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I went to the office for the first time. I fucking hated it (reddit.com)
438 points by pinewurst 54 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 467 comments



I just want my own office. That's all. I'd be pretty okay with going in if I had my own office with 4 walls.

First job of my career, they told me I would have an office of my own. First day I come back do for full time (I had interned there too with my own office), they tell me they're switching buildings to go open office in about a month's time. I got a precious few weeks with a personal office, and then it was all gone. I hated this change of scenery mmediately, but I guess I got used to it after a few years.

Working from home took me back to that zen. I didn't even know how much I missed it - how much I needed my own space to feel productive.

I've since changed jobs, and I kinda dread having to go to the open office nightmare once this is all over. The facilities are way nicer than my last job, but it's still an open office.

Open. Office. As. Implemented. In. Our. Industry. Is. Stupid.


1. An office with four walls, a door that can be closed is helpful but as a _minimum_ I'd also want:

2. Pristine bathrooms

3. Clean kitchen and good supply of tea/coffee (with ample space for those to store or prepare their food hygenically).

The amount of places I've worked that can't provide 2 and 3 is saddening. Nothing worse than being stuck in a dirty smelly place, hanging around to get points for presenteeism.

No I'm gonna get on a rant.

Why is it that my home network is superior to the crappy wifi at the office?

Why with my limited salary can I setup a better desk with much better screens / computing equipment than my employer provides?


I once worked at a place with pristine bathrooms. Awesome in theory except any time nature called I ran into a “closed for cleaning” sign as they were deep cleaned 3-4 times a day. I always wanted to work with the janitorial staff to improve their timing and “system” as I don’t think they even realized sometimes they had all men’s rooms closed at the same time for significant amount of times. But I couldn’t bring myself to interject.

Anyways I have an appreciation for availability these days. My office butts to toilet ratio is very high and I’m occasionally in a jam.

I really wish people in the men’s room would only use the toilet to sit down. The seat should certainly rise without the weight of a butt on it, it’s the only time it belongs down despite what the women in all our lives have conditioned us to believe.


//Pristine bathrooms//

Thanks for pointing this out. I thought I was alone thinking this. I mean it tells lot about company right : how they keep toilet/bathroom ..


> Pristine bathrooms

A-FREAKING-MEN.

I would also add individual bathrooms, not one with stalls. That way I can be in peace a little bit and take care of my business.


> I'd also want: ...

a home provides all of those. So basically, you want to work from home!


I can't comment on your own home or that of GP commenter, but in my home the cleaning and supplies services seem to take 7 days off per week, so I keep having to deal with cleaning the bathroom and stocking up on tea and coffee myself. At the office these tasks are taken care of, and when I get home the state of it and its supplies are no worse than they were when I left in the morning.


100%

My organisation just opted into open area hot desks instead of offices. One day in there and interrutped about 5 times in 30 minutes by people who otherwise would have pinged me on slack and allowed me to reply in a manner more respectful of my workload. They see this as a big advantage of the open area "instead of making meetings you can just go over and quickly chat to someone!"

When you think about what software people do when they are most productive it is almost a deep trance-like state, I would compare it to meditation. Imagine proposing that people go and do their meditation out in the corridor where everybody is walking past and talking to each other, getting coffee and randomly interrupting you. It's insane anybody ever thought it was a good idea.

Unfortunately closed offices are a huge status symbol now and asking for one is akin to declaring you think you're more important than everyone else in the office.


I work remotely and rent an office in town. It's a 15 minute walk from my house, a decent size (~22m^2), all my own, and well set up. I love it and pay gladly but I it's not possible for everyone.

I used to have a garden office but my wife now needs her own space for her work so I took the rented space.

A dedicated space is a must if you're working remotely. Either at home or offsite.

I have no objection to going into the office for well defined, productive meetings like project kick-offs though. I still believe they're the best way to collaborate on big planning tasks, even after having worked remotely for over 10 years.


> I work remotely and rent an office in town.

I live in a semi-rural commuter town outside London, and I've noticed on one of the few office-industrial estates around the town there's a new building which currently has the logo of one of those co-working companies. This isn't something I've ever seen outside of London (WeWork being the obvious one).

I'm curious to see if that style of working catches on post-COVID.


