that people in other fields realize this and take advantage of it, but those in technical positions don’t, and many techies seem to even actively despise that aspect.
Plus, I've had several people -- all the way to the CEO -- assure me how much I am appreciated and even looked at as a superhuman, yet 2 months later boom, we have to lay you off.
Defense mechanism or not, it's pretty normal to not mix personal and work lives and you pretending it's not dysfunctional to have friends at work is actually a bit worrying. You just got lucky, mate. That's cool and I am happy for you. But you should recognise it should absolutely not be the normal state of affairs.
Being laid off has nothing to do with friendship. As your post even says, you should separate personal from business. I know several people who were separated from places of work and still maintain strong bonds with their now-former coworkers. I personally left my company of 5 years on not-so-great terms and yet several of the people in my wedding party are coworkers from that job. Work is a great place to begin friendships, and just because you no longer work at the same company does not mean your friendship has to end. And that’s the way it should be.
I too have a few pleasant acquaintances that are former co-workers, by the way.
I've observed a lot of Stockholm syndrome in people in offices and that made me believe many are forcing relationships at work so at to make their workplace more tolerable. I could be wrong though.
HOWEVER, when in a work setting I prefer to grab the problem at hand by the horns and start wrestling it. I like small talk -- maybe even too much! -- and that's exactly why I gradually learned to deflect most such attempts by colleagues so as not to be in an awkward position later after I have bonded with 10+ people but got zero work done. :D
- The employee who spends the day having extra long visits around the office.
- The employee who joins every social event team possible so much they are never doing their core role
- The helpful senior dev who spends all day teaching a junior only to avoid the bug queue and push their work to other seniors
- The company meeting where everyone listens as Sally is given an above and beyond reward for their work on a project everyone else did but Sally. Sally is very personable with the CEO
Let's just get our work done.
Thanks for the discussion.
It most likely wasn't their choice. You can't really have that affect your friendships.
If an other company offer XX% more than your current company but you stay for your "friends" you could have a big disappointment in the future.
The majority of my closest friends (and their closest friends) are people that started from work relationships and we have had no problem leaving those companies when the time came, and we have maintained our friendships. It’s not any different than any other friendship where people sometimes move or start new hobbies.
That said, if someone does choose to stay at a specific company because they have friends there... so what? Having a strong social circle and support network is, in many cases, a better reason to work at a company than a higher paycheck.
In the US your healthcare and well-being are pretty much dependent on your job. And make no mistake, this is 2020, where your org will fire you for any reason so long as it makes sense to an MBA. As your sole source of income and healthcare they wield immense power in your life, and any interactions you have with coworkers or other work-related engagements are going to revolve around that power disparity in some way. Sure there are freelancers and well paid devs who can come and go as they please, but those are a tiny minority compared to all of those who are thusly constrained.
Point is, don't make work your social life cuz when they fire your ass you're going to lose your support network AND your meal ticket.
1) This is a self fulfilling prophecy. It's no secret that when it comes time to let people go (or time to promote), managers (even the MBA boogeymen) will stick their neck out for people they like more than for people they do not know. If you're continuously being dropped like a hot rock by your employers and you don't think it's because of performance reasons, perhaps you should reconsider your work relationship habits.
2) What's with the notion that you "lose your support network" just because you get fired? There is no reason that you should stop being friends with people just because you lose your job, even if those friendships stemmed from your workplace. I understand that it may be more difficult to find the time to socialize with them if you are not at work with them (which is exactly why it's worth it to go to those "forced beer nights" and build a relationship outside the context of work), but that doesn't mean you should stop putting in the effort and cut ties entirely.
Even if you are entirely career focused, getting fired is a situation in which you should actually lean heavier on your support network, especially coworker friends, as they are the ones that most likely can do the most to help you find a replacement job.
I really don't see the issue in socialising with colleagues and potentially becoming friends.
I go to the office to socialize. Its not my primary reason of course, but I value the conversations I have over lunch, and we often take time to play games after work or get involved in sports as a bonding experience. To dismiss the social aspects of office work is going a bit too far.
