I quickly noticed that my computer was hitching regularly (when the screenshot was taken - this was in the late 90s BTW), and so investigated my computer on a day when he wasn't in the office.
After finding what looked like malware on my computer, I checked with other colleagues - and the other owner - and no one had any idea what it was.
So we put the office network on lockdown, halted everything and started the process of rotating all our passwords and scanning every computer in the office looking for signs of intrusion, etc..
We lost a solid day of productivity for everyone, and when we finally reached the other boss, he owned up to what he had done, and the other owner - who had spent the day in a panic - wasn't thrilled about it to say the least.
The irony was that I was probably the most productive person in that office (in my humble opinion).
> The irony was that I was probably the most productive person in that office (in my humble opinion).
The easiest and the most efficient way to ruin my productivity is to look at my screen. I can't work (nor can I pee - a funny coincidence, that's called "paruresis") when somebody is watching.
I had, what I felt, was the best seat in the office at my previous job. We had an open office with short cubicles and standing desks, and the cubicles were arranged so that two people shared a small area with two desks/cabinets/etc.
For a while, it was wonderful. My "cube-mate" worked from home 4 days a week and only came in for meetings, and we had a window on one side and an empty desk on the other. It was about as great as an open office can be.
And then my manager moved into the cube nextdoor, and arranged his desk so that when he stood at his standing desk (which was most of the time), he was looking directly over the cube wall at me and my monitors. It made me very self-concsious and uncomfortable, and was (a small) part of the reason I left, TBH.
Works the other way as well. I don't want to be able to see what others are working on--open offices are also distracting for this reason.
Over time, I think I've gotten better at looking busy while reading HN. I don't think there's a very strong correlation between looking busy and being productive.
In a perfect world, quality control twiddles their thumbs all day, does some tests, and collects a paycheck because everything is perfect the first time.
In practice, I know engineers who leave in tiny and easy to fix mistakes for QC to catch. They do this because if they turn in something with no errors QC finds something for them to add, frequently requiring larger changes and thus creating a crunch. QC does this because they have someone breathing down their neck who measures their effectiveness by how many errors they caught. I'll refer you to Goodhart's Law.
I'll also note that I see this as a common "tip" for paper submissions. But I'm not sure it is as strong of a correlation as when passing things through QC.
It's also important to realize that what middle management wants and what its staff thinks is important usually diverges. Middle management wants to look good, to climb the ladder. Staff generally wants someone to provide guidance, and remove obstacles. If middle management isn't technical, there ends up being a gap.
My favorite is a manager who hired a DevOps admin. This person had never touched Docker, yet after a one week course, was put in charge of our environment. Needless to say, he's made Docker look really bad due to his inexperience. The manager looks good though, because our stodgy company is using Docker.
My second is the manager who was hired to manage our SQL and Oracle team. He has no experience with either database, and was a pity hire by our VP. He's been wonderful.../s
Their purpose is to manipulate the self-esteem of the people within the organisation so that workers feel so bad about themselves that they never feel entitled to ask for a raise and directors feel so good about themselves that they feel entitled to keep paying themselves large bonuses. Middle managers don't serve customers, they only exist to serve the emotional needs of their bosses.
That said, there has been one situation where it was actually an advantage that everybody could see our screen. We had the most terrible working spot you could imagine: next to an intersection of two corridors, in a room that was open on one side, had a glass wall on another, was shared with another team, and had only a single window. A co-worker was sitting with his back to the intersection so everybody could see his screen. At the time, we were playing around with Neo4j, which has a nice graphical browser interface, and everybody seeing that, got us into contact with a couple of other teams we didn't know before that were also using Neo4j.
I had also good managers, but imo, the way companies are organized currently attracts and promotes leaders that are bad at leading part.
TBH, I should have asked him about it, but I couldn't think of a way to bring it up that didn't sound rude or suspicious, and it turned out I left soon anyway.
On the other side of the glass wall was the pause room, with the coffee machine and everybody gathering. That felt really awkward.
Standard practice is monitoring emails, chat, web traffic and so on.
It seems blatantly obvious for security and audit reasons a company should log internet usage on their secure network
Overall in practice, there is nothing stopping creepy sysadmin, boundary overstepping lawyer or creepy manager from secretly stalking specific employees by pushing IT departments to install extra monitoring software or just plain spying on specific employees.
