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Why do so many people want us back in the office? (paulitaylor.com)
458 points by ingve on Sept 12, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 601 comments



This is a complicated problem with different perspectives that no doubt will get muddled at some point. I'm confident at least the following is true:

Some people have long commutes and wfh is great

Others have small, expensive apartments they paid for shorter commutes and it's suffocating 40-50 hours a week

Some people live in palaces and offices are a step down in comfort

Some people are happy with the online interactions

Some people are dissatisfied with the online interactions and prefer to talk to humans and not text strings from humans they can't see or hear

Some people want to work from home some of the time, and go to the office some of the time, and they've wanted that before the apocalypse occurred (puts hand up)

Cities are nervous that business districts are devastated since no one buys coffee, lunches or walks home and steps into a shoe store or tailor, or to a bar for drinks with colleagues.

But like much else in our present world, things are presented in black and white, emotive ways.


Most of these are what one might call "first order effects" - i.e. factors immediately associatable with work location. For prolonged situation, higher order effects are going to become more important.

Here are some candidates -

1. Improvement in city air quality due to reduced commute - road and flight.

2. Erosion of "social credits" over time due to lower bandwidth interactions when remote.

3. Cumulative impact of serendipitous but significant learning arising from in-person interactions.

4. Impact on the body - prolonged unmoderated sitting in bad postures, eye strain due to constant staring into the screen, bad eating habits, etc.

5. Reduction in sense of belonging / identity / cohesiveness as the "molecules" that make up a cell can move more freely through the "cell boundary".

6. Impact on cognitive development during early childhood - due to school-from-home and lack of social interactions. Joint family homes are great to counter this!

7. Eroding knowledge and awareness of local geography due to reduced travel. Reduced attachment here can lead to apathy when local environs get trashed.


Most of the points make sense, but this one does not

> Impact on the body - prolonged unmoderated sitting in bad postures, eye strain due to constant staring into the screen, bad eating habits, etc.

How does WFH change how you sit and the eye strain? You’re doing the same work, what changed? IMO having a good office setup (chair, device, screen, room lighting) is a must for any WFH position, but especially if it’s full-time.

Also for me, the food is better because in the office I used to eat snacks and go out in restaurants or fast foods. Now I mostly make food at home, and with the benefit of s garden have home-grown vegetables. So I eat better and spend less, plus I cut down the crap food from couple times a week to a few times in a month.

As I see it, the argument 4) applies only with refusing to invest into a proper working environment setup and with the lack of discipline. But I hardly believe someone with the lack of discipline would eat any better in the office. And I’m taking this from my past experience.


Most people don't have good WFH setup, that's one thing.

Two, WFH can mean less interruptions requiring you to move, resulting in far more sedentary behaviour than normal office work, even if you assume no difference in movement from commute.


Competitive distributed companies already pay for your home office setup, and many people opt for better chairs and desks they would likely get in a normal office. I think for companies to stay competitive in a WFH environment, they will have to offer similar benefits.

The other point I agree with :)


Agreed.

For my situation, my home is better than office where could not code in standing (we don't have such culture) and has no place to walk around for thinking. And, at home, I could make lunch healthier with balanced nutrition when there are no good restaurants near my company.


When I went full time remote (last year, before COVID), I had comfort and strain issues. I attribute them to 2 main causes, that I've since mitigated:

1. I replaced my commute with more screen time. This was a net increase in my daily time spent at a computer. 2. My screen time was more contiguous. I didn't have to walk to my coworkers' desks for a quick chat (whether casual or work related). Meetings kept me at my desk instead of moving. My work day transitioned directly into my personal hobby time (video games).


I have a terrible setup at home. My office is extremely better set-up, and they spent several thousand dollars on seats, 32' monitors, etc.

Working on the crappy laptop and a kitchen chair is less than ideal - and the fact I was furloughed 4 months and ran out of savings means I can´t buy new stuff for WFH, not to mention it could end up being wasted money if I'm back in the office the next month.

And I'm not in the US so "used" stuff or other cheaper workarounds don't work for me (no "buy it from Amazon", there's no Amazon here)


> For prolonged situation, higher order effects are going to become more important.

More important for what? And for whom? Someone who just shaved 100% off of their 70-minute commute probably doesn't give a fuck that their awareness of the "local geography" (see: trash-draped blackberry bushes on the highway shoulder) is "eroding."

Some of your points are legit (particularly 6), but your dismissal of what you call "first order effects" is essentially just proving OP's meta-point about the terms in which the discussion is being held.


"more important" than they are for short stints of the lockdown intervention.

I'm not dismissing first order effects. They are important. However higher order effects are where feedback cycles usually reside (ex: whats happening with climate change). So ignoring them is not a good idea even if during the initial phases it might seem like obsessing over details. In poorer countries, we can't ignore the risk of people dying due to hunger triggered by lockdown for covid19, for ex.

Public policy is hard and chock full of higher order effects. Common mental habits of super focused problem solvers don't help and can be downright bad to address such problems (ref: Dietrich Dorner's revealing book "The logic of failure").

Around my locality (Chennai, India) it is a very compelling argument that lack of awareness of local geography can be behind the dire water supply situation. For example, all localities with the name "pakkam" were originally in the vicinity of large water bodies .. nearly none of which are around today. Many localities were named after the dominant vegetation in the area, which you won't see any signs of today.

Yeah the commute is probably not going to help much because the commuters will likely be on their phones or cursing the increased traffic due to the need to be in offices. Feedback loops start that way.


> whats happening with climate change

I'm not aware of any particular evidence that "second order effects" are driving climate change or causing feedback cycles. But I suppose it depends how you define it. What do you have in mind here?


Not the OP, but I've got a pretty concrete example of how these effects can potentially slow down human-driven climate change, which is what they were likely referring to.

An immediate first-order effect is a lack of air travel.

A resulting second-order effect will be the eventual shift in aircraft buying trends, pricing, scheduling, etc. to adjust to diminished air travel, something that cements more concretely the travel patterns we're adopting during the pandemic. Examples may include smaller but more fuel efficient planes, but also potentially ordering far less of them (we're seeing this now - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-american-airline-outlook/...) as well as possibly shifting seat availability in favor of business and premium classes to extract more value from people who do fly...

...which loops (to the OP's point) back into keeping more people from flying as a third-order effect.

---

Et voila, significantly reduced air travel and a significant aid in our fight against climate change.


So, to me,the dominant effect here is less demand for air travel->fewer flights. Fewer flights means less carbon emitted. Any knock-on effects seem to pale in comparison because air travel is so carbon intensive.

If fewer flights is a "second order" effect here, I'd struggle to name anything that is a first order effect. I don't really think this is what the person I was responding to was talking about when they mentioned second order effects. But if it was then I question the usefulness of the terminology.


> So, to me,the dominant effect here is less demand for air travel->fewer flights. Fewer flights means less carbon emitted. Any knock-on effects seem to pale in comparison because air travel is so carbon intensive.

> If fewer flights is a "second order" effect here, I'd struggle to name anything that is a first order effect. I don't really think this is what the person I was responding to was talking about when they mentioned second order effects. But if it was then I question the usefulness of the terminology.

I'm confused; I don't see how your interpretation arises from what I laid out.

I'll see if I can rephrase and clarify.

The first order effect is that less people are flying specifically because of the pandemic. This doesn't immediately result in fewer flights because air schedules are meticulously planned in order to maintain specific routes, which is why oftentimes at the beginning of the pandemic many planes were flying almost entirely devoid of passengers. In essence, the airlines were hemorrhaging money because their flight schedules were planned months/years in advance by anticipating certain flight loads, and all of that was turned sideways in less than 6 weeks.

The second order effect is that airlines start factoring in the risk of a protracted outbreak with no foreseeable end and therefore start making longer-term strategic decisions adjusting to the sustained (years-long) impact of less flights being booked. New routes, canceled routes, different purchasing decisions for planes, different decisions around how to equip those planes and for which classes of clients, folding some operations in some cities altogether, consolidating operations, etc., and these changes will likely result in airlines having to extract more value from the fewer passengers who do have to fly....

> ...which loops (to the OP's point) back into keeping more people from flying as a third-order effect.

...and therefore potentially contributes towards sustained reduced impact on the environment due to less flights being flown globally, greater fuel efficiency of new jets, and less fuel being burned as a result of both.

Hope this helps.


> This doesn't immediately result in fewer flights because air schedules are meticulously planned in order to maintain specific routes

That's all well and good, but in fact the pandemic did essentially immediately result in fewer flights. Flights started getting cancelled within days of lockdowns starting in NYC. If this is a second order effect, then everything is a second order effect. Reduction in travel demand is a second order effect of the pandemic. The pandemic is a second order effect of globalization. Globalization is a second order effect of trade efficiency. Trade efficiency is a second order effect of air travel. Etc. It's not a useful terminology.


Flight cancellations that took place were ones that were required as a consequence of government actions or were able to be done because they didn't disrupt routing, e.g. those planes were not necessarily expected to be at their subsequent destinations.

That's first-order. You can reference my prior post for the distinction between this and long-term re-working of tactical and strategic decisions (second-order)

Not sure how else I can explain this to you mate. The original commenter and I seem to get it.


> The original commenter and I seem to get it.

Plenty of times, multiple people have had agreement on a belief that is ultimately incorrect. Before you crow, see how the air travel landscape looks in five years. I predict, assuming the pandemic is resolved, it will have fully recovered and passed the 2019 peak.


I found their overall response to be thoughtful and objective, and painted an overview of the situation.

I found your response to hone in on one detail and contribute nothing useful to the conversation.


No offense, but number 7 sounds ridiculous to me.

What kind of awareness of local geography do people even cultivate on a 40 minute commute? You're going for speed and consistency, not novelty and aesthetics.

You see only a tiny amount of environs on your commute (most of it non local), and I'm not sure people develop that kind of relationship with the neighborhood at mile 38/49 that they'd care if it's trashed, whatever that means and however they'd notice.

I've had both long and short commutes, and I don't understand what you're talking about.


>4. Impact on the body - prolonged unmoderated sitting in bad postures, eye strain due to constant staring into the screen, bad eating habits, etc.

I actually lost weight and improved my posture when WFH, and i do have better eating habbits now(being able to cook a warm not pre-ready meal for breakfast is a godsend)


This! Also trading the time wasted commuting for exercising.


> Impact on the body - prolonged unmoderated sitting in bad postures

Hey, this is me! I developed tendonitis in the shoulders from sitting in a lounge chair all day, and now I work with a physiotherapist who gave me funny looking exercises I do twice a day to retrain my body to get my hands behind my back (and other forms of shoulder mobility).

Ergo is not a joke, friends.


Can confirm, after 9 months in my job I switched from regular keyboard and mouse to ergo versions as my right hand was killing me. Now I’m getting an ergo trackball too.


For years, everyone I know has made fun of me for the extreme ergo choices I've made in my workspaces, based on my needs. I've had a standing desk for over a decade, and I never sit down - purely because that works for me. I know someone else with the same setup, because at 4'11, she finally gets a desk she can lower to the proper height. I've been using the right keyboard/pointer combination for me since 2000, and I'll always continue to do so. Much like offices, there's no one size fits all - we really need to drop this idea.


