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34% of remote workers would quit rather than return to full-time office work (psychnewsdaily.com)
448 points by edoreld 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 327 comments





At any given point, half of workers are contemplating leaving.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/27/47percent-of-workers-are-con...

The typical office worker spends a half hour searching for new jobs at work every day.

https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/in-an-8-hour-day-the-aver...

I’m not sure this is a revolution or just that plenty of people have no real attachment to their employer.


Conversely, if an employer isn't willing to let employees do a job remotely after having had a year to see that they're perfectly capable of doing so, they clearly have no attachment to their employees.

Or, perhaps they had a year to clearly see they're perfectly incapable of doing so.

Not every office job is software engineering folks... Imagine trying to manage a warehouse remotely... or bounce ideas off each other in real time at a marketing agency... or any of the other normal jobs that thrive with in-person interaction.

Not to mention, 34% is a minority... we can't force the other 66% to work remotely just because a minority enjoy it.


34% being unwilling to work in offices does not imply not the 66% prefer to work in offices. It is entirely possible (however unlikely) that 100% of people prefer to work remotely but that 34% demand it. You just can't infer anything about the preferences of the 66% based on the preferences of the 34%.

Some jobs have to be done in person, sure. But some jobs don't. Personally the extra two hours a day and reduced stress more than make up for the lack of face-to-face meeting time with my coworkers.

A friend of mine is in software sales. She doesn't need to physically be in an office ever. There are a lot of office jobs that can be done remotely.


I'm a software engineer. I can do my job 100% remotely. I can't wait to get back to the office. I like in-person collaboration, and I really like having separation between my work life and my home life. This year has been torture.

Do your colleagues feel the same way? Would you inflict office work on them if they don't?

Several do, the few times I've gone into the office and done a little problem solving with the folks who were there, we accomplished like a week of work in an hour. There's something about putting heads together that's hard to replace. Some of our folks have always been ~90% remote and that's fine, but I think they're missing out on one of the joys of engineering.

The main thing I miss is all the ad-hoc technical discussions about work or (usually) random topics over lunch. We went out nearly every day for an hour or more and had fun conversations. I miss it dearly. With everyone using their normal lunch times for running errands or just working more, we've had very few social meetings since WFH started.

It's just so damn lonely.


Gitlab has some good stuff about this in their handbook. You have to be really intentional about this kind of informal meeting that otherwise happens naturally in an in-person situation.

https://about.gitlab.com/company/culture/all-remote/informal...


IMO companies should pay less people like you as your preferences incur more costs. Alternatively you could hire a co-working hub if you prefer that, but such costs shouldn't be passed onto people who ARE able to control their emotions and work/life balance.

So instead I should personally shoulder the real estate and infrastructure costs of working from home? No thanks.

Such policies could quite reasonably be construed as illegally discriminatory.

That's really regressive. My sister-in-law works for HPE and she instead got a work from home bonus added to her paycheck. Instead of having companies offload their costs to employees like some late-stage capitalist dystopia they should compensate employees for providing the infrastructure themselves.

In some jurisdictions this is actually required, if the company is to expect any level of service or availability from infrastructure on the employer's home. For example, if your personal internet fails you cannot be held liable or at fault by an employer, since they're not paying for that. And if they pay for it, then it's on them to fix it since it's the service they provided (just like it's not an employee's fault if the internet gets cut at the office).


Are you suggesting that if people were in the office for 40 hours a week, that you would expect to get a sustained rate of 280 days worth of work done per week?

Or are you saying that given the creative thinking time alone that accumulated slowly over a period of time WFH, that the team was able to make 7 days worth of progress in one hour primarily due to the fact that everyone had plenty of time to understand the issues and the pains associated?

Are you confusing _peak_ with _sustained_ productivity?


No, I'm not confusing anything. I'm stating my team made a great deal of progress when we got together in the office over a sticky problem; and attributing the progress to the random directions the conversation and problem solving effort took when we were in one room bouncing ideas off each other and poking hardware together.

Look, I miss having whiteboard conversations too, but if throwing all of the developers into a smelly open plan mosh pit that's a 45 minute commute from home 5 days a week just for that clutch hour of collaboration, count me out. It's just not worth it.

You sound as if going into the office is literally some kind of torture(and I guess for some percentage of the population it is).

This 'do you colleagues feel the same way?' argument is circular and the question can be posed both ways. Separating the two to allow people a preference one way or the other is a difficult problem that has been addressed by many companies by simply making everyone come into the office. It may be that giving people the option one way or another is the right way forward, but getting to that point is going to be a long and windy road...


The office is fine. It's nice to chill with my coworkers. I've been remote since 2015 and I kinda miss that, sometimes.

The commute there and back, sometimes an hour one way depending on traffic and weather, absolutely is torture. In the middle of summer or depth of winter it can be miserable. My 8-9 hour workday would often be closer to 10-11 hours, and I'd arrive home exhausted and annoyed. Travel via train was worse in some ways but sometimes better.

I am not any less closer or further, emotional or occupationally, when remote. But I don't have to lose 2 hours of my day, huff tons of exhaust, and pay the costs of cars / busses / trains.

I can sneak away for 10 minutes to grind my coffee, good coffee, and make a cuppa my way instead of relaying on the bland Keurig machine. I can get dinner going in a slow cooker 6 hours ahead of time, give my dog 3 walks a day, and handle my personal shit, on my personal machines, without risking personal or occupational data. I get more sleep, and can work later if needed, since I don't need to worry about losing an hour of my life just to get home.

Sure, work isn't torture and the office wasn't bad. But in exchange for stilled small talk with coworkers -- your coworkers aren't your friends, btw -- I gain so much more at home.


(Un)fortunately, I think that the reality is that for many people, the office is their social outlet, they are indeed friends with their coworkers (for now anyway), and they live downtown in a 200 sq. ft. apartment with 2 roommates that is 100' from the office.

For folks in this situation, WFH is probably intolerable.

It's just the case that not everyone is in the same situation, and I think people forget that when they make claims that boil down to "WFH is 100% bad and we should all go to the office." (or the opposite)


A substantial portion of the workforce doesn’t have home situations that are favorable to remote work, which more or less necessitates the existence of an office unless you’re going to start screening out, e.g., parents. And then if you have it anyway, why wouldn’t you simplify planning by having everyone in, especially given the challenges of a mixed office-remote environment (which I think is more challenging than going all in on either one)?

Is a bigger house/condo with an office an option?

If you can work remotely, why live (I’m assuming) in a city that is expensive because it was built around an in-person existence?


I don't think I want to pay for a bigger house; I already pay to be close to work. I've never had more than a 15 minute commute, and that has occasionally been an expensive policy!

I don't like co-opting my living space for work. It clutters things physically and mentally.


I'm in the same boat, and I pay a bit extra to live walking distance from my office.

I detest working from home full time. It used to be a clear mental distinction between "this is my safe space where I don't worry about work" and "this is where I'm putting all of this time slice into work". I've done little personal development and I'm stressed all of the time because I don't feel comfortable at home anymore.

I'm glad WFH is being more recognized in that if there's a day I'm not feeling great but am still okay to work, I don't have to deal with going into the office. I'm hopeful that I can take a WFH day when I need one, but I am not going to work remote full time.


Isn't your company allowing limited amount of people to work in the office especially if someone is living in a walking distance?

I understand it would be off limits if someone would need to use public transport but I can see allowing people to work from the office at least some days if they can walk/drive and it is not like too many at the same time.

You can always explain that you have important stuff to be done and it can be only done on company network because of "reasons".

I am definitely in "WFH forever" camp and I would like to buy bigger house far from the office. But I don't see why people who spend their money to live close to the office should be treated unfair.


So then you'd be fine to pay a bit extra for a co-working hub.

I think that's an expense a company should be enthusiastic about paying- along with upgraded internet, sharing of power bills... maybe the occasional lunch delivery.

"I already pay to be close to work"

That's the crux of my point. Change that, and your options suddenly open up a lot.


> I like in-person collaboration

This argument is rooted in a fondness for the way things used to be. I get it... I miss lunch with my coworkers and being able to spin around in my chair to ask someone a question. But are you really going to get that satisfaction when your coworker isn't in that chair, or your work friends want to have lunch alone because they have an immuno-compromised child at home?


Rooted in fondness according to who? Are you saying that someone that expresses an inclination for in-person collaboration is actually deceiving themselves into remembering the experiences differently than they actually were?

That person may be accurately remembering the experience they had in the before-times, however that world just doesn't exist anymore.

I mean technically no world in the past exists anymore, but in-person collaboration is certainly still a thing, albeit it is on somewhat of a pause right now. I guess no one really knows how this whole thing shakes out if we look 5-10 years out, but my bet is that humans being social creatures will drive a good number of people back into collaborative in-person working spaces.

> A friend of mine is in software sales. She doesn't need to physically be in an office ever. There are a lot of office jobs that can be done remotely.

Lots of things can be done remotely, but that also doesn't mean that they are all done as well remotely.

To counter your example about software sales - A few months ago I conducted an RFP process for some software, and the company that scored the lowest was the company where the salesperson didn't come and see how the processes worked in person. Their software was likely just as capable, but the fact that they couldn't visit probably put them at a significant disadvantage in terms of understanding what they were replacing. If they don't understand how the existing system works, how can they be confident in their commercial offer which has some significant bespoke elements?

Now this will depend on the software and company, clearly, but sales is sometimes a tricky one. Often it's about the relationship, and fundamentally people also warm to people they have seen face to face. Sometimes sales isn't about the software, it's about sitting in a room and eating Nando's together and building a relationship that way. People don't always buy software just based on functionality/cost, there is often a huge element of trust involved, and that is just harder to build over a video call.


When she was in the office she was covering the southwest US from Seattle.

Visiting a customer site for a sales meeting is not the same as "working remotely". She does not need to go into the corporate HQ every day to do software sales. Yes, she did and will in the future visit customer sites.

> Only one example, but I think for most jobs something is often lost by having no physical presence and no in-person collaboration.

Sure but this ignores benefits. The question is if remote work is a net negative, in terms of utility.


> Sure but this ignores benefits. The question is if remote work is a net negative, in terms of utility.