That's assuming that the spyware isn't some sort of rootkit that tries to hide its presence. If you're on windows, it's also very easy to hide behind some generic looking executables like svchost.exe
Being at work, on company's hardware, isn't enough to completely void your expectation of privacy.
I've been working in software for almost 20 years and have never had spyware like this installed on my PCs. I've worked for companies with over 70k employees, down to start ups with fewer than 100. Both in office and remote.
I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's definitely not normal, and I would personally never work under those conditions.
Also, security tools are getting more sophisticated. As legacy AV gets replaced by next-gen stuff, there will be more creepy shit. If you have a tool like Crowdstrike, most developers will do stuff will get them flagged as high-risk.
It's questionable how much such tools actually improves security, most of it appears to be a power grab by someone in charge of security, usually there's no transparency, and even C*Os aren't aware of how much they are snooped on. For example (as atp does), recording of all commands including arguments, stored in a searchable database. Who does this benefit the most?
I would agree it's often a power play for would be corporate cyber-warriors.
But the tools are very effective for certain threat categories. The downside is that they require skilled operational security people to be used effectively, and may security organizations are mostly compliance focused and don't have the talent or framework to pivot the organization. It's similar to how underperforming IT organizations were/are aligned with the CFO -- many security orgs are aligned with counsel/risk.
They often don't disclose explicitly that this stuff is running, because it rightfully creeps people out and the 'security' types don't want people to know.
There's a lot you can get away with by making a process complex, arduous, and potentially expensive. Faced with that option vs letting some employer take photos of you in your pajamas without shaving while watching your every move, people tend to forego privacy.
When the working population at large starts to follow suit, you've artificially introduced a new trend with artificial social acceptance. Now, it makes a single employee battle concerned about privacy even more daunting and introduces perception of increased risk of failure if legally pursued for the employee thinking of litigating.
The end result is: privacy is eroded. Rinse repeat, for just about anything you want to change. Just make change gradual and give it time. It then takes someone with the financial and time resources to take a hit and pursue as well as eagerness to bother.
Just because I own a microphone and camera doesn't mean I can use it unknowingly in your home. Even if you were to borrow it and willfully bring that camera and microphone into your home, there are reasonable expectations of privacy that can't be violated.
If I explicitly said I'll be using that microphone and camera to record you, made that very clear, and had you sign off on it without duress, then there may be grounds. The problem is, as a condition of employment, at least for me, would be a form of duress. If it becomes widespread and everyone caves into signing off on that sort of recording, then itll start to lose strength as being a form of pressure.
Murder is an example here, but there are similar laws regarding spying on people, using private information in business and reading someone else's mail. Consent does not override the law.
But to get more specific to your point and the grey area: there is a case where the law permits video surveillance (i.e. in an office) and as a side-effect some footage of a display might be captured. If the display happens to show private content, that is not actionable/admissible anymore. Some countries and laws go as far as to make dashcam recordings inadmissible and even illegal. While impractical in some cases (i.e. if your car gets bumped in to by another car while parked) it's also to prevent a government to "get all recordings of all cars in a street to find a person that might have walked by".
Some laws have exemptions like high security areas where the law explicitly states that if you are not allowed to be there expect for specific purposes, and not allowed to conduct anything there except specific tasks, and you are allowed to record the area to be able to verify it (i.e. nuclear energy plant), then that specific area is off-limits to your private activities/data. But it's not broad enough to allow any company to spy on anyone doing work for them. I suppose that might be different in the US or some US-states.
However, many firms provide WiFi APs for visitors and consultants, and employees can use them for their personal devices. So there's no need for anything personal to touch a business device.
Ex: California Social Media Law (2013)
Also when network connections are recorded it does not stop at a list of ips, surveillance software commonly also provide easy-to-consume search facilities and cross reference capabilities, dashboards including comprehensive history and supplied annotation, i.e can tell when and how often you visited facebook.com, what you looked at, how much time you have spent at non-essential sites, and of course it also does this when you're at home using your employer's laptop for WFH or anything else.
The same is true when using a company phone when travelling, it can not only tell your employer where you're staying currently, but also where you usually stay at your holidays.
