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Permanently remote workers seen doubling in 2021 due to pandemic productivity (reuters.com)
164 points by rustoo 38 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 123 comments

Summary: "The survey said information technology decision-makers expect permanent remote work to double to 34.4% of their companies’ workforces in 2021, compared with 16.4% before the coronavirus outbreak, a result of positive productivity trends.

About 72% of their companies’ total global workforce is currently working remotely, according to the CIOs."

Honestly I would expect it to remain at more than 34%. Who would want to go back to daily commutes of >1h?

If we're able to do our jobs remotely it would be in our interests as human beings to resist losing 5-10 hours a week commuting.

This is great if you have a house with lots of space.

Personally as a single young adult I like living in the city with lots of amenities nearby. I would hate being forced to WFH, the same way some hated being forced to go into the office.

This is an often recurring argument on this subject.

For example, I don't care about having a big garden but I don't necessarily enjoy living in a dense city. If I could WFH at least three days a week for the foreseeable future, I would gladly move to a town in the suburbs where I could have a bigger apartment for the price of my studio apartment. I bet a lot of people would do the same. This would lessen the pressure on housing in the city center, so people like you who actually prefer living in the big city for reasons other than work could afford larger apartments.

My main reason for living where I do is so that my commute is less than 30 minutes each way.

I guess the point is that as the constraint of everyone working in the same place is reduced, there will be less people wanting to live in the city allowing better conditions for those who do.

I mean, permanent remote is also not great (particularly in a context where there are no offices), because for people in my living situation that puts the onus on us to find our "work" zone. I'd rather not spend extra money on more real estate or a WeWork-type membership.

I just don't find it very surprising that ~60-70% of people don't particularly like permanent remote, since it's 1. a departure from the norm and 2. people usually build their home-work separation with the commute, and I would say people expressing missing the commute separation at least some of the time represent a majority, if not a plurality, of my direct coworkers. But we are also at a company that let people do partial WFH pre-COVID.

The work office is not the only way to have an office.

In these times, I'm renting a small one person private office a few minutes away (by bike) from home. It's the best of all worlds. Quiet space to work, it is outside of the house for separation, but very close so the commute is minimal on a bike and don't need to drive.

I don't love having to pay for the space but objectively it is less than the cost of fuel I was spending every month on the commute so I'm still saving money. And my commute is ~7 minutes on a bike instead of 60 minutes driving. And I'm so close to home I can come back mid-day to see my son. Win-win-win.

So yes, I'm planning for permanent remote, life is so much better.

I see this solution becoming more common as remote work increases in prevalence.

I can see this becoming the norm.

What is surprising is the WFH is sort of the default, people have always worked where they live. Whether you are farmer in 1500 Congo or a chinese blacksmith in the Qin dynasty. Life is work.

The solution to the home-work separation, which also has potential to improve mental and physical health, is to go for a 20 minute brisk walk at start and end of the work-day.

Personally I don't know why we need to keep prescribing one-size-fits-all solutions for people who may respond differently. Prescribing fully office was terrible, why is prescribing fully remote not?

Forcing people into a specific building vs saying they can work anywhere. It's a massive difference. People throw around the term WFH, but you could really work anywhere. It's freedom.

There are limits. You’ll be restricted by timezones and your ability to function in them. WFH doesn’t mean async.

Because prescribing simply, easy to agree with yet wildly inaccurate (by their very nature) rules of thumb for every situation is a quick easy way to rack up cheap virtue points.

You get what you incentivize. See that number in the corner? That's why the solution for everything gets turned into lowest common denominator five world sentences.

My kid is in day care, so I get that separation by dropping her off and picking her up. (Fortunately day care is close to my home, not to my office!)

That's about as helpful as telling someone with depression to "just be happy."

They literally recommended something simple and physical that almost any person could do.

Yeah, anyone who has already solved the actual problem by other means. Which is why it's like asking a depressed person to be happy.

Without any regard for whether it works for all people all of the time.

Being forced to work from home is better than being forced to work from an office. In the former case, you can (and I did) rent an office, join a coworking space, work from coffee shops, etc. In the latter case, you have one choice and one choice only, and that choice sucks for a whole lot of folks.

I thought the same for years and chased that dream. Eventually I found I ended up as a miserable isolationist to some degree. So roll on a number of years and I’ve got 5 people living in a tiny house in London. I sleep, eat, work and play in one room and have done for about 10 years now. It’s great and I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

The important thing is that you find activities to do outside the house because it doesn’t matter how big your space is; you need to get away from it sometimes.