Standind desks rock!! And you get the added bonus of wanted to minimize the (mostly unpaid) overtime!


> bad eating habits

I have much better food at home than whatever shit I can buy at or near the office.


> I have much better food at home

And it's probably also cheaper. For 5 € I can either buy a small lunch for myself, or cook for the entire family. With less salt, and more vegetables.


My mom has been working from her kitchen as that was the only room in her flat with a table. She's gained a lot of weight due to that. I told her to just buy the cheapest ugliest desk, but she wanted something that would look good in her living room. Now she has to buy a whole new wardrobe.


Also, office buildings are rented from realtor investors and this big fat chunk of real estate is looking extremely superfluous and vulnerable right now


> Impact on the body - prolonged unmoderated sitting in bad postures, eye strain due to constant staring into the screen, bad eating habits, etc.

Yep, offices have a terrible impact on people. Working from home gives you the opportunity to eat better, have far fewer snacks thrust in your face, and to get.out and exercise at lunch.

I spend much more time in my local environs now I don't have to travel away from them each day.


While everything you listed is a factor, My experience it normally comes down to if you have a actual home office or not.

People that have the luxury of a dedicated office at home, an actual room that is just used as an office, not a corner of the kitchen or living room that has the "family desk" that everyone shares, is more apt for WFH

I know many people that do not have this space, and do not have the ability to create this space in their home. For them WFH is a challenge.

On the other hand, people like myself that do have a dedicated office space that is in many ways better than the office space at the commercial office find WFH to be great and prefer it, even when factoring in your list.

In my office I would say it was about 60-70% of people that preferred working in the office and did not want to work from home primarily because they did not have a dedicated working space nor could easily create one.


That’s not the only factor. I have a home office and can’t wait to get back. I work in an industry that’s all about relationships and those are hard to build remotely. I just started a new role and there’s no way I could ever progress upward in this state.


I think the current WFH and restrictions are especially hard on the sales teams. No more client dinners, golf, or travel for a demo, and it's much harder to make the relationship over phone or zoom. Plus, the handshake is missing.


Doesn't this put everyone on an equal footing? You can't take your client for golf or shake hands, but neither can your competitor.

Though I can imagine a scenario where it's equally bad for everyone. For example, if the client needs an in-person demo to understand how the widget works or to be convinced that it's useful, but no seller is offering an in-person demo, then the client may decide to not buy it from anybody.


My guess is sales people who’ve already established relationships pre WFH get all the sales and upstarts are unable to make inroads with new clients.


> Doesn't this put everyone on an equal footing

Maybe it does, but that doesn't make people's job that were heavily relationship-focussed more enjoyable


I am definitely not the person to address building relationships, I suck at it, that is why I work with computers not people...

that said I think you can build in remotely, even the people I am in the same office with 70-80% of our communications is over Chat, Phone, or Email anyway. Why walk 10 feet to the persons office when I can just message them on slack or teams?


> Why walk 10 feet to the persons office when I can just message them on slack or teams?

Privacy. Human interaction element. If all your interaction is online at your work - good for you. It isn't for my work environment.

Some of my coworkers have taken to giving me their phone number so that we can talk outside Slack because they worry that Slack is being watched now. Some of my coworkers and I used to go on 1:1 walks around the office area to get a breath of fresh air but also to have private discussions. We can't do that the same way anymore. I talked to one on the phone recently but it's not the same - you can't see every bit of their emotion as it is conveyed. Video doesn't do this justice either - how often are people going to show you a nervous fidget they're doing off screen that indicates they're under a lot of stress?

It depends on the type of place you're at. If you're at a great place where everything is just a rocket ship, everyone is in love with their work, and everyone's boss is just a stellar human being who really has high regard for their subordinates - then whatever. But - that's not been the case at any company I've ever worked at. So, :shrug:


>> Privacy. Some of my coworkers have taken to giving me their phone number so that we can talk outside Slack because they worry that Slack is being watched now.

This is one factor I should consider more, I (among others) control our companies communications platforms so I know the security, who has access, what they can see (and cant see) etc.

If I was not on that team this may also be a factor for me.

as to emotions... Again this is why I work on computers.. I take a Vulcan outlook to emotions.


Because hearing you laugh when I make a joke makes me far happier than seeing you react with :joy:.


I find that a colourful emoji like [hmm, HN can't display an emoji] feels very different from a text emoticon or tag.

It's such an illusion, too - the sender doesn't even see the same emoji character as I do because of different fonts and devices. Some emojis look sad or angry on some devices, and smiling on others. There's plenty of room for misinterpretation.

But it adds feeling anyway!


Until our brains' reward circuits are retrained to interpret those emoji reactions the same way we currently interpret genuine in-person laughter.


We (and our ancestors) have been laughing for at least 6 million years (MRCA of Homo & Pan).

I don’t doubt that one day our descendants will prefer something else than laughing. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime though.


I don't know why you're being downvoted. It's a valid opinion that I happen to share. I have a great home office but I still want to be around other humans.


Because we don't have stats on what % of home-office owners want to go back to work and there's no way of knowing whether his anecdote is just a token exception, or a representation of a larger outlier. Maybe 1% of home-office owners want to go back to work, maybe 49%. The comment's anecdote doesn't do anything.

More importantly, the comment has nothing but an anecdote that's attempting to make a statement on what the stats will probably be. There's no fact-based discussion possible, only whether you think the anecdote is "representative" or not. Which you have to decide based on your prior beliefs, because the post doesn't contain new information ("X population has nonzero people who disagree on belief Y" is not new information).

I guess I should ask: what discussion could be had around this anecdote, other than "guess the % who agree"?


Maybe the structure in that industry has to change to provide value directly?


What do you do?


I work in financial services advising corporations on financial transactions.


One of the things I would struggle with is progression.

In my current job I'm progressing quickly and have built good relationships with my colleagues. We can take a break and just turn around and chat for 10 minutes about random stuff. When everyone is working from home it's not like I could just call someone and chat to them because I don't know if they're busy or not. I can't build the same sort of relationships as I can in person.

I'm quite introverted in a way that I find it hard to go out of my way and make friends. But the longer I spend with people in person, the easier it is and I find that I'm able to get along with almost everyone I meet.

And as with most things, it's not really what you know, it's who you know. And knowing someone IRL is much better than knowing someone remote.


> When everyone is working from home it's not like I could just call someone and chat to them because I don't know if they're busy or not

I don't really see what the issue is. In my company if we want to chat we simply ask on Slack "can we have a call?", and the other person either says 'ok' or 'call me later'. Most conversations happen over async chat, which is great if you are waiting for something to compile (Scala...).

How do you do it in an office setting? Would you go over to a person wearing headphones and starting telling them about your weekend?


And further complicated by the fact the the same person may want different things at different stages in their life. Ive evolved, like many in my workplace, to be on site in the office as needed, occasionally (we work in hardware). We've learned to do most everything from home, with a few on site activities as needed.


Many of the comments on discussions such as these give me the impression that people are not considering this when they write, or at the very least omitting it.

I'm a college student graduating next year, and I just finished my first substantial internship ever in a remote arrangement. The past twelve weeks were my first real experience in my professional environment of interest, but I'm not even sure if I can call it that. I did the best I could and completed three of four of my projects, one of which was a competition where my team placed. But this was despite reassignment from my preferred original projects (in a physical lab), productivity, and general morale suffering immensely from pretty much every restriction COVID and the California wildfires have wrought on us.

I'm a young guy in the process of building myself in nearly every way. I have more "potential" than I do domain knowledge and wisdom. I'm less disciplined. I feel a huge need to get out into the world and see people in places to develop my career and every type of relationship. These have all been harder to work on in the current climate.

So when I see people extolling anecdotal virtues of no commute or not having to bother with seeing their coworker's faces in response to comments explaining why people may like the office, I get annoyed. I've literally never seen a single colleague of mine in real life or had a chance to get bored of my commute, and it was not a choice for me. Yes, adapting as things come is important. That doesn't change the assertion my demographic will have likely been more impacted by this when the smoke clears. I haven't had nearly as much opportunity as these people may have taken for granted in situating themselves so they can presently bank on their know-how and established relationships until we are out of this crisis. I hope my experiences in this regard will not be as bad as I go for full-time after I finish school in June.


I feel absolutely terrible for all of our interns and new-grad hires this year, as they -- like you -- are getting a bizarre experience that we're not at all prepared to do properly, as we've just never done it this way before.

As someone who's later in his career, I'm totally fine and happy working from home (and was doing that most of the time pre-pandemic anyway), but if I look back to my early-/mid-20s and think about all the in-person mentorship I'd gotten, and how much I learned just by physically being in the presence of other people with more experience than I... I'm really worried about how we're going to effectively mentor a new generation of colleagues if we have to keep up this reduced amount of interaction.

Now, we do need to be careful to not equate the current situation with what "minimum office" might look like outside a pandemic situation. If we were all working from home but didn't have to isolate and socially distance ourselves, we'd still greet our interns and new employees with lunches and other outings, and we'd have plenty of random get-togethers in parks and bars. And I'd expect we'd come up with ways to get more-senior folks in the same room with the newcomers on a regular basis during the work day, whether in a co-working space or just a sparsely-populated office.

So really, it just sucks right now, but won't always. I know that's little consolation for you and those like you, who are entering into this mess before we've figured out how to do it right. I do expect things to be a bit better next summer after you graduate, but I'm sure there will be plenty of rough edges.


I frequently thought, even before the current situation, that much as I've been happily mostly remote for something like 15 years now, it's hard for me to imagine being in that situation when I was starting out.

Sure, communications tools and practices were a lot different then. But, even so, it's difficult for me to see starting out working from my apartment.


InertBrake - well done on your internship :)

As someone who's been through internships and many years of in office work this is worrying me too.

Our junior colleagues coming in without the little things they would get from sitting in a room with everyone else.

Without team lunches and social events. Because it's not direct impact this is hard to reason about and create artificially.

I chose to work remotely full time 4 years ago and I have to rely on my past years of experience quite a lot.

What I do see is that excellent mentors and senior colleagues still find a way to mentor less experienced colleagues. It just takes conscious effort from both sides and we need to support both sides more in this.

I'm very keen to study this in my teams and use the learnt experience to raise the base level.


Right now you can idealize what you anticipate the social interactions in a work setting will be because you haven't yet experienced it (for any extended period of time at least.)


I'm glad you pointed that out as I definitely have thought of this before, and I obviously can't understand it in all the ways it may be meant yet. Recent conversations with my dad (also in the industry) have shown me just as much how there is still much in the planning and development environment I have misperceptions or lack of perspective on.

Just as everyone experiences some level of shock at the start of university for what it is truly like, I expect the same for my transition into the workforce, and that it may take a long time. It took me until last November of last year to truly fall into a groove in college, and that was in normal times. The harder recent period has been a strange juxtaposition for me of adult responsibilities with the stuck-at-homeness of my teens. In essence, it felt as if my life regressed in every way with the exception of a regular paycheck.