One such software is ms atp, if you have "Advanced Threat Protection" installed, it does occur. I would be surprised if it holds up in any EU court, because when I worked with development of similar software, long before gdpr, it did not.
They would install all kinds of stuff to monitor our computers, and continuously require explanation on why we installed this or that tool. It wasn't fun.
Actually, thinking about this now, I don't even remember they existed this type of software in 90s but I might be mistaken.
I am actually still friends with the guy (we were both quite young back then, and you learn from your mistakes), and I tease him about this incident at least every few years.
You also cannot monitor employees using cameras.
In any case, you have to make that absolutely clear to your employees. Any unanounced surveillance is a criminal offence here.
Over workers, pointing at workstations no.
However, MTIM proxies by bluecoat ... Apparently is okay.
Can my boss monitor my work computer?
Permanent and comprehensive PC monitoring at the workplace based on a general suspicion is not permitted. The employer may only monitor the employee on the PC if there is sufficient concrete suspicion of improper use of the work computer.
What applies to private use of the work computer?
If private use of the work computer is expressly permitted to the employee, PC monitoring at the workplace is fundamentally excluded.
What if the boss monitors my PC even though he is not entitled to it?
If the employer does not adhere to the requirements for PC surveillance, he is punishable and in the worst case must be prepared for imprisonment.
Cool. In most places that are not fancy IT companies where everyone is given a brand new MacBook Pro to use as a mixed work/personal machine, there is no such thing as "private use of the work computer". So given what you posted, there is no legal issue then.
> if there is sufficient concrete suspicion of improper use of the work computer
That is when there is no legal issue.
Take a screenshot while the employee is reading his/her personal email and the union takes you to court faster than you can say a cat :)
See the link I have posted in a sibling comment: https://gdpr.report/news/2017/11/17/5383/
>The ECtHR held that the employer had breached B’s right to privacy because they didn’t inform him of the monitoring in advance and nor did they tell him that they may access the content of his communications. The previous courts had also failed to determine the reasons justifying the monitoring and whether these were proportionate to the purpose or whether the employer could have used less intrusive measures to achieve the same result.
If I read this correctly even if the person had been informed of the monitoring the evidence wouldn't have been receivable because the monitoring wasn't deemed "proportionate".
Edit: Apparently there are now at least two examples of this.
In Sweden, relating to facial recognition:
In Poland, relating to fingerprints:
I've edited my earlier comments to add some sources, including a reference to the official guidance from the UK's national data protection authority that directly states that just because someone is at work it does not mean they have no expectation of privacy. You can also find lots of public commentary from employment lawyers on the Web where they have interpreted the GDPR similarly, similar statements from other national regulators, etc. Some of these highlight tricky situations like the need to respect personal email as well.
Like, it's pretty explicit. I don't know how different that is from just sending an email saying "hey your screen is being monitored every 30 seconds".
The E-mails were eventually read - but in the presence of the employees in question and their (chosen by them, paid by the company) legal counsel.
I can not imagine an employer going to such lengths to accommodate the employees unless required by law to do so. This was in Norway.
See for instance https://gdpr.report/news/2017/11/17/5383/
> * Employers can monitor employees’ emails at work but need to approach this with caution and careful consideration.
> * Follow the ICO Code and 29 WP opinion, including conducting a DPIA prior to undertaking any monitoring, considering whether it is possible to achieve the objective through less instructive means and ensuring policies clearly notify employees that monitoring takes place, why and that the content of emails may be viewed.
> * If emails are identified as or are clearly “personal” do not open unless there is a real risk of serious harm to the business and, where possible, inform the employee in advance that the content may be viewed.
I find that perfectly reasonable IMO. You're not your company's property. Your boss can't put a camera in the corporate bathroom's stall just because he owns it.
However, I must say that's just weird to me, because you're not required to use company resources for private matters.
The bathroom analogy doesn't really hold in my mind, since it's reasonable to expect privacy in any bathroom, but I see where you're going with that.
I mean sure, if it's the PC controlling some industrial machine you're probably not expected to browse Facebook on it. But if you're some temp working the reception you might have some time to kill even if you do your work properly...
There's also the situation where you're traveling and don't want to carry two laptops from instance.