Yeah, I live somewhere that's very cheap indeed by the standards of most people reading this thread. I spend about USD 150 a month on a small office and it's brilliant.

Get all the benefits of office space (i.e., time out of the house, different mental space) with none of the downsides. I've got a couple of spare desks, so if I'm working on something with other people, or just wanna have friends hang out and work it's all doable.


Perhaps companies that require physical offices could try to offer a compromise incentive: personal offices or actual cubicles instead of open office layouts. At least that would solve many of the pain points of physically working in tech.

Maybe personal offices are too expensive, but how much does it cost to set up cubes?


The biggest contributor to me loathing returning to the office every day is the open office floor concept. It’s a distracting environment for software engineers who need to focus when doing their work. As I’ve become more senior, it’s become even worse because I feel like I have a constant flow of individuals standing behind me to ask questions. It’s very difficult to get an hour or two of uninterrupted time every day.


Flexibility is key, IMO. A cube/personal office might be desired, but it doesn't solve the time & cost problems associated with travelling into an office. And there will be some like me who prefer an open office environment to an enclosed space.


Indeed, this is backed by Real Data! Back in the 1970s or thereabouts, IBM did a study where they put one group in an open office and another in individual offices and quantified the productivity difference. The "individual office" group was (iirc) something like 15% more productive.

All from memory, so I may have misremembered bits... As I recall it, they actually built purpose-designed buildings for the study, such was IBM's cashflow, power and arrogance back then.


Yes, working from home is much better than working at open office. However there is some scenario where middle manager can make WFH as hellish as working at open office: by mandating everyone to install invasive spyware so they can "manage" you remotely.

Bonus point if the company didn't want to give/loan company devices, so you have to install it on your own personal devices.


That's a huge red flag for me though. If you're employed (so not working as a freelancer for the company), the employer is supposed to provide the equipment you can work on. For them to expect usage of personal devices and then have a requirement of installing these kind of tools on it wouldn't be expectable to me.


How common is having to install such spyware though? I hear stories about it but none of people that I know actually had to put up with it (or maybe they didn't know?).

The closest I got to this situation was being told that if I want to do work on my personal laptop I'd have to install some software that would allow the IT department to wipe it out in case it gets stolen. While I understand the reason, it was an obvious nope from me.


That's a 2-weeks notice event


> Bonus point if the company didn't want to give/loan company devices, so you have to install it on your own personal devices.

Oh i would NEVER. That sounds horrible.


Eh. I use Linux at home, and the work stuff happily lives in a Windows VM; but installing work software on my personal mobile devices? too much liability, just no.


An open office is cheaper to manage for the company. It's all about the bottom line. That's most likely the biggest reason it exists.


It's only cheaper if you leave out the costs of degraded performance, higher turnover in personnel, and being less attractive as an employer. These are not easy to factor in, but the general gist of the last decade seems to be that the (unmitigated) open plan office has an impact on the bottom line. It's just hard to put a number on it, which you can do with concrete items such as floor space or the cost of adding a wall somewhere.


Construction materials supplier here. That is not necessarily true. There are two major drivers for open office plans:

1) The notion in architecture that open plans, by literally removing barriers, figuratively remove them and create a more open and inclusive office environment. This is a popular belief in the biggest architectural firms in the world, even though the principals at those firms all have luxurious private offices.

2) Recently some offices have flipped to open plans to accommodate hybrid working. E.g. allowing employees to WFH 2-3 days / week but then expecting them to hot-desk when they come in. This reduces the total footprint required, which can reduce costs...except many firms are using the saved funds to enhance the office in other ways (more natural light, better furniture, plants and fountains, catering, etc.) in order to attract talent.

Gensler has published a lot of this research and positioning publicly in reports and in their podcasts.


True, but less office space is cheaper than even that.

My employer is looking into allowing 3-4 days remote each week going forward and is then expecting they can downsize their offices to save money.

Would 100% remote be better? For some. For others who don't have the means to work at home, they need the office.

The open office environment is completely detrimental to good deep work though.


And much more friendly to CCTV


This.

I actually do enjoy being in the office. I would much rather the hours be a little better - like 6 hours not 8 to take into account the commute.

But being in an open office and not in my own person office is painful. So many distractions.