And the obvious answer is that for some jobs it is, and for some jobs it isn't. There isn't a hard and fast rule here, and like I say it depends on the software you are selling. You probably aren't going to sell and implement a $20m ERP job entirely remotely, but on the other hand you aren't going to be driving around and doing customer visits for a $50 a month SaaS contract.

But in the absence of any hard-data, my gut strongly tells me that working from home is a net negative for most jobs and most people. My team has gone back to the office now and our ability to get stuff done is just rocketing.


> And the obvious answer is that for some jobs it is, and for some jobs it isn't.

The net utility is an effective metric for deciding to work remotely in any context. Clearly this decision is not made at the level of humanity and will have to be evaluated in narrower contexts.

> But in the absence of any hard-data, my gut strongly tells me that working from home is a net negative for most jobs and most people. My team has gone back to the office now and our ability to get stuff done is just rocketing.

But as you say, this is a gut feeling. My gut says my team is more effective remote.


Have you considered that the reason why you aren't missing face-to-face meetings is because everyone is forced to do full time remote?

My team is really dreading the move to back to office, but I couldn't be happier. I get the nudge I need in the mornings to hit the gym again, I get cheap and healthy food during lunch with no effort on my part. And I get to see and interact with people who don't work in my team and I haven't had any work reason to interact with again.

Just listening in meetings there are many people like me who want to go back to office (at least part time) this means that a lot of meetings will again be held face-to-face and while there will be a token effort to clue in the remote people it will fall off fast not to mention all of the ad-hoc meetings that happen at the desks or hall ways.

I am not saying that you are wrong, but that being full time remote employee in a company that is not 100% remote all the time is way different than being the only (or one of the few) full time remote employee in a team. I still intend on being remote couple days a week, but I know for a fact already that the amount of time I sit in voice chat with the remote team memebers during the day will be close to zero on the days I am at the office.


My team had two remote people before the pandemic and my company has global offices so including remote workers is already something we understand.

I fully expect to have to go in to the office one or two days a week but the logistics are easier with remote meetings. There's no need to find an empty room, I don't have to take time to walk to your floor, etc.

> I get the nudge I need in the mornings to hit the gym again, I get cheap and healthy food during lunch with no effort on my part. And I get to see and interact with people who don't work in my team and I haven't had any work reason to interact with again.

These are personal problems. I have been exercising more while WFH because I have more time. You can't expect your coworkers to change their lives because you get a personal time-management or networking benefit.


> You can't expect your coworkers to change their lives because you get a personal time-management or networking benefit.

But somehow you can expect your coworkers to change their actions because you want to be full remote in a company that does not enforce full remote?


It seems like you're anticipating a divergence (or at least communications gap) between the generally-in-office and generally-remote sets of employees.

Have you considered that it might be the remote employees that are more productive?

The benefits you've stated for in-office work are that you will be more likely to hit the gym, get low-cost healthy food, interact with random non-teammates, and meet in-person, none of which are slam-dunks for the company bottom line.


Considering many people are working less hours since there is no monitoring and in general dicking around during the day (I have seen some people playing video games during the work day) I highly doubt in general remoting has increased any productivity.

> My team is really dreading the move to back to office

> the amount of time I sit in voice chat with the remote team memebers during the day will be close to zero on the days I am at the office.

Can I be frank? This sounds like an incredibly selfish attitude to take. "If you're not like me, I have no intention of accommodating you."


Communication is 10x better when you are face-to-face and the tech to accommodate remoters is fickle and just unnecessary extra layer. If we can get decisions done faster by excluding remote people then thats what is going to happen.

And just the fact that if I am at the office people will come to my desk with their problems and the constant fiddling with headphones is annoying waste.

I don't get why everyone thinks those of us who want to go back to office are the selfish ones for not bending over backwards over the people who prefer to work remote as if we didn't sign up for this when we started to work.


> I get the nudge I need in the mornings to hit the gym again, I get cheap and healthy food during lunch with no effort on my part.

Let's clarify that this is strictly specific to you.

I and several other colleagues I chat with started doing more exercise due to the pandemic.


Good for you, but as this whole discussion is about differences between people only time I can get my self to the gym is first thing in the morning before work. Which in turn means it is way easier to get dressed, get to gym, and then go to office when the office isn't at home. Now way easiest decision is to just snooze the alarm and continue sleeping until work starts whenever there is any obstacle in the way.

Same with food. If I just sit inside my house 24/7 with the lockdown I am way more likely to pour my energy in hobbies and other activities. There are no fancy food grocery delivery systems where I live, so only options are to go to grocery store or order food and before the decision was easy because the grocery store was on the way to work, so "I might as well" make the stop. Now I just work for 8 hours straight, feel hangry, order some shitty food, work 8 hours on side project and do the same.

Sure this is a personal problem as many here like to point out, but just remember that when you are left out of decision making since you aren't part of the office that will be your personal problem. If my employer decides to go fully remote it is fine that I have to find another place to work, I have no problems with that. I hope the remoters will view it the same way if things dont work out for them.


It also depends on how often you engage in a back and forth in meetings.

I am an individual tech contributor. I don't oversee anything, mentor anyone, or manage anything. I am not the kind to challenge already made decisions. So meetings are largely one way information flow, as it seems to be for most of the developers I know.

Write me a memo and I at least am in the same place 90% of the time.


I think a lot of people who enjoy remote are going to have a rude wake-up when offices go hybrid. Before Covid, half my meetings weren't scheduled. They just happened in a hallway. If I could grab a third person who I thought might have an opinion, we'd walk over to their office. But I'm not going to go find a Zoom setup unless I have to have their opinion. Which means we'll make the decision without them. Not out of malice, but because they're not there.

So, in other words, your company or at least your team has crappy processes. One of the silver linings of this past year is that things like running meeting docs have become even more of a thing. (They mostly already were because we're a very distributed company.)

ADDED: I get your preference but it really doesn't scale. How does that work once there are multiple offices, external agencies, people who need to travel a lot, etc.?


It's hard enough in software engineering IMHO.

What used to be swivel in your chair and ask a colleague or going to whoever you need to speak to is now

* Send a Slack message/email and wait an arbitrary amount of time for a response.

* Organise a Skype/Teams/whatever call in a few hours time and feel guilty about it, as it feels rude to just ring someone as they could be occupied or busy.

I spend a stupid amount of time having blocked stories/tasks because I need to clarify some criteria/parts of it and the people I need to speak to are difficult to reach because they're busy/AFK.


> What used to be swivel in your chair and ask a colleague or going to whoever you need to speak to is now

But your need for an instant answer often derails my work flow. I can get a lot more done now that I am not being interrupted as frequently and can address questions once I have wrapped up what I am doing or at least have time to write down where specifically I stopped.


> your need for an instant answer often derails my work flow.

This! The office paradigm values everyone else's time over my time. It paints interruption as a virtue. My last employer (before COVID) cancelled all WFH with the statement "We all know a 15 minute face-to-face conversation is better than a 3 day email chain". What about the other 99% of my time? Any time saved by that 15 minutes interaction is dwarfed by the amount lost in other daily nonsense.


I haven't see anyone mention, not only are you disrupting the person you have turned around to ask a question but likely 3-4 people in the immediate vicinity. Depending on your office layout and the loudness of your conversation maybe even more.

Ugh, yes. The other "innovation" was to redo the building as an open-plan office. The increase and noise and decrease in productivity was ridiculous.

Now everyone wears $500 helicopter noise cancelling headphones and you have wait it out till they are done.

I've got so used to them to get me to my zone I still use at home...


In our office, wearing headphones was viewed as not being a "team player", because it dissuaded people from interrupting you!

Just asking this as a talking point.

Does a quick interruption that unblocks me and allows me to continue working outweigh allowing you to finish your thing first? Because maybe you're unblocked but I'm blocked by you now, and the thing that's actually blocking me. So only 1 person is able to work.


Somewhat anecdotal I guess, but at any given point I have 5-10 things that I could be working on. So if I come across something that I am truly blocked on and need more information, then I ask for that info through appropriate channels and move on to priority thing 2.

Understandably this can lead to a lot of context switching, but so can someone swiveling in a chair to ask a question or go down a rabbit hole. You can optimize the process a bit by shifting perspective and having a path to follow if you get blocked, rather than lamenting on how you're blocked(not you in particular, but people in general).

*I feel like it is somewhat rare that a person only ever has 1 specific thing to work on.


> Does a quick interruption that unblocks me and allows me to continue working outweigh allowing you to finish your thing first?

No, absolutely not. As my coworker you have no right to my time, at all. Certainly not on-demand.

You are in no position to prioritize my time, especially in the context of you finishing your task.

> Because maybe you're unblocked but I'm blocked by you now, and the thing that's actually blocking me.

No, you are blocked by whatever you are blocked by. Solving your problems is your problem. Not mine.

> So only 1 person is able to work.

If you can't do your job without also consuming my time in parallel what exactly are you contributing? If you are blocked and need input then go work on something else until you can get the input. This is elementary time management and respect for your coworkers.


This seems to be a pretty black and white comment when in reality a lot of these points are very grey.

Just because I ask you in person for help from time to time does not equate to me not contributing anything.

Just because someone asks you for help in person does not mean you can't say 'no, can you try me at this time or send me an email detailing the issue'.

Solving problems can be a siloed experience, but depending on the organization or team, most problems in today's businesses are team efforts, and require team collaboration. Having blinders with comments like 'solving your problems is your problem' is a great way to overlook when a problem someone is having is actually YOUR problem because you overlooked a bit of code or configuration or documentation.


> Just because I ask you in person for help from time to time does not equate to me not contributing anything.

That's not what I said. My comment was about working in parallel and demanding immediate coworker input to advance.

> Just because someone asks you for help in person does not mean you can't say 'no, can you try me at this time or send me an email detailing the issue'.

The situation is not asking for help in person, it is interrupting to ask for help.

> Solving problems can be a siloed experience, but depending on the organization or team, most problems in today's businesses are team efforts, and require team collaboration. Having blinders with comments like 'solving your problems is your problem' is a great way to overlook when a problem someone is having is actually YOUR problem because you overlooked a bit of code or configuration or documentation.

I never said anything about working in silos. We still have a daily standup, we still do sprint planning, we still to regular operations reviews. I take ownership for my own actions and deliverables and help coworkers. This is simply a matter of how to request that assistance and the expectations around when that is provided.