As a rule of thumb, an employer can take reasonable steps to protect themselves as far as monitoring is concerned, often with the requirement that the subjects of the surveillance have been told in advance that it might happen. But there is always an implied requirement of necessity and proportionality in the background. Monitoring a specific employee where there is evidence to suggest they are leaking trade secrets is one thing. Routine monitoring of everyone's computers where you end up, say, recording the login details they used to access online banking and check whether their expenses have been paid yet is something very different.
Edit: Some easy-to-read sources:
You can also check the guidance from the various national data protection agencies, such as the ICO's publication "The employment practices code", which address this issue in quite a lot of detail.
It's not black and white, and many people will have some expectation of privacy when using company-provided equipment.
US law is irrelevant outside the US
If you can convince the judge that taking the screenshot has other purpose then GDPR doesn't apply.
From (2): The WP29 outlines that a DPIA is likely to
be required if «a company systematically monitor(s) its employees’ activities,
including the monitoring of the employees’ work station, internet activity»
since it implies a «systematic monitoring and data concerning vulnerable data
subjects» (23), form GDPR and Personal Data Protection
in the Employment Context CLAUDIA OGRISEG
In (1) at point 8: the employeer has to inform the employee about: (i) whether and when monitoring is applied.
(ii) the purpose of data processing,
(iii) the means used for data processing.
Point 2) What king of personal data does an employer process, includes: Remote management of all mobile devices, such as phones and laptops;
Everything was okay for a few years until we hired a "professional" sales guy who wrecked our project pipeline.
We handed sales over to him. He lied about prospects for eight weeks then quit to go somewhere else. We were doing okay before him, but we naively thought hiring a pro would help us grow.
We were bootstrapped so when profit/revenue looked like it was going dry up we shut down rather than go into deep debt and went back to real jobs.
It's a cognitive bias. I'm pretty sure I came across such example in Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow".
I found that vming into another box stops screenshots unless that box has it on.
If on windows 10 booting to linux would work as well.
One: people that are doing this are likely to have already been bad bosses. I don't think this changes anything.
Two: I work for a large bank. My director, on a town hall, told us they do understand that not everybody will be able to focus on the job as before and that they expect us to spend less time actually working and be unavailable more often. Then he URGED us to actually do so. To take time off, to deal with family problems first. He wanted us to know it is ok and that they will allow it without deducting pay so that we don't have to worry about our salaries.
I am pretty sure there will be people that will abuse this. You know what? People who do this probably have already been bad employees so not much is lost. Most people I know to be good employees feel very happy about this as a convenient option and do whatever they can to use it as little as possible. I see this as an investment that is most likely return in other ways, employee happiness, retention, engagement from the staff you really want engaged.
I've wanted something like this before, though, when I got some bad people on my team who weren't worth what they were getting paid and were sometimes a net negative on the team. We couldn't fire them because everything was at least somewhat subjective and HR and my own boss wanted a solid case. Oh they didn't get anything done? That's subjective - maybe the assigned tasks were harder than we thought. We need more evidence. Oh they were on Facebook most of the time when I walked into their office? Maybe it was a coincidence. We need more evidence.
I feel like, "look - here are screenshots from every 30 seconds and they really spent 90% of their day farting around on dumb websites", would have ended that far more efficiently than how we eventually got rid of them. It's less about prevention, and more about a way to fix the problem when people already aren't productive.
This is ripe for abuse by bosses - but at least part of that is because of bad employees too.
Still, I would focus my efforts on the productive part of the team. Making them feel safe and appreciated seems to be more worth than spying on the ones that drag the team down. People do observe how you treat team members with "problems" and will see that your measured response means they can feel safe. Safety I find to be prerequisite to healthy work atmosphere.
I doubt my efficiency is approaching even 50% of what it was a month ago.
Everyone is different.
Courts have repeatedly confirmed that employees have zero expectation of privacy on their work devices/sevices.
But I also think employers should be responsible to ensure employees are notified of the scope of possible monitoring. Some people are absolutely clueless.
It is not that difficult, really. My company says whatever I do is subject to monitoring and there is no expectation of privacy. It also says, "Please, don't use it for anything that is not related to work".