It's all the more jarring when you consider that my time at college was derailed in March just as I was the most at peace, capable, and ready to build others up around me. Now, I'll likely never see that environment again. I have lots of unfinished work in the labs and CS/CE student community which can only be realized in a diminished extent now. There are countless people I never had a chance to say goodbye to. I sadly expect my own graduation to be virtual like the class of 2020's.

In summary, I understand reality will rarely align with expectations. Sacrifice and adversity can be expected, and thus far I have been fortunate to have not lost anything truly irreplacible. However, there is room to lament lost plans and opportunity. That wave of momentum and self-esteem I managed to climb to the crest of towards the end of my in-person college experience will have to be rebuilt. I am and shall overcome the times we live in now, but it is also not unclear to me what I could have done and became if the pandemic didn't happen.


>Cities are nervous that business districts are devastated since no one buys coffee, lunches or walks home and steps into a shoe store or tailor, or to a bar for drinks with colleagues.

I think this is more true than a lot of people think/or care to make known.

I know the business district in my city, Nashville, is hurting right now.


> business district

There’s the problem.

Turns out, when city is of a type of mixed use and walkability such that you live above (or a trolly ride away from) where you work, working at work or working at home don’t meaningfully change city viability.


> Some people have long commutes and wfh is great

This is exactly my situation, it takes me two hours of commute per day to get in the office, and the housing is prohibitively expensive the closer you get to it.

My quality of life is significantly improved by WFH, which leaves me with more quality time with my kids and to cook.


The office model is based on the factory model, which was constrained by the need to have people, machinery, and raw materials in the same location.

Offices don't require that. All the soft benefits - water cooler chats, and so on - are balanced by disbenefits of expensive commutes and even more expensive real estate.

So the experience becomes a lot more individual. Some people are happy, others aren't.

Since most corps care more about productivity and costs than happiness, the final decision will be made by the cost savings.

If productivity drops by (maybe) 20% while costs drop by (maybe) 50%, it's likely wfh will become much more of a thing.

Some corps are already giving up on centralised office space - either permanently, or in the hope they can run remote for a year or two and renegotiate much lower rents and/or ownerships costs then.

Of course this assumes the (maybe) 20% productivity costs won't be cumulative. But given the insane costs of office space, I suspect we'll see a lot of corps trying the experiment and attempting to make the best of it.

So IMO anyone who is expecting things to go back to "normal" soon is going to be waiting at least a couple of years, and possibly forever - and should make plans accordingly. This applies equally to everyone, from CEOs to interns to freelancers.


I agree things are presented in emotive ways, but I find most business decisions are made the same way.

I believe remote work is a temporary phase, with businesses going back to the "old normal" as soon as COVID no longer presents much of a threat.

My first reason for thinking this is I've found inertia is the most powerful force in the office environment. When given the option to adopt a different way of working, the aggregate whole will resist the attempt unless there is no alternative. This conservative nature is the reason why Agile fails to take hold, why compliance rituals will remain long after they're relevant and so on.

The second is extravert culture dominates the office. Most people are extraverted (about 60% IIRC), with even higher concentrations in general and C-level management. This can be observed in the performative nature of the hiring process, the belief in open plan offices, in companies thinking of meetings as productive rather than waste to be minimised and believing in things like brainstorming sessions leading to better results despite research indicating the opposite. An extraverted manager needs to interact with someone on a personal level because they need the stimulation and social contact, and because it's more efficient for them. An introvert has no such leanings.

Third, I believe we're in a leadership crisis, where companies believe "command and control" is more important than improving employee efficiency. In order to control, you need pants in seats. When adopting that stance, you're less likely to want to delegate in the true sense: offer employees autonomy over their tasks, trusting they'll get the job done. Working from home is counter to the control scheme.

As I see it, the voices arguing for a return to the office are the representatives of the conservative, extraverted, control-oriented voices in the business community.


> Some people are dissatisfied with the online interactions and prefer to talk to humans and not text strings from humans they can't see or hear

I think this is easily resolved by audio / video calls. All of my coworkers are significantly older than me and have no issue communicating this way.

I dont mind commuting but I dont want to commute as often. I think my sweet spot would be to commute around noon once traffics no longer crazy and go back home after traffic dies down but the more I think about that the more I feel like driving altogether is a waste. I prefer to only commute when we all decide to be onsite to discuss something and work through it.


Video calls are not remotely (no pun intended) the same as meeting face to face. In the office I can casually joke with the person sitting next to me, and it is usually visually evident when they are busy and I shouldn't bother them. If we both need a break, we can take a short walk, go for a lunch together or something. Video calls are limited, akward and uncomfortable compared to that. Video calls have their place but they are not the same thing.


We mostly do audio calls and get to the meat of what we need, sometimes I get informal and nothing is wrong with that, you can still gauge if someone is busy by how they respond or if they seem distracted. Every office is differently but we've always had two or three people working remotely so the transition is nothing special for most of us.

On another note we've had lunch calls on Wednesdays as a more informal setting so everyone can talk about general things and keep the social aspect going. Course some people don't feel the need to partake (I sometimes am too busy) so it's quite different from call to call.


Try VR. It would be super cool to have a VR Chat version of slack/discord for working.


I just want to take a nap in the afternoon.


There's lots of reasons why individuals themselves might want or not want to go back in the office.

What is more complicated is why they want to take everyone else with them. My own employer is letting some people come back in the office but not insisting on it.

And all of this in the context of the trilemma: try for zero virus, accept total spread with associated medical costs, time off, deaths, and potential long term complications, or delay until the vaccines are ready and being deployed.


>What is more complicated is why they want to take everyone else with them.

Probably because what other people do affects them.

If everyone else on their team comes back to the office and they choose not to, that's probably not an ideal situation.

Conversely, if they come back to the office and most of the people they work with don't, they're now effectively in a co-working situation where the office is just a physical space and they'll still be on video meetings all the time.


sorry nuance like this doesn't fit in a headline this just won't work /s


Why not present them in black and white ways?

Greyness comes with crafting a collage of black and white?

Why must my personal position take into account a composite greyness if it means being put into an office setting I am not productive in?

Why bend myself to an arbitrary greyness?

Our social laws should acknowledge the greyness and avoid empowering a uni-culture that leans towards one choice? Efficiency != resiliency.

Rather than commit to the one size fits all dragged in the direction of currency holders. Complete lack of acceptance a nations currency is propped up by the greyness in opinions

I don’t care who has memorized what facts. The fact remains they’re not a god


some bosses have an instinctive feeling that people working in the office are more productive

some bosses themselves work best in the office with people around.


My commute is 20 minutes on an uncrowded ferry, and my home office is a tiny desk in my daughter's bedroom while she works on the other side on school stuff.

My colleague has a massive house with a pool tennis court and so much space he has literally 3 never-used bedrooms. His wife looks after kids who are at school most of the day again. His commute is 2 hours each way.

People are talking home vs office people are coming from very different comparisons.


Commute time is a big thing here.

People who have a 2 hour (one way) commute from hell from their massive house are super happy about this situation (shocking, I know).

People who live in a small studio apartment 10 minutes from the office see it differently.

What I expect this to result in is employers increasingly forcing people to WFH (either outright, or by making the offices horribly unattractive through hot-desking, increased density, etc.), pushing the cost of an office onto employees.

Even if a company "generously" gives you a $1000 allowance, that barely covers what high quality office furniture would cost, and in exchange, you pay a lot of tiny things that don't seem to be worth mentioning individually but add up to a massive cost when you take them all together over years:

- the real estate

- HVAC

- utilities (increased water usage, electricity for the office equipment & HVAC)

- maintenance for all of that (money and time)

- cleaning (if your employer asked you to come in unpaid after hours to vacuum the office and scrub the office toilets, everyone would consider them crazy, and yet this is effectively what will happen with WFH)

Not to speak of all the amenities and perks employers often provide, like cafeterias (often subsidized or even free). And not only will you end up paying the businesses' business expenses, you'll often do so (at least in part) with your post-tax money, i.e. depending on your tax rate, each dollar spent may be equivalent to e.g. $1.6 in lost income.


Really, there are only 2 costs that matter.

On the one side you have the commute--both in time and money.

On the other side is whether the place you'd be living in otherwise is suitable for long-term WFH or if you have to spend more money for another bedroom or whatever.

So, if you already have a dedicated office in an exurban house (as I do), not commuting--which I rarely did anyway--is a cost savings. As someone who has mostly worked remotely for years, all the other stuff is pretty trivial even given the occasional significant purchase (I had to replace my very old office chair).

I already have to clean my house and/or have it done. And the delta in utilities, etc. is trivial.

ADDED: Companies sometimes have covered co-working spaces. Though I suspect this will become less common.


To me the mental cost matters. For me, I'm mentally better off when I hang out with people physically than when I sit at home isolated chatting on slack. For you that might be different.

So I'd happily pay the commute cost if I have to for my mental well being. If you don't need that that's fine. You can stay home.

I have a gut feeling (so no data) that for many projects a core group of physically together people will out perform a group of remote workers of the same size "All other things being equal" (which they never are).

I come from games, having designers/artists/programmers able to look over each others shoulders and "riff" off each other's ideas is invaluable. But I know there are other kinds of work that don't need as much interaction so YMMV


I find some degree of commute itself necessary for my mental health. The act of traveling itself flips a mental switch. Just being home all day, I basically have to go out and pick up a coffee or something in the morning just to simulate that feeling.


This must be learned, commuting is definitely not something I would say was good for my mental health.


Heh, all these comments are very much "to each their own" but ya, holy heck did I ever HATE my commute. It wasn't even that long, but it was depressing. I didn't even realize how filled with dread I was every night before going to bed and every day around 4pm or so realizing I'd be faced with getting myself home. This situation is heaven for me (not saying I'm happy about why we're in this situation, to be clear).

Of course, I live alone in a decent-sized apartment outside of downtown. I also work at an XP shop (I actually much prefer remote pairing) and I'd probably feel differently if I had to work alone all day every day.


> For me, I'm mentally better off when I hang out with people physically than when I sit at home isolated chatting on slack. For you that might be different.

But in a way, this is not a balanced relationship. Sure, you'd want to interact with people like you who are excited about being together, so that's the preferred state anyway, but if most of your colleagues are of the 2nd sort, then you put the effort of going in the office to no reward. You could connect with people outside your immediate sphere, but team cohesion isn't helped by that and you might start disliking working there. So in a way you get some bubbles forming - those who prefer virtual interaction and those who prefer face-to-face.

This will probably be a big factor for career progression - is your manager leaning towards WFH or office-work? If you're on the other side, you might get left behind. Not that there aren't plenty of such possible discrepancies already out there


My exp is the exact opposite. I find being able to avoid the people I don't ever want to talk to a much better mental health boost.

The people I want to talk to are usually busy doing actual work so we usually catch up at lunch or after work. I also have the personal numbers of those people. All the people that have time to talk during the work day I'd rather not talk to. I know this is basically an insult for that I'm sorry but I suspect you are one of those people. The awkward guy with no friends that comes to the office for his social interaction fix.