I accept though that many people feel like you do in this case. I just want to point out that many people may value the things that you do not.
Underrated perk. I used to have to go down 6 floors and search for a nice, hidden restroom on a mostly female floor to be comfortable.
Those mundane water cooler conversations are the only conversations I'd get if I weren't in the office. I enjoy them.
> There are plenty of better ways to interact with people other than the office
It's not wasting, it's time to myself.
Do you have kids?
I get a lot done during that time, I need that.
Commuting (if done by public transport anyway) can be productive time, personal development time, gaming time, reading time etc. It's often the only time people get to themselves all day.
Even if you drive, there are podcasts and audiobooks.
I’ll take the downvotes- this is absurdity.
Also, some people don't get to commute on comfy trains, ubers, or cars, and instead have to take crowded subway trains where this time is for themselves and shared with the other 6 people touching their body and breathing down their neck.
A park is fine for a stroll, a stretch, a bit of fresh air.
But people need quiet, unpressured, indoors time to themselves as well.
Coffee shop outside work time works too, in theory. (Although those can be more packed than a train.)
But you may have to fight to be "allowed" alone time if it appears to be discretionary, because not everyone understands or accepts that. They think it is selfish.
People are strange, and will happily understand and let someone "go to work" with set hours and a "commute". But strangely, not if the someone wants the equivalent personal time outside work with no commute.
You are right that it's sad for someone to have that little control over their time. But it is a fact of life for many people with families. "Work" time is accepted only when the time appears imposed by a third party; self-selected alone time, not so much.
Work may not be everyone’s primary source of social life, and indeed there seems to be a growing mindset that socializing at work is bad, somehow (probably part of the US culture to reduce all of life to shareholder value).
But even in those cases, my experience has been that I am far more likely to participate in social events on days that I have worked at the office, either because I’m already showere & dressed, and used to “going somewhere”. Or because social events tend to happen closer to where ever I’m working than where I life.
It's all about the commute, the office quality, and the office culture.
I'm sure you can imagine how being full-time one or the other would be beneficial depending on how these factors compare.
I was talking with someone recently and they were excited to work from home since they bought a new home... so they don't have to work from home from their kitchen table that maybe seats 4 people... maybe.
I think we forget that work from home generally requires some space. Not everyone's home or family situation allows for it.
I do worry that this extends to a sort of class situation where folks again with fewer resources are at a disadvantage as for them they have to go out damn far most places to even start thinking about a home.
That's a fantasy only. The tech giants that are supporting the high salaries can already do all of that. They're not because they can afford to not. They can do max WFH anytime they want to. It is not a first tier concern, it's a third or fourth tier concern, far down the list.
They don't need to hire people for $50,000 instead of $200,000. They need the $200,000 people to keep helping them generate $5b, $10b, $50b per year in operating income. So long as they do, the salaries will remain high. The salary difference on what they could potentially save (and potentially wreck the house instead), is not worth it to do such a major switch.
Microsoft will approximately double in size in the next six or seven years, to $250-$300 billion in sales and $70-$80 billion in operating income. Google and Facebook are in the same growth boat. You think they're so worried about shaving a few pennies of salary cost on those growth machines, that they're going to put their entire systems at risk? No, they won't do that under any circumstance. The only thing they'll do is keep lobbying for importing more tech labor to try to dilute some (they're running the modest risk scenario) and continue to grow outside of SV (and other expensive tech areas like NYC or Seattle) physically as they have been for a long time.
Nah, I bet language barriers and substantial time zone difference will keep most companies out of that mix. You'd need to change the company a bit more to accommodate that.
I'm speaking from direct experience managing mixed teams of US-based and international remote employees.
Language barrier is not an issue. Most of the top international developers became experts by consuming years of English documentation, tech news, and discussion.
Time zones are the biggest hurdle, but once you get into the flow of an asynchronous routine it's much easier than you expect. In my experience, WFH tech employees like to push workflows toward being asynchronous anyway.
Sure for top international developers who are fluent in English.
But top international developers who are very fluent in English aren't cheap.
In my experience communication and language skills are even more important in remote work, and the vast majority of cheap international developers do not have those skills in English.