I'm not a parrot that will recite word for word what you wrote. Yes you didn't say anything about silos, but signaling to people that their problems are never your problems is a great way to discourage that person sharing any more information with you. The different agile rituals are a great way to get broad understanding on whats happening, but they will never capture the small problems that come up during the time in between.

Asking for help in person is literally interrupting someone, no matter what they are doing because their attention has to be re-directed from whatever they were doing to you. So there is no meaningful difference between asking for help and interrupting to ask for help. But through social cues I can tell what level of concentration you might be on, and with some precision judge when a good time might be to check in. Hell, I will definitely be wrong some of the time, but that's just life.

The situation is obviously different for someone that is always co-dependent on others for getting work done.


I can ask my team’s channel for advice, and someone who is not currently deep in concentration will see it pretty quickly. This often works late at night, which in-person did not.

It sounds like you want to be a contractor, not an employee. I would imagine that your job description, if it exists, includes language such as "teamwork," "mentoring," and "problem solving" and does not include language such as "siloed," "completely independent," and "unanswerable to anyone."

> I would imagine that your job description, if it exists, includes language such as "teamwork," "mentoring," and "problem solving"

Yes, all of those things are true and I do all of those things. I am speaking specifically about interrupting a coworker who is doing productive work.

> "siloed," "completely independent," and "unanswerable to anyone."

I didn't say anything about this. Respecting your coworkers time does not require any of it.


> "As my coworker you have no right to my time, at all. Certainly not on-demand. You are in no position to prioritize my time, especially in the context of you finishing your task. You are blocked by whatever you are blocked by. Solving your problems is your problem. Not mine."

What part of this statement says 'team player' to you?

The whole part about working as a team-player is that solving their problems is your problem, because it is the teams problem.

What you are describing is being assigned a list of stuff and working on it independently, then not helping anyone else unless it's convenient for you. This is colloquially called 'not being a team player'.


> What part of this statement says 'team player' to you?

The part where each member of the team is trusted with their own time management. I will also not interrupt you when you are working, because I respect you and your time.

> The whole part about working as a team-player is that solving their problems is your problem, because it is the teams problem.

Yeah, no. The team has problems so we divide the work. Each of us takes ownership for some small part of it. Asking for input from teammates is fine, that is the responsibility of that owner. But that doesn't mean they can interrupt someone to get it. To be an effective teammate you need to earn the respect of your peers and interrupting will undermine that trust long term. Obviously I want my coworkers to solve their problems because we all work toward a common goal and of course I provide input to help them do that.


You say that you "respect [me] and [my] time" but also that you're only interested in helping me on your own terms and at your leisure, even if I'm completely blocked. And you say that if I'm completely blocked then I'm not contributing anything. Sorry, but it sounds like you don't respect anybody or their time if it doesn't help you.

You must be very good at your specific tasks because it sounds like you are not very good at your job (which includes "teamwork," "mentoring," and "problem solving"), at least if you behave the way you're saying you behave.


'because I respect you and your time' screams that you are probably good enough at your tasks to not need help or too proud to ask for it, but you want others to apply this rule so that they can stop 'interrupting' your 'productive work'.

I have never ever gone into a team environment and felt the need to earn respect from my teammates or have them earn mine. This is a glass half full or empty thing. You can go into a team and require others prove themselves and vice-versa or you can give people the benefit of the doubt and let them lose the trust if something happens. Both lead to vastly different experiences.


I'm talking more about if I've got a story where something isn't clarified properly. The project I'm on at the minute, the stories really aren't well refined at-all so I need to talk to a project manager/architect-style character for something that I can't answer myself because I simply don't know. I've said things about doing refinement sessions etc. but they've never surfaced.

What you say sounds pretty selfish though. If someone came to me and asked for help with something I'd be happy to drop tools and come and help as I'm not just a 'colleague', I'm a team member.


It's not selfish at all. I treat other people the same way. I am eager to help teammates with their problems and frequently do. If they have a question they can send me an IM or email and I will respond when I have time to answer. Interrupting other people to solve your problems is selfish.

If you need clarification then send an email, add a comment in your issue tracker or set up a meeting. There's no reason to interrupt someone doing productive work to get clarification on a story. You should be able to manage parallel stories and make progress as you get clarification.


I think I get it now. You're basically who Gilfoyle was representing in SV! It makes sense now

If someone says "Hey, you got a minute?" and you can't handle that five second interruption and you aren't comfortable saying "How about in half an hour?", that speaks more to you than others.

There's no such thing as a five second interruption. Once my concentration has been broken that is a ~15 minute process to get back into a flow state. This is human psychology. There's nothing wrong with me being distracted by distractions.

Asking "hey you got a minute?" is a waste of everyone's time because either the answer is "yes" and you could have asked your question already or the answer is "no" and you just disrupted someone who was doing productive work and still doesn't know if your actual question is worth answering right now. Just ask your question and I will answer it when I have time. This is why it is better to ask in email, IM or a meeting, depending on the nature of the question.


If I had a coworker who reacted to interruptions the way you describe, I just wouldn't involve them. I'd grab other people and make decisions without them. I'm sure you react to interruptions the way you describe, but I wouldn't treat it as a universal.

Like I said, everything you're writing speaks to you.


I encourage you to review the concept of "flow". You may be missing out on valuable input from capable contributors by excluding them for having a regular human reaction to interruption.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)


How about disabling notifications when you are in flow and checking messages after you done. Effectively same as putting on headphones when in office.

I do disable notifications when I am in flow. That's why I prefer working from home. I have control over that.

In the office respect for the headphone signal is not universal. Also, sometimes I don't want to wear headphones just to signal I am in flow. Nor do I want to have to use them drown out all the other distractions. People are still walking around and doing things, all are potential distractions.


> Solving your problems is your problem. Not mine.

No, solving the company's problems is both our problems. You have a tremendously adversarial attitude toward your coworkers. Why don't you trust them to know the cost of interrupting you and decide whether or not it's a net gain?


> No, solving the company's problems is both our problems.

Yes, this requires effective collaboration.

> You have a tremendously adversarial attitude toward your coworkers.

I do not have an adversarial attitude toward my coworkers. In fact I am very well liked by the people I work with. Probably because I treat them with respect.

> Why don't you trust them to know the cost of interrupting you and decide whether or not it's a net gain?

How can they possibly know this? That would require everyone on the team having complete knowledge of what everyone else is doing at all times. Further, if you believe you know more than your coworker about their situation then it speaks to a distrust of their abilities.


Are specifically they blocking you, or are you stuck in general and they're the closest SWE?

In the first case, it does seem a lot more reasonable to interrupt and trade-off the productivity of the blocker in favor of the blockee. At worst, that's an even trade and at best it incentivizes not being a blocker.

In the second case, I'd rather not create a distributed denial of concentration scenario for SWEs who are rarely stuck to optimize for those who are more frequently stuck.


Disagree. Unless the world is on fire there's no reason to interrupt someone to unblock yourself. Contact them asynchronously or opportunistically. If you see them in the kitchenette getting coffee then sure, ask. If they are walking back from the bathroom, sure, grab them before they resume work. But do not delude yourself into thinking you know more about prioritizing their time than they do.

I agree in principle, but also find myself often doing my best thinking when making coffee or just "idly" staring out of a window, and would find it annoying to be interrupted just because I'm not at my desk. Luckily I work from home.

Yeah this is fair. I was considering the classic wave a hand in my face because I'm wearing headphones at my desk type of disruption but there's so many more variants.

There's another angle here which is that ad-hoc in-person conversations tend to be low value because there's no record. The process of simply writing down a question before asking it goes a long way toward finding a solution.

It's one of the things I really appreciate about working from home. There are no unwelcome interruptions because everyone controls their own time and interactions I do have are higher value because they have been more thoroughly considered.


My preference is still Slack, even in this case. Send a message prefixed "URGENT" and I will write down where I stopped in the next 30 seconds and then get to you nearly right away.

I can skim the first few words of a Slack message without losing context and if those first few words demand an immediate response, I can "save" what I am doing to my notes.

I had a co-worker who did this in a past job, even though he sat behind me. It was quite helpful.


Yes, because it trains you to unblock yourself, rather than stop and come running to me every time your wheels slip.

If I'm working on something central to our business model and you're working on some widget that won't be released for two months?

Absolutely.



That's not a remote problem, that's a project management and communications problem. Physical proximity is no replacement for clearly communicated requirements/bug reports/product roadmaps as well as tribal knowledge (which should not be tribal but documented somewhere searchable and robustly accessible), but it makes a nice hack when everyone is required to be in the office.

Agreed on it being PM/Communications problems. Definitely easier in the office though.

Another thing is that it's often harder to write your question/problem in text as a message, when in verbal communication it's a lot easier (personally, YMMV). But having to organise calls to get that verbal communication is a pain.


I would agree that sometimes a call or videoconf is necessary (which should be scheduled for only as much time is as absolutely necessary and the output of the meeting well documented), but it's good to flex the remote/async muscle to encourage communications best practices across an org. Communicating is a critical skill.

A lot of folks are used to being lazy intra communications in an org, and imho, that shouldn't be an excuse to dissuade remote work when the benefits are incredibly clear. If you suck at comms or management in a more flexible work arrangement environment (which is okay! to get better at something you must first suck at it), it's time to get better.


The scheduling is a pain point now though. I'm blocked until I can get a slot in your diary, which could mean I'm blocked for hours. And that's if you even accept my invitation or don't get delayed by something else.

Maybe a drop-in thing could work, like Clubhouse. But then that's kinda invading your privacy if you have to stay on that.


Your pain point is valid, I want to make clear that I'm absolutely not minimizing it, but I have worked remote for almost a decade and I want to stress that it can be solved (as long as you're operating in a competent organization) and it pays off to solve it. There are many technological mechanisms by which to solve this, but it's primarily an organizational and cultural challenge.

> Another thing is that it's often harder to write your question/problem in text as a message, when in verbal communication it's a lot easier

yes, we're finding that a lot of folks have deficient written communication skills.

another problem is that a lot of developers can type fast enough to program, but not actually type fast enough to productively use email/slack. that one surprised me!

i had a coworker right before covid started, who, you'd send him something in slack, and then watch the "JimBob is typing..." indicator flash on and off for 5 minutes. then he'd just show up at your door and say "no. five." or whatever the very brief answer was.