Riffing ideas is not helpful sorry but its just your awkward way of socializing. Has anyone really ever said oh ok I'll just trash this work and start over after "riffing"? No they just go "haha" and continue doing whatever they were doing.


The delta in utilities, in a place like Texas, during the summer months, is certainly not trivial. Relative to a tech workers salary, sure, a hundred bucks per month isn’t that much, but it’s costing me a lot more to keep my house cool through 100F days all summer long than it would if I let the thermostat go to 80F during the workday.


Not to mention the flipside. Living in Minnesota, I have to use my furnace all day when I work from home for many months out of the year. Natural gas isn't cheap, yet an electric heater would probably even be more expensive on my electric bill.


Does everyone in the living space leave for the day? At my place someone is always home most of everyday anyway.


I live alone, so if I were going to an office, yeah


How much was the commute costing you though?


But I do not have an extra office in a dedicated bedroom. I live in central Tokyo.

The delta in house price for ‘extra bedroom’ in the place I live is around $250,000.

There is just no way my company is going to even consider reimbursing me for that.


But if you're WFH, you don't need to live in central Tokyo, you can live anywhere. You'd probably save money by gaining an extra bedroom and moving out of central Tokyo, no?


Anywhere where you:

- Have reasonable fast internet.

- (Affordable) Hospitals/Police/Firewatch in reasonable distance

- Are not to far away from the companies office as you likely still have to go to the office from time to time.

EDIT: Most people don't live in Tokyo or cities with similar expensive housings. The cost of moving away from cities is often much bigger then "just" longer transit times from home to work.


If WFH was guarantee, I'd have enough money to take a helicopter down to NYC twice a month instead of paying taxes/rent/mortgage/higher cost of food/MTA/LIRR/etc.

While living in a house with too many bedrooms. And if you want to talk about environmental impact, the air is cleaner the water is blue again and maybe we start paying baristas 100k a year for the inconvenience of having to live in the city instead of software engineers that can fckoff and do this from the moon.

The obvious is slapping everyone in the face. And if you are in commercial real estate, best wishes in 2021.


>Are not to far away from the companies office as you likely still have to go to the office from time to time.

The length of a "tolerable commute" increases disproportionately as the frequency of said commute declines. If I have to commute every day, anything over 30 minutes is pretty tiring. If I have to commute twice a week, driving 2+ hours is fine. If I have to commute once a month, I'd be willing to live on the other side of the country and fly in.


Thinking long term, housing is expensive because of mandatory office going, so removing the pressure from that side should in theory affect prices


It already is. I live in a semi-rural area that's lovely, but the commute is a hassle (there's a ferry to downtown, if you can walk/bus from there it's ok, but long, if you have to drive from there, you have to fight for limited car spaces on the ferry, and traffic is awful around downtown, etc; and friday afternoons its hard to get a car on the ferry because of weekend trips). This summer a lot of people have moved from the other side of the ferry, because they can WFH (for now) and would prefer more space right now. Real estate prices are up and inventory is down. Of course, if they need to be in the office 4 or 5 days a week, they will likely move back.


In addition, you're being forced to adjust your personal lifestyle because of the office space your employer is choosing not to provide. Perhaps it would be cheaper to live in a farm house in the middle of nowhere, but what if you want to live in central Tokyo? Perhaps it's the American in me, but doesn't everyone deserve the right to pursue happiness, even if it's in the form of the city in which you live?


If other people flee the cities in favor of cheaper housing elsewhere, then real estate prices should decrease in places like Tokyo making it easer to live there for the people who want to.


Sure, you might want to live in central Tokyo, Manhattan, SF, etc. And it would be nice to be able to do so. But also Aspen, Nantucket, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Myrtle Beach, etc. Absent a business purpose, why should the former be subsidized over the latter.


What you say is true, of course.

But then this is the trade: he goes from a cheap, tiny place in Tokyo, spends most of his time at the office or out and about, gets to enjoy a world-class city

to: living somewhere that isn't Tokyo, where he can afford a space large enough to have an office, and is home all the time, and doesn't get to enjoy a world-class city.

Not a win, I'm guessing. And this is coming from someone in his third year of remote work who lives a mile out of a village of about 3,000 people. It's not everyone's cup of tea.


I didn't move to Tokyo to live outside of Tokyo.


That was my point. If you live in a central part of a major city because it's convenient for work and you want to live there, having to WFH indefinitely is probably going to be costly compared to being able to easily go into an office (unless your company will pay for a co-working space). You're right that they won't pay for a larger apartment.


There is also a social and mental cost.

For example for some one where anxiety acts in a way which hinders him to proper handle thinks like making food or cleaning having a clean office with a Mensa giving out reasonable good food for a reasonable price is a massive difference. It can make the difference between overcoming it and complexity succumbing to it to a degree where you at some point end up homeless on the streets....

Sure just one example. But you can make many such examples. Often less extreme.

But however I look at it it always boils down to people being good of (housing, mental health, social net and high sallery (==more affordable office equipment)) profiting from it but people which are not (small dark apartment, mental health problems, abusive partners, social isolation, not much money) paying the price for it. And sure in the praxis you will find anything in-between.

> allready have a dedicated office in an exurban house

In my experience (Germany/Berlin) this normally only applies for people which earn above average and even then it not so common for people only earning slightly above average. The best/most common thing you find with people earning slightly above average is a room which is intended for children but they either don't yet have any or they already moved out so it was turned into a office room.

Also most office at home room I have seen where just suitable for one person, so if both partner need to do home offices it gets space-wise tight.


I don't like the idea that telecommuting benefits only the ones who can afford it.

Living hours from your workplace because you can't afford to be closer is not privileged. Wanting to cook at home because it's cheaper than restaurants it's not privileged. Wanting to Save the costs of gas or public transportation isn't either.

There are good arguments for and against but it's kinda bad to assume.


Good points. It is also not that easy to just upgrade from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 4 bedroom one to accommodate a couple where both parties needs to work from home. Who is paying that extra rent? Certainly not the employer.


The keywords in what you said is “to me.”

For some reason, passionate work from home workers assume everyone likes what they like and everyone has the same situation as them.

I prefer going to the office. It’s not a moral failing, it’s just what I like. I think people should be free to do what they like.


Those minor costs can still add up. Depending on your setup and location you could easily be spending 30+c/h on electricity when working from home. Extra cooling, lighting, possibly multiple PC’s etc. At ~2,000 hours a year you’re talking an extra ~600$/per year after tax.

On the other hand it’s also much cheaper to cook at home.

PS: My preference is to live close enough to walk to the office, but that doesn’t really scale well.


I've been working for home for about four years now. One of the biggest unexpected benefits has been the ability to do asynchronous household tasks. Placing a load of clothes in the washing machine takes very little time, same goes for putting them in the dryer. The time for those machines to do their work is time I'm working for my employer. When I would go into an office, those tasks would consume a large part of evenings or a day on the weekend. Same goes for cooking if you make things that are mostly hands off. Half an hour before lunch I can throw previously prepped ingredients into the Instant Pot and air fryer which will make lunch ready right as I start my lunch hour. Of course sometimes I'm in a meeting and can't even get to the kitchen to start those tasks but being flexible is part of the deal. On those days, I eat lunch half an hour later, which still isn't much trouble.


A couple years ago, I had to move bare metal servers to my home to continue my job working at a VR technology startup, who had just decided to forgo their offices.

I took on an extra $150-$200 in power expenses per month, and it was absolutely treacherous trying to get reimbursed for this. The company never considered the costs they were funneling into the employees - apparently - until people started to complain.

I fear most people were put into similar situations - perhaps not fiscally, but in a procedural sense - during this most recent mass WFH migration.


> I took on an extra $150-$200 in power expenses per month, and it was absolutely treacherous trying to get reimbursed for this

Well, fuck that... if it's company hardware and there's no reimbursement, power gets cut to that rack at 5PM local time.


Just wire it into a light switch. If the switch gets flipped... shame.

"I don't know what to do. I guess if you wanted to send an electrician out to install a new circuit with its own meter, things might be more reliable."


> send an electrician

I think OP needed an electrician onsite anyway, as $200/month would be somewhat over 2500 watts continuous 24x7 which would require in the US at minimum two dedicated 15 amp circuits. That's a serious enough amount of heat to require the attentions of a HVAC guy also.

I ran some small clusters at home for learning purposes and maybe $400 per year was pretty minimal compared to the cost of tuition, cost of the hardware, etc.


If your electricity is 10 cents per kWh it would be that much.

Since they said NYC we can bump that to 21 cents and then $150-$200 becomes 980-1300 watts, or 8-11 amps. That's something most people could plug in to their bedroom or living room circuit without a sweat.


Is there a resource online one can use to figure out what the cost per kWh will be for their power usage in a particular area?

I am fascinated by how people know these figures seemingly off the top of their heads. :)


I was beginning to suspect this, as well. But I of course was nowhere near prepared to handle this responsibility on my own. I live in a 2BR 4th-floor walk-up apartment in Brooklyn, NY, constructed 1913.

The rack consisted of a dual-processor Xeon 1U with a Tesla GPU, two 4U hard drive racks, and a UPS unit.


In MA ($0.195/kWh), that’s only about 1400W, or 12A which is supportable on a single 15A circuit.


That would double my power expenses per month. Who knows if my circuits would even handle it. ADDED: My internet would also not be reliable enough for servers that other people were depending on.

That's a big difference from my laptop being plugged in at home for 8 hours a day rather than in an office.


In a warm climate/season it could cost you even more. Not only are you paying for the servers' electricity, but you're also going to want extra air conditioning to remove the waste heat.


Yeah I live in a country that literally worships efficiency and cost cutting. Fancy offices have been extinct for a long time. Thanks to technology people can work anywhere and they're expected to.


I don’t think utilities are expensive enough to compare to the explicit costs of commuting by car (fuel, wear and tear, insurance) and the implicit costs of commuting (increased morbidity/mortality risk from driving, opportunity cost of time needed to be allocated to commuting).

Especially if the house isn’t completely empty when you’re at work.


Again this heavily depends on your situation.

I live a 20 min walk from my office. I have £0 commuting costs.

On the other hand I live in an old city with little new built housing. My flat is over 100 years old with massive ceilings, electric heating and no way to way to improve the insulation. Heating it just in the evenings for 5 hours costs about £50 a month, heating it while I work will likely cost £70-100 extra in top.


It’s not a zero cost: it’s 40 minutes of time.


I run there, which is time I still spend at home. And I enjoy the walk home as I live in a beautiful city. I normally go walking throughout the day for longer than that anyway.


Yes, I love being able to walk/bike to work, but that’s not life for 95%+ of people in the US (nor England from what I know).

Walking/biking gives you agency that public transit/cars don’t. It feels much freer.


Biking in Tokyo is less freeing than public transportation because of the added time finding a place to lock up the bike. I bought a bike thinking I'd use it but it turns out it's actually much less free since if I take it I'm stuck with it the entire day where as without it I can easily visit the other side of the city on a whim via public transportation. The same would be true in Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, Berlin, many other places with good public transportation.


