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Charter engineer quits over “reckless” rules against work-from-home (arstechnica.com)
116 points by neuland 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments





> Charter CEO Tom Rutledge last week told employees in a memo to keep coming to the office even if their jobs can be performed from home, because people "are more effective from the office."

1. Bullshit. Show us the data to substantiate your claim.

2. Even if we assume that Rutledge is correct: Is the delta in observable effectiveness worth the cost to employees' lives and their families?

I'm on the side of the engineer who resigned. The CEO's policy is stupid, irresponsible, and/or callous.


> 1. Bullshit. Show us the data to substantiate your claim.

I don't think this is relevant or even something which an outsider can easily make claims about.

This isn't a normal situation though and employers who force employees who have the option to work from home to come into the office are just flat wrong here. Or as you said "The CEO's policy is stupid, irresponsible, and/or callous."

I'd go further and say not only should employers support anyone who can working from home do so, they should also support the right of workers who can't work from home to take the time off even if the business isn't closed.


Given my experience the past few weeks 1 is absolutely true.

But 2 absolutely outweighs the productivity loss.


The past few weeks is not a typical WFH experience.

1. A lot of folks are being forced into it, rather than it being an option chosen voluntarily.

2. School is cancelled, so kids are home, which can be very distracting for parents (which, for some industries, is a significant portion of employees).

At the intersection of the two observations, I'd caution against extrapolating too much from the recent pain points.

In my experience (I've worked remote for the past 6 years), I'm far more productive working from home than I am in an office.


Regarding point 1.

It's not fair to compare a hasty transition to remote work, and during a period of time with so much uncertainty that surely has a negative impact on concentration and productivity, with a properly rolled-out remote work policy.


You can't say 1 is absolutely true if your dataset only consists of remote work during a pandemic.

It would be like starting a remote work policy right before Christmas and declaring it doesn't work because things slowed down; things are going to slow down whether or not you're working from an office.


Regarding point 1 I'm not sure it is true.

I am working from home at the moment and I am less productive than other times I have worked from home. Part of it is that my partner is also working from home, which means I currently can't have dual monitors like I usually would when working at home or in the office. I think another part of it is that I find myself checking the news far more often than I would normally (though this was also happening over the past few days I worked in the office rather than from home).


I found out I am more productive from home, even with kids that disturb. Partly it is due to interruptions in office being more frequent then kids.

Partly it is because some high level members of our team already worked from home, so we already have processes and habits adjusted to that. We already have the habit to just call about every small thing that you would normally say in the office.

Partly because work from home is more intensive, as in, I feel more bad when I am wasting time.


Obviously WFH doesn't work for everyone, but there seems to be evidence that it isn't true. E.g. A Stanford study found that it increased productivity for call center workers by 13% https://nbloom.people.stanford.edu/sites/g/files/sbiybj4746/...

Sure, for non-knowledge (or communication) bound work wfh is probably reasonable. But if a major blocker for the job is communication between employees, wfh is less efficient.

> Given my experience the past few weeks 1 is absolutely true.

“A bunch of us amateurs tried something so I’m now comfortable making absolute assertions about broad generalizations.”


I used to work at this office as a consultant for Charter.

When our contract began, we (the consultants) all did our work remotely, we were highly productive, and making real changes in their organization.

Then we were required to come in once a week... fine. The commute is brutal but we're getting paid. The thing was though... we didn't typically interact with anyone there. We had a few consultants that did, but they were in that office anyway. Then they wanted us there every day. No empty seats, WFH discouraged. I quit. They wanted engineers literally to fill extra seats they had to make the office "look busy" for when execs came to town. Productivity dropped, turnover increased (it was already bad), and now this happens.

I hope the companies that enforce these rules face hard challenges ahead with acquiring a solid workforce. Employees are not the enemy, they are the company, let them work as they work best.


I feel his pain. The company I work for, while remarkably practical in many ways, and already possessing systems designed such that every corporate employee can work remotely, still insists on butts-in-seats even while the state we're located in has banned gatherings over 10. It's fucking ridiculous.

They'll likely feel differently when their lawyers figure out the ever-growing odds of an infected person coming to work, exposing everyone, and forcing everyone in the office into unplanned self-quarantine.

