1. Socializing is the primary activity that happens at work for the vast majority of workers. The gal or guy coming by your desk to "check in" or "see how your weekend was" etc... is literally where they find their social outlets and personal connections.
2. Managers like to be able to watch their direct reports because it makes them feel more in control than they are
3. The commuting routine, even if it's a nightmare, offers a sense of normalcy that most people have gotten used to and in a weird way rely on for grounding.
4. For a huge swath of Americans at least, work is an escape from the drudgery of the home.
To truly work from home 100% of the time you have to be a master at controlling yourself and your ability to be distracted. Most people don't have this control and need a framework to insert themselves into. Add to that the contextual dimension of an "other" place that is a world apart from your home life and you have something that allows for a depressurization for most people.
Even if the majority of companies see things this way, they will return to the office. But those that succeed, survive, thrive or dominate a market will do whatever that makes them successful along the way. It doesn't matter if people like routine if the other guy beats you on revenue, time to market and profitability. The people that win in their market segment are not "most" people.
Until it is confirmed that 100% remote, with workers distributed all around the world that can be the best at what they do, or are cheaper or are capable of being trusted to get the job done without someone breathing over their shoulder are worse at competing than the status quo, the jury is still out.
Broader society? When has that mattered in the face of disruption? Until the day remote working gets outright banned, this game has yet to fully play out.
Yes. Key positives for a company are reduced cost of office space and ability to draw upon a wider, cheaper pool of potential workers and increased employee satisfaction (for some, not everyone prefers working from home). Key negatives are reduced productivity due to lack of supervision, difficulty of face-to-face meetings with clients, difficulty of training younger staff.
Its a tradeoff and I think different businesses will fall into different buckets and there will also always be some inertia to change. I do think that the 'new normal' is neither 5 days 9-5 in the office OR complete remote work but something more like a couple of days in the office and a couple at home every week for most staff. But this wil probably be a plurality of the workforce only, with substantial numbers completely remote or close to, and substantial numbers also still in 5 days a week.
>Key negatives are reduced productivity due to lack of supervision, difficulty of face-to-face meetings with clients, difficulty of training younger staff.[hard to measure]
Just throwing this experience of mine out there, when faced with actual dollar figures and hard to measure, vague outcomes, companies that I've worked for have nearly always acted on the dollar figures.
Depending on how your company works, the short term positives could be nothing compared to the problems that will arise when everybody becomes an anonymous cog in an invisible machine.
When it comes to their core business companies have a decent belief in what it looks like.
Playing a little bit the devil's advocate here:
Risk aversion and general tendency to apply gradual changes.
Would you bet your company to run an experiment almost no one else is trying? Perhaps letting your workers work from home works perhaps you'll miss all deadlines and generate all kinds of drama.
An external factors kicked in and everyone was in the same experiment. Things were messy but not completely unmanageable. Some were even surprised things kept working as well as they did.
Now, the big question is: will this take a toll on people? Will companies that choose to continue with this work style be put in disadvantage as other companies switch back to on-prem?
Because it seemed impossible, until now.
That would make the ones doing the firing redundant too. You want as many employees as possible as cheap as possible.
I've worked remote most of my career, and in my experience, the politics and work theaterisms are still there, just different.
For example, someone's perceived level of "effort" often becomes a function of how responsive they are. Do they respond to Slack messages at random hours, when team members in different time zones/aggressive managers ping them? Do they frequently communicate with the team via video calls and Slack discussions? Just like in normal office politics, their actual productivity or work quality is assessed less than their appearance of engagement.
That's just an example, but my experience in general has been that remote doesn't change anything about the cultural of management at a company. Whatever metrics mattered in person, there will be remote equivalents to replace them.
The positive here is that good leadership is still good leadership, remote or not. The negative, obviously, is that remote isn't the balm for poor leadership that many hope it will be.
The high performers work better, but half of the rest workers are doing nothing. I’m aware of people getting canned for stuff like outsourcing themselves, accidentally having sex on an open mic, illegally exporting computers to countries with export controls, etc since COVID.
Work at home is great for people with tangible outputs. I don’t want my salesmen fucking around in the office. But many workers with less well defined outputs are going to be harder to manage, and being in the office kept distractions away.
I am way more productive remote and it isn't even close. While I do like the social aspect of the office, it is such overkill.
To me post-COVID, the whole country is open for business. I want to join a company that values high productive remote workers and sees the massive opportunity this is going to create.
I agree with this viewpoint, and (post covid) there are options for replicating at least some of the social aspects of the office.
I recognize I'm not the norm, but working from home the past year has been amazing for my introverted personality. To imply that the office is a necessity for removing distress is an overly broad brush to paint with that does not apply to everyone.
WFH forces the kind of auditable accountability upon everyone I've taken for granted as necessary to thrive as a consultant. This popularizes communication modalities into the open long overdue. Use of more granular project tracking has gone up considerably as a coordination point to communicate early and often between teams, purely to reduce meetings only to where exploratory work has to be performed between multiple people/teams.