You should look at getting a folding bike. I got a Brompton recently, using a company cycle-to-work scheme and it's been brilliant. I can cycle 3-4 miles in 20 mins to my favourite coffee shop, fold up my bike in 20 seconds and stash it under my table.


It might be a net positive if they enjoy the walk more than 40 minutes of other activity.


WFH doesn't mean they can't walk for 40 minutes though.


But in the context of office vs home, if the OP is basically saying "I like my free commute" then you have to remove cost & time from the "pro" list for WFH.

I used to like reading on the train as time for myself but it didn't balance out the other stress & cost of commuting.

If Transport for London said that trains would be free at the point of use & actually put on enough service that most people got a seat I'd definitely consider the office more favourably again


Not to mention the infrastructure / tax costs! New interstate lanes to sate population growth don't build themselves.

The more regular commuters we can take off the road, the better.


Some of my transit activist friends are upset over the potential of work from home to harm demand for transit service, which for some populations are used for more than commuting to work. Also if more people end up moving out of city centers because they're no longer constrained by a commute, that further erodes the demand for public transportation.


Commuting for a lot of us in the suburbs: long distance train passes, gas, parking, wear on the car, and increased insurance premiums for the mileage dwarf anything you're talking about. I'm saving over $500 after tax dollars a month by WfH. And that's before the buying lunch near the office, occasional Uber when trains were down, parking tickets...


Based on not traveling, a $50/month delta between me not being in the house at all vs. being there full-time is actually about right. But then I don't live with someone. But simply not being in the house for 10 hours a day doesn't affect things much. Admittedly I use AC minimally.

That said, I'd be happy to concede that working at home costs me $1K/yr. in costs I wouldn't have were I to go into an office every day. But that has costs like commuting (for most people) too.


Yeah, my stay at home costs are not zero, but just being able to scale back to one car (dropping one insurance payment), cancel parking downtown and stop burning so much gas is already a $700/mo saving.

Add in some of the other costs of the “downtown lifestyle” (lunch and coffee; skipped and brewed at home for pennies now) and I’m saving like $15k/yr post tax.

Just on insurance, parking, gas, lunches and coffee I’m saving enough to buy a brand new Aeron chair every month, give or take.

And if this turns permanent, there are a lot of other changes I can make to save even more money and increase my quality of life.

I’d say $1k/yr sounds about right for the extra expenses I’ll incur. That’s not even on my radar with all the other money this saves me and the opportunity it creates.


Savings also add up, so everyone's balance will land somewhere different depending on their lifestyle. Commute has a cost, buying lunch has a cost, less sleep has a cost, wearing shoes more often has a cost, etc...

(I expect another one of the "surprising industry suffering from covid" articles at some point about lack of footwear sales)


Personally, usually most of the 3-4 commute hours per day I can spend in productive work so the time factor isn't a big issue. But cost wise I have literally saved thousands of dollars not commuting the last six months - probably to the equivalence of a 15% pre-tax pay rise.


Same here. Just on the really obvious and direct expenses, I got around a 15% raise out of this. There are a lot of other expenses that have gone way down as well and the other expenses that have increased have been... basically line noise. An extra $10 on coffee a month compared to $1200+ in savings isn’t even worth looking at.

And this is still when it’s unknown whether I’ll need to go back to an office full time at some point. If this turns into even 60-80% remote long term, I can start looking at things like selling the second car, moving a little further out instead of paying a premium for a “short” 1 hour commute, etc.

And that’s all without even discussing the time. The extra several hours a day I have to spend with my wife/child/dogs and doing things I love instead of sitting in gridlock are invaluable.


Not everyone employed had these benefits to start with. What pains me is seeing tech employees complain about lost perks while the rest of the population is really suffering. How comfortable do we need to be to lose the sense of reality?


It’s part of the entire package of compensation for working at a company. If my employer cuts my pay by $30,000 and says, “you’re still making more than most the population”, I’m going to leave and go somewhere that pays me more?

Is this privilege? Of course. A lot of people don’t have the luxury to go get a better job if their pay gets cut. But how does me foregoing that privilege help them?

I have no idea what the point of your comment is. Are you just wanting people to feel bad because they don’t like that WFH made their life a little worse?

Edit: The parent comment was edited after I started writing my comment. Said something about GP’s comment being a privileged one, amongst other things. Just for some context about where I’m coming from with my comment.


> Not everyone employed had these benefits to start with.

The key points I'm talking about are "some form of office" and I believe most people who can WFH had that. Even people who don't work in offices usually have a workplace, i.e. the utilities issue applies to them as well.

Less privileged workers will be hit harder by this, because a couple hundred bucks for all the bullet points I listed each month is not a huge deal to a tech worker, but potentially a massive deal for someone who makes less.

The additional perks are a tiny part of it, and subsidized (not free) cafeterias aren't uncommon even outside of tech in Germany. This will affect all office workers, not just tech.


> massive cost when you take them all together over years

I believe this is the very definition of penny wise, pound foolish. If the cost of providing an office is seriously noticeable against the (comfortable) labor of your people your company has much bigger problems than "business expenses".


The real estate is not a cost if you have an office setup at home anyway. As a computer programmer, why would I not? Cleaning and maintenance of that office is just part of what I do.

Almost any commute is going to outweigh those factors.


I live in a 2 bedroom 900 square foot condo with a toddler. The kitchen table acted as my “desk” before COVID, usually in a pinch if I really had to. Currently I have half of our bedroom stuffed with a desk so I can work full time during the day.

Not everybody’s situation is the same. I really liked my situation before COVID. I had a 10 minute walk to work, a large public park across the street where the city maintained the “yard”, and I saw my daughter for hours most evenings. Many co-workers who lived further out barely saw their kids during the week.

Obviously, COVID has caused a lot of people who love urban living to take a hard look at it. Living in a city loses its appeal when all the amenities are closed/gone, but the real estate “is not a cost” is not true for everybody. An extra bedroom where I live would have been hundreds of thousands more. We elected not to spend the money because, well, I had a desk at the office and we were only going to have one kid.


> Obviously, COVID has caused a lot of people who love urban living to take a hard look at it. Living in a city loses its appeal when all the amenities are closed/gone

I still don't really understand this attitude. Sure, if you're only living in a particular city to be close to your office, it makes sense to re-evaluate when your office is now your home. But if you like living in a city because of those urban amenities... they're not gone forever. They're already starting to reopen, cautiously, to some extent, and I expect things will be back mostly to normal early/mid next year (minus, unfortunately, businesses that did/will not survive the shutdown). It seems pretty short-sighted to leave a place you otherwise love because of conditions that are temporary.


People in general are notorious for their short term thinking. I’m not re-evaluating personally, even though a good chunk of those amenities are gone and it remains to be seen what will replace them. However, people I know are “fleeing”. At the height of the lockdowns, many people with kids freaked out a bit as the services that serviced the homeless, addicted, and those with mental health problems closed, essentially dumping them on the street where they took over public parks. Even though things are going back to normal, the damage was done in these people’s heads and they’re heading for the suburbs.

I’m not sure how things may change long term. (God I hope) in 5 years a new wave of people who didn’t live here during the pandemic will replace them. I suspect that even if people work from home full time on a more permanent basis, the cul-de-sac bedroom community suburbs will become even more isolating as people spend all their time there, not just for the quiet evenings and weekends.

We’ll see, I guess.


That's far from the case for everybody. Extra heating is looking like it'll cost me another £80-100 over winter whereas I have no commuting costs atm.


That's barely the cost of a couple of cups of take-out coffee a week for the cold months, which I'd be far more likely to buy when at work.


£100 is trivial if you're getting paid £100,000

If you're making £12,000 a year though? That £100 might be your entire budget for Christmas presents.


That £100 might be your entire budget for groceries. There's a real economic class difference that I think a lot of people aren't seeing here.


Speak for yourself, I have good coffee at the office. Hell I spend way more on coffee now just to go sit somewhere that's not my main room.


> I have good coffee at the office

Then in my experience you're an outlier! I've never worked in an office with anything other than the worst bilge available for free....


I think both big house 2 hours away and small studio 10 minutes away would both be happy about WFH. This means small studio 10 minutes away can move out of his small studio that he lives in only because its 10 minutes away.

EDIT: Not to say that studio 10 minutes from work might enjoy other aspects of his living situation but if his main constraint of "must be 10 minutes from work" is lifted, that gives him much more flexibility.


Moving isn't easy if your have a mortgage plus I don't particularly want to move.

Even if I did I got a great deal on my flat and I'd have to move right out the the edge of town or to a very rough neighborhood to afford an additional room for the same price.

Lastly you're ignoring that some of us genuinely like being in an office. I like the physical separation between work and home, I like seeing folk day to day and I like discussing things and working together in person.


On the other side, those people you want to see in person all the time might not be enjoying that.


Well tough luck for them because I am the boss :)


The implicit assumption is that small studio 10 minutes away wants to work in a city center and therefore "making" them move to bigger digs somewhere further out is a downgrade. Which may or may not be true.


In any case having WFH gives them the option, as I said they could have lots of OTHER reasons they want to live there, but removing that constraint provides an additional degree of freedom.


So let’s give a tax cut to WFH people. Next, if you cost the employer less money, that means they are more profitable which means RSUs should become more valuable. Or, at the very least, ask for a pay raise. If your productivity is the same or greater, that shouldn’t be too hard. If you are replaceable by a cheaper worker, then that’s more of a statement i of your value rather than company economics. You can also move to a much cheaper area with much lower taxes. If my offices in Silicon Valley weren’t reopening in January, I’d already be living in Reno.

“Free” food isn’t free. “Amenities” aren’t free either.

Saving on the commute however, that’s a substantial savings in your time. Even if you have your commute subsidized, you aren’t likely being paid for your commute time. Getting back an hour or more per day is more valuable to me than a ping pong table or free coffee.

For those that live five minutes from the office — now you can move and save a pile of money in the process.


> For those that live five minutes from the office — now you can move and save a pile of money in the process.

No thanks, I like my kids to be able to walk from school to home.


I'd like a view of the ocean from my home office window, however I don't want it enough to pay market rates for it. You may feel otherwise and are free to spend your money as you wish.


Yeah, I agree. I miss my old routine too. I even have a dedicated office of sorts, and working from home is comfortable and convenient to me. But... I miss the commute. The bus I used to take wasn't particularly uncrowded, but I always managed to get a seat (thanks to having a particularly early schedule) and I used to take the opportunity to read (since each trip took about 40-45 minutes, that's about 1h30m of reading a day), and from time to time I would just put my book down and look at the window, which I always found relaxing even if it's the very same trip everyday. These trips, especially the one in the morning, were about the most quiet moments of my day (although headphones are a necessity, for sure). Reading at home is just not the same, after so many years of having that schedule.

On the other hand, I don't particularly miss the office. Sure, it's nice to have breakfast with my workmates from time to time, but I can live without it.


Just another data point, but I absolutely don’t miss my 2.5hrs round trip commute. I spend on average 1 hr more working, and run the other hour. And still get an extra 30mins family time. Win-win-win situation. No, I don’t miss going to the office.


A sibling semi-facetiously suggests taking a bus ride out and back, which obviously isn't a great idea during a global pandemic, but... I think it's a pretty good idea otherwise?