Yet by writing a question or problem as text, you are forced to actually think it through, and often no longer need to interrupt someone else. Easier != more efficient.

I actually have the opposite issue. That is, I find it easier to write my question down and communicate via text. Sometimes, connection issues, background noise (over video or in person) make it difficult to understand what others are saying.

Also, there may be things that were said, but I may not remember, so I'll have to ask again for the information. With text, you can always go back to those messages and re-read them.


It’s quite bizarre to me that you feel it’s rude to call someone, but not interrupt them at their desk. Calls may be silenced while doing work, walk-up interruptions are much harder to prevent.

It feels a lot more natural if you're sitting right next to someone or just around the corner. You can peek and make an educated decision of whether they look busy or not.

If it's a call it's a bit out of the blue. Maybe they don't have their headset around/plugged in, maybe they're doing something like eating or doing laundry. You just don't know because all you see is an activity status icon.


I pretty much never call anyone out of the blue. I'd almost certainly message them and ask them if we can have a quick call.

I still feel sending a message for 'if we can have a quick call' is still similar to being out the blue. I feel like I'm putting pressure on someone at this time.

Maybe it's just me/my personality.


If i got a message like that:

- I either wouldn't see it because I'm involved in something out and messages are not priority interrupts. (i.e. I don't have notifications turned on.)

- Or, if I see it but now isn't a good time, I'll reply something like sure but right now is a bit crazy. Call my cell at xPM. (Or I'll drop something on your calendar.)


> I feel like I'm putting pressure on someone at this time.

It is nothing like the imposition of requiring them to commute to an office to be interrupted at will.


At this point I'd say disable notifications and check messages every 45 minutes once you're out of flow.

I have one coworker like that. It turns out that we're not able to schedule it until near the end of the day and it's just a simple question that could have been typed by them and answered by me far sooner had they typed the question instead of can we have a quick call.

So I have the same issue. On Slack, I can't tell if someone is busy - almost no one sets their status as away unless they're actually offline. Whereas in the office it was easier to assess via headphones or if they've just gotten up from their desk etc.

I just message people regardless of if they're in a meeting or whatever. It's asynchronous communication -- they'll get to it when they can.

> On Slack, I can't tell if someone is busy

That's the beauty of async communication. It doesn't matter if they're busy, they'll get back to you when they can, and you're free to do the same. No one gets ripped out of their workflow.


> * Organise a Skype/Teams/whatever call in a few hours time and feel guilty about it, as it feels rude to just ring someone as they could be occupied or busy.

Why is it more rude to call someone on teams where they can just decline the call than to swivel in your chair and start talking to them?

If anything, I think etiquette has improved in our situation. No more in person interruptions or people just hovering at the edge of your vision to get attention. No more loudly conversing colleagues in the open plan office.

Instead we have lines dropped in chat or more carefully crafted emails for longer questions.


> Why is it more rude to call someone on teams where they can just decline the call than to swivel in your chair and start talking to them?

In the office, you can generally observe the state of your co-worker. Are they on a phone call? Are they already talking to someone in person?

A phone/Slack/Teams call can be quite disruptive if someone is already in a meeting.

We haven't fully adapted work culture to remote work.


Teams shows your status as on a call or presenting already. (Or is this a server specific setting?)

When I’m in a call I don’t get notifications of chats or phone calls.

If I need to focus I set my status to do not disturb and I don’t get notifications and calls go to voicemail.

So I do not share your observations.


I hate Microsoft Exchange/Outlook's calendar system (integrates with Skype for Business/Teams) for that.

A person can be scheduled in for an hour's long meeting but it actually only takes 10 minutes, but you check the person's status after the 10 minutes and it still says 'In a meeting' (usually differentiates with 'In a call' if they're actually in a call, but it's quite unreliable and you don't know if maybe they're having technical problems and are just about to reconnect).


With Teams you can set your status and ignore a message as well. I can't ignore someone who barges into my cubicle with a problem they feel is Sev 1.

If you’re sitting in my proximity and swivel in your chair and interrupt my work every time something’s not clear to you or you need a hand, I will politely ask you to stop and gather all your questions and send them in a message or email so I can look at them when I find a gap.

I can’t (as a human) switch context like a CPU. It’s not just about a couple of minutes. It’s about the time that it takes me to get back into the context and in the right place where I was in, prior to the interruption.

I believe this is not a good example for the point you’re trying to make.


I'm in the sort of weird position of having worked at 3 different companies throughout the pandemic, all fully remote, and then also now having left the working world entirely to freelance. The best remote work experience that I had so far was at the last company I worked for, where I never even met any of my co-workers in person. The reason it worked well is that we had a very strong and socially re-enforced culture that worked something like this:

If you're working, you're available on chat (discord). If you're not available (like taking lunch or a break) set your status so everyone knows.

If you need to talk to someone, don't hesitate to ask.

If you send more than 2-3 chat messages as part of a discussion, just pull everyone in to a video room immediately and talk it through. (Discord makes this really easy.)

At first I was a little uneasy about being pulled in to video calls all the time, but I came to really appreciate it. I honestly think this worked better than "just turning your swivel chair" because our team was big enough that even in an office not everyone would be a swivel away.


We have an open slack call all day, if you want someone you just say "Bob, are you free". Bob is either busy and ignores you, or has time and can deal straight away.

Is that really better or different than an open office and saying "Hey, Bob" across the room?

You can leave if you don't want to be disturbed far more easily than leaving a room, so has the benefits of the "Hey Bob" but with fewer drawbacks

I see no benefits of an office environment for my team (but then the 6 of us were split over multiple locations before covid) - the benefits are in the informal communication with people from other teams.


> it feels rude to just ring someone

It feels that way because it is. Demanding synchronous response even if you're a boss is despicable. Glad I don't have to work with you.

Sure there are exceptions when you've got important deadlines or fires to put out, but distractions are never welcome. Sure in office it was acceptable to have 5x less productivity, but you get to coach people which felt nice internally.


Wait, so it's rude to ring someone because they may be occupied or busy but it's not rude to interrupt them in person? At least with a phone call I can silence my ringer when I'm heads down or at least ignore a call if I'd rather stay focused.

I know some teams that just sit in a video call all day with each other while they code. For these guys, it's like having everyone in the same room. People just haven't been imaginative enough about how to make remote feel like in person when desired.

Why is it rude to send a PM but not rude to demand attention via physical presence?

It is rude to demand attention via physical presence, it's just normalized by a history of in-person work and extroverts who can't realize that not everybody enjoys or needs in-person interactions

I don't think it's about forcing anyone to work remotely, it's about being allowed to continue and not being forced to go back to commute times and water coolers.

My employer is in an industry that thrived on in-person interactions (save for any field writers/photogs). They had no remote working policy prior to the pandemic for the bulk of the staff.

They have made a complete 180° change on that and acknowledged that there has been anything but a drop in productivity, and vast improvements in some areas. Remote working is going to be a first-class option going forward (at least looking that way for now). They closed two offices downtown Toronto; one at the Rogers building, and one in a heritage block on Queen E. They were landmark locations for highly visible brands centred around the city, lifestyle, society, and politics. (read: It was not a decision made lightly for the company)

Now, the company owns its own print operations and those, of course, stay on site. I'm in digital operations—we're now scattered around the GTHA. After I got sick last year I underwent a bit of a sea change in attitude: my partner and I bought a used car, packed up and moved to a beautiful heritage townhouse in a smaller, greener town from our sub-500 sq/ft shoebox-in-the-sky. I'll never move back into one of those, and rent for anything else has gone off the bloody rails.

There are a larger amount of remote opportunities than ever—I like my job and my employer, but I would consider switching if I was forced to move back into their remaining office in North York every day. As it is, I can make it in there by car in about an hour for the odd all-hands.


The problem is the current situation is not reflective of real remote work.

One of the biggest advocates of remote work that I know is squarely someone for whom “remote work” has meant “running errands, walking the dog, heading out early for dinner, long lunches, runs after lunch” and so on. He’s much much more productive WAH this year than he was any of the last five years because all of these non-work activities have been actively suppressed.

That’s not going to last. The reality of the last 12 months is work has expanded to fill most daylight hours, meetings at 7am, meetings in the same day at 9pm, and so on. It’s not going to be possible to measure full-time remote this year until things start to open up.


How do you know these activities have been suppressed if he's working from home now?

Our team has always been one where you could step away from the office to run an errand or a doctor's appt. etc. Yet once we started WFH, it became more acceptable to go the store, take a walk, etc during "normal" business hours. As long as you get your work done, no one seems to care, and our mgmt seems to feel that our mental health is important, at least during the pandemic. Sure some may take advantage of this and screw off with their time, but if they get their work done, are they really screwing off? The old metric of "butts in the seats" is industrial age management.

Also, what is "real remote work?"

And yes, the time range of work has expanded for some, but that's a boundaries issue. Unless I'm on call, or we have an outage/issue that needs my attention, work doesn't expect me after 5pm. I start around 7-8am.


It definitely feels like real remote work, being that I'm in Dundas building a data pipeline for our ERP/CRMs/publishing platform that will run on a server someplace else in North America and used by sales teams around the GTHA and print ops in Vaughn. So I'm not sure I follow.

While my employer had no remote work policy, the general approach to the office was that everyone is an adult and a professional and you do what you need to do, but be at the office for work.

Running errands, etc, were never obstacles. Working hours have actually gone down out of necessity (save 10% on payroll during the pandemic, keep everyone employed) while productivity has remained. Now that things are starting to come back to life, there's actually too many projects coming down the pipe and we will need to start hiring to meet the expanding business goals.

I can't say my situation has been suppressed, personally. In the past year I've started to reignite my music career, got myself a recording grant and am spending my non-commute time writing and practicing before work and afterward, while not having to sacrifice making and having dinner with my spouse. And I had the space to build a room out for that work—something I couldn't afford in Toronto. And the air here—it's just so much nicer than in the city. It's all so nice that sometimes I can't believe it's real.


34% would rather quit than work in the office full time, that's doesn't mean another 16%+ wouldn't also prefer the option but not strongly enough to quit over it. There's also little talk I'm aware of of forcing anyone to work from home permanently, rather than just giving them the option.

Also, I think the assumption that it only applies to jobs that can be done well from home is pretty much baked in already, otherwise it would be quite nonsensical to even ask.