Same, we live in a fairly small (90sqm) house which we rebuilt a few years ago. Bedrooms and bathroom are downstairs and upstairs is open plan with high ceilings. My workspace is upstairs and it works out great. Kids going to school and my wife to work neatly bookends the day and I just switch on my own machine and off the companies to keep separation. I'm right in the heart of downtown Reykjavik so heading out to do stuff or take a break is straightforward.

That's a great argument for pushing employers to be prepared to provide an allowance for office space (whether to cover costs of adjusting your home, or for membership at a co-working space convenient for you). We don't need to go back to centralised offices to solve that issue.

Working remotely doesn't have to mean working from home. You could be working from a rented office or shared office space, friends, a hotel and so on.

What's great is the flexibility and customization for each individual employee.

And who pays for that?

For many remote work involves less take home pay.

Employees who adjust to the change and moved out of the high cost of living area.

An example from my own circumstances, I was paying $1800/month for a 1 bedroom in Toronto but now for a little bit less I have a 3 bedroom house with a small yard.

And we are seeing some employers adjust pay to location now too. In the end you are also subsidizing the office out of square footage in your home, and reaping none of the benefits such as socializing with people.

Some employers are adjusting for pay location, not all, and mine didn't because the cost of losing me was more than adjusting the salary for the different location.

I am reaping the $200/month transit pass that I no longer need. As a Canadian I'm able to ask my employer for a T2200 to write some of my expenses off even as an employee.

I'm also saving ~5 hours a week in less commute time.

I'm still socializing with those coworkers in our daily water coolers, weekly syncs, Monday & Friday fireside chat.

Companies usually have budget for setting up remote workers and IME are happy to pay for work spaces.

IME they are not happy to pay for work spaces.

A nice chair, a desk, a monitor. (Not that I have space for a nice chair at home!)

But an office? No way.

Perhaps it's because renting an office costs similar to renting a flat where I live (even though you get less space when renting an office).

I have had positive signals towards paying for a desk in a shared workspace... But wait, aren't we working at home to avoid sharing workspaces at the moment?

Developer for a major hospital that's not in a tech hub. An executive suite got trashed, so we got a used chair ($25 donation to one of our company charities "suggested"), and that was it. If we need more WFH gear than that, then we are told we can go work in our limited remaining office space.

I personally want more free WFH gear, but I think our execs are clever. "Oh, you don't have a desk? Nobody is in the office, so we can give you a socially-distanced 15x15' space for free if you drive in."

I'd hope that stance would shift if they didn't see it as a temporary thing. My experience has only been with remote positions where there is no office to attend.

No employer is going to hand me another $400 a month because I need an apartment with another bedroom to serve as the office.

I lived downtown for years while working remote for companies in different cities. Not going to the office made it even easier to enjoy the city imo.

For some people (me included) the office is a very productive environment. Some things I am really interested in can be smashed out at home with no problems. But boring work is a chore unless I'm at the office where I can get my mind to say "you're at work, you're getting paid for this". I can do boring work well at work, whereas at home I wanna do anything just to get it out of my face.

Not only that, for some people the commute is 1h each way and for others it's 10 minutes. So some people don't see the issue with going into the office every day.

And unless everyone is going to work from home, if you're someone working from home but most other people are in the office then that can stifle your career development for internal promotions. Like it or not, the managers and higher ups will be in the office, it's easier to get to know someone in the office, it's easier to get inside knowledge on what's going on, what projects are happening, etc. I work for a company who has remote developers and none of them are leading anything or have any sort of significant power to influence decisions. They are just man power to get work done, even if that is wrong, that's how it is and I don't see it changing.

For as long as this is the case I don't see fully remote working as a viable career choice. I would only do it for a company which is all remote or all software dev is remote.

Your last point about career development is an interesting one that comes up. If you are remote but your co-workers are interacting in person I can see how there would be an informational advantage in favor of your co-workers that is unavoidable.

My preference is to WFH most of the time, but not all the time. When WFH for awhile, I can much more easily get into a zen-like state of concentration after an hour or so that is extremely difficult to get in an office. At the office I have to contend with constant sources of distractions and interruptions (people walking up on foot, phone ringing, non-work related discussion, ...) which has often made me feel like the only time I can push through a hard problem is during off-hours when no one is around. Most importantly, being in a zen-like state while working and getting stuff done is what makes work enjoyable for me.

That said, whenever there is a significant amount of collaboration or a need for a lot of round-trip communication with someone (new employee, need to bring someone up to speed, ...) it's better in person - but I find this to be only an occasional need.