Or you could just walk (or bus, when it's safer to do so) to a park, sit on a bench, and read for a half hour? Or maybe even the full hour and a half, so you get some uninterrupted reading in, and you can pick whether you do that in the morning, or in the evening? Or, hell, do half in the morning and half in the evening as you do now, just without the pressure to get somewhere.

I keep hearing how some people (mostly those who don't have to drive themselves) like their commute, and are sad they don't have one anymore, and may not even after COVID restrictions are lifted, but... you've been given that time back to do whatever you want with it. How is that not in every way better than a commute, even one you currently enjoy?


I'm being facetious but also maybe not: why don't you take a 40min bus trip around the neighbourhood and return home before you start your WFH schedule?


It's just not the same... but I sometimes have fantasised a bit about doing it (and other variants, like taking trains).

Anyway I'd rather not use public transport right now. I don't think it's safe.


Or just take a short walk.


I think that's why people go to cafe to read. There's a certain ambiance they've come to expect and appreciate. Maybe what you really need (when it's feasible) is a cafe, or even just a bus with an hourly route you can sit in for a while to get out and appreciate that feeling?


I think a big part is just being somewhere different. Most days I spend at my desk but some days are more about researching and I go sit outside with my laptop (stopped because fires). I'd happily go to a coffee shop if it weren't for the pandemic. It is nice to just have a new scenery and change things up a little.

I should also mention I don't mind commutes that are: walk to bart, read, get off bart, walk to work, work, reverse. I DO mind commutes that are: drive for an hour, sit in traffic, avoid that asshole trying to cut into my lane, and listen to podcasts. (I like podcasts, it is the driving part that is frustrating) It is substantially more stressful.


Could you not get on a bus anyway? or sit in a park?


The locale is not important.

The important thing is that it's time that is literally impossible to re-allocate to either housework or work-work.

Any makeshift substitute won't have that property, and you'll be pressured to skip it in order to do more housework or more work-work.


I disagree. It's just a matter of habit. I spend 30 min doing some language learning exercises every day and have broken my "streak" maybe 10 times over 2 years. Missing out on 10 days is insignificant. There have been weeks where I felt like I should quit. Reading a book sounds relaxing compared to that.


People need to adapt. Just because you can't seem to figure out how to read a book now or listen to pod casts because you only did those things when forced to commute, isn't a good argument against WFH.


I didn't read their post as an argument against WFH, just that they happened to like their routine. I happened to bike to work, about 10mi per day. I rarely get on my bike now, sure I could, but I liked the routine and it really helped me get exercise. Like the OP I'm not saying everyone should do that, just that it worked for me. If I had to commute 2hr in traffic by car I would absolutely prefer WFH.


Sometimes I do a “fake commute” by foot, walking around 15 min outside from my kitchen to my home office. The days I don’t want, I just walk into the home office. Sometimes I take this walk at the lunch break, or after work. I can accomplish errands sometimes.

So it is all about habits and freedom. Turns out freedom is not that easy to manage. Artists and self employed people have to be able to manage such things themselves (think writing an album at home), and it’s interesting to see that many people are struggling with that.


If the air wasn't toxic I usually try to go for a couple walks with the dog around my place in the Oakland hills. Its pretty nice area to wander around. Some steep stairs provide some opportunity for a bit more strenuous exercise which is nice.


Oh right, keep safe then! Hope the situation gets better soon.


Exactly. As I said, I'm comfortable working from home and I see the advantages, it's just that the commute happens to be one of the pre-pandemic things that I miss. It's definitely something subjective, and in fact I would say that the trend of increasing remote work is generally beneficial.


This is an uncharitable, mean spirited take on the comment you’re responding to and you should feel bad for having submitted it. Please take a moment to draw upon empathy before posting in the future.


This is incorrectly being downvoted. The parent absolutely has a point, given GP's choice of words ("you can't seem to figure out how to read a book now...")


When I’m home my family wants to talk, watch TV or do so many other things not conducive to deep focus. On the train I can put on some music, and generally only be interrupted about once per hour.

And it’s not like there’s really any places to get deep focus anymore. The parks and plazas are filled with air pollution, cafes are takeout only and libraries are closed.


Genuinely confused about the parks and plazas comment. Is this a specific regional air pollution concern or related to covid?

I thought that overall air pollution was way down, and covid dispersion outdoors was a minor concern. Where I'm at, I avoid indoor space maximally, but outdoors I am comfortable with 6 ft and a mask.


I wouldn’t think the commuting air is much better than in a park. Outside beats inside in most scenarios, doesn’t it?


I think the biggest mistake people not used to WFH make is they drop too much of their routine. Of course I am not talking about the commute but I refer to simple events from taking a shower each morning to dressing for work. All these rituals are important and should only be discarded where its not viable.

I even make sure to my favorite fast food breakfast once a week and coffee twice a week. Fortunately for me that is but a ten minute drive one way to the closest place to fill that requirement but it fulfills the ritual.

One item to remember to add in to that time and money savings of your commute, you safety and security has gone up as well


In some places there clearly is a push towards "back to the office" for everyone. Which is quite different from "you can come back to the office if that works better for you". E.g. our offices are pretty empty (and thus safer to be in), but available to those that want them, whereas I see customers where there is clear pressure to be in the office if at all possible.


Exactly, I have a 1 bdrm apartment (in law) that I share with my wife. We alternate working at a desk in the living area, at the dining table or a folding table set up in the bedroom. I used to commute 20min by bike in the SF East Bay. I very infrequently go in when I need to do something in the lab (biotech company, not everything can be done remotely).

When I found this place I never intended for it to for it to be full time wfh space for 2 people.

If I knew I'd only go to the office once a month I could live in Minden, NV or something.


Yeah but then you'd have to live in Minden, NV. From a guy who grew up in Gardnerville, NV, it's sure as hell not a place I'd ever move to - if you're looking for the nature and tax break of Nevada outside Tahoe or Incline is probably much nicer.


Is Gardnerville bad though? Never been there but the town seems to have really cheap land, some beautiful ranch properties, reasonable proximity to Tahoe/skiing, and zero income tax. I know culture is not measured in $/sq.ft but as a Californian paying out the nose in taxes for nothing, it seems to be a pretty decent location.


My dad used to have a house there - other than the Basque food I can’t imagine why I’d go back


Where should I go for good basque food? I went to the hotel beside the train station in Winnemucca when I was driving through and it was interesting but didn't feel particularly authentic. Maybe that is authentic Basque-American food...


J.T. Basque Bar; but now that I punch the address in the house actually had a Minden address (well north of both towns). Minden itself is just big box strip mall territory.


Yeah, J.T. had okay food but there's not much going on, almost everyone I went to highschool with is still there doing min wage jobs at one of the fast food places or few stores that Walmart hasn't put out of business. Also, doesn't apply to everyone (obviously) but my experience was probably quite different because I'm part black - select experiences include being called N*gger while walking around town repeatedly, almost being run off the road by a guy with a confederate flag covering the back window of his truck, and having rocks thrown at me by schoolmates. To be clear, I'm not one of those people who care that much about "microagressions" and think I generally have pretty thick skin, but there were some situations where I felt physically unsafe because of my skin color. Also, if you have kids, they are not going to get a good education. Graduation rates were awful, I personally knew 2-3 kids in my class who committed suicide... Beautiful place from the outside and nice views with lots of space, tough place to live in reality.


I like the sagebrush and the wide open spaces. Lived in Eastern WA for a few years. Haven't really been out to Carson valley area much just seems appealing. Also, not sure I want to deal with shoveling tons of snow at Tahoe after 20+ years in Canada and the Midwest.

Might need to reconsider Minden though https://twitter.com/markpmeredith/status/1304932801649623040


So? Ideally nobody would force you to stay at home, just like nobody would force your colleague to go to the office. Different people have different preferences, why not (try to) satisfy them all?


One of the problems of remote work is that it’s kind of an all or nothing thing for your team. If some people are in the office and some people work from home, inevitably (in my experience) a lot of small decisions get made in the office without consulting the remote workers. And that creates a divide - the people in the office end up with more power and authority than the remote folks.

Some teams fight this with some strict rules - eg insisting conversations between people sitting next to each other happen over slack. But I think it will usually work better in the long run if either everyone is in the office or basically everyone is remote.


I understand what you're saying but only with respect to global remote hires. I've seen the same attempts to fight it. But with local hires and optional wfh you just let that sort of problem work itself out. If the by-choice wfh person feels like they are left out its on them to do something about it. Its a personal problem not a team problem.


“You’re welcome to work from home, so long as you’re happy being systematically forgotten about in team decisions and passed over for promotions.”

Yeah, that’d definitely work itself out; but it’s not what I would describe as a remote friendly workplace.


I can't tell what you're arguing. An employee makes a daily conscious decision to wfh and is then upset about any consequences of doing so? Is this person an adult?


I think it’s ridiculous to accept those sort of downsides for remote workers. Working remotely doesn’t have to be a second class citizen to working from the office. It takes work to set up, but it can work great.


This is not ideal. Ideal is everyone at home or everyone in the office. Half half leads to people being left out.


I was forced to WFH, same as most of my colleagues. Most who keep going to work don't really have much choice (apart from resigning for which ain't the best time now). What are you talking about?


> Ideally

You missed a key word in the parent post.

_Ideally_ people wouldn't be forced into multiple hour long commutes either, but that has been the reality for many before this year.


Comparing being "forced" to commute hours (in a house that you chose to live in when you took the job) is a bit disingenuous to being actually forced by a pandemic to not go into an office.

Im happy for all the people that can live happily hours outside of urban areas but the insistence that remote work is uniformly better for all people is just so exhausting. I for one, will be glad when it ends and will continue to prioritize companies that keep most of their work force in office; bringing work into my living space has been terrible for my mental health (anecdotally this sentiment has been shared among other single young people i know in the city).


> the insistence that remote work is uniformly better for all people is just so exhausting

The insistence that we need to force everyone back into the office makes me quite upset.


> His wife looks after kids who are at school most of the day again

This is the real story.

Suppose you're a company that pays someone a really handsome salary. It's a man. Do you want him in the office, where he is guaranteed to spend 0 hours taking care of kids, or at home, where it's not guaranteed?

Don't pin this on the wife. Do you think she'd rather he drive 2 hours a day and not take care of the kids, and get paid $400k/yr, or nothing, because whatever he's doing is actually very competitive and there will always someone else gunning for that job, so this obsequious rehash of the "well just work part time" idea that exclusively programmers engage in does not apply? So there is no actual option, part time take care of the kids?


> Do you want him in the office, where he is guaranteed to spend 0 hours taking care of kids

Almost all of the casual conversations with my kids are more interesting than the casual conversations with my coworkers.

The puzzle of the rare effective and profitable office conversation is kinda like the rare and effective advertisement; we simply accept that 99% of it is useless and force enormous amounts of engagement to promote those casual successful interactions.


> Do you want him in the office, where he is guaranteed to spend 0 hours taking care of kids, or at home, where it's not guaranteed?

I want him wherever he feels he’s more productive. If that means he plays around with his kids 2 hours a day then more power to him.