May be a function of the way the story is structured, but it sounds like Tom Rutledge started out claiming the kinds of thing you'd expect (but not like):

'people are more effective from the office'

and then later morphed this claim into something with a bit more of a solidarity feel:

'we believe our approach to supporting front-line employees is the right way ...'

Still a crazy position to adopt - unless you think 80,000 of your employees will be sufficiently pissed off that 15,000 of your employees are reducing the spread of COVID-19 to impact your revenue stream.


He sounds like he's from another day and time! His stubbornness to evolve to current times is putting his employees and their families in danger.

No job is worth risking your health, or your family's health for. Fullstop.

Companies that don't act swiftly to protect their employees health are going to have a rude awakening.


This is the US. Where for many not having a job is risking your health and your families health so it's a catch-22. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I’ve no idea how generations of politicians managed to convince so many people that rules of the game are in their favor when in fact they’re rigged mostly against them.

That's how you win elections. You tell (convince) people what to be afraid of, and who's to blame for it.

Many of us risk our health on a daily basis with long commutes, stress from unreasonable deadlines, lack of sleep, and of course the usual co-working with people who won't stay home when they're infectious (even with non-COVID). Unfortunately, we can't just quit our jobs "fullstop" whenever our health is at risk, or we'd have a much bigger problem of no income at all.

It is not easy to change jobs, and with COVID now it seems likely that engineer is out-of-work for a significant amount of time. I guess he made the right decision for himself (and getting press for it might actually make a difference), but really it's not about him individually, it's about all of society at this point. He personally could have taken the chance and "probably" been okay, but as he points out, it is completely irresponsible and pathological for Charter to behave as they are.

Honestly at this point I'm wondering if we shouldn't have roving bands of coughers going anywhere they see people and making a big scene of coughing into their hands and touching everything. Until people realize that you can't arrest or shoot a virus, and instead need to change the behavior of its potential hosts.


I'd hire him. I'd like him as a coworker.

I don't think companies are afraid of losing productivity, I think they are afraid of losing their grip of power over the employees.

I'd alert the local health authorities to the situation. They need to be aware of companies blatantly disregarding the health of their workers and their community. Perhaps there's nothing they can do about it - yet. But they can use the data to perhaps escalate the issue over the coming weeks as the situation gets more dire.

CEO's like this only care about themselves and bottom line, people are expendable. That Wheeler guy will never have any regrets and hopefully will find a better employer.

Coronavirus is really going to define what employers think about there people, especially major corporations telling people to take unpaid leave for extended periods of time.


I reckon that things would change only if a mass refusal to come to work happened. Other threads have echoed similar sentiments but this is a time where people and businesses need to be a "good citizen" and not think about business as usual/the bottom line.

Where Charter is really rolling the dice is that will happen. If the virus gets "close enough", people will leave.

One of the basic rules of leadership they don't teach you in normal schools is: "Never give an order that won't be obeyed." There's a few things that will erode your authority faster, but it's a short list. Charter leadership is putting themselves in an entirely forseeably dangerous position, legally, morally, and with their authority.


You’re describing one of primary benefits of an union - bargaining power.

I'm trying to figure out what Charter is. Can anyone hep with this? It seems charter.com redirects to spectrum.com, is this the same company?

"Charter Communications is America’s fastest growing TV, internet and voice company."

https://www.spectrum.com/about

Basically like ComCast.


What’s the point in quitting in that case? Wouldn’t it be more effective to say “I’m working from home whether you like it or not, you can do what you want” and then let them fire you if they want to? You are merely exercising your right to refuse to work in a hazardous environment.

That would assume you can actually do any work from home right now. Which may not be possible for technical reasons (internal tools, no communication access from outside, etc.)

Also getting fired would not give you the same reference.


Being terminated can be looked on less favorably than quitting when applying to another job.

More than a little ironic that it's an ISP doing this.

Makes you wonder how reliable the CEO thinks the service is if he doesn't trust it enough to allow his employees to work remotely.

(This is no indictment of the engineers, who I'm sure are doing the best job they can/are allowed to).


Charter - loved by clients and employees.

We had a mostly remote team at Charter.



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