Thanks for writing this out as you've really hit the nail on the head. I manage a medium sized team and I can tell you some people are totally cool with just being a worker bee. I wish more of the conversation around WFH focused on how everyone is different, one size fits all rarely works, and if you do want to "get ahead" you'll need to put in face time. Period. Humans are social and want connection. Meritocracies are great in principal, but that's just plainly not how the world works. If you want managerial carrier development and growth, you have to put in the face time.

> I wish more of the conversation around WFH focused on how everyone is different, one size fits all rarely works

and then

> if you do want to "get ahead" you'll need to put in face time. Period.

You've just prescribed a one-size-fits-all solution, in the same phrase as saying that it doesn't work. How are you resolving the cognitive dissonance?

Thanks for pointing that out. It was two different points. The first point was that some people don't want to climb the ladder and so should be happy/content with doing their job "working to live, not living to work" kind of idea.

The second point I was trying to say was that if you only WFH, the same type of career opportunities that come from mastering soft-skills that build rapport will be unavailable. And where I was trying to go was to call out people who whine about this.

I agree I wasn't as clear as I could have been.

Yeah, the only thing I personally wanted from this huge WFH push was just the option of flexible working. Before the pandemic I never even had the option. Now I do have the option, and that's great.

I'm never going to push for everyone working from home, or everyone working from the office. It should be flexible, it should be easy to make that choice when it suits you.

Some weeks I'll go into work every day, some weeks I'll have a few days work from home. That's how I want to work. I still put in the face time, I still get to see most people. I just get to have a more relaxing time working from home now and then.

I could never be a fully remote worker right now. But I'd always advocate for more flexibility. And I'll be honest, I like seeing my work colleagues, we have a laugh, and I'd miss that in a permanent work from home setting.

Yes, excellent point. The optionality is wonderful and my team has really taken to it. My favorite part is that some of their work is asymmetrical, so if they need to run to the store during working hours--totally fine!--they just finish up their work later in the day. It's really amazing what people will do when you tell them, "sure, WFH, you're an adult, I trust you to manage your time". And of course I've been very clear that if they we lose that trust, I will fire them :)

Putting aside the 4000 GBP (5200 USD) I no longer have to pay each year for the privilege of taking the train to work, I would definitely trade a significant amount of career success for a lifetime working from home. It's so, so good.

Obviously others have a different take, but I can see myself never going into the office regularly again.

Managing a split remote/local team is one of the hardest things to do. Nigh-impossible I'd say.

On my prior gig we were in an office but communicated via Teams anyways since it was an open office and you could not talk without disturbing the 6 person wall-less booth. Communication from home is much easier since we just can call each other. But this is mainly due to bad office layout not wfh being better as a concept.

It is probably a good idea to have office days even with remote teams. Half a day every other week or what ever.

Yep, even fully remote companies usually have in-person days or weeks at some schedule.

Some things just are faster when you're all face to face, no amount of remote tooling or processes can change that.

I'm pretty sure our future will be a hybrid of remote/office work, depending on the state of the project and company. Plan stuff in person, then spend a few weeks remotely executing the plan with your team.

While saving money on fuel and avoiding pollution. If you can avoid pollution in India you can literally increase lifespan.

The problem here in India, when I brought up "WFH is future", all the experienced manager above 10yrs were not happy with idea. Why? Probably because they are paying EMIs for hefty loans they took for buying flats. People like me who are relatively less experienced don't want to take that risk at all. Moreover I intend to move to my hometown permanently. Needless to say, my ideas don't sit well with managers.

I think the other issue is that middle managers see that people working from home barely interact with them, which means that their middle man role is visibly unnecessary. A recipe for getting scared.

Agreed. There’s more focus on output and a lot of management simply produces nothing tangible.

I couldn't agree more. Compared to my previous job at an office, where my manager's role seemed to be to draw developers into pointless arguments he had won beforehand, as a fully remote developer I find myself only interacting with management a couple of times per day on Slack and the odd Zoom call.

But that is about people who don't understand their role as middle management. They should set guidelines and enforce processes so employees that do job think only about working and when they forget about some rules there is management to guide them.

This does not have anything to do with meeting with people f2f, one can use tech tools and maintain policies. Of course having coffee with people all day is easier :)

> middle man role is visibly unnecessary

Yep. One way forward is to move "middle" to other leaf node tasks in organisation. I have restructured a bunch of organisations towards globally distributed remote work since early 2000s. Every time: Unless I have strong investors' support I _MUST_ find a way to get the "middle" excited to move away from traditional management and coordination tasks into other things. Often this is back tech or sales where they originated. If you do it right most are happy and you get great improvements in productivity, staff retention, decision making. Do it wrong and you get mired down or sabotaged.

At my company we recently had an incident related to the recent WFH with a subcontractor in India. He was providing his credentials to another contractor who impersonated him, which is something that he probably would not have tried in the office!