Just 20 minutes one way adds up to 20 working days per year. That's 4 weeks of unpaid labor!

People are unhappy about extra money spent on Air Conditioning or an extra office chair but the most are happy to carry the opportunity cost of commute. :(


I have a 5 minute commute.

I make it 30 min by walking through a park to have a coffee in the morning and unwind before going home in the afternoon.


Definitely this. My employer is allowing for this flexibility / lifestyle choice by having offices for those who prefer to work from an office, as well as for those times when it would be easier to get together to collaborate. They’re still working through the details, but I think it’s a good balance.

As someone with a comfortable WFH situation, and a 1h commute, I’ll definitely be staying at home most of the time once offices re-open - and maybe even consider moving a bit further out for a bit more space.


I'm not sure. I think it's still too early for people to be comfortable going to open offices.

My company officially allowed on-site work again several weeks ago in NYC. I have one close colleague that tried it, and he was the only on in the office. I know several colleagues in small apartments that were not fans of not being in the office that have not returned yet.

Sure, more space at home makes it easier to drag this to the long term, but even people inconvenienced at home have found solutions for 180 days now, and aren't (at least with my company) jumping to come back.


The most important thing is choice. Some people are better off telecommuting and some people prefer the office. Forcing someone to use the environment that's worse for them will make them unhappy.


I would be in favor of a number of working arrangements, ranging from working in a Bay Area office full-time(least favorite) to working from home most-time in an area that provides me with the chance to buy a home and have a reasonable commute to a satellite office.

I am absolutely, 100% against full-time WFH in an expensive, low-quality(no sound/thermal insulation) Bay Area apartment without a dedicated workspace.

> if your job can be done from home, it can be done from anywhere in the world

I will call anyone's bluff who says this. Do it. Good luck. If you haven't successfully done this already, there is a reason and you know it.

One final point is that anyone looking to judge my WFH productivity better take into account the endless procession of major disasters taking place outside my window. WFH in a pandemic with looting and massive wildfires is not the same as WFH in a 'normal' year.


>> if your job can be done from home, it can be done from anywhere in the world

> I will call anyone's bluff who says this. Do it. Good luck. If you haven't successfully done this already, there is a reason and you know it.

Welp, I'm the CEO of a smart wearable device company (https://pavlok.com). We were based in Boston because everyone told me, and I believed you HAD to be in one place to build a startup, and DEFINITELY for a hardware startup.

Then when I finally closed the Boston office and moved to Medellin, Colombia. Then budapest. Then Berlin. Then Bali. Then Mexico.

All while doing the same for the team -- remote first, work anywhere.

Only then did we begin to explode in productivity and success.

I don't think it's true for EVERY job (tough to do janitorial cleanup from another country). But it is possible for a lot lot lot lot more than you think.


Sorry I was unclear. What I was trying to say is that if you haven't offshored your team already(i.e. moved part of your engineering operations to E. Europe, Asia, etc.), then you have a good reason for doing so. Offshoring engineering has been going on for decades at this point. Anyone threatening that working from home means your job is a target for offshoring(to someone else, not you in that location) is full of beans. It's an empty threat.

I have no doubt that I could personally move to another country and do my job. I seriously considered it as a way to escape unfair alimony payments, and still might.


> What I was trying to say is that if you haven't offshored your team already, then you have a good reason for doing so.

What if, pre-covid, the reason was "we believe having everyone in one office, regularly meeting face-to-face, is more productive than anything involving videoconferencing" ?


Many companies have a history of failed outsourcing efforts. Or ones that didn't fail, but which failed to realize any costs savings.

And, of course, there are often other similar failures, like failures related to contractors, or failed attempts to switch from internally built software tools to third party vendors.

If a company has been around for 30 years and isn't using an option that seems much cheaper, there is going to be a history behind that.


These companies certainly can try and great for them if they can make it work. If it was easy though it would have already happened to a greater extent.


We have never had the case where _everyone_ has to work remotely.

One of the reasons why offshoring failed is that you needed to be in the office to have a 30 second chat about something that saved you a few minutes of digging to find it yourself, which added up quickly.

This is no longer the case.

There are still reasons to not offshore, but we do not know if they are enough to keep it from happening. These conversations tell you more about the mentality of the people having them than about the viability of offshoring.


> I have no doubt that I could personally move to another country and do my job

Yes, but your compensation will be reduced. You can't take you SF salary into Eastern Europe.


How do you know the success explosion wasn't about to happen regardless?


Because I would have run out of money and died pretty soon after if I hadn’t left


Does that imply the key factor wax runway (captilal) rather than the remote work itself?


I don't think the point being made was that you can't have a remote workplace, it's that you can't just find the place in the world that has the cheapest labor and assume you'll be successful.


I can’t even with this comment.

Not everyone has the resources to make a working place anywhere viable. You seem to have the resources to make a hotel in Budapest or whatever work. Talking so causally about international travel already puts you beyond most Americans’ income.

So yeah it is very, very easy for folks with a job like yours, and with the resources you’re afforded, to work anywhere. The issue isn’t proximity to resources, but the ability to complete work.


Staying at AirBnBs in the listed cities and working from there is quite likely cheaper than renting office space in Boston (probably even including airfare). So it’s not about “resources” as in money, it’s about being able to be productive working from all these places, especially when taking into account the time zone difference to other members of the team.


Yes, and... I’d be curious to see which digital nomads follow the local taxes regulations. It’s easy to get in trouble with working abroad.


Fully agreed, taxes and work permit/visa are topics that are likely being neglected by most. Often, there simply isn’t a visa category that allows individuals to work for foreign entities while residing in another country, as regular work visas are for employment with an entity based in the country.


>regular work visas are for employment with an entity based in the country

Usually true. Although some countries (like China) do have a business visa that you're supposed to get if you're e.g. attending a business event.

With a US passport traveling to countries for example, there's nothing keeping you from visiting for a month or two and working from a short-term rental. I don't know all the theoretical rules that may exist but I know traveling partly/fully on business, people obviously do work for their US company all the time without filing any special paperwork.


I met these guys a long time ago in Boston. It's literally a company based on a physical device that shocks you to make you more productive. It's a fucking joke


We’ve sold over 100,000 devices and helped people quit smoking, wake up on time, and lose weight. You can see articles about our users in the NyTimes, Bloomberg, and more. Why such hate, for a product that helps people?

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/a-shocking-way-rea...

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/arti...


Why does working remote-first require more resources from the worker? You don't have a commute and you have the flexibility to choose where to work. In this scenario, nobody is forcing you to travel anywhere—a sharp contrast to non-remote jobs where you have to relocate if you don't already live in the right, usually expensive, place!


Snacking, food, cleaning, equipment etc.


Don't be daft, an average US salary will get you an above average life almost anywhere else in the world.


It seems to be implied with the closing of their Boston office that the whole staff is remote, not just this person.


also that they had already built a strong team


I moved out of Boston because we were spending money too quickly. I dropped non-personnel expenses by 80% by doing so....


Yeah, I don't know about working from "anywhere in the world"... I'm sure there's places without good internet, etc... that would make that difficult or impossible.

I can say one thing about it after being 100% WFH for 2+ years now, I can set my alarm clock, to wake me up exactly 1 hour before my morning video conference "standup" meeting, and still have time to wash-up, make coffee, watch the markets open, be properly awake and caffinated to participate in the meeting, etc...

Previously, depending on the total commute time, I would need to set that same alarm perhaps 2 hours or more in advance... the stress of the commute aside, I was getting less sleep on average, and in my line of work ( programming ) sleep is valuable to me, it helps me think better than when tired.

I feel more rested, healthier, happier, less stressed, and I know my productivity has INCREASED over the alternative in-office scenarios...


I'm an MD of a very small firm in the UK and I have had my mindset changed by events. A huge social experiment on homeworking has been done (and ongoing) and results are in.

I will make my commuters into remote workers by default unless they either want to come in or have to. One of my guys is Polish in Poland and can do whatever the hell he wants! Most of my staff are a bit stressed over SARS-COV-2, as am I but we will crack on.

I'm glad to hear you are thriving. You are one of the folks keeping your economy going (wherever that is) - take some pride in that.


> A huge social experiment on homeworking has been done (and ongoing) and results are in.

Sort of? Unfortunately this experiment also has included forced isolation and social distancing, and for parents where schools and day care have closed, a further experiment in what happens when parents have to simultaneously do child care and get work done.

I expect it's hard to look at what's going on now and really see what prevalent home-working looks like in normal times, when there isn't a global pandemic going on, people can still meet co-workers when necessary, and friends for normal social activities, and parents can still send their kids to school and get in a productive day of work without constant interruptions from their kids.


> A huge social experiment on homeworking has been done (and ongoing) and results are in.

No they really aren't. It will be several years until we really understand the effect of remote work on areas like talent management, retention, idea generation, trust building, etc.


My company (IT consultancy) is based in the SW of England. One of my employees is Polish and now lives in Poland. Mid 2019 he decided to return to Poland from here (got married, child born, look after ailing parents etc!) and we came to an agreement.

He gets paid UK rates for a UK job and lives in Poland as a sub-contractor. He may do other stuff there as well but I don't care - I get my pound of flesh 8) Poland is an hour ahead of the UK so he generally gets to run the 0800 start which works nicely.

Now this is not the new normal bollocks. It works for us and him. I can't ask him to go to Cardiff and roll out a few dozen new laptops but in general it doesn't matter that he is in a town in Poland that I can't possibly pronounce the name of, instead of Yeovil, when fixing a snag in Sherborne or Hull.

I and my company are very lucky that we can still function effectively, regardless of location. I as MD am now much more disposed towards home working. We were already pretty flexible but now I am far keener on even more flexibility. There are loads of silly and not so silly things to work out eg "I did x but n doesn't seem to be pulling their weight" etc. We need to invent mechanisms to deal with this. We already do a weekly get together on Teams but that is not good enough.


> I will call anyone's bluff who says this. Do it. Good luck. If you haven't successfully done this already, there is a reason and you know it.

I tend to agree. At least as it relates to offshoring. My company has been doing a 50/50 split between the US and Hyderabad/Pune for years, and there is no real danger of us moving everything to India. Good developers there aren't really that much cheaper than good developers in the US. The 10-12 hour offset is a huge impediment to success. Some folks there will work really late to make up for it, but there's still a pretty big gap. Not a lot we can do to make it better other than move entire groups over there and minimize communication requirements.

What I can see happening is more competition within the US. Having developers offset a couple hours is no big deal. Same culture, same language, and three hours ahead is just fine. We do that every day. So it may be that remote developers who used to work in expensive locations like SF will find that they can't command that salary when they are indistinguishable from any other remote developer in the continental US.


> > if your job can be done from home, it can be done from anywhere in the world

> I will call anyone's bluff who says this. Do it. Good luck. If you haven't successfully done this already, there is a reason and you know it.

I can give an example here: Back in March/April, we were told that if we wanted to "WFH" in another state, we had to get approval first due to laws around payments and taxes. Some states were pre-approved because of remote workers we already employed, but most had to be looked into and it wasn't a guarantee they'd be approved.


if your job can be done from home, it can be done from anywhere in the world

Anyone who says this has never tried to work closely with someone in a timezone ~12 hours away.