We live in times when you can have a PC in your pocket, there is absolutely no need to do private business on company PC.
You don't need an app to know that. I tell my boss every day.
He's possibly the best CEO I've ever seen operate. And even when I'm in the office only once a year, he still knows who I am and wants to get dinner with me and the others.
I consider his existence a significant part of my compensation package when I run the numbers.
My company decided that we would likely have to go remote-only about 6 weeks ago and asked people to start planning out how to make it happen. One of the things was to redo all deadlines with the expectation that family would need to come first.
What this means for banks is they are doing excellent business right now.
The only significant problem is counterparty risk. As banks are basically insurers in case of some contracts they take the risk that the counterparty will default on their obligation. As large number of parties default this creates an amount of loss. But banks have also regulations to control the amount of possible loss so it is not going to be easy for any bank to bankrupt just because large number of companies go out of business.
We apparently were persuasive, they cancelled that buy. Then, once we were out, executive leadership tried to implement a 'task tracking' timesheet to be filled out by every employee.
I took a HUGE chance on my career. I e-mailed all leadership and the board, explaining that implementing this was needless busy work. If we were working remotely, and the expectations were that the same things were getting done, implementing something like this and NOT when we were physically present would just prove that 'management' at our institution meant control of people's lives.
We're higher education, and everyone is slightly anti-establishment in some fashion. This put the hair up on everyone's neck. One hellstorm of an e-mail thread later, and they killed that form, too.
Management just needs to realize that people fuck around at work. It is not important whether that is at physical work, or remote. It will happen. What is important is that you evaluate the work done, and, unless you're working on billable hours, evaluate whether there are more efficient ways to do business. If you enter those conversations honestly, then your people will have just enough time to fuck around, while still being super productive.
Being human is part of work. Fucking around with the people you spend a lot of time with is part of being human.
I said to him “So this is an interesting proposal... if we install this software then I can save on management costs by replacing your position with this spyware?” He never brought it up again and we later just got rid of him completely.
Micromanagement and this sort of spying rarely builds high performing teams. Managing worker productivity is one thing but blatant spying is a sign of much deeper problems with a company and its management.
I’ve generally found a fairly strong inverse correlation between how good a manager is and the amount of paranoia they have on their teams not doing what they should. Good managers build great teams and then trust them.
Another team (team A) needed a lot of help and my team (Team B) was 'similar'. So we were brought on to help despite Team A's objections that we surely couldn't do the job.
So we went to work and were out performing them from day 1.
Team A's management was not happy and was sure we were somehow 'gaming the system'. They had all sorts of ways and theories on how Team B must be doing it and convinced another layer of management to get someone from the outside to investigate.
They investigated and found the only folks 'gaming the system' (they were doing a lot of underhanded things to manipulate KPIs and etc).... were Team A.
Sometimes the folks out there throwing a lot of shade and being excessively suspicious only think of those things about others ... because they would do it and they assume everyone else would too.
With unfounded accusations and etc, I've found that to be true time and time again.
So team B was laid off after the acquisition.
Last I heard team A was scrambling for warm bodies to keep up with the workload and didn't want to be seen as not being able to do the work of A + B so they were pretty much working to the bone. Also some of their management were cut as they had grown their management team under the theory that "well we've got to keep an eye on team A".
Granted there were good folks on team A who had nothing to do with the politics that I'd be happy to work with in a heartbeat, but after the layoff I decided to change professions and so I've largely lost contact with them.
I did actually apply to join team A again after some good folks asked me to apply and I did so out of curiosity, but having actually done the job for years apparently wasn't enough to make it through their resume filter and I was rejected and didn't bother to follow up ;)
Productivity is going to plunge no matter what, with the possible exception of singles who don’t have roommates. There is no way that during an ad hoc and unorganized push to work remote (though necessary in this circumstance) can result in good productivity, monitoring or not. Under the best of circumstances it would take months for a mass of people to adjust and be productive.
The apex for open office design was reached and we’ll go back to something more normal. It’s funny people derided “cubicle farms” but we’re more or less okay being in a “bullpen” like setting cuz it was sold as being counter cultural and cool.
less aesthetically pleasing in office photographs, but overall a much better work environment than any open plan I've experienced.