And the phrase "full time" is also important. I very highly value the increased free time and reduced costs I've experienced over the last year, but do miss in-person meetings, casual proximity to colleagues, and social events. The ideal for me would be to work from home 2 or 3 days a week, and I'd favour that quite strongly in career decisions compared to either extreme. I doubt I'm alone in that.


The article stated that 25% preferred a full-time office situation. That's also a minority.

And I don't think OP implied that the 66% who stated they wouldn't quit their jobs if forced to work on-site full time, be forced to work remotely. Half the people surveyed preferred a hybrid solution.


Imagine trying to manage a warehouse remotely

Given the fact that forklift operators have been driving forklifts remotely during the pandemic, this is not hard to imagine at all: the present reality is that warehouses are being managed remotely. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-54431056

In addition to this, there are now many companies in the warehouse robotics space, all of whom are more than happy to provide robots that automate most of the productive functions of warehouses. For example, there are automated guide vehicles (AGVs) that move inventory around the warehouse, automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) that manage inventory, store and retrieve goods on demand. In addition, there are collaborative robots or "cobots" that help the few employees you still actually need on site. Finally, there are articulated robot arms that pick, pack and palletize goods. Almost all of these can managed and operated remotely, all at a lower total cost than purely manual labor could achieve.

Given the fact that warehouses are the perfect example of how the working world is going permanently remote, I'm not sure how your marketing example is any better. If you want to bounce ideas off of another person in real-time, I don't understand why the same thing can't be done at a much lower cost on a call. After all, that's how everyone has been doing it for over a year now!


What are some cool companies in this space?

6 River Systems

Fetch

Geek+

Fabric

Locus Robotics

Logiwa

RightHand Robotics

Amazon Robotics (formed out of Kiva Systems, for the exclusive use of Amazon)


My CEO sent out a company wide email admitting we had succeeded in becoming a remote company, and proceeded to tell us remote work is not an option going forward. So... no.

My company keeps on sending out surveys to see how people feel about the "Return to the Office." It's as if they'll keep sending out surveys until they get the answer they want to hear.

It would be amazing to see such an email. Did anyone challenge it?

I think it will be challenged by hordes of people leaving as the back-to-office date approaches. They said that exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis (because people have already been hired remotely, and on top of that the CEO himself has been working remotely since pre-Covid, so their hand is forced) with approval from the exec team. As for sharing the email, I don’t have a (full) deathwish.

Warehouse workers were never working remotely, they got laid off.

Re: your last point:

1. That 34% would quit rather than return doesn’t mean the other 66% would prefer to, just that they might not quit over it.

2. It’s possible to employ both remote and on-site workers.


> 2. It’s possible to employ both remote and on-site workers.

It is, but it's very difficult to sustain a hybrid work culture. People working remotely tend to get shafted on ad-hoc discussions, even promotions.


Warehouse workers were never working remotely, they got laid off.

That's not what this report by the BBC says https://www.bbc.com/news/business-54431056


Four warehouses on a test basis and that’s the positive spin from the startup making the claim. Please apply some well-earned skepticism.

There is a company in Mountain View that is hiring remote forklift operators: https://lensa.com/remote-forklift-operator-jobs/mountain-vie...

From the link (pasting here for posterity):

Founded in 2017, Phantom Auto is the only company capable of remotely monitoring, guiding, and driving any type of vehicle from thousands of miles away.

We are an energetic and passionate team on a mission to build the future of vehicle operation.

At Phantom, every day is a unique adventure as we work to solve critical transportation issues. Because we work with companies around the world, we have the unique opportunity to work with many incredible vehicles and use cases.

As a member of the sales team, you will be instrumental in driving the business success of our company.

If you are determined to take on the world's most complex challenges and help build an industry-defining company, this is the opportunity for you.

As a Remote Forklift Operator you will be a pioneer in a job of the future and help to accelerate the rapid and safe deployment of driverless forklifts and industrial vehicles.


34% stated they would rather leave than return to the office. But the article goes on to say that only 25% would rather go fully back into an office. It sounds like the majority would enjoy a place they could go work if they choose to but not be forced to work in the office full time either.

In a similar vain of logic, 34% is a non-trivial portion. Why should a non-trivial portion be forced to work in an office just because another non-trivial portion wants to?

They shouldn't, but they may have to act on their preference and find a company who is going to be primarily or entirely remote.

I think the most people overestimate how hard it is to be a remote member of a team that is in the office (especially for software engineers). I've been remote for years and up until the pandemic the rest of the team was working together in an office. I honestly never felt like it put me at a disadvantage and in many cases I think that I was the one at a considerable advantage.

In general I think the future is not "fully remote" or "fully colocated" teams but teams were everyone is to some degree remote based on their preferences. So you may have some people who come into the office every day because they don't have a good workspace at home (or just like to get out of the house every day) but everyone else will come into the office somewhere between a few days a week and never.


This. No one is forcing anyone to work in office. The job market is...market and it provides you with certain benefits for certain services and expectations in return, and for many companies one of those expectations is coming into the office. If the market moves towards more remote work, then remote work will gain more leverage in negotiations.

> Not every office job is software engineering folks... Imagine trying to manage a warehouse remotely..

I suspect that ~0% of people currently working remotely due to the pandemic are managing warehouses.

> or bounce ideas off each other in real time at a marketing agency

I’m...not having trouble imagining that. I imagine it would take a bit of getting used to using online collaboration tools for that, which would — even with the tech being ready — stop any agency from voluntarily making the transition if they weren’t forced to by exigent circumstances, but I don’t have trouble seeing it working well once the initial transition period was cleared.

> Not to mention, 34% is a minority...

But probably not equally distributed across all job types and employers; there’s probably employers where there are entire functions where that’s near 100%.

And, actually, in work we often force the vast majority to work in particular conditions because a minority that has disproportionate influence prefers it. Which is actually why even where there is overwhelming support from employees for remote work and greater productivity, managers addicted to practices incompatible with remote work will bring employees back to work.


I think disregarding what a clear majority of workers desire is quite callous, particularly since remote working tools are simply not an adequate replacement for in-person interactions.

There is a bigger world outside "the valley". It's not surprising overpaid software engineers living in major cities, accustomed to forking over $4,000+ a month for tiny studio apartments are enjoying their experiences outside those circumstances.

Perhaps those same folks that refuse to return to the office can find happy employment at a local business in their newfound town instead.


34% is a big chunk, though, and it makes sense to accomodate them on a deal-breaker, if possible. Doesn't mean everyone has to work remote, but for instance it might be sensible to make meetings remote-friendly by requiring everyone to connect through zoom, even if most of them are in the same room.

But this isn't the argument that people are actually making. It's letting teams be mixed based on the preference of the individual employee.

If the work can be done outside of an office there is no reason for an employer to require it be done in an office.

It seems really weird after this last year to no respect for your employees preference on how they would like to do their work. "Hey Jim, I know you much prefer doing your job at home for reasons $x, $y, $z but I really like being able to walk over to your desk so either you come in or you're fired."


This. And I think a lot of software people would be shocked at how negative this year has been for quality and delivery at many companies.

There is a set of SW jobs that maps well to remote - in fact, there’s huge overlap with jobs that can be successfully offshored or pushed out of house and jobs that are well suited to full-time remote. That’s been going on for two decades. The jobs that are left are not as “I can work from anywhere” as people want. Sure, you’re writing internal tools and every thing you do involves yourself and maybe one other person? Yeah.


Well, I think it is about remote workers. For folks who have to be onsite like warehouse managers it is anyway not an option.

> we can't force the other 66% to work remotely

Yes, I think it is not going to happen. But management can force quite a few more than those who are themselves willing to work from home, if it can save some money.


> we can't force the other 66% to work remotely just because a minority enjoy it.

That's not saying the other 66% wants to go back to the office, only that they wouldn't quit their job over it.


> or bounce ideas off each other in real time at a marketing agency?

What? Wouldn't you _rather_ be in a zoom call for something like that?


> or bounce ideas off each other in real time at a marketing agency

My SO and the rest of their team are doing absolutely fine fwiw.


My spouse is a workforce analyst. She schedules work packages for a large government agency. She's responsible for the workloads of about 150 people. All have been working from home for a full year, and yes, they are quite capable of doing it. However, overall productivity is down 30%. Since they have good data, she can clearly see which people are close to their normal productivity even when working from home, and which ones are considerably worse. Most people are worse.

Does the data set have a control group? A group of workers doing identical tasks during a global pandemic ripe with political and social strife but working entirely within an office with their peers?

In this case, it's not possible to have a control group. You should interpret this data as a case study rather than a randomized trial.

Is there data that indicates that remote work is worse just because of the pandemic, or under ideal conditions, pre covid did remote work stats also indicate worse performance.

Without further information i do not understand how this can be disambiguated.

Myself, after a year of remote, i see pros/cons, but the overall situation of a pandemic is just soul crushing.


More accurately, their need for illusion of control trumps their attachment for the employees.

"after having had a year to see that they're perfectly capable of doing so"

?

Who says that it worked out?

'Remote Everyone' was a forced experiment, there's no assumption that the situation was ideal.


That would require management honestly evaluating employee performance and acknowledging bias. In reality management has spent a year proving to itself that working from home is impossible.

Companies that can take an honest look at themselves based on the last year will do well in the future. Those that don't will continue alienating good employees.


I don't find that second statistic believable. As someone who though almost every day about leaving a past job, even I didn't spend 30 minutes per day looking at job listings. In fact for a while I had to force myself to spend 20 minutes a day on that activity.

i had an officemate who spent about ~7.5 hours a day looking at job listings and reading things like "how to quit your soul crushing day job and do what you always wanted". so she was holding the average up for you and 13 other folks.

That's a average, not a cluster on a histogram. If you spend 4 hours a week job hunting when you are looking in earnest, that puts you over half an hour a day (almost 50 minutes per workday)

Interesting.

I am not leaving anytime soon, but can easily spend 15-20 minutes a day replying to recruiters just in case I one day need them and just browsing what pops up as recommended on LinkedIn.


While there is likely some truth to it, the first survey is hardly unbiased: it’s a survey showing lots of people are looking for jobs conducted by a company focused on job searching. That would be like WebMD doing a survey of people on its site to see how many people think they’re sick and finding out “wow, lots of people think they’re sick”.