I had my own office (as a manager) for 2 years, and it was bloody glorious. After I switched jobs and still was a team lead / manager, I no longer did due to those companies cultures and it was so much worse.


Sounds like the relationship is dysfunctional in both directions.

On the one hand, the employer set up a panopticon in the office, with crappy furniture, lots of interruptions, a crappy office kitchen, no decent food (i.e. needing to bring food from home). Garbage in, garbage out. Of course nobody is happy to sit in traffic to come to an environment like that.

Then we have the author, who has the mistaken idea that the number one most important thing that you do at your job is your directly measurable productivity. Not relationship-building, just pure "shut up and let me sit down and get my work done." Personally, I'd prefer it if engineering work didn't go the way of Amazon warehouse workers, because if "productivity" is the sole metric of an employee's performance, just wait until your employer decides to try and optimize it.

Best of luck to the OP at the dice roll that is the next company he works for.


Do you see where the author is coming from? I believe he is a developer (or even junior) that has a scrum master or some kind of manager and has tasks and sprint points assigned to him. If he does not finish his "commitment" in points in their designated time, people will ask him "why it took so long?" and maybe put him on improvement plan.

Productivity is the most important for him and people like him, because that is expected from him and he is measured against that. No one is going to nag about him not paying attention in one or the other meeting. He will get people nagging when he does not deliver.

He dislikes things that get in a way of what he is supposed to do. Then we all know you cannot say you did not made your commitment because you had to attend 10 meetings, this will be taken as making up excuses.


Agreed.

It's a false dichotomy that one is better than the other.

The only useful way I know to think about it is what my ratio of solo focus time is vs time spent communicating with others.

There is a place in the world for people who wait for requirements to appear in their ticket queue, code out solutions, then go home, ad infinitum. But software development tends to work better as a collaborative endeavour.

As an IC you should expect to spend 70-80% of your time on focus work (either solo or pairing) and 20-30% on communicating/planning/overhead.

The writing of the code itself happens in the middle of a much longer conversation and to deny the programmer visibility of this is to deny them context.

Designing working spaces to allow this is possible, but easier if you let people choose where to work for 4 out of 5 days a week.


Communicating/planning/overhead are part of productivity. So are 1 to 1s with good managers.

But the people who wander around telling jokes and drinking coffee are just socialising and (possibly consciously and deliberately) raising their profile.

They're not doing anything of value to others.


Like you said, a false dichotomy, but after years of collaborative development with stakeholders, I still want well defined tickets. Things go missing constantly otherwise, people forget they asked for things, I forget they asked me, questions about the task end up lost across four different communication platforms, it's a mess.

At the end of a good meeting, I love seeing actionable tickets, I can relax knowing I have all the requirements so far captured and I can get to work as soon as it's time. In between now and then, I can forget allll about it.


> Then we have the author, who has the mistaken idea that the number one most important thing that you do at your job is your directly measurable productivity. Not relationship-building, just pure "shut up and let me sit down and get my work done."

To be fair, that's been a popular view among software engineers long before ubiquitous WFH was a reality. And programmers are definitely keen on not getting their flow interrupted.


> Then we have the author, who has the mistaken idea that the number one most important thing that you do at your job is your directly measurable productivity. Not relationship-building, just pure "shut up and let me sit down and get my work done."

Well, the most important thing is certainly NOT relationship-building either.


> Not relationship-building, just pure "shut up and let me sit down and get my work done."

It's entirely possible to build relationships remotely.

I'm sort of a job hopper and also work 80% remotely on average, with two-week-long visits to the office. Throughout the years I always stayed in touch with at least one person from the previous projects.

Most of these relationships were built entirely remotely and were much stronger than those made during my time at the office.

It's likely a question of preference, but it's not like someone working remotely has to necessarily have a "business only" approach.


> Then we have the author, who has the mistaken idea that the number one most important thing that you do at your job is your directly measurable productivity. Not relationship-building, just pure "shut up and let me sit down and get my work done."

Relationship-building sounds like something my manager would say. And I’d still have to code XYZ, make sure it works, and make a presentation about it. Not sure how relationships help me in a technical role.


In many, many ways.

Relationships to your fellow engineers help when you're banging out code and need a review or just a rubber duck session.