I'm seeing in my clients a lot of the big-talkers-little-execution ("all hat, no cattle") staff members get identified and tracked into more tightly-focused work efforts, leading to less stress upon the staff who usually bear the brunt of picking up the slack. The staff who typically thrive in this environment are highly systematic with their work, take notes instead of relying upon just memory, and effectively coordinate and work with team members in decision-oriented meetings.
Management is much more open to spending the necessary time to ramp up automation, simply because the effort leaves behind far more obvious artifacts, as opposed to pre-pandemic, where shockingly many clients still had armies of staff performing everything by hand "because we can't afford DevOps".
I still predict however a lot companies and people going back to offices post-pandemic. The socialization aspect is poorly addressed with virtual happy hours, or other tactics put on by really good leadership. We don't have the tech cost down enough yet to pull off the kind of virtual office that can replace that yet. I imagine "yet" as way better than Cisco Telepresence-grade AV (8K tiled video, full phased-array directional two-way video, latency management), floor-to-ceiling scale, in everyone's home office, that can reproduce say, a small open office with a central virtual conference table surrounded by virtual doors to virtual private offices that look into people's home office when their virtual door is open. Our species aren't built for the kind of intensely-close face-to-face contact all day long that is involved when web conferencing with each other over laptop cameras, so current web conferencing solutions cannot substitute for high-touch interactions that many managers and staff crave.
Personally, I'm less effective when physically at an office as I can't be as systematic handling the flow of work coming across as a stream of text. A large proportion of workers still vastly prefer speaking than typing, and I end up transcribing a lot of that walk-up verbal interaction myself and then following up in text format anyways, which is a big factor in the efficiency differential.
I think a lot of that can be addressed by having in-person social events once it's feasible to do so.
I spent many years as a consultant for several different large consulting firms. If we were productive, we were generally at client sites most of the time.
That meant we were rarely together as a group while working.
In order to promote teamwork, camaraderie and make sure we knew our peers, superiors and subordinates well, at least at the well-run organizations, we'd have regular (semi-monthly) team get togethers and at least quarterly office get togethers, either in the office or at a public venue.
That sort of thing is much less costly and since it's outside of the regular work routine, socializing and building relationships doesn't negatively impact productivity.
Whether or not WFH+regular get togethers is a good solution depends on the organization and its dynamics. But it absolutely can make a big difference.
I'm normally almost 100% remote but the past 9 months have still been rather isolating because normally I'm traveling about 1/3 of the time including to industry events and internal meetings where I meet among other teams members and other people from the company. Honestly, I go into our local office these days and I might not run into anyone I know because we've grown a lot and my direct team is very distributed.
Agreed. I'm hoping this does become the new normal, but it is a difficult balance to strike for leadership. There are different types of personalities, lifestyles, and life stages within any employee base, and there absolutely is a human need for connection even at work, which for some people can only be found in their specific circumstances in physically going butt-in-seat.
The lessons going into it now come from my experience at an all-remote unicorn, and your consulting based viewpoint would be valuable to hear.
Voice-centric. This is very difficult to internalize for those of us here who cut our working lives upon text. We literally live in a context cocooned in text: email, chat, complex application UI's, web pages, editors, calendars, and terminals. But we're vastly outnumbered by most people in the world who get activities done by interacting largely by voice or near-proxies. Whether with peers, direct reports, managers, stakeholders, assistants, or any other relationship, the majority of interactions are transacted over voice, snippets of text so brief they might as well be voice, sometimes highly-structured apps (like truck dispatch apps) that might as well be snippets of text, pictures (still or moving), and rarest of all the kind of text we deal with in our industry.
This is text that sits in unstructured form until it is internalized and cognitively, actively modeled. Even highly-structured code with strict AST's counts, because unless I've read the code before, it comes at me as a blob until I've applied cognitive effort comprehending it. If it wasn't this way, the majority of advertisements would be in long-form text. There is a highly specialized area of marketing that does do exactly that, but the overwhelming majority of advertising functions on this predominantly-voice ingestion pattern.
If your product market fit is outside of the group of people who are used to transacting in text (and even then, even inside tech companies, there are tons of people who still vastly prefer voice, even modulo the social dominance hues using voice to convey requests brings to the picture), then I don't know how to solve that problem without Uber-scale buckets of money.
From recording to synthesized structure. This is the passive inscribing act going through the converting process to active internalization gap to produce decisions and results all tools in this genre aim for. You cannot make people cognitively apply themselves to taking raw information, internalize it, and then offer synthesis. Watch a lot of meetings for the following: how many people are regurgitating the recorded/known data or only first-order consequences in their own words (thereby typically cementing their understanding), and how many summarize into choices, tradeoffs, and synthesize a proposed solution that take into account second- or even third-order effects? A great number of tools in this space fall into the recording trap. "Here, I enabled you to record this phone conversation, that web meeting, whatsit email. Now go make something of it."
We're still missing a data auto-editorial function not just in this toolspace but in general within the civilization. The Big Hairy problem space isn't recording, as much as accurate, precise, fast synthesis. We have too much recording as it is. We lack correctly finding the valuable parts of the recordings. As much as people like to dump on Palantir here, they're tackling that synthesis problem head-on; they're basically indiscriminately spraying a firehose of money at the problem, and they're chipping away at it through a lot of brute-force (which I suspect is the only way initially). This is why you see people asking each other over email for the same information they just emailed each other about last month instead of searching the email archives. Associative importance-based memory beats search beats raw data.