I'm trying to figure out how a job search company gains from warning employers that their employees may leave if they force those employees to come back to office full time ...

It would actually be like WebMD doing a survey to find out how many people are hypochondriacs and shouldn't be using their site.


They get a pile of new candidates when people read it and realize "if others are leaving, I should be looking at it too."

That's not a valid comparison. On one side you have people who just want to quit their current job. On the other side you have people who want to continue in their job, but also want to work from home badly enough that they'd be willing to quit over it.

It isn't really meant as a comparison. It is more that "badly enough" isn't a high bar for a very large number of employees as they already not that attached to their jobs.

It's just another factor in the equation that (mostly) wasn't there before covid, because it was an extremely rare case where a company would offer the WFH perk.

Give me a dedicated office with a door that can shut, allow me to commute during off-peak rush hours, and raise my pay or shorten my work hours for the same rate... then we will talk about coming back in.

Currently:

I have an dedicated office at home, I can shut my door and work when I need to be distraction free. I don't have my head pinched by headphones for hours, and I can work in silence like I prefer. No coworkers interrupting me when I'm in the zone.

I've saved between 8-10 hours per week in not commuting. Worse, I've had bosses who enjoy flexing by having meetings promptly at 8am, where you have to leave extra early because you travel at peak rush hour.

I don't have to keep up appearances when I'm done with my work for the day or moment. If I'm waiting for responses or reviews, I can veg out, watch Netflix or play a video game, while staying on top of my email and work load. I've also taken to getting some of my house work done during this time. Laundry, mowed grass, exercise, lots of little things that used to get stacked up on the weekend.

I never have to eat off my diet, or feign excuses for not wanting to eat another office provided carb loaded meal. I stock my own foods, and have a hot meal for lunch everyday.

Finally, I don't have to smell the 2 smokers that spend a couple of hours smoking every single day nor do I have to sit next to someone with questionable personal hygeine. Yes Richard, you smell awful, and stink up half the office with your body odor and cigarettes.


“ I don't have to keep up appearances when I'm done with my work for the day or moment. If I'm waiting for responses or reviews, I can veg out, watch Netflix or play a video game, while staying on top of my email and work load. I've also taken to getting some of my house work done during this time. Laundry, mowed grass, exercise, lots of little things that used to get stacked up on the weekend.”

Agreed on pretty much everything. And this quoted part for many will increase productivity. But management often views this “gasp, going for a walk while I wait for someone to send me something” as time that could have been spent working.

The arguments for forcing everyone who is fully functional remotely back into the office are so shallow it pains me. I get it, some people have personal circumstances that make office work better for them. I guess we will just self sort into different companies and see which is better. My money is on smart people with more freedom over smart people micro managed by the clueless.


I switched to a job where I have an office for the first time and it really makes me question HTF open layouts have cough so much traction among employees. I think there was a push away from 'boring' offices and now no one even remembers or knows what having an office is like. I also don't buy the idea that there is really any hindrance to collaboration or casual socialization around the office. And no more packing up all my shit and finding some meeting room I need to schedule through an app just to whiteboard with a co-worker without bugging everyone.

That no one remembers what it's like having an office is the system working as intended. The open office layout is meant to reduce costs as it's cheaper to cram more people in fewer square meters of physical space. It's also cheaper to reorganize teams/furniture in an open office layout.

Plus, it allows managers to look over their demesne unimpeded.


Yea I get why mgmt is creaming over it, but it also seems like a lot of employees are too for no valid reason.

I’ve had an office and it was a miracle. The best of both worlds.

I’ll take full height cubes as a fallback. Open layout is the worst, I actually just go work from the lab.


> Give me a dedicated office with a door that can shut, allow me to commute during off-peak rush hours, and raise my pay or shorten my work hours for the same rate... then we will talk about coming back in.

If you can talk like that post-pandemic, why couldn't you walk like that pre-pandemic? You could've had a remote job then, too.

I do like remote work, but it's not all upsides. If there's a big shift to remote work, it will suppress wages because now you can hire from across the country, where living expenses are low.


Prior to the pandemic I never liked working at home. I didn't have a dedicated work area and so I ended up working at the dining room table, whose chairs hurt my back when sitting on them for long hours and I hated calling in to meetings. Often you couldn't see what was being projected in the room.

Now things are completely different. Once it become apparent that working from home was going to be long-term and not just for a "couple weeks" I started making changes. I now have a dedicated office at home. I have a proper chair that doesn't kill me to sit. Everyone (at my company) now uses WebEx for meetings so meetings are no longer the pain they used to be.

The result? My work/life balance has completely changed. I'm no longer spending 1.5 hours/day commuting to work. I'm saving money on parking, saving money on food, saving money on clothing, saving money on gas...no joke, I'm saving $200/month. Easy.

On the work side my team and I have never been happier - or more productive. We do have team activities allowing us to get together from time to time. We're more fully engaged with the business and have been delivering better solutions.

Bottom line? Spending over a year now working remotely has taught me a lot of things. The most important being I never want to go back to an office on a daily basis.


Personally I'd gladly take a pay cut for a fully remote job. Even SV salaries can't pay for the option to fully wfh if they choose to

> If I'm waiting for responses or reviews, I can veg out, watch Netflix or play a video game, while staying on top of my email and work load.

I pretty much finished all of Spider-Man on PS4 just on my work breaks while letting my brain churn out problems in the background.

When my brain goes ding, I can pause the game, walk the 3 meters to my work laptop and keep working until I get stuck again.


I don't believe it.

I do believe that 34% of polled workers said they would quit rather than return to the office, but I do not believe even a majority of them would actually go follow through on that threat. Especially if you filter out high paid/high job-security developers and similar people who might have the financial security to do so.

People, particularly Americans, are shackled to their jobs for many reasons and most people are risk-averse.

Despite myself being pro-remote, I think that we will see a sizable return to office-centric work culture over the next few years. The office may (hopefully) end up looking or feeling a bit different as an outcome. All the stories about the "end of the office" are overblown.

Once it again becomes beneficial for your career and/or social life to participate in office culture people will come crawling back. Not saying it's a good thing, but it's what will happen.


I'm just a sample of one but I literally did this. My employer started forcing us back into the office as soon as it was legally permitted. We were only allowed to be at 30% capacity, so management ensured that this quota was always filled.

We were all complaining about unnecessary risk to personal and public health. We couldn't even take advantage of the office, we were doing everything through Google meet anyway because meeting rooms were restricted to 3 people. Eating areas and water coolers were also out of bounds.

After a couple of months I landed a fully remote job and made sure management knew that this was why I was leaving. A couple of days after the CTO announced that fully-remote work will be allowed indefinitely for developers, and I'm quite pleased I was able to win that for my ex-colleagues.

Moral of the story: voting with your feet, it's a great way to balance power between employers and employees. Overall I think it's good for society to have this attitude.


I was interviewing recently, and I asked everybody explicitly about remote. Any places that have wishy-washy answers or seemed enthusiastic to get software devs back into the office, I didn't continue with.

I have no way to know if I influenced anybody's thoughts or actions, but I communicated to everybody involved that I'm only interested in remote work, and told them that others I have spoken to feel the same.

That's not strictly true, I do know some folks that are looking forward to getting back to the office, but I tried to do my part anyway.

I think in a couple years we will be back to a pretty high percentage of positions being onsite. Right now there is a small window of time to really drive home the idea that there is a sizable group of folks who will refuse to commute to an office, and hopefully at least influence the number of future remote opportunities a little bit more in our favor.


Agreed. You will only drive yourself crazy trying to change culture. Just leave.

Well yes, but if you dig down to what the authors of the study said:

"1 in 3 professionals currently working from home would look for a new job if required to return to the office."

They're not saying 34% of workers are going to quit instead of returning to the office, just that they will consider it.

https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/management-tips/returning-to...


My SO's office made an announcement at the beginning of the year that they're going to be requiring everyone to be local and in-office as soon as it's safe. Since then they've lost 40 people (a little less than 1/3 of their staff) who explicitly said that that they were leaving for remote work.

Executive leadership is now eating their hat and holding a town hall next week to talk about reversing that decision.


Now if they can be so quick to demand either solution, my question is — is there any other reason for them to demand onsite work, except for being toxic micromanaging assholes? Does it really matter to them that much?

I'd say if you have somewhere to run, run.


>I do believe that 34% of polled workers said they would quit rather than return to the office, but I do not believe even a majority of them would actually go follow through on that threat.

They can't. There's not nearly enough remote positions available.


>I do believe that 34% of polled workers said they would quit rather than return to the office, but I do not believe even a majority of them would actually go follow through on that threat.

I think the operative word in the survey results is "rather". That's a preference, not necessarily a decision.


> Once it again becomes beneficial for your career and/or social life to participate in office culture people will come crawling back.

Half of us are introverts and don't care about that. We're either self-directed enough that doesn't matter, or else we just sacrifice that already.


I believe it because this is what I’ve seen around me. People willing to quit if they are forced to go back to the office. Now will they do it? I don’t know, although some have already bought houses elsewhere without even asking for permission.

I personally would rather quit than stay remote indefinitely, I can tell you that.

Talking with various friends and people among my network I can say that it varies so much.

Some people would prefer to never go in, some people (like myself) would prefer an office presence but no requirement to attend and others would prefer to eliminate remote work.

I find this interesting because we tend to extrapolate our own thoughts and preferences to the general public. And this is kind of why working together is sometimes hard! We all want/expect/prefer different things in a working environment.


I wish employers would take this opportunity to scrutinize what it is that is valuable about working together in-person versus what it is that actually worked remotely. There are plenty of articles about better documentation protocols and this or that workflow to support remote work, but the reality is employees often feel pain on those fronts because of unspoken power hierarchies that gatekeep changes only from a set of approved clerics as opposed to whatever the organization structure would actually imply on paper.

Not having to commute would save me a couple hundred thousand on buying a house.

If the majority of tech companies had gone fully remote, or even "1 day a week in office" the housing market would look very different right now.

I am kind of sad that didn't come to pass.


> would prefer an office presence but no requirement to attend

What does this really mean in practice, though? I ask this as a person who just applied to a remote position at a company based in the city I live in. In theory, I'd be glad to come in in-person during the early months to facilitate training, but in practice I wouldn't trust the company not to stop viewing me as remote during that time.