Relationships to the Product Management team means you have a finger on the pulse in terms of where the product you're building is moving. That means you can push back on stupid things, and suggest brilliant things that were only possible because you had the technical insight.

Relationships to upper management helps if you have some technical idea that you want to pursue which requires a significant investment.

Basically, relationships help a ton if you want to have any influence on the work you're doing. If you're fine just taking whichever ticket pops up and implementing it then sure, you don't need relationships.

I think this however also heavily depends on the company and culture you're in.


I’m surprised I got upvoted at all, reading over your well thought-out comment.

I do command quite some deciding power. But I can’t figure out if it’s my technical skills, or the fact that I’m the only person carrying this project. Pretty sure no one else around me knows what a ticket is.

But what irks me is that my entire position feels incredibly ill-conceived. Like I’m not solving any actual problems. And I can’t “do” anything about it, because that would take years of company-wide restructuring. And I’m just not a long-term visionary, like my peers (who all happen to be, let’s say, at a much later physical and mental state in life).

That’s why I don’t see how in-company relationships benefit me. I wouldn’t dismiss them in general though, which I strongly came off as doing.

But it’s either that, or quitting. The latter will probably happen in the foreseeable future, once it doesn’t look too transient on my resume.


I upvoted you, but I heavily disagree with you. Working with people you don't know, don't trust and/or don't like is hard. This hardship can be alleviated by "relationship building"

You can also cut down a tree with a dull axe, but why would you choose that over a sharp axe?


> if "productivity" is the sole metric of an employee's performance, just wait until your employer decides to try and optimize it.

Productivity is the sole metric of your performance, it is the job of management to come up with meaningful metrics. If they try to optimise for something stupid like LOC or mouse movements or hours logged, they will get the hell they planned for themselves.

The very last thing I want to happen is being judged by how popular I am.


> no decent food (i.e. needing to bring food from home)

I think there's just no food at all at the office. Most offices work that way, at least where I live (France).


One small thing : even if available food is decent, some people prefer their own (diet needs, it may be cheaper, etc).


One thing I noticed is that while more experienced people are productive working from home, it is devastating for fresh starting employees. Work from home eliminates learning through osmosis. If anyone has a work around this let me know. I am surprised no one else has mentioned it here.


The solution is obvious: structured training and mentoring. When the pandemic hit, I was hiring a team of 5 new engineers. What was I going to do? Throw up my hands?

I implemented a weekly technical training program that morphed into the 250 person org official onboarding. Weekly, I literally just get someone on a VC for 30 minutes and record having a conversation about a technical topic at a noobie level. 16 months later we have 50+ training videos on every topic.

We implement mentors and formal onboarding processes with screen sharing and remote whiteboating sessions, too.

It's not hard.


Actually it sounds like it is hard, but you pulled off something of great value by thinking about it, taking ownership, and iterating towards solving a problem.


It's a lot harder than giving an employee a laptop and having them shadow someone for a couple weeks before kicking them in the deep end.

Structured training may be straightforward to implement, but it takes many more man-hours than just letting the new employees sponge up knowledge on their own.

That said, remote work is here to stay, and you're right to criticize companies for being extremely lazy with remote onboarding. Companies that can quickly ramp up fully-remote new-hires will probably have a huge competitive advantage in the coming years.


What remote whiteboarding tools do you like? I do a lot less whiteboarding these days and it kills me.


Lucidchart has been my go to. Allows multiple users in the same whiteboard at once. Legible text as opposed to whiteboard scribble. Easily rearrange block diagrams. Permanent record of a diagram session that can be thrown in a design doc.


Excalidraw is killer. We use it extensively at work


Miro.com is a game changer.


I have a second webcam pointed straight down at my desk, and scribble with a pen on paper.

Frankly, this works better than any of the digital tools I tried, despite not being collaborative. (I tried a number of them, and have both a drawing tablet and a tablet pc)


The fact that you put work into the problem is admirable. However, I will say that from personal experience, I find it significantly less engaging to watch online training videos.

As a junior, the most rewarding learning experiences I have had in my career took place during off-topic discussions at the desk of an engineer who was way smarter than me.