What is interesting to me about all this is we aren't even widely supporting interrupt-driven annotation and organizing, even though our biological hardware is optimized for that modality. Vision keying on motion, audio keying on differentials breaching background noise (and said background is cognitively processed, not just a decibel threshold), pattern recognition, and so on: our hardware platform is primed for an interrupt-driven existence, yet our SOTA computer interactions in the workplace are primarily batch-based. It is no wonder Instagram is a smash success, and Outlook having been on the market for a magnitude longer is "just" a square office app, despite one user of the latter conveying far more information in a day than in a week on the former.
To bring this into the concrete, for example we can attach video to a topic, so an even better interrupt-friendly interaction is being able to comment directly into the video, either by typing or talking into TTS/video-over-cam, and have that emerge into the topic alongside the video. That's half way there to summarizing with low effort by the users. As much as I like Markdown myself, unless I'm working with a developer-centric organizational culture, I point teams towards rich text editors (which are free to encode into Markdown). Organizing topics will become an issue, especially in cross-functional teams who are nearly guaranteed to have differing taxonomies and even ontologies. Coercing them all into a One Tag Cloud to Rule Them All seems to discourage adoption rates in my limited experience, which I suspect is due to some kind of conceptualization/modeling impedance mismatch between teams. With cheap storage and processing these days, I'd like to see the results of interrupt-driven, search-history-directed, team-oriented-categorization organizing. Build the associative net based upon what people say to remember about a topic, what they search for and linger upon the longest after apparently pausing their search, and what ML-identified commonalities they share with other team mates (relationships pulled from a directory service).
That's my off-the-cuff reaction.
Knowing the people you work with can make these relationships less abstract and more emphatic.
In the worst case interpersonal communication in the workplace is all about who tends to offload work on whom (e.g. the manager who records a 15 min voice message where precisely one minute matter to each of the receipients offloaded the effort of sorting and parsing to the recipients. This manager wasted then 14 minutes times the number of receipients time, just out of pure lazyness).
Remote communications makes this worse, because every email that leaves open a questions takes time/energy as it goes back and forth.
What? What kind of workplace do you work at that you need to resort to recording your coworkers to get to the bottom of conflicts?
In the morning, I don't need to commute an hour to the office, giving me an extra hour of sleep. My workspace is also superior to what I'd ever get in the office.
But the biggest boost in my productivity has come from the lack of distractions when working from home. If I'm trying to focus on something, I can set my status as busy and mute notifications, leaving me to work in peace without interruption.
An interesting factor is how this is dependent on how confident we can be to continue WFH.
Like many people, I'm nowhere near prepared to have a good home office, the house is way too tiny. Which was fine when I didn't WFH more than a few days a month.
But I could easily solve that by moving to a cheaper area where I could get a house with enough space for a dedicated home office. But to do that I need to be confident WFH will continue. Hard to predict what to do.
(So what I've done in the interim is lease a small office walking distance from my house, lots of vacancies right now.)
I had this problem and spent a few months working on the couch before buying a desk and office chair - I dropped a few thousand on these things alone. What gave me the confidence was the introduction of a WFH allowance and news a few people around the company had moved to the countryside.
Certainly not everyone.
At my employer a VP produced a report for 2020 showing how his division had increased both productivity and response times across the board by a non-trivial margin due to WFH.
Doesn't mean this generalizes across all teams but certainly at least some are seeing such data.
If you are a slacker at home I am sure you slacked in the office as well.
To me it all depends if we are talking from a middle management perspective or not. The company is better off but the redundancy of middle management is on full display right now.
There will be huge opportunity though for companies that get leaner middle management wise and poach high performing remote talent across the country. This to me seems very obvious.
Not to mention, it is not like you are going to have the luxury as a company of cutting remote cost post COVID. Remote cost is sunk cost for the remainder of my working life.
I assume the biggest factor right now with how the company spins the narrative with remote work has to do with what things look like with the timing and length of the office lease.
At some point in the future though, the cost of the office will become a competitive disadvantage.
I think one "secret" is that we have small-ish teams (3-5 engineers), each with a very engaged and technically savvy leader. I've known other managers to have up to 20 IC reports. I can see that kind of structure falling apart when remote in such a way that your underperformers start completely slacking off and you're too busy to even notice. It's way harder for that to happen in smaller teams where your team lead/manager is very engaged in the team's work and your relative output is quite visible.
How much of this is the result of working with an established team that existed before you moved to work-from-home? Do you think the same will be true for teams that are created in a work-from-home setting from the start?
I ask, because I am worried about training and retaining new people. A lot of work is not satisfying in itself. Part of my motivation comes from working together with a group of people I've come to known well. Often I care more about the people I work with than the problems I am working on. I consider this people aspect part of my intrinsic motivation to work.