Here's a good example:
 There's probably a better term for this...
I've been living in cities and I think that is a big factor. Real estate is expensive. But make no mistake, open workspaces are miserable places. Cubicles still suck, but they're a massive step up from open floor plans.
I forget where I saw this but there was a company that had set up what were basically "team offices" so teams that worked closely together each had their own closed room where they worked, so they could collaborate in their own manner.
Quiet when they needed it, loud when they needed it, and on their own schedule.
That seems like a good middle.
If you're reading this and you have this setup - don't take the bait to move to the newly remodeled building - it's a trap!
In big companies, there usually isn't a problem with communicating within a team - the problems occur when teams aren't communicating with people in other teams. These team rooms ruin any informal inter-team collaboration and communication.
It's not a good middle, it's the best possible way to work.
In my pre 2010 job, the walls of the cube I had were quite tall and gave reasonable privacy. In my 2016 job, they were quite short for "enhanced collaboration". I didn't really feel "safe" in my short cube, for lack of a better word.
If you feel "safe" in that manner, it increases your focus, and thus productivity.
The cubes we had at Lockheed were great because they were super big.
I've hated every "open office" layout I have ever had.
I especially liked having a shared office though, sitting back-to-back in a single office, with a door - What I liked about it was that my office mate and I both liked to work with the light off, and just let the natural light from the window through (floor to ceiling window)
When you have some sense of self-privacy, and ability to block people out, your productivity is higher.
The reason why the "open office" concept was pushed, is all about cost.
Its cheaper to give people a slot at the trough, as opposed to building them an office or cube.
(Source: Former Designer and implementation builder at some of the largest open-office-concept companies you have all heard of)
cubicles were a step down from individual offices, and was the manifestation of commoditization of the software engineering. The transition from cubicles to open offices was the part of that process going even further. Basically blue collar workers of 196x on a large factory floor.
One would think that we've reached the peak of bad offices ... Well, i think some form of vertically stacked option is coming in the mid-term. In the short-term i think the next thing is the "cloud" style approach where no office desk is assigned permanently and coming into office you'd have to [find and]schedule a desk for yourself. That would allow to cut office space even more.
In ~2017 I did a contract with Ericsson, in their offices they had no assigned desks. Some days you'd show up in the morning and find another team had moved into your space, claiming that some other team had taken theirs. In those days we became desk refugees, wandering halls to find/take a space large enough for the team.
The next stage, that we reached around 2016/2017, is "we're running out of seats; everyone should work from home one day a week to alleviate the problem". Good when you're at home, but the rest of the week becomes even more chaotic because you can't predict what the available seats will be like day-to-day.
I'm fine with this. I'm surprised that airline seat manufacturers don't make versions for office use -- business class seats are much nicer than any open plan desk I've ever sat at. You are fully surrounded on all sides, your chair can turn into a bed, and inside an office you can probably stack them. Getting a couple of 30" monitors in there that are infinitely adjustable would be a challenge, and cleaning it sounds like a pain in the ass... but I'm sure these issues could be resolved if there is money in doing it.
I think people like open-plan offices because they're easy. You move into the space, have IKEA deliver a bunch of tables, and you're set up. It's cheap and it's easy.
After a while you get to know that this spot - letter "E" and "Backspace" doesn't work, that spot - mouse right click doesn't work, third spot - second monitor flashes every 10min...
And then there is this constant "I don't belong here" feeling. Sure it is more "efficient" from the space and hardware utilization perspective. For call centers - I don't mind the setup, but good luck to you if you are planning to build software in such environment.
I don't think most tech workers have really had a proper office.
Cubicles with a door would be great. The ceiling can be open and have sun light coming in. Maybe the walls should be white and there should be a lamp of my own (for notes).
At home I wake up and log on at 8am. In the office, my 1.5 hour commute puts me in the office at 10am on a decent day. Because I have a kid and a pregnant wife, I cut out of the office around 4 every day because that's the only reasonable way I can get home and eat dinner with my family before my kid goes to bed... but when I'm WFH, I'm often staying online past 5 and sometimes 6. To me, the difference is literally more time spent working and more time spent seeing my child vs. spending 3-4 hours commuting daily and going day-long stretches without my one year old seeing me with her own two eyes.