You can't replace human contact with technology, it will never be an adequate substitute. We are social animals and I think the increased push to doing everything online will damage peoples mental wellbeing in the long term


The mentors and mentees meet daily for the first few weeks and then taper off to as-need screen sharing sessions. So, plenty of human contact.


You're missing the point though, which is that people need time with people to learn. Watching videos isn't enough. What happens when they have questions and need to have a conversation?


How am I missing the point with a comprehensive training program that explicitly allows people to continuously engage with their mentor and have face time?


Amen. Nicely done.


Better documentation, learning by osmosis suggests you don’t have a lot written down so people can’t solve their own problems.

Better mentorship, not “here’s your mentor” and it’s some disinterested person who can fob you off to soak it in. The good news is that if people can “learn by osmosis” you probably have some strong informal mentors already. You need to identify who they were.

Better follow up and expectations setting, if there’s obvious stuff you expect people will just get because of team culture make that explicit and check in about it as you would other aspects of work. The big thing IMO in any on boarding situation is to get the new person asking lots of questions ASAP.

All of these will make your on boarding better back at the office as well. On boarding by Brownian motion isn’t really a plan after all.


Absolutely. Remote working is absolutely devastating to the development of junior team members and people just getting started in the world of work.

If you're just getting started in your area (whether development, sales, marketing, devops) having immediate help and guidance from your peers and manager is really helpful - documentation helps, structured training helps but they're not the full solution. Those momentary 'quick' bits of guidance help, and whether we like it or not "face-to-face conversation" is the highest form of bandwidth we have.

The other element people don't talk about enough is that getting used to "working" is a journey in and of itself. There are lots of elements of being productive in the world of work - not just churning out code - and it's not obvious how it all works. In some areas I see a lot of "hollowing out" where we don't have as many entry roles.


This 100%, I am happy to sacrifice some personal comfort for the greater good of the team.


I graduated into this mess and feel like I've been cut off at the knees.


Hey I really feel for you. Please don’t disengage, fight hard to get mentored.

Not sure what your org is like but ask to pair remotely if you can, ask to do code reviews over video call so you can talk through questions, ask your manager regularly to talk you through the trade offs involved in the decisions they are making, etc. If you hear about a weekly status call happening on some project, ask if you can be included “to learn.”

Your goal is to first increase your situational awareness and understanding of the domain, because that is upstream of the technical trade offs.

I think people graduating into this have to fight really hard for the mentorship and learning that would happen naturally 10 years ago.

People like me who graduated 10-15 years ago and would now naturally be your mentors don’t realise this because we never faced it.


It's also the same for new teams or even new large projects. I have worked at {Big Tech Company} for 7 years and WFH has barely been a speed bump for me.

Last week I decided to switch teams. My onboarding rate is glacial so far. Naturally I don't have a big workload, because I am new. However between tasks I can't just try and learn by osmosis, because there's nobody around. I have to go out of my way to schedule meetings with people and say "what are you working on? explain it to me."

Luckily I am in a fairly senior role so I am confident scheduling those meetings and asking those questions. If I was a new grad I'd be terrified to do that and instead probably just sit here and twiddle my thumbs half the day.


I'd been at my company for two years when the pandemic hit, and I continued learning loads by osmosis through a daily 30min team Webex "turn your mic and camera on, and just chat or work silently or whatever ends up happening". Have you tried that? I haven't yet had the chance to mentor a new starter in remote mode, but from my own experiences and on general principles I would personally be trying a "leave my Webex room open all day and have a few of us working in there" approach. Of course, even better would presumably be to actively note what questions get asked during that time, and to update documentation accordingly.


I'm a reasonably experienced person and I've found myself much _less_ productive at home, because despite my experience I still get value from being able to easily and quickly bounce ideas off people or get help in components that I'm less familiar with.


Years ago a junior employee gave in notice for a new remote job. I told him I didn't this was best for him because it would make learning much more difficult. When I've met him years later he agreed that it wasn't a good move for him.


The lead / manager (or whatever it is called in your case) on your team should try to encourage pairing or mob programming as much as possible. It is difficult to pull off, but nothing speaks against an experienced person sharing their screen while working on a particular topic. Whenever somebody starts working on something they can ping it in a channel, and then interested engineers could join. We try to work that way and it doesn't always work but sometimes it works well.