The company I work at maintains an office, but coming in is optional. Some people come in every day because they prefer not to work from home, some people come in just for special occasions that require in-person meetings. As long as everyone is clear that it really is optional, then there shouldn't be an issue.

Ideally I'd have days in office to take meetings (maybe 2x a week) with the other days being purely remote but that isn't practical for various reasons. I think having an office with lots of conference rooms and a hot desk available for people to use would be optimal for me and my role.

I've seen a lot of variance too. There are people on both sides of the argument who feel strongly. Whichever direction a company chooses there are going to be a lot of unhappy employees.

This is certainly going to vary from person to person, and will not be a _one size fits all_ kind of thing.

I am the exact opposite, and the year of remote working has probably been the best and most healthy year of my work life.


Is your city/country implementing lockdowns, and do you have a small apartment and/or your spouse working at the same time in the same space and/or young kids?

Those variables tend to make all the difference between "happy to work from home" and "about to experience a mental breakdown".


> Is your city/country implementing lockdowns,

they have and I didn't care, because I don't need to leave my home to enjoy my life. If anything a fully remote world would be even better because then I can go live in the countryside and have my own land without having to see other humans

> do you have a small apartment and/or your spouse working at the same time in the same space

yep, and we get along great. I love spending all day with my partner and we've never been happier individually or as a couple

> young kids?

I choose not to have kids specifically so I don't feel like I have to get away from my own home and family to feel sane.

I've gotten the impression that the lockdown, pandemic world has been a brief breath of fresh air for the hermits, introverts, misanthropes of the world, and a taste for extroverts of how miserable it is for many of us to adapt to a world that doesn't accommodate our personalities and social preferences


I think you misunderstood my point about spouse and kids: it wasn't about getting away from them, but about juggling work with kids vying for attention -- how do you explain a 2 year old that daddy has to work and cannot play with her for a few hours, and that she must stay locked in because there's a lockdown outside? -- and a couple sharing very limited space working at the same time (just think of Zoom meetings!).

If I could I'd spend most of the day enjoying time with my daughter and give my employer about half an hour of my attention. Sadly, I need a full time job.

If you can go live in a cabin in the woods, congrats! You're part of the elite. Please understand the rest of us who aren't.

It makes all the sense in the world that affluent people with large houses or living in beautiful locations, without kids, or with antisocial tendencies ("hermits", as you put it) are doing well during this pandemic. What about the rest of us?


> I think you misunderstood my point about spouse and kids: it wasn't about getting away from them, but about juggling work with kids vying for attention -- how do you explain a 2 year old that daddy has to work and cannot play with her for a few hours, and that she must stay locked in because there's a lockdown outside? -- and a couple sharing very limited space working at the same time (just think of Zoom meetings!).

In that case it's a very different point and I understand the difficulty. But what does that have to do with remote work? Assuming the coronavirus is eventually under control, why not just work remote and send the kids off to a babysitter or wherever they would be while at the office?

> and a couple sharing very limited space working at the same time (just think of Zoom meetings!).

I feel like I often spend more time on meetings than actually coding so I can relate. Just buy a headset with a mic. Just like it's reasonable to invest thousands in a car if you have to commute to work, I think it's reasonable to invest at the very least 20 bucks on a convenience store headset to be able to focus a little better. If you can even splurge 100 bucks it's a big improvement. I'm physically closer to my partner than I was to my coworkers at my previous job, so I understand the concern, but I haven't had issues by just using headsets and muting as needed.

> ("hermits", as you put it) are doing well during this pandemic. What about the rest of us?

That was part of the point of my post. You've only had it rough for a year. What about us hermits for all the rest of human history when fully remote work has been a very rare luxury? For some of us, it's a countdown until we go back to a world that makes us as miserable for a lifetime as you've been for a year, except we won't have anybody fighting to let us keep the isolation and comfort we've been enjoying, whereas you have every world government and relevant expert sprinting to end this current way of life. It's frustrating to see people complain about being unhappy for such a short time and completely disregard how unhappy many people were with the old way of things and for how long


> Assuming the coronavirus is eventually under control, why not just work remote and send the kids off to a babysitter or wherever they would be while at the office?

Until very recently day care was closed by law (actually, worse than closed: you had pointless "Zoom hours" which don't help at all, the baby bored looking elsewhere and I still cannot work) and babysitters forbidden. Now that they are temporarily allowed, I breathe a bit more easily. They are threatening with forbidding them once more if the second wave hits as seriously as the trends seem to indicate.

Once COVID19 is under control, if my wife and I can work remotely with comfort, and I can go to the office maybe once or twice a week just to hang out with my coworkers, I'd be delighted.

> What about us hermits for all the rest of human history when fully remote work has been a very rare luxury?

I agree that people who want to permantently work remotely should be allowed to. This seems something else to me, the pandemic changed everything, in some cases for the worse. It's not a choice anymore.


> Just buy a headset with a mic.

One more thing: we both use noise cancelling headsets. Believe me this isn't enough for two people holding Zoom calls at the same time if located in the same room.

Also: local internet connections suck. There's no way out of this because every provider sucks. I've called tech support during the pandemic multiple times, and they are clueless. I suppose they just cannot cope with so many people working remotely -- though they do manage to raise the price of my plan regularly!


If my company stayed remote only and others had open offices, were traveling, doing offsites, ect - I would leave for that company.

I'm losing my mind. I can't believe I actually used to think it would be preferable.

It's super interesting, because after more than a year now, I'm barely at the "sometimes I guess it would be nice to see my coworkers and be able to talk about them in person". But, emphasis on "sometimes".

I'm kinda confused about this. The whole point of this is respecting each employee's preference for how they work best. If you work better in an office, like office culture, and want a separate space away from home then you should be able to have that. And now the office will only have people who feel the same way.

why?

I went from ~3-4 days in the office to full remote during the pandemic.. and then we gave up our office space since it was going "so well". I'm not quite ready to quit, but the office had tons of perks -- nice cafeteria / nice espresso / gym / beautiful setting in SF / casual face-time with the leadership / coworkers in different departments sharing a common space.

Sure there was a commute involved, but I enjoyed getting out of the house. Hopefully things will be better post-pandemic and I'll get some of the social interaction by working out of coffee shops and from parks, but the quality of life improvement from changing from a "5 days/week in the office" to "3 days/week in the office" was substantially larger for me than going full remote.


Most workers don't have the perks you mention. It's an edge case for a small cohort of Silicon Valley tech workers out of the entire cohort of those who had to go remote.

If your office experience was blah, or you had a long commute, you likely realized a lot of utility and benefit having your employer forced to support remote work.


So much this.

My office (investment bank) is dull, dreary, depressing, dystopian, Dilbertesque. Everyone must wear at least business casual (dress shirt, dress pants, dress shoes). We have none of the perks mentioned above. The commute is miserable. Very little sunlight. Even our coffee is an atrocity. This is probably standard fare for most old school non-tech companies.

I've visited the offices of quite a few Silicon Valley tech companies. The atmosphere could not be more different.

If I had to use an analogy, coming into my office is like checking into the local cheap motel. Going to a SV tech company office feels like it would be akin to checking into a hip and luxurious boutique hotel.

I've said this before, and I know grass is greener on the other side, but if my office environment were better, I could imagine myself enjoying being at the office more. As it stands currently, it is outright depressing.


this raises the question, what are the companies where going into the office is like checking in to the Four Seasons?

Lol, if I had to take a guess, I'd wager the C/executive suites at some top hedge funds.

I've heard some stories about Steven Cohen's office suite at SAC for example.

Despite being wealthy, tech company execs don't seem to be at that level of ostentatious old school display of wealth.

Edit: I've been at some hedge funds too - and most of the lower employees, especially in tech (cost center) still get the cheap motel experience.


The hospitality industry, obviously. (sorry)

I've actually interviewed at Hilton for a SWE role. The office was pretty depressing haha.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Yeah no doubt - I used to commute to Hayward from SF and it nearly killed me, even though the office perks were still nice (though that was a 5-day/week office job). Post GFC, it was manageable with the decreased Bay Area traffic but as the economy heated up, my 45min 8am commute turned into a 1.5hr 7am commute.

My current org was 90% remote to begin with, there was just a "main office" with a few dozen employees working out of their casually, and regular department gatherings in the space when a number of people had to be in SF. So going full remote was easier for our org than others, but I wouldn't mind a few days back in an office.


- I'm a young college grad. It's difficult to new meet people without that workplace structure

- I'm far more productive in an office

- Onboarding remotely really doesn't work at all

In short, working from home is boring, lonely, and stressful all at the same time.


I totally sympathize with younger workers, but coincidentally, I have an opposite experience as an older worker.

I stopped building my social life through work `n` companies ago; I'm way more productive at home and my setup is way nicer; I have onboarded many engineers in person and remotely and find onboarding remotely to be much easier and less of a drain.

This only confirms the line that my coworkers and I are noticing as folks make their decisions as to return to the office or not. The older (married and (some) with children) engineers are staunchly in the WFH camp, while the greener hands are enthused about working from the office.


Probably people just figured out that they don't need big cities to live.

Personally I think cities are overrated anyway and this is why:

- heavy traffic hence heavy pollution

- huge commute times to work

- need to pay lot more for home (both buy/rent, may even have to take loan)

- everything is expensive. My current expenses are 1/3 of that of city and I already have a home. I live in a town since pandemic


I think the advantages of living in a big city really emerge when you have hobbies/interests/needs that are not very common.

In that case if you want in-person interaction with like-minded people, or to attend specific facilities, you need a big enough population that the relevant small percentage of people becomes a significant community.


Most of the relatively recent net inflow into certain cities is from a fairly specific young college-educated demographic. And the reality in places like Manhattan is even though a lot of those sorts of folks moved to the "big city" for jobs after graduation, in practice, many of them moved to the suburbs when they got married, had kids, etc.

After graduation I probably knew dozens of people who moved to Manhattan or nearby. I'm not sure more than one couple I know is still there.


I notice that very few people that work in Manhattan actually live in Manhattan. Unless you're very young and happy to live with roommates, or are already loaded, or are making big bucks from a, say, high finance or FAANG SWE job, most people seem to be commuting in from NJ or the outer boroughs (Brooklyn and LIC are probably priced out too).

I can't speak for the poster but obvious issues include:

* Having any kind of separation between work and home.

* The requirement to have an office space that you likely pay quite a lot of rent for.