I'm a software engineer based in Brisbane, Australia, I've worked for two US-based startups who were specifically growing their offices in Australia because it's cheaper to hire for the same roles here than in the US.
Besides, this assumes that "WFH" will be normalized which I doubt will happen. It will be forced on us, but workplaces are social places just as much as they are places to do work.
Beyond that, this all assumes that SARS-COV-2 is a true epidemic of proportions we haven't seen since the Spanish flu which, despite all the alarmist media, isn't likely. It's good to take all the right precautions, but we aren't living in the early 19th/20th century anymore.
We have modern medicine, proper hygiene, and a much faster rate of information transfer than we ever have before.
Media aren't alarmist enough. They don't understand how exponential growth works. Will this epidemic kill as much as the Spanish flu in absolute sense? Probably, especially if you factor in all the deaths from other causes that happened because the hospital system was DDoSed. In relative sense? Maybe not, there was ~4x less people back then.
> It's good to take all the right precautions, but we aren't living in the early 19th/20th century anymore.
Exactly. 19th and early 20th century would fare better. Yes, the virus would kill more of the infected people. But it also wouldn't travel as far and as fast, and wouldn't be damaging national economies so badly. Or threatening the food security of so many people (both in absolute and relative terms).
> We have modern medicine, proper hygiene, and a much faster rate of information transfer than we ever have before.
We also have just-in-time supply chains and lean philosophy of "cutting out fat" - i.e. any spare capacity in the system that could help with a crisis. Modern medicine won't do much if you use it all up in a week, and more won't be coming for another couple of months if at all. Faster information transfer won't help you if you have barely enough doctors to staff hospitals at regular load, forget the peak load during a pandemic (and note that many doctors will catch it and go out of circulation).
Obvious limiting factor would be local saturation. Problem is, we're shuffling population faster than ever before.
No, I see no reason to not expect the virus to ride the exponent into millions of cases. I guess we'll see if I was right in less than two weeks.
EDIT: On top of that - arguably, it's not the virus that's most dangerous right now; it's the healthcare system overload and the disruption to the supply chains (and the economy in general) it caused. Not going to take bets on that, but I feel somewhat positive that these secondary effects will lead to more deaths than the COVID-19 itself.
I do think it's puzzling that SV companies don't do more offshoring to eg European countries where SWE salaries are so much lower but lots of talent exists and there is a dearth of interesting product companies.
But would it really be bad for SV engineers? Maybe it would just make the SW market hotter, just like the mainstreaming of open source boosted paid SW work instead of hurting it.
You say that like outsourcing engineers is a new thing. This has been happening for as long as tech has been a cost center and will continue to happen until U.S. salaries are commensurate with the rest of the world, I don't see why this virus will accelerate the trend any further.
Yes, international talents are there, but unless you're willing to develop a local agency that are up to par with the quality standard of US, it's not going to be of positive value. At which point the cost might as well be the same.
This of course doesn't apply to relatively non-technical work like call centers.
I don't think anybody is claiming this. The argument is more that WFH is best for people who prefer to WFH and are able to do so effectively.
Last time I checked, most big tech companies have little tolerance for WFH, only allowing workers to WFH at most once or twice per week. There's clearly a middle ground between "no remote workers" and "WFH is the best option for everyone".
I'm quite grateful to be able to work from home as needed in my current gig, but "toxic" seems like it should mean something more than "not doing what I want."
Then again, I've suspected "toxic" of being a meaningless phrase primarily used to tar and feather things the speaker dislikes for a while now, do maybe it fits perfectly.
It isn't the policy itself that does it but in context without a need. That implicitly has an assumption of "no need for the restriction in this context and yet here it is". In this case it implies a management which is too rigid to accept the possibility of working from home at all. It implies one or more of the following.
1. "Not invented here" syndrome for remote working. Willful ignorance isn't a very good look.
2. A complete lack of trust is implicit in the social environment.
3. Needing a physical presense to apply some sort of office social manipulation.
4. Excessive authoritarianism from leadership and management
Essentially "toxic" means "red flag" hinting at a messed up culture. It is like taking away free coffee being a sign it is time to move on. It isn't that the expense is crippling but it hints that they aren't being valued anymore and are starting to bean count.