Working from home, I can stay productive during meetings without bothering anyone -- I can mute myself, if it's one of those meetings, and keep working.
I think anyone who fails to be as productive, or more productive, from home is someone that doesn't like their job very much. I'm lucky that I enjoy the product I work on, and I enjoy dressing comfortably and eating lunch with my wife, and drinking my own coffee, and instantly joining/disconnecting from meetings, and physically distancing myself from "drive-bys" that my production is up.
Think of the most annoying co-worker you've dealt with constantly coming up to you and asking the least relevant question you could imagine. Multiply that by infinity and you might get close to having small kids at home.
Can this be dealt with, of course. But it takes time to get your kids to adjust to this. If you're kids are not used to you working from home, you can't just expect them to be okay with it.
We have a small house, which is fine because I work at the office, they're out at school, it's big enough for the times we need to be there ... oh wait.
Our upstairs is big enough for the beds, and a narrow space around each. Downstairs has no dividing walls/doors.
Now work expect equal output from me and I'm working in the kitchen with a just a gap between me and the room a toddler and 2 other children are occupying.
Perhaps if they weren't my kids, particularly my brain interrupts every time the toddler speaks, because that's how we're wired for young voices.
Now add in that the kids are used to running around screaming, literally screaming, to burn off energy .. it's not going well.
Meanwhile the bosses in their massive home offices, think everything is perfect and don't see why we shouldn't be _more_ productive than normal.
I'm waiting for when we go back wondering how their argument for why we're not allowed to home-work is going to go ...
Of course, people who were not already setup for working remotely may not have a door they can lock and partner who can reassure.
Kids have routines, and having work-from-home parents can become part of that routine. It's not a light switch though, so training has to be given time to take hold. Probably about the time the seclusion orders are lifted if not longer.
> I think you are greatly ignoring employees with children.
I think you missed something.
The grandparent is happy working from home with their 1-year old. However, they don't consider that other people's situation might be very different. For example, the 4 year old can actively try to find you.
Plus not all house layouts are the same. I've got a secluded space on a higher floor, however there are no doors and the floors/walls are paper thin, so I still hear everything that happens in the house unless I permanently use noise-cancelling headphones+music (which doesn't work that well for me).
When it's a forced situation it's not something people love.
Random anecdote: I was involved with an office move once where we (a relatively small org) were choosing how to layout the new office. One individual was a fervent advocate that we needed a hip, cool open office for all that wonderful synergy, etc. So in the new space we made a hip, open space, and then classic cubicles, and everyone put in private requests where they wanted to be.
100% of the people chose cubicles. The person I mentioned chose probably the farthest away, most private cubicle.
It's not a particularly unique situation, but it's just another example that people are often full of shit. When we're imposing on other people some ideas can sound better, especially if they're trendy.
As to productivity, the majority of jobs are bullshit jobs. Reddit, HN, Slashdot in the old days have their heyday during the "work" day in the respective zones. If people achieved 5% productivity they would be more productive than they normally are in many cases.
It's basically taboo to say anything positive about open office spaces online. There are many, many legitimately terrible open office workspaces in the world. Suggesting that open offices aren't always bad feels like an attack on those who are miserable in their open office. So it's safer to just never bring it up.
In the real world, a lot of people do enjoy open office style environments. They're probably the same people who went to their University's library to study in college or joined a study group so they could sit with others who were working on the same topic. Many (not all, obvious) college students choose these open, social study environments organically during college. It's reasonable to expect that they'd carry their preferences into the working world.
I have a theory that the more someone prefers isolation and being alone, the more likely they are to participate in internet comment sections and online forums. As a result, the deeper you go into internet comment sections, the more unanimously people rail against open office floor plans.
In a perfect world, we'd have a mix of companies offering both working styles and people could choose their preferred style up front. Anecdotally, I worked for a company that advertised private offices as a perk, but nearly zero of our candidates seemed to care. People tend to choose whichever company pays the best, regardless of the working conditions. I can understand why companies choose to save money on open office floorplans.
A “library rules” open office would be just fine. That’s not what happens, though. The point of an open office is that everyone is talking all the time. If you don’t want to hear every conversation everyone in your company is having, it’s your own responsibility to jam those signals, or leave.