I fear that once we're all working from home, our motivations become more and more extrinsically. After that, why bother working for THIS company or problem? Can I trust myself and my colleagues to be involved enough to finish anything in the long run? Or should I start to expect anyone to jump ship anytime?
This is not much different than working in a colocated situation, except my coworkers don't have to smell my B.O.
The tooling available these days makes remote work better than in person IMO.
For example, walking to a whiteboard and sketching something is easier than doing the same in zoom, unless everyone in the team owns a wacom tablet, and even then, physical "big visible charts" generally work better than online ones.
I think the trade off is in favour of remote, for me, but it is highly dependent on job, person, team.
In particular, scroll 3/4ths of the way down to the "Remote Work Prospects and Employees' Expectations" section. 61% of now-remote workers say they want to stay remote. 29% say they'll quit their jobs it they're forced to go back. And few want to go back 5 days per week.
A year ago, I would have agreed with your analysis. Few would have chosen to go remote. But now inertia works the other way. After a year or more of not commuting, what's normal is staying home. Managers have gotten used to managing remotely. To switch back, managers will have to get 100% of a team to return to the office, which is going to be very challenging. People will quit. People will have specific needs where a manager will have a hard time saying no. And if one person on a team is remote, it'll be very hard to hold the line at one.
I think people will solve the rest of it on their own. Some will renovate or move, setting up better for working from home. There will be a rise in third places like cafes and coworking spaces, so people can leave the house but not have to do a full commute.
So my guess is that we'll see a permanent spread. Remote working will continue to be much more popular than before the pandemic. Many companies, including major ones, will drop the expected days/week in the office below 5. Those who go down to 1-2 will downsize office space, shift to desk hoteling, and treat offices more as places for meetings than work. Some companies will try to return to the old paradigm, but many workers will complain bitterly, and they'll have ongoing trouble with recruiting and retention.
I promise you it is much harder to find remote work than otherwise; even during a pandemic. I ended up relocating back to a high COL area because of this difficulty(among a few other things).
Once you realize you have to take a 50% pay cut to work anywhere else(or find another high paying remote job- good luck, everyone else wants one too!) remote work becomes a very tight, and scary leash.
And speaking very anecdotally, where I work we've done plenty of surveys on WFH and the results were very clear: not allowing any kind of hybrid model would've become a retention disaster over time. The desire for at least some kind of flexibility post-pandemic was overwhelming.
Why should employees even exist? Shouldn't firms just sack everyone, then hire contractors?
I often hear advocates of remote work talk about "presenteeism" and how managers need to just focus more on outputs. This is fine, but if they can do that why not sack everyone and just hire contractors and pay for the outputs?
The reality is, unless employees are micro-managed to the point of being basically robots, they're given a certain amount of discretion. If they are at work, and can't slack off, then they will use this discretion to create value for the company in ways that the managers don't always have time to exactly specify.
The slack and discretion in a "presentism" run office means that employees can make changes without having to always go up the chain. For a concrete example, let's say you think there's a major show-stopper of a bug. Your manager disagrees, and says not to worry about it, and will not budge. You have a few hours free in the week because you finished your work a bit faster than expected. You might look into the suspected bug (and end up proving it's an issue, or proving to yourself that your boss was right) if you're otherwise stuck in an office reading email to look busy, but not if you're at home and you can turn on the TV or walk the dog.
So, a future where that happens will require either very tight managerial oversight (pipe dream), or will lead to a bunch of stuff that is brittle as hell.
Doesn't mean it won't happen. But God helps us if it does.
I suspect that would lead to just subcontracting whole business functions to more stable vendors.
To share contractor perspective: a problem I've identified is ambiguous overlap of ownership/maintainer role of project code between contractor and contractee staff (or lack thereof). So a slightly alternate conclusion is that it's up to the contractor to exert authority over the code they provide to the contractee even if that means charging more to ensure said code shall be maintained well into beyond original production date; or doing the hard but necessary things like engaging directly with contractee and its staff at ground-zero and not-to-mention the customers said project serves so as to stay dialed into the picture for as long or as intimately as necessary to ensure optimal results.
It is not always a rewarding experience, and can be demoralizing at times because internal staff can often view contractors as outside threats to their own jobs (which is understandable; but actually is part of the value in hiring outside contractors from time to time as it keeps staff on their toes) and so you may often be feeling like you are on the outside knocking on the window just to get basic access to assets, servers, or people/gatekeepers responsible for granting you what you need to get said work done, yet...
if contractor doesn't exert this extent of dilligence, or lazily assumes the company will maintain said code by means of its own devices - it will become lose lose for both sides as the contractor will be blamed when things start to break or when internal staff eventually & inevitably are requested to introduce new features on top of the now outdated 'foreign codebase' they begrudgingly must now maintain - which can conversely result in long drawn-out 'new platform' projects that set back said company by months or a year or more resulting in yet more need for contractors to fill in gaps again and as such this never-ending cycle continues.
At the end of the day if you are contractor you are indeed expendable & temporary and so its best not to get emotionally invested; be results focused & get paid for your time, do your best and at the end of the day that is all you and your client need - at least until the next cycle begins.