Although maybe he would have tried it, because the impersonator called into meetings and everyone noticed that he sounded completely different (had much better English) and the work was different (less skilled)! If it was me, I would be checking the sub-sub-contractors work and at a minimum calling into meetings myself ;)

Well, there was the guy that outsourced his own job to China [1]:

"The software developer, in his 40s, is thought to have spent his workdays surfing the web, watching cat videos on YouTube and browsing Reddit and eBay.

He reportedly paid just a fifth of his six-figure salary to a company based in Shenyang to do his job."


"Authentication was no problem. He physically FedExed his RSA [security] token to China so that the third-party contractor could log-in under his credentials during the workday. It would appear that he was working an average nine-to-five work day," he added."

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21043693

Because a lot of people, the kind that matter politically, don't like to sit and think of concise messages, actions and implications, in fact, don't like deep thought at all, they just like to interrupt, ask stupid questions without doing any basic research first and like others to see them as appearing busy -- that is wasting the time of people who actually do do deep work.

That and socializing, getting away from kids/stressful homes.

> Honestly I would expect it to remain at more than 34%. Who would want to go back to daily commutes of >1h?

I think it's quite a personal thing. I can't wait to be back in an office; I really need to be around people. The last eight months has been a miserable experience.

Mind you, my commute in the before-times was a 15 minute walk.

I'd expect it to remain at more than 34% too, but people are likely reluctant to make that decision this quickly. I'd expect we'll see the number they predict will keep increasing as more people get confidence it works for them, and as they get better at navigating it.

The article is light on reasons for increased productivity, but according to anecdotes I've heard, it's due partly to even longer working hours at home.

Concretely, when salary employees WFH, all hours have become working hours for them. I've read accounts where people are having mental issues due to the dystopic new reality where they are always at work. They end up working around the clock, because they are constantly distracted by family and domestic issues intruding during the work day. To add to their demoralization, no more office perks either. Free coffee, snacks, lunches, after work get togethers, a chance to chat with a cute co-worker, etc are all gone.

Decreasing wage is also considered a productivity increase, because same now work for less pay. As people WFH more permanently, there are many receiving salary cuts as they migrate to areas with lower cost of living.

The "new normal" seems pretty hellish for some.

For others it's a hellscape and for others - like me - it's a blessing.

I can work in the morning, make some lunch, work a while after lunch. Then the kids come home, I can help with their homework and keep working for a bit more.

I can even assist colleagues in different time zones, since my computer is near me at all times. Just a quick chat during my evening (their morning) will speed things up immensely by unblocking their tasks right away.

I've even spent parts of the week at the family cabin and at my in-laws. No one cared, my productivity didn't change a bit.

But I think I'm privileged since my company only tracks my productivity and are smart enough to not overwork anyone on purpose. And I've had one burnout already, so I can see the symptoms of overworking and relax well before I run into any issues.

How are you ever unwinding if you do work around the clock? For me I'm quickly feeling stress symptoms if I start to do work tasks after hours. I have a family too, so in theory it would be great for me too to do family stuff in the middle of the day and then return to work in the evening. But in practice if I do that, work will soon intrude my dreams, my mood worsens and I have less energy.

I don't work around the clock.

Normally I'd leave for my commute at 0700 to get to the office at 8, and again leave around 1600 and be at home around 1700.

When remote, most of my work gets done between 0800 and 1700. There are a few late-night calls (15-30 minutes) due to time zones and maybe a handful of times I need to consult a team on the other side of the planet during the evening.

Basically I get to sleep an hour longer, since my commute is 60 seconds and doesn't require me to be dressed. Also I get to take breaks during the day any way I like - that's how I played through Spider-man on PS4 :D

I've found the reverse to be prevalent for me.

Instead of all hours being work hours, once I'm done with the tasks I've outlined for the day and see that there's not enough time to pick up something new - I just wrap the work day up with some time to spare.

If I was in the office, I would've been forced to sit in front of a computer, even if I'm mentally clocked out.

So just wrap up the day? What about if something happens when you "wrapped" your day up? Or someone got a question?

You still need to be at the computer, same as in the office.

No one can see me wrap up when I'm at home. I can go about my business around the house and get back in minutes if someone pings me on Slack.

If I'm at the office, I can still just walk out when I'm done, but I can't get back to work as quickly if I'm needed. So it's just polite to be physically present for the full work day.

> I can go about my business around the house and get back in minutes if someone pings me on Slack.

So your phone alerts you about every work email?

Mine does. Has both Teams and Outlook alerts. During the work day I'll check if I see it ping, or have Teams up on a laptop and next to me where I'm doing something else in the house (usually cooking lunch or dishes).