* Lack of spontaneous interaction with co-workers (especially new ones)


Because working from home for 1year just sucks and it opened my eyes that it's not something I want to do if I have a choice, you miss so much on the social side.

I don't go to work to socialize. I go to work to make money. And if I had enough money, I wouldn't work for someone else at all.

I socialize by going to conventions, events, clubs, parties; with people I want to be around.


While I agree with you, I think it's a mistake to reject all social aspects of working. It doesn't have to be about making friends, and certain type of work definitely benefits from direct social contact. Even with programming being mostly a solitary activity, discussing a piece of code, brainstorming design, pair programming, etc., are all much easier and interactive in person. The online tooling is just not there yet. We've settled on text chat, crappy video conferencing and code review tooling, but they're a lossy alternative to in-person communication. Maybe one day when our brains are wired up this will improve, and we have VR in the meantime.

Outside of tech work, consider how many professions depend on communication where this lossiness is unacceptable. So I definitely get that there's a wide spectrum of preferences towards telecommuting.


Then I didn't quite get my point across.

I'm not at all saying "Be antisocial at work". That just makes for a shitty time for everyone. What I was trying to get to was "dont use work as a way to make friends as well", since many of those relationships are predicated upon working said job. It's all too easy to lose a job and be simultaneously be isolated by having all your 'friend network' in a group that no longer talks or relates to you.

By having people who are your friends outside work, how you change jobs doesn't matter. It's a discussion with your friends about that place. And talking ill about that workplace can be done, and not alienating or as sour-grapes.

Now, for the few people that do cross over to non-work, it's awesome. Welcome them as a friend, and not a "work-friend". But I find that I've only had a very small handful of people whom that happened with.


Totally agree with this. It's great if friendships naturally develop at work, but you shouldn't rely on something like that to happen or expect it to happen. That's just setting yourself up for disappointment.

I've worked for four companies in my career. I'm still great friends with my coworkers from my first company.

I don't talk to anyone from my second and third companies at all - not because I don't like them, but because we just never built rapport or "jived" with each other beyond work. Our relationships amounts to at best, liking each others' posts on social networking and saying happy birthdays.

I'm still good friends with some people I worked at in my current company that have since left.

Then again, I'm fairly introverted. YMMV if you are highly extroverted. I know some people that can quickly become best friends with a room full of strangers.


Must be fun to be your co-worker. Work is the #1 place to socialize, you don't go to a club and start talking to random people.

I'll bet 1/3 also said they would walk away if they had to keep working remotely. If we've learned anything from this year, it's that there is no consensus. Some people like to work in an office, some people like to work at home, and most people like the flexibility of doing both when they choose to.

I think offices are here to stay, but maybe in some cases they will change to be more like coworking spaces for just one company, where every desk is "rented", to allow for hybrid situations where different teams can choose if they want to be remote or in person and which days they do that.


I feel like I'm in the minority here, but I am chomping at the bit to get back into the office.

I'm a Senior SWE. I've got ADHD. Work from home has been *catastrophic* for me. I don't have the ability to focus. I have no space in my home where I can work distraction-free, and no ability to create a space separate from my family. From home I can slack off for an hour... or two... or days, and nobody notices because my projects don't have deliverables that are measured in less than weeks. So I end up spending way too much time on non-work things and then berate myself for it afterwards. And then I do the same thing the next day.

Being in the office gives me an externally-imposed structure that I just don't have the capability to impose on myself. I had the freedom to pick a few days here and there to WFH as needed, so I understand and can occasionally use the benefits. I also miss out on the serendipitous conversations. I know that a lot of people discount this as hand-waviness, but my team's culture around texting is disruptive in a way that I used to avoid in person. I felt like I had a much better handle on things in the office.

My spouse runs her own company, and she has a free office, so I've been using that twice a week, and I make sure to medicate these days to make the most of them. But my output is still significantly lower than when I was in office. And I don't want to move to every day medication for a variety of reasons.

I've read the comments suggesting that middle management thinks that their perceived impact is threatened in a work from home environment, but I am clearly not in that demographic. My work is either writing design docs and getting approval, leading a team to build these designs, or getting my hands dirty with the code itself.

I don't care if other people work from home, as long as I'm not completely alone in the office. I just need the structure back.

I feel like a junky who just needs "one more" whiteboard fix.


You are not alone. Senior engineers in general - all of the leads I’ve talked to - feel like the current situation is completely broken. I can imagine it works for relatively low-technology low-complexity teams or very very small teams, but it is disastrous for complex and medium/large teams and projects. It’s just very challenging to impossible to keep an appropriate level of awareness.

I don't understand how being in the office helps you keep an appropriate level of awareness. Because you can walk up to someone and determine how far along they are with a project? Isn't that what Jira etc are for?

I can't answer for others, but I'm involved in a large team inside of a large department where it can be difficult to understand who really owns a piece of code, and we're all expected to be able to slice all the way across the codebase.

I can't tell you how many times I'm heard a team mate mention something that they're working on that I have direct knowledge about and I've been able to cut a week of time off their project. And vice-versa, they've helped me.

I usually don't care about exactly what they're doing or how far along they are. If I need that information I join that group's regular sync, or check the bug status, or ping them and ask.

It's more about knowledge that a project actually exists. I have about 5 projects that I'm actively leading and another 10 or so that have been backlogged or deferred. There are about 50 people at my level in the department, so I assume there are at least 200 active projects, and I can't handle that firehose. Actually, I'm positive that there are at least 200 projects of various sizes ongoing, and I may be low by a full order of magnitude.

But when a question comes through my team, the fact that we can overhear what's going on and tune in or tune out can make or a break a project.


because hallway and whiteboard conversations are visible beyond the narrow participants.

More context that didn't really fit in.

Like I said, I'm free to WFH as I see fit as is. I probably averaged WFH less than one day a week, but sometimes it was as many as 3 days.

I've done remote work for ~3 years for a few companies. This only worked because their expectations were significantly lower than my capabilities, so I was able to coast through with ~2 hours of work per day.

As my role has increased, expectations have risen to match my capabilities. But I strongly feel like I only have those capabilities in the office.


As a person that also has ADHD, it's more than that. Being around people and working and talking with them directly stimulates me and keeps me focused.

From one fellow whiteboard junky to another: please give ShareTheBoard.com a try. It's no replacement for the real thing but it's a quick fix (ha!) and, I dare say, solves a problem or too.

As for the need for structure: I can understand this quite well. Both as a PdM and as a lifelong fan of my son.


For me, its all about the commute. Just do the math.

1-Hour commute time both ways: 21.8 Days a year you are spending commuting to/from work.

3-fucking-weeks of time, poof, gone.

I'll get my social interaction else where for 3 weeks of my life back. Thanks.


Yes and if you have a disagreement with said external friends it is highly unlikely to affect your professional life.

While commuting is time-inefficient activity, if you let all 22 days a year disappear...thats on you. There are plenty of things to do in a car ride, train ride, bus ride, walk that are not 'poof, gone' uses of time.

If you are driving to work the most you can do during that drive is listen to a podcast, news, or book on tape. Stuff I can already do at home doing other things too. But have to deal with things like someone just cut you off, and now you just forgot what was happening and need to rewind. It is far from a productive time period. Without having to commute I have a lot more time to do things that are much more valuable to me.

I think most of the people missed my point. I didn't say commuting was a productive time, but it doesn't have to be a complete waste either. Sure, some days people are groggy or feel like zoning out on the commute, cool. But I feel like if 100% of the days are like that, and you actively complain about it...there is something that can change.

Usually that time is "spent" either on:

1. Catching up on lost sleep because I had to wake up early to waste that time on commuting to the office.

2. Being wasted from a tiring day at work and not in any mood to do anything "productive" on transit, which itself further adds to fatigue and exhaustion.

As a bonus, you also get to roll the dice on whether you even get to sit. Whether it's 30 minutes or 90 minutes, holding onto a bar or strap stuffed into a metal container like sardines takes another huge mental and physical toll. Arrive at the office already tired and wasted, and arrive back home even more tired and wasted.


Yes, there are many people in situations where there is a constant domino effect of negative stressors that prevent being in a 'productive commuting mood'(having a baby for example, disorders, disabilities). But if you're in a perpetual state of exhaustion from mainly your job and 30 minutes on a train is putting you in the ground, I would go on a limb and say you're not just wasting the 22 days, you're wasting a whole lot more than that.

In my particular case, it's a 45-60 minute bus ride + a 20-30 minute subway ride. Odds are that I'm much more likely to be standing than sitting, so it is definitely not an enjoyable or relaxing experience.

The only way I can avoid it is to leave home much earlier (see my earlier comment about losing sleep because of the commute as it is) and/or leave work much later.

Or move closer to work at the cost of much higher housing expenses for a place that is smaller and older.

Or - something which I'm trying to do - leave for an entirely different metropolitan area. I've had ex-coworkers and friends who've left the Manhattan commuting hellhole for the SFBA and tell me their commutes are a heavenly 15-30 minute relaxing drive now.


Don't put the blame on them. There are plenty of reasons why it might suck: having to drive the car (and pay for it) to get to work, which also adds to the stress. Taking the train (depending on where you live) might also be uncomfortable: risk of dirt, disease, smell, and risk of assault when commuting home after working late. Cycling late at night might also increase the risk of accidents.

There are also plenty of reasons it might not suck too. A negative spin can be put on any situation, and I agree that not everyone has a posh commute in a nice car, or in a nice part of town, or on a nice rail line.

But the way I see it is that you have two choices: you can change the situation or you can change your outlook on it. Sometimes you can do the first one, but it doesn't always work out. At this point you should look to do the second one. If you don't do either, well I guess you can wait for a covid situation to do the changing for you.

Also, cycling absolutely increases the risk of accidents...doing almost anything at night increases the risk of something going wrong. I don't see how that point plays into anything. If my ride home is 30 minutes and I need to stay focused not to crash, then I ride attentively and consider it a workout. Yay I just worked out 22 extra days a year.


Nah let's fight for structural change instead of timidly complying and listening to podcasts while we become traffic and lose 22 days a year.

Also seems like you missed the point. I said nothing about the future of work and fighting or not fighting for different standards.

I'm glad you think that people who choose to listen to podcasts during transportation experiences are timidly complying with the world though, seems accurate.


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