The main difference between employees and contractors are incentives. The contractor's goal is to get paid the most over the longest period of time. They don't care about your company's bottom line, they care about theirs, and the 2 aren't automatically aligned. The employees are more or less paid a fixed amount a month, their incentive is to stay around and get raises.
I've been working with contractors for years, and you absolutely need employees to ensure the contractor's output is aligned with the interest of the company, at all times and in detail.
I can confirm this because I've reached a point in my job where I am performing at most about 3 hours worth of actual work in any given week. This isn't because I'm so good at my job (I once was...) and things are running so smoothly (though they kinda are), it's because my current mental state prevents me from being motivated enough to do much of anything. Remarkably few people seem to have noticed and none have said anything about it.
When I was allowed to work from home because I had COVID (the entire IT department got it due to asinine butts-in-seats policy during a fucking pandemic), all that changed is that my stress level went down from not having to pretend to work most of the work day.
Why not do that anyway? The same reasons apply.
>If they are at work, and can't slack off, then they will use this discretion to create value for the company in ways that the managers don't always have time to exactly specify.
I've never been in a work environment where everyone is working at 100% all the time. Never. Have you?
Pure anecdote - while working remotely I've found that my team is bout the same productivity level, maybe slightly more productive; we've had people build internal tools in their spare time, people are focused on the task rather than wasting time and we've hired carefully and built a culture where people know they are trusted and needed to get the job done.
Yes, it doesn't work the same way in-person works all the time. You have to allow for more asynchronicity, but you can counter that in part by having the opportunity for scheduled check-ins.
In your example, by the way, the staffer has gained no favor from the manager by directly going against what they said to do. They might solve this bug and be a hero but they'll be likely to gain a reputation for not being able to listen to directions.
Even if you spend some time chasing it and come up empty, the story that you went above what was assigned because you were convinced I was wrong and hurting the company is still a good one.
Now, if you always act like an arrow without any feathers, we may have a problem, but I’d way rather have a bunch of engineers trying to improve the company even if that means proving me wrong than have a bunch of them waiting to faithfully execute my divinely-inspired direction.
Yes, (except mandated breaks) although they were all unskilled labor. Working in shipping/receiving, a warehouse, fast food (less so, there usually are lulls at certain times), a restaurant. Very little time not spent working.
In an office environment, though? Yeah, I've never seen it, except on the rare day when something major breaks and it needs to be resolved asap.
I mean, a lot of them are trying to do exactly that.
During the day, interruptions would be so high that I wouldn’t bother trying to work between them - as bad as if I try to homeschool the kids.
As for the commute, I previously had a 15-minute walk to and from work before. I try to design my life so I can either walk or bike to work. I miss that too. I was more physically active before, and there's something meditative about walking, helps clear your mind.
I don't know what it is about remote work, but even though I know the physical activity would be good for me, I have a hell of a time motivating myself to taking a walk around the neighborhood before/during work that I work only from home. And we started 100% remote before the pandemic, so it's not pandemic-related.
I think there's a couple of reasons for that, for me. #1, I don't really feel the need to escape home, where I had to get out of the office, especially with all the open office noise. I can just 'escape' upstairs and do some dishes to put some distance from work. And #2, my role is now a lot more on-call than it used to be, and a few times I've taken the walk during work I've had to double back and hurry halfway through, because I always seem to pick the exact time something breaks.
Sucks. I don't have a good reason to be in worse shape because of the pandemic but I am.
2. Time to get a better manager who trusts you.
3. Commuting is a waste of time. I roll out of bed and immediately start working. The company loses on time I could be working by having me commute.
4. Yeah, I definitely can’t relate to this one.
I've made lifelong friends at work but it was in a setting where it was a small startup and the entire company literally fit in one room. It was almost impossible not to form relationships just because we spent so much time together.
Getting older, having a family, and working for big corp vesting RSUs? No, I'm not likely going to be making any friends at work.
Of course all that is on hold with lockdown now, which I think is giving people the impression that remote working means no friends.
The longest was a guy I used to meet up with at dog parks so our dogs could play together, or meet for a pint sometimes, and even that is looking like it's probably not going to stick.
The longest lasting friendships for me have been friends with a shared hobby. Like I have a lot of friends that are really into board games. Except for the pandemic it's been real easy to maintain those friendships, just organize a game night.
People find a place to work and then stick with it, out of complacency or other properties. It’s why employers famously provide minimal raises, and you earn far more if you change employers.
Employers are betting people will rather accept lower pay in exchange for less volatility and perceived risk, and they are correct.
It's important to be _friendly_ at work but that doesn't mean someone is your friend.
As a fairly specialized electrical engineer, I could still find employment at several other companies which do what I do, but I'm not itching to move (been at the same company for a decade). Is everyone on HN constantly shifting jobs?
1.) Small startups die often
2.) People vest their RSUs and realize their employer doesn't value them enough for a refresh so they take a giant pay cut hence start the job search
Yeah well, as they say, life's a bitch and then you die. On the scale of things that are horrible prospects "not making friends at work" strikes me as something very privileged to be concerned about.