If it's after hours I tend not to pay much attention to my phone, maybe glance at it when I have to look at it for something anyway. My boss knows to call me if there's an emergency after hours.

And that happens because we're now a tiny department within a large corporation that supports multiple call centers, and there's periodically network issues we have to help diagnose and fix or we risk breaking our contracts with our clients.

It's been a challenge at times, I've spent some long nights trying to get the right people from other departments on the call to fix the problems, since I don't have full access to everything in our data center (corporate likes to keep things siloed), but when that happens I just do my best to give myself the time back over the next couple of weeks during the work days. On balance I'm probably still only working 40 hour weeks (maybe even less some weeks).

We've been full remote for two and a half years though. We've been doing this since before the pandemic started.

Emails aren't for urgent stuff. I read those only when I'm at my computer.

Slack messages come through when I want to - usually when I'm on the clock. I can quickly check them from my watch of phone and decide if I need to react to it or if it can wait until the next day.

Smartphones have notification schedules for stuff like this. You can enable/disable different notifications during different hours.

> but according to anecdotes I've heard, it's due partly to even longer working hours at home.

Yeah, personally I'm definitely working longer hours, though I'm pretty sure I'm less productive per hour, due to the psychological effects (I pretty much constantly feel awful).

My 1 hour commute where I got much needed downtime during which I would read books was replaced with sitting in front of my screen working. Basically wound up working additional 2 hours a day. Just totally unable to switch off either. Fucking hate it. Muh happier commuting and working with real people in an office.

The ability to switch from work to personal time is something everyone either learns by themselves or is eventually forced to learn after burning out.

A few colleagues use their commute time to take a walk around the block, that gets them in "work mode". And after they clock out they do the same in reverse.

Can you go outside with a book at all? Even if you live in an apartment, there should be either some shared courtyard space or a balcony. Even just going out into the hall. That's basically what students did when I was in the dorms at college. Put some physical space between you and your work environment.

I live in a house, so I can just take a seat on the patio out back (as long as it's not cold or raining like it is today), but there should be some equivalent. Do that for an hour then go back into your apartment and sign in for work.

I understand the desire to work with people face to face, but regarding the lack of downtime on your commute: have you considered simply reading at home, or going to a coffee shop for an hour before/after work? I've found replacing my 1 hour subway journey with a 45 minute walk around the neighborhood with a podcast to be much better for my wellbeing

I'm smart enough to think up those ideas on my own. Unfortunately I can't get my brain to do them. WFH is a real net loss for me. I can't enforce boundaries on my own, so the natural ones are incredibly important to me.

That's what I miss.

I used to commute by train basically 2.5h daily, so I could spend that on e.g reading books

But on the other hand vision of waking up around 8:30 instead of 7, and then being at home around 16:30 instead of 18 is so good.

I just need to improve my work ethics(personal, not an actual work)

I think the best trade off is like 2-3 days of WFH and the rest on site.

Then just don't do that

Solid advice mate. Why didn't I think of just not doing it? It's so simple it's almost genius. Just don't do it. Wish I'd thought if that sooner. It was staring me in the face the whole time. Just... Don't do it! Of course. Silly me. Silly me for continuing to do something day in day out that I obviously don't like or want to do, but could just opt not to but for some reason don't. I wonder why that is...

I don't quite get your flippance - you weren't doing it before, and are now doing it. What's changed? Why are you working extra hours at home when in the office you wouldn't have?

What's the externalities here? Why has 2 hours downtime turned into 2 hours more work, rather than 2 hours of downtime at home?

I admit the OP was blunt, but it's not a ridiculous question - where has the time gone?

Sorry, just me venting my frustrations at how my disability once again gets the better of me.

It's not at all a ridiculous question, no. It's a completely fair one. It's a dick move on my part to react like that without any context as to why. Suffice to say in my case it's akin to asking a drug addict why don't you just not take the drugs?

I'm very "field dependent" meaning my behavior is influenced by my environment to an outsized degree. It's not all under my voluntary control. The absolute best, and sometimes only, way to get myself to what I want/need to do is to create an environment that doesn't give me the option not to do it. Having a bus that is leaving soon and won't be one for another hour gives me the kick in the pants I need to tear myself away from what I'm doing and head home. The bus gives me nothing else to do, so I read. When it was WFH my environment didn't force me to do anything, so with those guard rails gone I lost control, which is pretty natural for me.

2020 has been a tough year.

It's not a problem of time being gone, but a problem of being harder to control how much we work at home.