>> if your job can be done from home, it can be done from anywhere in the world

> I will call anyone's bluff who says this. Do it. Good luck. If you haven't successfully done this already, there is a reason and you know it.

I'm a dev and I say confidently that I can code from anywhere and produce the exact same output as in an office. In fact, not having to deal with the stress of office conditions will almost surely get you better code out of me. Maybe you do something non-technical, but for most any tech job, I can't understand why you say this.


It’s an interesting question.

First it’s wrong to assume there cannot exist multiple sets of laws in the same physical place, which reduces to effectively the economics of offshoring. Amazon delivery contractors deploy undocumented workers or people with unlicensed driving skills, paying them $7/hr and charging Amazon $15/hr. It’s economically positive for sure. The drivers live here. Is it really the same country or the same laws?

It’s also wrong to assume people have tried or will document the consequences of their try. Apple already earns more than $1m per retail employee. The gulf between Apple and BestBuy’s revenue per employee is much bigger than the savings due to offshoring anywhere in the world. I personally don’t think it’s obvious why Apple Retail stores are so successful, it is multifactorial and very difficult to reproduce, so even basic service jobs may never be worth trying to offshore (whatever that means) if there’s absolutely no way it could really matter. Another way of looking at it is that retail store bankruptcies occurring today were inevitable, the economics of what they were doing never made sense, so even if offshoring could save them money they were still doomed. This is a much harder conversation to have about IBM or Accenture, who have made offshoring a consistent economic positive for someone, we just can’t be sure it is for their clients or for them. However, it seems pretty obvious that a robot (or an abstraction thereof, like an automated warehouse) can do a lot of what retail workers do.

So I still think it’s all about the mechanics of the job, and it’s definitely a signal if you can WFH.


> working from home most time in an area that provides me with the chance to buy a home and have a reasonable commute to a satellite office

Companies will lower our salaries as we move to more affordable places to live. It already is dependent on location, people in the same team living in US and EU have different compensations.


This final point is so important. I have been full-time WFH for the last ~6 years, and 2020 is by far and above 10x worse than any prior year. My immediate environment has not changed much, but the disruptions elsewhere have added up to quite the psychological burden.


> I will call anyone's bluff who says this. Do it. Good luck. If you haven't successfully done this already, there is a reason and you know it.

It's fine. They can force the expensive employee to teach the new cheap person everything they need to know in the few weeks before departure!

/s


LOL, yeah, sure.


1. WFH is not for everyone. There are people with kids and no dedicated workplace at home. There are people with low motivation and self-control, and office routine just helps them to keep up.

2. You can't mix WFH with work in office. It's either one or the other. If you have a single employee working remotely - you should transform all the processes to WFH-style.

3. WFH shifts most of the burden onto management. Managers should put 120-150% of effort in planning, communication, documentation and checking. I never saw a single manager who likes WFH. And the management are the ones who decides.


> 2. You can't mix WFH with work in office. It's either one or the other. If you have a single employee working remotely - you should transform all the processes to WFH-style.

You don't provide the line of thinking behind this statement. Why do you think this is the case?

Also, even taking your statement at face value, you can still have a setup where there are fewer days in the office and more days working from home for every employee. Basically, have flexible in-office hours, whether that means only certain days, or certain parts of certain days.

This sort of flexibility could be of great benefit to the employee who has kids, or is just tired of sitting in traffic or crowded trains 5 days a week. As a bonus, it could reduce crowding on transit lines during peak hours.


This is what I came here to say. As usual, arguments (just in the general) are polarised: it’s either in the office 40 hours a week or work from a beach in Thailand and nothing in between.

How about the sensible reality where we have an office, that we can get to, but we aren’t expected to turn up there every day just because? Where I work from home a few days a week to get that tricky stuff done – heaps harder in a distracting office – but then I go in a few days to connect with colleagues, catch up on the conversations, overhear things across the partition?

This saves my sanity, money, and time, and saves my employer ~50% of their office space. Win-win, surely?

(Not that I disagree with the sentiment that all processes should be made WFH-friendly. I think that’s very sensible. But it doesn’t mean that I necessarily must WFH the whole time.)


I believe their argument is that if you have one remote person you need to have a remote culture so that person is not left out of communications. If you rely on the office to communicate, a remote person is going to really miss out.


>saves my employer ~50% of their office space. Win-win, surely?

Only if you hotel, which a lot of people don't want.

In general, I agree with you. But if that's the norm it means people still need to live at least somewhat accessible to the office. For even one day per week, a 3 hour each way commute isn't really sustainable.

And what if a team consists almost entirely of people who want to come in 3 or 4 days per week? They'll likely end up just ghosting the one person who will reluctantly drag themselves in 1 day per week.


I’ve worked at companies where this was done right and wrong.

From my experience, if most employees are in an office and only a minority are remote, the remote employees are at a big disadvantage, unless the company (or remote employees) actively work to make sure they’re included in as much as possible.

If it’s in the company’s culture to have lots of ad-hoc in-person conversations where remote employees are unlikely to be included, they’re going to have a bad time. If those conversations mostly happen in chat or scheduled meetings with video chat, then it might work.

I think it’s probably better to just have whole teams be entirely (or at least majority) remote, or entirely onsite.


Sorry, I was too consumed by making a clear statements and didn't put enough effort into arguments.

First of all, I am talking about teams of 20+ employees, e.g. 3 pizz-teams or more. This is a number when you definitely need two levels of management, event if one of them consists of makers-managers, e.g. teamleads.

That is the scale where you can't keep all the data in one head. So the information is distributed among employees, managers and no one has a full pucture. Some people know their segments with specifics, some has a helicopter view with coarse details.

Now, in office-based team you have a privilege to keep most of the data in the heads, because everyone can just walk to anyone and talk to them at the end of the day (pun intended).

You have those daily stand-ups, weekly all-hands, but most of the data are still don't have a hard copies. Of course you are writing specs, maybe you are writing docs, chances are you are writing company-wide weekly updates (and wondering if anyone actually reading it).

I know a lot of companies where people just changed in-person meetings to Zoom and are thinking they are fully remote now, In fact, they are just burning through data savings in their employees heads. It becomes visible rignt about now, after about 6 months of this quasi-remote. Teams are slowly turning into mess where right hand has no idea about left one. What took couple of weeks now takes month or even longer.

So, managers are trying to fight it with more conference-calling, more reporting, itemized plans and Gant diagrams, putting some pressure to engineers. At the same time engineers are trying to restore horisontal communications via chats, which leads to distraction and further loss of productivity.

This is because remote teams should work in a completely different manner. Great example is Gitlab, check out their handbook [0]. Mind you - that this is just a tip of the iceberg, they are incredibly transparent, but they are showing less than 5% of what they have.

So, in fully remote company you should organize all processes and workflows in a manner when no one should be synchronized with anyone in real time. You should ditch conference-calling almost entirely and record remaining video meetings to be available later. You should switch from chats back to emails, yes! You have to write down everything: specs, docs, meeting protocols, decisions - both accepted and rejected. And this is just a beginning: you also should keep all those in an actual state. Do you know a lot of companies where documentation and code are 100% coherent 100% of the time? I don't.

And of course most of this work is falling onto managers' shoulders: not only writing stuff by themselves, but checking that everyone else is writing stuff too.

Some people (even in this thread) may say that their company is doing just fine without all this and they are just happy saving commuting time. But I am sure they are just being ineffective, which means sooner or later they will be predated by more effective competitors.

[0] https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/


> I never saw a single manager who likes WFH

I do. But you've never seen me, so there is truth to your words.

The employees are quite productive, I hate commuting, and Zoom works remarkably well to stay connected. Not as well as it could be, but it's finally "over the hill".

Two things worry me:

- The long-term isolation is detrimental to mental health, so we might be on borrowed time right now.

- Onboarding new employees might become more difficult absent ongoing visual contact.


> The long-term isolation is detrimental to mental health, so we might be on borrowed time right now.

With WFH I feel like my social life is better than ever, even with the "quarantine". Due to the flexibility of work days I can meet friends outside at parks and enjoy socializing at a safe distance. This may change in the winter.


If you were working in a truly remote company, onboarding would be the first process polishied to diamond facet condition. I think your company is not "living on borrowed time", but burning through information capital saved during previous years.


> 2. You can't mix WFH with work in office. It's either one or the other. If you have a single employee working remotely - you should transform all the processes to WFH-style.

^ This is not true.

Where I work we have a mix of people who work exclusively from home, some who work some days at home and some in-office, and some who work exclusively from the office. This is including managers (some of whom like working from home, btw). Some people's jobs work better with one arrangement, some with another.

It was like that before March, and now way more people work exclusively from home.

Now I'm sure there are some jobs where having a mix complicates things too much, but it is definitely not universally true that having a mix never works.

My workplace is no special case either, I know of others that work the same way.

[ edited to remove unintentional indentation ]


Is it better now that everyone is working from home now?


I like it better, and the other developers like it better. It is a very good fit for our jobs, and has advantages that all of us very much appreciate.

I haven't done a company-wide survey :-D However, I have not seen complaints from anyone just dying to get back to the office.


Not in general of course but in the way you're asking, yes.

My broader team was already pretty distributed around North America and Europe already. And other groups I work with were pretty distributed as well. But some were in offices and would do calls from conference rooms. It is better, to at least some degree, with everyone now on their own camera/microphone. (And in fact a couple sub-teams already had a rule that everyone did calls from their own computer/phone.)


> You can't mix WFH with work in office.

While I agree, I think there is room for organizations to at least be remote friendly. I'd love to work for an organization that allowed for WFH in the middle of build cycles/sprints and keeping a more strict at-office policy during planing phases of projects.


> I never saw a single manager who likes WFH.

You never saw them because they were WFH :D

But seriously, I've had managers who were happy to WFH a few times a week, though that team was pretty much self-managing on a day-to-day basis with the manager mostly there to make organisational decisions and to provide cover from above.


> WFH shifts most of the burden onto management. Managers should put 120-150% of effort in planning, communication, documentation and checking.

I don't understand the connection between the first and second statements. Can you clarify? How does WFH put more burden on management?


Those people with kids would presumably have to make other arrangements if they were in an office?


> single employee working remotelyl

I can’t disagree with any of your points, but for the past decade, I’ve mostly worked for huge corporations with multiple offices in multiple cities, and have only rarely worked with anybody I’m in the same building (or even the same city) as, including my boss. Until this year, they’ve demanded I physically drive to the office anyway, but there’s never been any reason; I’ve been on zoom calls all day anyway.


I have been working for years in a company that mixed WFH and office, it depends how you do it. In our case we meet at the office periodically to catch up but not every day not everybody and not in every location. The schedule is built according to teams, their specific work needs and time constraints. It require some level of trust but from my experience comparing to office only or wfh only places I worked for, the combined approach is the best. We are mostly people with families so a bit more responsible and appreciative of having time at home but also wanting to escape home from time to time if you know what i mean. So it works perfect.


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