This is not universally true. I've done a lot of working in university libraries recently, and many of them have switched to allowing collaboration in the main spaces.
> A “library rules” open office would be just fine.
This still wouldn't work for me personally. I listen to music pretty much all the time while working, and get really sick of wearing headphones all the time. The only option is a private office. (I've gotten this by becoming a remote worker.)
I prefer being alone. I don't really see people other than my wife outside of work. Work is my only chance to socialize, which makes an open office plan ideal for me. It's very easy to start conversations with the people near me and have them turn into fun group discussions.
Once you give up on the idea of having long unbroken periods of productivity, the open office plan can be a lot of fun.
I like working on stuff at tech meetups. I always bring my laptop, mostly because the speakers can be boring and being in a room like that helps me focus on personal projects. I use to go to writing meetups too.
That being said, I absolutely hate open layouts. I would much rather prefer a cubical.
I'm not sure if this generalization would hold out if you surveyed people, but it might. I'd be curious.
I LOVE open offices. If you need something, you can ask. If you want to pair program with someone, they can just turn around or scoot over. You can tell if the person you need to get help from is busy without leaving your chair. Hell, even the distractions are nice. I've never felt closer to coworkers than when I've worked in an open office. I like the occasional nerf dart whizzing past my head. Work is 8 hours of your day, it should be enjoyed.
I've had my own office and it was miserable. It was lonely and I felt like I never got to know my coworkers. If I needed face to face time with someone I'd have to physically walk down the hall and hope they were in their office. It also put a larger barrier to asking for help, which slows things down.
I'm well aware that not everyone is like me and some people don't like open offices. That's fine, but it doesn't mean that open offices are inherently bad.
That's almost like having Skype...
> You can tell if the person you need to get help from is busy without leaving your chair.
...with a status icon.
Well, people are different. I guess we introverts need to find some other job, because we are obviously no longer welcome in IT.
1. Cheaper rent because you need less space
2. Easier to look over shoulders and on to computer monitors
Managers (especially product managers) delude themselves into thinking this spurs collaboration and creativity and productivity.
A year later when I visited there were twice as many people. It was still okay to work there but noisier.
The last time when I visited was really bad. Desks everywhere, people 1 meter apart. I couldn't really work there in a productive way.
We should start to build offices for "free range" engineers.
At that point employees may not like it but it would make clear that they need to put money where their mouth is and demand a separate cube etc at work as part of job offer. Not getting it would be like so many other compromises that we make in life and has to be endured.
When I worked at reddit, we all sat in a single conference room in the corner of the Wired office. There were five of us doing engineering. A huge whiteboard on one wall (with a couch underneath for naps), windows on two walls, and the fourth wall was the door.
It was great. We all had headphones so we could work when we want. When some people needed to collaborate on the whiteboard, we just got up and did it. Usually everyone else ended up joining in, unless they were already deep in their work and didn't notice.
It was the perfect balance of collaboration and privacy.
But it probably worked so well because "the boss" was more like a peer, so you didn't feel watched. He was working on code right beside you.
And when we played games, it was great because you screen cheat off of Steve and he couldn't tell. ;)
What you described is something like I worked in. We had separate rooms for most teams(15 people or less). You could collaborate with fellow team members, which usually relevant for the whole team, but wasn't distracted by other teams. As you said it's the perfect balance of collaboration and privacy.
I think that open offices are bad for most of the jobs people on HN have, but are probably fine for certain others.
I also very much need that “work” space to switch my brain into focus mode. My place has never been setup for work-focus as I work at a place that encourages not taking your work home with you - though I am thankful that now we are fully enabled to WFH rather than lose that paycheck.
Stress levels are lower, my back feels better, and my home workouts are going great!
I am OK, but my productivity is toast.
It may be worth keeping in mind that this, too, will pass.
Entirely different to the mentoring, caring, parenting, intimate interactions with kids (and my wife).
(As for monitoring, yeah, stuff like that mentioned in the article would never fly here in Finland. We have very strict privacy laws, and the employer cannot do whatever they please.)
I'm able to complete tasks just as well here as at the office.
And those who were already working remote. I do, and I've actually found it easier at meetings, where I'm not the only one on the screen anymore.