> being harder to control how much we work at home

I find this really hard to relate to though, I know the lines do get blurred and overworking by a bit is easier (personally, I maybe close the lid at 6:10pm rather than 5:59pm), but I can't see how (in any non-toxic work environment) the boundaries can get so blurred in such a short space of time to extend the working hours in a day by 25%.

If it was perfectly acceptable to log off at 6pm when you were in the office, I don't see how it's "the fault" of homeworking that's pushing that to 7pm. Likewise - if you were in the office for 9am, why log on at 8am at home?

If the only thing stopping some people from overworking themselves are simple environmental cues, that sounds like something that needs to be solved, and solved quickly for homeworking (and by any non-asshole manager). It's unlikely it's not going to be a major part of knowledge working in the future. For a lot of us, we're already months into doing this full time by now, and likely, months away from even venturing back into the office part time.

> If it was perfectly acceptable to log off at 6pm when you were in the office, I don't see how it's "the fault" of homeworking that's pushing that to 7pm. Likewise - if you were in the office for 9am, why log on at 8am at home?

One of the reasons which is strong at the moment is legitimately fear of losing your job, losing other work, being demoted or at least stuck, and that you're not being judged on vague presence any more, so you're being judged more strongly on what visibly shows remotely.

You think you are doing lower quality work while at home. Maybe you are. Perhaps home has extra distractions, like other people, or your mind can't stay focused as easily as it could at the office. Certainly for those with children at home it's a big problem.

So you feel you need to make up for it by working a bit longer.

Especially because your boss can't see you working.

Maybe you think you are working, but you worry your boss doesn't think so. You have a lingering doubt that maybe your boss thinks you're "clocked in" but you're not really working, you're browsing Facebook or HN or whatever half the day.

Actually, if you had measured it objectively, you spent a surprisingly large amount of time at the office browsing Facebook or HN or whatever before. Your boss did know, but it wasn't a problem, as long as you kept up enough good work to keep things going. As long as the standard set by your coworkers was something you lived up to. The benchmark was set in the office and by your coworkers.

But now, you're wondering if your output still looks good. Because your presence is more doubtful, competitive feelings about productive output and visibility signals sit in the back of your mind.

You're not used to working at home enough yet. So you start to think like an over-conscientious freelancer. Paying attention to your output more. Worked 9-5 with a lunch break, and realised you only "really" did 4 hours good work that day. Feeling like you should probably clock in 8am-7pm to make sure you're seen to be present at least, and maybe you'll end up "really" doing 5 good hours and it will be ok when the performance assessment arrives.

Your boss tells everyone to work normal hours as before. That they don't want burnout or stress.

But you have seen both sides of HR by now; you know friendly platitudes like that are quickly forgotten when the company makes an executive decision to let people go.


I completely get all of those points - however almost all of them aren't really exclusive to homeworking. It exacerbates them, for sure, but all are based on underlying presenteeism and imposter syndrome.

Most would be present were you in a regional office and "corporate" were calling the shots, or your manager's manager is in your New York office and doesn't see what their skip levels are doing locally.

A lot of them are even present when your desk is only a row over from the rest of your colleagues, and you're at a tangent with the flow them.

The problem here isn't so much working from home, it's going from visibility to non-visibility. Open plan offices to, essentially, private offices. These feelings would begin to manifest themselves if they simply rejigged the office design, and mitigating and building resilience of this is needed whether in the office or otherwise.

That being said, having children at home is hard. And a lack of appreciation of the impacts of those I feel falls under my point about toxic environments.


Have you tried having downtime at home in a lively home?

Yes, "downtime" in this context being "non working time". Whether it's "relaxing" or not is a different question - and, again personally, commuting certainly isn't contrasted as being relaxing compared to home life.

Clock in when you would normally arrive at work, and clock out when you would leave. Even my employer, a big, ancient, conservative firm, has started telling employees to set boundaries.

Only way I could actually do that would be to have a physical shutdown/timed power switch that cut me off. I have that for my personal devices in order to get to bed on time. If I had to WFH long term, I'd institute that for sure, else there's no way I can just switch off. I can't really set my own boundaries.

What nullsense is describing is a problem a lot of people are reporting during pandemic WFH.

It doesn't make sense to trivialise it, it's a real and significant problem. What makes sense is to understand it and come up with ways to change it.

Brains have a lot to answer for. So do social pressures inside homes.

Maybe your brain needs 2 x 1 hour chunks every day, staring out of a window with nothing you have to do, nobody to talk with, no pressure whatsoever, supported even by an effortless coffee and snack that magically arrive, to reset your brain between major contexts.

But in some homes, taking 2 hours of "downtime" will result in conflict on a regular basis, and it will escalate.