And I'm not meaning some buddy-buddy friends, but at least making good acquaintances. You can't really go much farther than that unless you have developed a good personal rapport and share some set of similarities.
I too find the need to be friends with everyone quite privileged, and worse, trying to force one's world view onto others. Some people just don't have the luxury of surrounding themselves with people of a largely similar mindset they can bond to in a work environment. Friendship is not something I wish to lower my standards for. Maybe the definition of what constitutes a friend is just different, too. I have high standards for a friend. An acquaintance, not so much. You could be an acquaintance just by saying 'hi' every week.
It is extremely privileged to expect your job to provide that. Most people do not have that many different jobs with different considerations to choose from, and when they do choose they do it based on more important and immediate needs like working conditions and compensation.
I get on with my coworkers, we talk about non-work things, we occasionally do (well, did) social activities in the evenings or weekends... but if someone leaves I fully expect to never see or talk to them again, and the thought doesn't pain me.
But I already do have friends, and I see no reason to replace them with my current coworkers.
For me, a horrible prospect is that a corporation could hold my social network hostage, so that if they fire me, I not only lose my income, but also my support group, on the same day.
(I am not opposed in principle to finding a friend among my colleagues, if we happen to click on the personal level. But I am not going to force it; my standards are quite strict. It happened twice in my life, and we meet regularly despite no longer working together. They have been upgraded from the "colleague" level to the "friend" level.)
I never even had a single conversation in school
>since school is for learning and not socialization?
I did not even learn there anything. I learned basically everything at home from books.
Whoa, wait — why is it the company’s time to lose/gain back instead of yours?
If job A requires 10 hours of my day because of the commute while job B requires only 8 hours to accomplish the same thing, then employer A is paying me for all 10 of those hours even though they think they’re only paying me (25% more) for 8 of them.
My biggest concern is #1. While everyone has always socialized at work, it seems like modern Americans depend more on work for socialization than ever before. That is probably not a good thing, especially since modern professionals job hop more than ever. A world where more workers are encouraged to have friends and social circles outside of work is not a bad thing, in my opinion.
I think WFH coupled with reduced hour days or 4 day weeks would be a much better combo for high productivity in the office.
There are many places and jobs in the US where people start work at 8 or even 7. That seems to be functions of both industry and region.
The hour you start at makes no difference to how much you work.
Depending on work for socialization is bad. That’s what I’m arguing against.
Depending on work for social interactions is bad. That is what I’m seeing more of, and that is something I think should change.
> 1. Socializing is the primary activity that happens at work for the vast majority of workers. The gal or guy coming by your desk to "check in" or "see how your weekend was" etc... is literally where they find their social outlets and personal connections.
Not for me, or most of my cowoerks at Google. We absolutely would be doing more work by WFH. When we indeed going to hang out in the office with coworker, that's because we are bored by the work at hands, and need some outlet or simply resting. Not that we desire hanging out with coworkers.
> 2. Managers like to be able to watch their direct reports because it makes them feel more in control than they are
I never was in a team that managers need to see their reports. Most of the time, I often want to see my manager(s) in the office, but they were enjoying their meetings all day every day through the week.
> 3. The commuting routine, even if it's a nightmare, offers a sense of normalcy that most people have gotten used to and in a weird way rely on for grounding.
This sounds weird. I absolutely hate the commute. I am pretty sure that without the commute, my work output would double. Just by having those commute time being actual working hours.
I dont feel commuting is normal. Commuting isn't ideal for anyone. That's an unreasonable idea to me.
> 4. For a huge swath of Americans at least, work is an escape from the drudgery of the home.
That's somewhat true.
I indeed felt relaxed in office without being bothered by my children.
But now after all of us get used to the mode where my closed door means I am not to be disturbed, I absolutely love working from home. For example, if I need a rest, I can grab my younger son, and play with my older daughter. Fantastic experience! I think WFH have reshaped my relationship with my daughter because of more time together.
Manager here. Initially, I had trouble with my inability to do this. Now that I've come to grips that I have NO idea if my team is actually at their computer, I now judge them based on if they actually get work done (vs are they "busy"). It has been a good shift, but not easy.
The fact of the matter is that the tech is now fully in place to support remote work, and the pandemic has been both an infrastructure and procedure stress test, as well as a turning point for businesses.
Remote work isn’t going away.
You have obviously never been on the Tube at rush-hour in London. All it offers is a sense of stress and anger.
Any time I go to the office I hate it because I’m extra stressed out about sick people being on the train, but I cannot deny it gives a sense of normalcy to life that is otherwise entirely missing.
The 25 minutes of commute in NYC subway, even packed (but not London-packed, though) are my 25 minutes of uninterrupted reading, or thinking, or otherwise being alone and on my own, paradoxically. I miss it.
I do miss the view in the morning and evening crossing the Manhattan bridge, though. That was nice.
In the smaller city, I took buses or walked, but I noticed taking a bus still makes a difference, even though one might have to stand up a little. Just the idea of being surrounded by people, each with their own untold stories and problems, made me feel part of something bigger. I agree with the OP; commuting actually helped me feel like I belong to a community, even though I'm introverted and would never talk to any of the people that I would see.