These signals are completely negated when there is a reason outside of any dynamics. To give a silly hypothetical example if a stupidly powerful crazed fundamentalist Mormon splinter sect manages to create a worldwide prohibition on coffee it doesn't really reflect upon the management.
For more grounded in reality examples a job where part of it involves say physically examining devices on a daily basis or say in a SIF where "no information physically leaving the site and designed to be network independent" wouldn't be toxic as it would have an actual somewhat legitimate reason behind it (even if one may have very reasonable qualms about the secrecy philosophically - let alone what they are keeping secret).
As someone without kids can you explain this? Where I work at many employees with kids come to work much later and leave much earlier since they have to pick up their kids or send them to after school activities. Wouldn't working from home better this process?
For older children, if you aren't the designated pick up parent for the day, it can still be quite distracting with children coming and going and doing their thing without a lot of regard for others (as children are still developing that capacity).
Office can be a quiet refuge where you get to be around adults instead.
2 minutes pass
"Daddy are you done work yet? When will you be done?"
closes the door
It _is_ nice to be able to step away for 5 minutes and ask how their school day went when they get home and that sort of thing, but there are other times it can be pretty darn inconvenient, especially when they're under 5ish. And god help you if you don't have an office with a door :)
What I hope will happen with this is that companies become a lot more flexible and encourage people who want to to regularly work a few days a week remotely.
For my employees, a lot of them do get more heads-down work done at home. It makes sense for them to work from home when they need intense focus. They also usually do better collaborative work in the office.
I also have employees who really like working remotely and others who really don't like working. I wouldn't want to force people who don't like working remotely to do so.
Some people at my work can walk to work, and coming into the office is an opportunity to interact with other driven people to build great stuff. We shoot the shit, get coffee together, and in general enjoy each other's company. For a lot of employees, coming into the office is something they enjoy.
What’s wrong with this? I’m one of these engineers in Silicon Valley who would like to live near family. “Half the cost” is still massively higher than the local rate in my home state, which I would happily accept.
This is a strawman that always appears in every remote work thread and it is always treated at face value: If anyone proposes that they can/should work from home, somehow will reply that everyone can't work from home. Then cue a procession of people giving their tale about how they don't like working from home.
No one is saying, or has ever said, that everyone should WFH. But somehow the notion that some people WFH is threatening to people that don't want to / don't approve of it, and it's always cast in this binary manner. It's a completely dishonest tactic that is boorish.
Discussions on this topic are more interesting when they’re focused on the trade offs and how best to optimize, rather than what other people “ought” to do.
If I had office space, yes, I might be dreading the loss.
Society has moved mountains to make work-at-the-office from 9 to 5 (WATO95) possible. It's mind boggling how much society has been bent to pay the _EXTRAORDINARY_ costs of WATO95.
Now, given that society is what it is, right now WATO95 seems cheap. But it really isn't. Some fun facts:
-- the electric car longevity problem --
Electric cars have this giant, unaddressed problem. A normal 'explode dead dinos' style car, even if well engineered, has about a million kilometers tops and then it's just done. Just about every component inside is at the end of its useful lifespan, from the entire engineblock to the wheels (those probably ended earlier), to even the interior; at some point people want a new style.
A well engineered electric vehicle is nothing like this; loads of components (not the batteries or the wheels, but most of the rest) have a lifetime 4x to 10x that easily.
The problem is, an individual car owner is NEVER going to clock that many miles on a car. After 10 years of ownership even if the materials can easily go for another 90, there are newer designs, more comfort, etc.
How do we solve this problem? We could, especially with self driving cars, go to a model where we pool cars: You don't own a car, you just order one, one will drive on its own to your front door within 5 minutes, you use it, and when you're done, it drives off. This pushes utility-per-day up to the levels required to actually use up the components in a 10 year span.
But that is not practical because of WATO95: At about 7am-9am, everybody wants a car, so that whole re-use thing just does not work. We can keep WATO, but then 95 thing has _GOT_ to go; that morning commute needs to be smeared way out; a single car needs to be busy from 5 in the morning to noon bringing at least 4 people to work, hopefully more.