> If you like/prefer going to the office that is fine. I am not trying to say we should all be remote. Companies should offer FLEXIBILITY to let employees choose where to work from.

That doesn’t work. I prefer working in the office, but only if the rest of my team is actually there with me. If some people are remote, then we have to do Zoom meetings, so I may as well be remote too.


I hate that people keep framing it as a "preference" issue. There are HUGE economic and environmental costs that go along with working in and (often) commuting to an office. Not to mention the consistent 20-30% productivity drain working in an office seems to have across the board at most tech orgs.

We don't need to destroy our planet, dramatically increase costs, and dramatically lower productivity just to appease the minority of people that prefer playing office space, and I think more and more people are starting to see it that way.


Well, there are also huge human costs that go along with working alone all day, and in the same environment as the rest of your life.

For example, commuting, while not nice most of the time, has one great impact on life: it allows you to break from work, which is not happening when you have sleep/work/hobbies/life at the same place. I'm not saying you should spend 1h in traffic or subway, but 20min and walking would be a great way to change thoughts and separate work from life.

Also seeing your colleagues for real, and spending some time with them, as they are humans, is a great way to have better empathy and better work relations: using only remote tools doesn't provide such a human behavior.


Completely agree. I'm actually working full time in the office just so I have a working environment that's actually optimised for focusing on work, even though it's primarily empty. There's no way I'd work for a company that insisted I work in the same space I live in.

I cycle in and my commute is one of the highlights of my day. When some colleagues are occasionally in the office they all comment on how much being back in the office makes them realise what they missed about it.


I don't think anyone is advocating for a position in which companies insist you work in the space you live in. The dichotomy here is between a) company forcing you to work in specific building and b) company giving you some say in the matter. People want different amounts of 'say', of course, but even a fully-remote company isn't going to prevent you from, for example, working from a shared office that's local to you.


This sounds like a business opportunity for WeWork.


I often go to coworking spaces around while working remotely: it really helps to "go" somewhere and to have a different space from sleep/eat/relax


Many people who work remotely will go to a coffee shop or WeWork. But my point is this -- people who have this urge to be in person and can't be placated reasonably are both in the minority and are essentially a problem when what they want is much more expensive and damaging.


Absolutely agree here - although I'm plenty productive working from home, I find I have to go out for a 20/30 minutes walk afterwards, otherwise I never really 'turn off' and my brain is stuck in work mode for the rest of the day. While commuting isn't always fun, it does help provide that 'switch off' - I'm lucky enough to have a relatively short (~20 min) commute though, so I can see how this would be more frustrating for someone with 1hr+ commute.

Seeing colleagues in person is also vital for me - I wouldn't have the working relationship with them that I have if we were fully remote. I think the hybrid model is the best way - it's what works best for me, at least.


One of the nicest work environments I've had (in these specific terms only!) was when I worked 15-20 minutes away from where I lived. In summer months, I could walk in — and it helped that there was a park on the way. In the winter, or if I was really in a hurry, I could take local transport. That short commute was perfect to clear the head and prepare for the day. Unfortunately, it's a very difficult setup to achieve and my last commute — nearly 2 hours there and back — was the final straw before I decided to wfh pretty much full time.


As someone who worked in an office for 5 years and has now worked remotely for 5 years, I have to say, this just isn't true. I get the same "peaceful reflection time" from simply walking my dog that I used to get from commuting.


You can also go walking/running if you WFH, which I do. At any time I want. If I'm stressed of work mid day I'll just go running for an hour and will feel super. Couldn't properly do that if I worked from office.


Why not? What's stopping you?


Honestly, it's just too much of a hassle for me to be able to actually enjoy the running activity itself.

1. I have to prepare for the weather, organise proper clothes. Fine.

2. I sweat really hard. After a run I'm totally wet and I'd rather be indoors as little as possible, since sweat is dripping all over. And to get to a work shower I would have to go through an elevator and some other places. I'd feel people judging me if I'm sweating all over the place before getting to shower.

3. I'd prefer to not shower at work. I will have to also bring so much stuff along like changing clothes and must find a place to dry my sweaty clothes since they are dripping through. I must remember to not leave them there and I'm quite forgetful about things like that.