Maybe you'll get asked to do more chores. Fix things on the household backlog. Talk through things on the household backlog. Maybe you'll find yourself in conversations that prevent you getting essential brain-rest that you were used to before WFH.

There's a big difference in practice in domestic interactions between being physically unavailable because you're on the train or in a car for 2 hours, versus looking to others like you're doing "nothing" for 2 hours.

This is not a problem which can be solved by some little conversation. Even when other people understand, they don't feel at ease. It's a lingering point of conflict in many households, previously resolved by leaving the house and "having to go".

If you don't have other people at home, that are different issues at play, but a lot of people are reporting similar brain boundary issues with pandemic WFH when living alone too.

Did someone force you to spend this hour in front of the screen? Its up to you to decide what to do with the 1 hour you used to spend commuting.

I think it depends a lot on expectations - I have had different managers who have had different expectations even in the office! I even had one manager who said I was walking from my desk too much and I definitely don't miss that (maybe schedule less meetings??)

With WFH I generally don't respond at all off hours. I keep track of my hours on a pad of paper for the week for both my timecard and for my sanity, so when I get to 8 hours I am DONE!

The productivity gains are self-reported. No one can measure this objectively so the CIO can say whatever they want. It is not surprising that they want to say something to make themselves look good, instead of bad.

Some additional things to consider:

1) Remote work does not necessarily mean WFH. It means work where is most effective for you instead of going to some office. These days there are many different kinds of solutions for having office space if you want/need it. It also becomes more of a commodity that you can simply use when needed (e.g. a final push before release, a workshop preparing for a big new project, etc.).

2) Companies who recognise this and get rid of their local offices may experience a cost advantage because having offices costs more than just the building. There are a lot of utility costs involved, you need people who manage the facilities, etc., etc.

3) If we're really serious about the environment, avoiding people having to commute to work should be a serious goal. Companies tend to talk about reducing how much they fly around but what is the Co2 footprint of flying in total compared to commuting?

I think autocorrect changed "WFH" (work from home) to "WTF" in your comment.

Ack, thanks. Corrected.

Outsourcing will definitely increase as management gets more comfortable with not being hands on for the work being done. Once you convince them they don't need their people onsite then its a simple step to not needing their own people at all.

In the western European country I live in, everyone was pushing for more and more outsourcing. Initially India but they started using eastern EU countries as well which was cheaper but didn't have e.g. timezone issues. They're mostly pulling back to in-country. There could be a lot of reasons for this, but if the issue is about work quality then I don't see why that changes now.

Anyway, fearing getting replaced by outsourcing is like fearing to get replaced by robots. Maybe it will happen in the end but if so, we never could have stopped it anyway. If it's the right direction and we should pursue it.

The time spent looking for high quality out of country workers may cost more than just sourcing in country. Atleast that is what I have seen when the companies I have been at have tried to outsource. Especially startups, where each quarter is essential.

I personally think remote workers living close enough to meetup if need be is the future.

As a programmer this year has been great in regard to work; while working from home. Slack or Zoom for video chats when needed, solves all situations I would've been next to someone in-person and if it wasn't for the pandemic.

I don't fear being outsourced as well, since companies still want their employees to be near and I doubt video conference will ever change that desire.

Outsourcing always brings cultural and time zone issues, they can all be managed but do require extra attention and know-how to work through.

Personally I feel the push for the right to work from home without being treated as a second class citizen is more important and will do more for society than policies such as raising the minimum wage.

If you can work from home, you are now competing with the entire global labor force for your job. Expect your salary to go down as a result, since you are now much more replaceable.

No, you underestimate issues that come with hiring someone from another country.

I am not going to hire an accountant from Vietnam to do my taxes even if I would be able to pay him $1 instead of $100. Accountant from Vietnam is not going to learn US or some EU country tax code if he has customers in Vietnam. In case something goes wrong, like you would have to go to court to settle things, good luck on getting someone from other side of globe to the court and setting things straight.

Local regulations, local language plays huge role in a lot of jobs that can be done remotely. But they will be done 'local' remotely so you still compete locally not globally.

Your under estimating the political incentives.

New manager comes in. Hires team in India. He designs his metrics in a way to be greatly improved. Higher ups impressed...guy now in charge of department does the same. Org is now mostly outsourced.

5 years later, oh shit this was a horrible idea the company is dying.

However to that manager and his bosses, they just didn’t care. These ppl all saw their stock appreciate and left before it got bad.

Wall Street and public companies are often rewarded for short term gain at cost of long term future. It’s why startups are able to disrupt an established market.

EY (one of the Big Four accounting firms) has an office in Chennai, India where they do US taxes for public corporations. Of course they're part of the bigger company (EY) that has offices in the US as well, but the example you gave already exists.