-- traffic jams --
Here in the Netherlands, if ~10% of the workforce does not drive to work at all on any given day, there'd be no traffic jams. As is, there's hundreds of kilometers of traffic jam every workday. How much fuel, and lost hours is that? How many billions upon billions of dollars of value is society throwing down this hole to support WATO95?
-- health --
yeah the corona thing. It's complicated; isolation is very bad for mental health. But is 'drive to the office' (even if we get rid of 95, keep the WATO) the best option? Can we go for an alternative solution with more advanced connectivity (proper video calling, social solutions to staying connected even without an explicit appointment somehow?) Can we move everybody to a '2 days at home, 3 days a the office' model?
The list is way, way longer than this. You're not wrong; working from home as all sorts of major issues, but let's not lose sight of the incredible cost of WATO95 culture either.
Talent outside the bay lags behind so its not as desirable for those companies. Not to mention the valley culture is a bit guild like
So what you are saying instead is find a better industry to be in and better people to work for.
Ultimately though distribution of wealth as incredibly unequal as it is limits that choice substantially.
Consistently failing to make it grow mean they get the axe, which means they replace the nice, patient people with aggressive type-a folks who do what needs to be done. Rise-and-repeat over several cycles and you start to see this hardcore work culture.
The fat bonuses only reinforce it further. If you're gonna be copping six-figure bonuses you either hustle or you gtfo of the way, because there are plenty of people that would bust their ass for that chance. Again, play that cycle out over a few decades and here we are.
It's toxic as hell, but it shouldn't be surprising that it turns out this way since it's 100% structural.
Wow if ever there was a  this is it.
Is great work done elsewhere? Of course!
But for better or for worse, the bay is where the most ambitious webdevs go righ now.
Just like I bet the best aircraft engineers are in Chicago and Bethesda because that’s where Boeing and Lockheed are.
It’s not the talent that lags behind, it’s the environment.
Especially considering what Boeing goes through right now, I would say the best aircraft engineers right now are located in Europe and they work in the Airbus headquarters.
But other than that: most recent innovative payment providers are coming mostly from Europe these days. Transferwise or Revolut comes to my mind as two such examples. Out of which Revolut reached a total valuation $1.7 billion not so long ago.
Also let's take a look at the online music streaming landscape: Tidal, Deezer and Spotify are all European companies.
There are whole industries (or segments at least) where SV is lagging behind.
So this environment argument doesn't hold any water.
Maybe there was a very narrow time period, let's say 10 years or so, when SV was really ahead of the pack in terms of technical skills, but those times are over.
And BTW, I didn't even mention machine learning and AI, where China is basically becoming the world leader right now.
Didn't airbus have issues of their own way back? Besides, airbus bought the a220 from bombardier, which makes it canadian rather than european. which just goes to show you, the products come from where the talent exists. silicon valley is a big part of it, but not the only game in town.
saying "environment doesn't matter," is ridiculous. but I agree—there is plenty of good engineering where elsewhere, but it is more likely to exist where there is a mass of other engineers :)
My point is that communities form where an industry is at its peak and it’s those communities that attract top talent in that industry.
Like if you want to work at the forefront of private space industry right now you’d probably go to LA. Because that’s where SpaceX lives.
k8s came from where ?
Containers ( cgroups ) came from where ?
Hashicorp is the standard for devops
Elon and Tesla took a curve out of IT but guess where they started ?
Your few startups are nice but the technology they run on is built in SV and that continues to be the place of innovation regardless of VCs trying to spark it elsewhere.
Yes other areas are innovating but SV does remain one of the most innovative area if not the main one. Everything else pales in comparison
Source: I worked there from “early” until “mid” stage.
It was a bit unnerving the first time it happened but you have access to so many people like that and you are around it daily.
You constantly find out about new things from your buddy over at the other company who tells you about something they are working on that is a completely new product.