Now with the pandemic on top of it, depression has kicked in. I sometimes play youtube videos with city/car/library... ambient sounds, just to get that feeling again. It does help a bit, but I can't wait for things to get back to "normal", whatever that means from now on.
People used to go to church and do religious events and things sometimes during the week - this is all gone now, and I wish we had an alternative that didn’t rely on religion, just based on the local community somehow.
Community centers 2.0 or whatever, but a place where people have a reason to go. I can only think of classes which doesn’t quite work I think (hard to really get everyone there at the same time) but maybe it’s the key I have no idea!
Community, in some ways, require some lock in (don't think in absolutes here but switching costs etc.). If you're locked in to the community you have to sort out differences and make it work. For religion and work the lock in is obvious. But outside of these we can easily chop and change our community leading to us not bothering about compromise as much and us missing out on the deeper relationships.
In the article he blocks out a longer excerpt from O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, with this bolded bit:
> Freedom so often means that one isn't needed anywhere.
This next bit is extrapolation on my part, but I suspect the hackerspace demographic has particularly minimal church attendance, and that may contribute to our appreciation of "third place" dynamics elsewhere.
I'll have a look around my area and try one post-lockdown, although I feel like it'd be so much easier to join if I already knew someone who went...
My theory is that as more of us have less and less social interaction outside of the workplace (especially in the northeast I think), people really value the social aspects of the workplace. The socialites among us will likely lead the way back into the office and drive peer pressure for the rest of us to return.
Don't underestimate how many of those start from overhearing interesting conversations between other people.
Does that ever happen in WFH companies?
The reasons are multiple:
-Some people are unproductive when working from home (for a variety of reasons)
-Some managers want to see their charges (open office panopticons)
-Some people are more productive working from home.
Companies and managers will have to weigh the positives and negatives. I'm sure they have enough data to determine what makes sense for certain roles and individuals within those roles.
Companies will save on real estate by offloading that to your home. But on average they will lose productivity from most people.
Stanford is special in that as far as I know are short on space for parking and for offices, so they will likely nudge some to work from home where it makes sense. So of course they go on their own propaganda to get their people ready for the shift.
2. My manager has better things to do. Being in the office doesn't mean you are being productive. Sometimes you get distracted by noise, or some local office jerk, or some random event... e.g.: in a large company, every day is someone's birthday. Or someone wants to go for a walk and grab coffee...
3. I can live closer to the office and pay as much as twice in rent, or live farther from the office but have a larger place that my family can enjoy more, at the cost of spending more time away from home.
If I work remotely, I have up to 2 extra hours every day. I can use that time sleeping, exercising, interacting with my family, cleaning, or do whatever needs to be done that is more useful than spending 2 hours stressing out in a car every day, polluting the atmosphere and congesting road infrastructure, or worrying about being mugged in a train.
4. Trying to escape from your problems won't make the situation better. You still have to go home at the end of the day and deal with your problems.
All that money wasted in a desk/cubicle/office, meeting rooms, cleaning crew, security crew, facilities crew... who do you think is paying all that money? your employer is. It's a lot of money that could rather go to something else, like your compensation, or hiring more people so you have less work to do.
If you are an engineer, offices = a lot of resources and effort put into making your life worse.
You have got to be kidding me.. You are at work because you have a contract to fulfil. You are not there to find your soulmate , stop saying things like "we are a family" , the second you get fired your coworkers will ignore you. Out of 99% of my interactions at work, maybe at best 1% of them even keep in touch with me, never mind actually building a deep connection.
Further if you are praising being in stuck for hours in traffic for a sense of "normalcy" , you clearly have no idea how frustrating and time consuming it is. I've been driving to office for years and the exhausting dread of wasting 3+ hours of commute time in traffic gives my anxiety.
Finally, your home is your sanctuary, if you are escaping from home, you have deeper problems, going to the office is not the solution.
Stop normalizing inefficient office-busy-work over actually being productive, getting decent sleep, having more free time to spend with your family and friends which are huge advantages of remote work.
1)People hate small-talk $hit. They will not go back to work so they can small-talk
2)Like to - doesn't mean it's going to go back. Plus they can save by firing Manager who used to come and "check in"
3)People will find other ways to have normalcy - no one is going to miss commuting.
4)This is a toss up. I can see it going both ways. Going to work is a drudgery for a huge swath of Americans, too.
As a counterpoint I would say MANY MANY people love and thrive in small talk and as is referenced elsewhere in this discussion, particularly engaging in that at work.
Just because these things dont make sense to you it does not mean they are not true for many people.
2 - I get managers are persona non grata on here but get real. You still need people to make decisions.
3 - I miss commuting. I listened to music and I like driving, and it gave me structure to wake up at a certain time in the morning.
This is big. If I had a fancy apartment in a good quality building, I wouldn't mind.
But the place I currently reside in, is really frustrating to spend your whole day. I can easily hear my neighbours talking, their pets, screeching children or construction work many floors above. The ceilings are also quite low, which amplifies the cabin fever.
If I could escape, from time to time, to an office where my friends work, it'd be increase my life quality a lot.