They don’t have to hire someone from Vietnam. They could hire someone from West Virginia for 1/4 the price of a SF developer a day after college. Maybe even less.

That's a contrived example; the jobs of most people reading HN can (and will) be outsourced.

Exactly, here I'm - nasty eastern european that's about to take your jobs /s

Most people on HN are extremely intelligent and could adapt easily to any kind of STEM job it’s not an issue, just look at how many experts comment on a diverse range of topics here.

Time zone difference will get in the way of that.

You already have been for decades at this point. The high salaries seen in some places is not due exclusively to locality but the quality of the employee.

What I'm seeing is people from low cost locations which traditionally migrated as soon as they could to get western salaries are not getting those western salaries without having to leave. I would say if you were at the highest compensation level you may see a decrease but it will remain that the best command large salaries as now. The difference will probably be that some who were the best and underpaid will have an easier time getting reasonable compensation and some people who were taking advantage of locality factors will now approach a more reasonable salary for their actual contribution.

it's both, but location plays a bit role, just go to the gitlab salary calculator and try to enter london and another east europe city.

even for the same level role and expertise and assumed same productivity the east europe one will get a smaller compensation, thus costing the company less.

And we should resist this. Do other global products cost less if purchased in cheaper locations? The value we bring to a company is the same regardless of where we're working from. We shouldn't accept lower compensation because of irrelevant "cost of living" arguments.

You can try that, but then why should SF/US based employees be paid more?

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and all that.

It's not that SF/US based employees will look to be paid more it's that people in India who have comparable skills will look for compensation closer to what one gets in SF/US. Why would they accept prevailing outsourcing shop wages now that they can work directly for western companies? This change is already occurring in the circle I'm in contact with.

It's both. The market will find a new equilibrium somewhere below SF and above India.

Surely that improves more than it hurts? I'm under the strong impression that most software developers aren't on these FAANG salaries.

Sure, as long as you don't live in SF/US. It's almost certainly going to help me, but I'm not sure I'd like it if I was based in the Valley.

I'm just pointing out some of the potential consequences.

This depends on your experience level and the position. In my experience on the senior end it doesn't mean pay goes down, it means getting the job is much more competitive.

Some positions, such as junior dev, may have reduced pay since there are millions of international lower skilled devs.

We absolutely should not be measuring WFH productivity right now. There are way too many variables to consider at this point. Because it's new for a lot of people, and because of the lockdowns, there seem to be a lot of issues with overwork. I absolutely love WFH, and I've been doing for quite a long time, but I feel pretty confident that we are going to see a bunch of companies claim to go fully WFH, and they backpedal in a year or two. Hopefully not, but if the expectations are wrong, these companies are settings themselves up for failure from the start.

Just anecdata, but I've been doing full WFH for my company for the past 2.5 years. If anything my productivity has gone down because of the stress of the pandemic, not up because of more hours (which I worked more hours WFH before the pandemic also).

I think you can make really strong arguments for productivity both being higher than normal times (due to overwork, less options for non-work activities, etc.) and lower than normal (due to additional childcare responsibilities, overall stress level, etc.). I think both make a good case for the OP's point that the current situation is not indicative of what we'll be able to sustain long-term, both good and bad.

Personally, I think the biggest thing my team discovered was how much of our work was actually able to be done remotely. We were all averaging roughly one day a week work from home, but I expect to be more like 2-3 long-term.

We use task management apps to save us time and give more visibility over the work. However, the app can become so complicated to use by itself, that we may choose to go for very basic note-taking apps to avoid the complexity.

I was looking for a minimal, simple and user-friendly app for daily task management, so I developed Renoj.

Fast to-do task management in Desktop for ultimate productivity.

Website: https://ribal.dev/renoj

The only thing that is truly permanent is change. Things never stop changing.

I don't know how many years we will be on this increased remote thing. Hopefully for some time.

But imagine a few years from now when there is no pandemic. Say someone creates a futuristic smart city with good density, lots of parks, and 100% autonomous cars. In that situation you may find that working from home becomes uncool.

Or another totally different possibility. Virtual and augmented reality become so good that whether you are actually in your home or not does not really determine much about your working situation. It's down to software configuration, such as whether you place your avatar in the shared virtual space or your virtual office.

My concern is that remoting may be responsible for the unexpected increase in housing prices. Areas that were borderline unaffordable before the pandemic have skyrocketed in the last 6 months. Rents and housing prices both just leaped out of range.

I see either 1 of 2 things happening. Either these large companies will lobby Congress for laws forcing all companies to offer full-time remote, or half these workers are back in the office by 2022.

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