Not to mention when something hits mainstream outside SV its aging in SV and soon will likely be obsolete
Example you might not know this but k8s is googles borg lite and everyone who has been around the valley has ran into someone who worked on it for years.
You simply don't have that experience outside SV...Not to mention things considered common knowledge in SV isnt common outside... eg I still have to explain to people why ITIL doesnt work with Agile DevOps ever since I left.
Do you have any interesting reading on this subject? I'd like to get some material for my heavily ITIL-aligned shop.
At least the conference they had presented this material. I might have it saved somewhere and will look around and reply if I remember
So the value that you get from an expensive engineer can be many number of times the saving. Of course, if a manager under employs an expensive engineer than yes.
Moreover, as engineering tools become better, the better engineer become much more productive, thus magnifying his advantage.
> Home ownership was a bubble that popped in 08. Health insurance is a bubble that may pop when AMZN gets in the market.
Both of these assertions seem ridiculous to me. Home ownership was not ‘a bubble’, selling high interest loans to under-qualified buyers and then creating and trading a bunch of securities around them was the bubble. And the idea that amazon entering the health insurance market will somehow transform the entire paradigm of American healthcare is absurd.
I never understood why healthcare was tied to employment. Yes, it's a nice benefit, but it's not like your health needs change significantly if your job changes.
Maybe employers for dangerous jobs could offer supplementary insurance in effect at the workplace or job site. But access to affordable day to day healthcare is something we all need from birth to death without interruption.
Especially when you consider infectious disease, the health of the community impacts all of us.
Pre-WW2, many unions in the US had negotiated employer-paid health insurance as a (taxable) benefit. When the government capped wages as part of wartime price controls, these unions threatened to strike, which would have gutted industrial production. To avoid a strike, the government offered to temporarily make employer-provided health insurance a tax-free benefit.
Temporarily. And here we still are.
//Hacky solution to get a working prototype, should be refactored before deployment.
Legislative and regulatory debt can be a problem just like technical debt.
I really wish there was more appreciation for this outside of tech. I'm disdainful of a lot of SV libertarianism, to say the least, but will gladly make common cause on this one point.
The healthcare situation in the US may have started out as a hacky WW2 era fix, but has been explicitly and aggressively lobbied against for years at the highests levels of government.
Framing it in a technocratic context as "technical debt, but for laws and stuff" completely misses the intense crusade against it in the US.
During World War 2, the US implemented a national wage freeze, with an exemption for insurance and pensions. Since companies still needed to compete for workers, this led to a significant growth in those benefits.
Because the people who keep it that way are the same people you hear say dumb crap like, "I don't want to pay for someone else's healthcare (ignoring the fact that that is the definition of insurance!)" when anyone brings up changing the way healthcare is run in the US of A.
They think only people who work deserve healthcare.
You can save up enough money to pay the bills for a few months, but you effectively can't save up enough money to cover your own health care costs without some sort of insurance.
On the other hand, companies also spend significant resources being health insurance brokers. Getting rid of that burden would be particularly helpful for small businesses and startups.
I would be far more willing to risk assets I had if I knew I'd still have basic necessities in life. You know, the luxuries the very wealthy have...
But abstaining from health insurance right up until the point where you need it is the same as having other people pay for your healthcare. A ban on pre-existing conditions without an individual mandate is a form of welfare. So in actual practice many people who are nominally opposed to universally subsidized HC are in fact not opposed to universal subsidization of healthcare... as long as there's some nominal involvement with the insurance industry prior to use.
The broader point: many people don't realize that just because you're paying into something doesn't necessarily mean it isn't welfare. In a democratic society with a lot of individualism and distrust of government, sometimes this "hack" is the best way to deliver a welfare state. See also: social security.
+1 its unclear to me why the pricing would go down for higher number of employees? The risk profile is still spread across many people in the case of contractors.
A large company often self-insures the healthcare cost, and is buying health plan administration. If high costs are not observed, the reserves can roll over to future years. Even if they don't self-insure, the possibility can be used to negotiate lower prices, and having data on past claims can show a less risky pool, etc.
It's tied to employment because we have private health insurance and that doesn't really work without group plans. Employers are the most readily and widely accessible set of groups (unions are another for example).