And I'm saying this as a person who's not a fan of offices and forced asses-in-seats.
My in-ear stage Shures with passive isolation work much better but spending whole day in headphones is neither pleasant nor healthy.
Well for a huge swath the office and commuting is a nightmare. If this question is gonna run on majority vote I'm not sure at all the office will make a comeback.
Management and non-management have different subcultures. Managers need power meetings, lunch meetings, shoulder-taps, etc. They are tasked with watching you and making sure everyone is on task. Non-managers don't care about in-person other than for the socializing aspect (or maybe they want to get away from the house).
I think that non-management can work effectively remote most of the time (unless u need to be doing physical labor of some sort). I'm betting that studies are going to prove this out. However, it's not clear if _management_ can effectively function remotely. Management is heavily dependent on being both seen and heard and remote platforms make this harder not easier.
Many companies have 2 subcultures, the workers want remote and the management wants in-person. I think the conversation needs to be around how to get the managers to work remotely in order to succeed. This is a mind shift in how traditional management is done and will be much slower to adopt.
And maybe the executives are actually just hanging out, from their perspective. galavanting around the city and schmoozing. having fun solving a problem they’re passionate about and having no negative consequence of having too much fun. hey as long as you’re only inappropriate with employees of another company in the co-working space the liability surface is limited!
so its not just about managerial control
but both of these kinds of people share the similarity of not being able to relate to the lower level employees
2. Managers may need to adapt and give up being helicopter parents.
3. Same as 1
4. Again same as 1
Minus commutes, extra hours become available for other places like parks, actual friends rather than superficial friendliness of coworkers because life revolves around offices and we learn to fake interest.
Imagine the average intern being able to put out good quality work with minimal supervision. I feel these two things require that companies or teams will have to reorganise in some fundamental way to account for these two classes of people joining them.
You get added to the email lists, the slack channels, the documentation wiki, and the issue tracker. Daily meetings at 10am. You pair up with one person for a couple weeks and then somebody else and so on for the first few months. You regularly have voice and/or video chats. You get, or create, a list of who to contact with different questions or problems.
If somehow all of those communication methods fail, I doubt that just being able to add a physical touch component would help much. Other than touch, the only senses that require physical proximity are smell and taste. If you're relying on touch, smell, and taste to communicate while on-boarding people, then maybe then it might be difficult, but that also seems a bit unusual.
Mostly I think companies that have trouble with on-boarding remotely have bigger problems with their communications in general.
In smaller startups and growing companies, where these things are changing at a high rate, it becomes even more valuable.
It's not that these things are not doable virtually, but it's something that will require deliberate rearranging of how people work. In larger companies, this type of stuff already happens, but not so much in smaller ones.
Engineering organizations can learn a lot from Sales departments in this area. Sales in companies that sell in various geographies (which includes even small companies that have gained traction and are beginning to grow) already functions perfectly fine with very distributed teams, and highly technical sales motions (think enterprise products).
Small, growing companies have big problems with communications and coordination in general. That's what makes the scaling stage challenging and full of pitfalls: many companies fail at this stage!
You have obviously gathered a lot of remote experience. As someone who has always worked in some form of research lab and is now working from home, I am still achieving my objectives and deliverables but definitely feel a lot less productive without the 'positive' pressure of being with my peers. I am also fortunate that I work with very hands-off and mature managers even in this remote scenario.
What strategies can we create for better self-accountability and discipline when working on long running projects on our own? What worked for you?
While working from home, I’ve found it much harder to switch between work/free modes. It seems the daily commute has been an effective way to for me to either prepare for the coming day or settle my mind for non-work related activities.
This worked well pre-covid. Since covid hit ...overall I'm struggling with bleeding boundaries. The pandemic anxiety makes it hard for me to settle in my basement office, so I use other spaces around the house.
Are there strategies that fully remote companies take to limit that type of time wasting?
Basically you want to move as much focused work as you can to async collaboration and save realtime for more freeform, relaxed communication. It's more efficient and also less draining to work that way.
Being together in person doesn't give you the sense of companionship - we found instead that it's the act of building something together does that.
Rather than wishing for the commute, most of my team loves that they are spending more time with their family.
I hope my experience is the minority, as the increasing loneliness that seems to be present as the younger generations grow older to me indicates the over reliance on work for friendship is the exact opposite of what we need. And on a much darker and more cynical level, it provides an opportunity of social manipulation for companies to keep one tied to their job at a lower wage, or risk crippling loneliness.
I don't require that my friends have any interest in me outside of the contexts they wish to be friends with me in, though, and so I do consider work friends actual friends.
Same thing with cycling friends, childrearing friends, and hanging out and drinking friends.
Why should a friend share extra time with me for some reason? In any case, the more time you spend with contextual friends the greater the likelihood you will meet a lifelong friend.
Sure, they tolerate the occasional chitchat, but only on a superficial level.
If you actually want to socialize with your coworkers, then you must do that outside in the smoke area, or during your lunch outings. But never actually in the office.
That is the taboo. And the moment you break it, then that’s when you’ll get a demerit from your management.