I think it would be much more viable if we get rid of the employment requirements.
On the second point, the economic damage from natural disasters is usually short and severe, with a quick recovery. Barring Covid-19 turning out to be a lot worse than the Spanish flu, most impacted regions will return to business as usual sooner (as in a couple of months) rather than later.
The short-term effect of Covid-19 on Chinese manufacturing have been absolutely devistating - I honestly can't think of another feasible event that would cause the same level of slowdown that you saw last month. However the recover is in progress, and while it's going to take some time, odds are that everything will more or less return to normal in another couple of months.
A war where shipping was disrupted would be much, much worse.
Yet we can still talk about those things happening within narrow slices of our own lifetimes. Contrast that with the Black Death that dealt deep enough damage that some parts of Europe didn't recover for generations. Centuries in some cases.
The biggest challenge is how healthcare benefits are tied to employment. It's something that made sense when it started but is now obsolete and seriously detrimental to the modern workforce. Many people either suffer from lack of insurance or are held captive in a job from fear of losing necessary coverage.
Fix that and we would see a lot more positive developments for workers.
How did you come to this conclusion, and what do you mean by ‘unused’?
I‘m guessing you mean that a majority of people receiving health care benefits are healthy and thus don’t ‘use’ them enough that the amount of money spent on their health plans is larger than the amount they would spend out of pocket?
Even if that is true, that’s not really the point of insurance. Insurance exists to protect you against an eventuality that you don’t necessarily expect to occur, but would be catastrophic if it did. People don’t buy liability car insurance because they expect to cause a terrible accident and want to come out ahead financially. There is a value to being insured whether or not you have to actively take advantage of the plan.
Things like food, equipment, travel perks, gym memberships, etc. could instead be spent on bigger paychecks, especially if you're already moving towards remote work.
The sum of the money spent on all non-healthcare benefits (aside from maybe 401k matching) is a drop in the bucket compared to healthcare premiums. I don’t think its unfair to assume that the only real benefit the average full time worker receives is their employers contribution to their health coverage.
I don’t have any data to back this up, but I’m guessing the amount of people who even receive these extra benefits in the first place are a tiny minority of relatively highly paid workers.
It didn't even make sense when it started. In the 30s the US government instituted wage controls in a misguided attempt to fight the depression, so because businesses weren't allowed to pay workers more (there was a government-mandated wage ceiling), they started offering health insurance to attract them instead. It's a classic example of the negative second-order effects of economically unsound policy.
That basically requires getting rid of private health insurance (except as supplemental insurance) which is going to be a difficult battle.
Thats not true for any other of the insurances I have. My car, home, flood, and life insurance all aren’t related to my employer yet still exist.
You can deal with it I believe by making insurance mandatory for everyone, banning all groups plans and preventing pre-existing conditions from being taken into account. Probably need some more restrictions on the fifty other ways of gouging expensive patients by insurance companies. But then you basically have government run health insurance in everything but name.
I don’t think most people prefer to buy health insurance on the individual market.
As a COO, I disagree with every one of those statements.
All programming jobs (in my company) are remote capable, and most already are.
95% of my employees use their health benefits.
How’s a starbucks barista gonna work from home? Or a hairdresser? Or literally anyone that isn’t a knowledge worker?
We’re still primarily a service and manufacture economy aren’t we?
Hell even a lot of knowledge work can’t happen from home. I doubt microbiology research can be done from home. At some point you’re gonna need new data and experiments to analyze
The biggest obstacle to this is regulation making it illegal for hairdressers to work out of their home, not the logistics of hairdressing.
Its called a coffee maker. And yet, Starbucks persists.
Even if healthcare is used (again limited by options and employment), most other benefits are not, especially if you don't even come into the office.
There is nothing weird, many companies took measure to not be impacted by hiring the cheapest people that can try to do the job, not caring too much about skills. My employer (big US-based non-IT company) is now hiring in IT without any IT skills interview or even a CV/credential check with the mindset that if they can keep the lights on for a few years, the next recession we can hire experienced people for cheap to fix the things that are currently neglected. I see this in every company I work with, big and famous IT software or services suppliers that are scrapping the bottom of the barrel and gives us unqualified people play-pretending to be developers, DBA's, architects etc. Everybody is cutting corners, in some cases very visible (Boeing), in others subtle (Intel and the 10 nm saga) and everyone else in between.
WFH is such a small percentage of the economy.
We went to see our pediatrician yesterday - the full-time staff was there.
Freelance has gone from 2% in the mid 90s to 3% today.
Big perhaps in absolute numbers of people, small in terms of percentages of the economy.
SF is mostly a bubble in terms of this.
Take a spoken conservation:
- Person A says something
- Person B thinks what they said is derailing the conversation
- Person B uses body language and makes subtle modifications to their response (“Uuh.. sure. Anyway...”) to express their opinion of Person A’s behavior
- Person A notices this and will begin to reflect
- Person B takes the opportunity to actually say “I think you’re derailing the conversation, we need to stay focused on X...”
- Person A learns from this experience
Now take a written conversation:
- Person A makes 18 points in an email (I find people say a lot in emails — especially if you include the assumptions of the author that are a part of each sentence.)
- Person B reads the email a day later.
- Person B thinks of 26 points of feedback they’d like to make, but they’re much harder to express. The bandwidth of written communication is higher, so the “derailing” feedback becomes invalid. Instead the feedback is “You’re saying too much, we can’t keep track of all this” but that comes across like “I can’t handle this many things” — which if you think about it is fine, but it’s definitely weirder than the in-person form. Also feedback like “you should use a comma here” seems pedantic, but it can be really fucking important to avoid miscommunication.
- Person B gets into a fluster and decides not to give any feedback, because it’s too hard.
- Person A doesn’t learn from this experience.
I’ve found people that are very self-critical become quite good at written communication.
I read my own emails three or four times before sending them, to be sure they’re easy to understand. Yet when I read others’ emails, the mistakes present indicate they didn’t read their own email even once. This is indicative of a lack of desire to self-reflect.
Feedback culture is important. I feel a remote-only company could be far more effective than a traditional company if they figure out interpersonal processes that lead to results — feedback on written communication being a part of that.
I am glad I'm not the only person who does this, though in my case I think it turns out being a little bit of a hindrance. I have a post it note sticking to the bezel of my work monitor that says "STFE" -- (short for, 'send the fucking email') -- because I otherwise I end up with a draft box full of an entire day's emails.
I do, however, take 2 minutes to reduce the number of things I say in an email by answering these two questions in the first two sentences: "What does this person need to know and what decision do I need them to make based on this information?" The rest is basically CYA record keeping.
I believe versions of this parable you have happen a lot (in both versions), but the ultimate consequences are not exactly obvious. If you play it out the remote scenario over time, then what are the perceptions? Paper trails are dominated by virtual-loudmouth Person A. If anything, A might come out looking like the star of the team. Maybe Person B becomes disengaged and self-select out. Remote teams will start to look like a cult of Person A.
Generationally, forum culture is big. As a millennial, I was in lots of confrontational online discussions as a youth, and enough other people were watching for there to be an audience. The art of flaming involves more emotional intelligence than people give it credit for, it can be similar to traditional debate. Those skills get redirected into the professional world. This is often good for the individual, but bad for the whole. It's pretty to take a healthy online community and convert it into something that only full-time rule junkies can survive in.
If you're ever managing an online community, the most important feedback is what people won't share because of their filter. There are ways to get this information in-person that you lose going full remote.
Protip if this happens:
"You make a lot of good points, and there are some things we should definitely unpack here. Can we dig into this a little over [discourse|slack|phone|video]? We can reply back here later with [action items|a summary of our conversation|specific work items|some actual work] to make sure everyone else on the thread is still included."
> Person B uses body language and makes subtle modifications to their response...
This approach is very hit or miss in real life, at least in my experience. Not everyone is wired to respect nonverbal cues as much as we would wish. Instead, I often request a sidebar when in person conversations become derailed.
All that being said, I agree that written communication is challenging for many people, if not most. That is not to say it can't get better if written communication became more important or popular.