Depending on where your office is (typically some sort of city) this can actually be pretty dangerous (hit+run, crime, breathing very unhealthy air). Conversely if you work remotely, you can live in the suburbs or even somewhere more remote.

Additionally, I know in many in-person orgs leaving to go outside and smoke is super frowned upon and seen as a productivity drain. I assume "going for a quick run" would have the same effect at your off-the-shelf toxic org. In a remote org, no one is going to be breathing down your neck while you take 15 mins to go for a walk to collect your thoughts. Especially if we keep passing privacy legislation that limits the ability of the Amazons of the world to install spyware on worker machines.


I work from home... but I'm not alone.. I've got as much, if not more access to co-workers whilst at home as I do in the office. We use teams extensively so if you are needing to concentrate, simply flip your status to busy. We've got a group set up for the developers where we chat, swap stories, ask technical questions or just complain about the poor management. No different than if we were in the office.. In fact probably more social.

About the only thing that I have noticed, is that having the ability to immediately communicate and that communication method being text, it is very easy for complaints about the organisation to get a little more heated than would happen if we were in person.

If you are working from home and you feel alone, then just reach out to your co-workers and spend some time just chewing the fat.


Text, voice, even video is not the same as a live human being: even-though it is communication in all cases, and I do agree we can have great tools, the tools can't replace the interactions you can have with a real human.


That's true. In person you also have to worry about COVID and other communicable diseases. Can't beat that!

But no in all seriousness, some of the most in-depth conversations I've had in my life have been in video call 1:1s. The intentionality of sitting in a call with someone for 30 mins is enormous. It's equivalent to going to someone's office and sitting right in front of them and talking for 30 mins. That almost never happens in office environments -- instead you have lots of fleeting encounters, passing people in hallways, etc. With remote you get this extremely intentional person to person experience every time.


I'm sure you can have a 20 minute walk after working from home..

I do 40 minutes, personally. It's great!


It might work, but it is difficult to walk just for walking: I know people who walk their dog, which works, but just going out around doesn't seem like a good motivation


If you don't find that sufficiently motivating, then you don't care about it enough to use it as an argument for why we should all have to commute.

Before I had a dog, I would intentionally go for walks to think over an algorithm or endpoint I'm writing. People who work in an office do the same thing, often intentionally.


Depends on your neighborhood, but this sounds like a personal preference issue; walking just for the sake of being outside is a liberating experience in of itself. Walk for the sun and for the breeze and the sounds of nature. Or go for a jog.


> For example, commuting, while not nice most of the time, has one great impact on life: it allows you to break from work

Is that worth 29 lbs of carbon emissions and 20% productivity drain? What kind of home do you have where you can't go for a walk and take a break?


Yeah, I go for a walk or a run or a bike ride after work. Unless the weather is shit.

That's the great part, I get to choose instead of being forced to the same regular pollute every day.


> Not to mention the consistent 20-30% productivity drain working in an office seems to have across the board at most tech orgs.

I don't think it's so clear cut.

In less collaborative environments, nobody interrupts you and you can bang code all day, close many tickets, etc etc.

In highly collaborative environments, people will talk to each other all the time. You'll me interrupted and you will write less code and close less JIRAs but you're more likely to find issues with code, design and requirements earlier in the process, solve misunderstandings easier and faster, and you get that free flow of information where everyone knows what is going on and share knowledge easily.

So you might have lesser "productivity" but you're more likely to deliver high-quality product.

Now saying that, both WFH and hybrid and office can be both highly collaborative and not. But WFH makes is really easy for people to check out of the information flow (even by accident) and be angry they're not getting informed, or promoted or whatever.

If you want WFH to work out, you need to come up with a strategy how to make that highly collaborative.


You are correct about the problem, but your solution is backwards. The solution is not for us to retreat to the suburbs and WFH forever. The solution is to build dense, walkable cities with good public transit, allowing for sustainable in-person work and strengthening local communities.


Dense cities with public transit: maybe not the best in times of pandemics


They clearly aren’t that bad. China has very dense cities and has not had much issue controlling spread. Masks and a respectful society seem to be highly effective at stoping viruses.


Not in London, or the tech hotspots of the US, I'm sure. I bet it's a free for all. It's a big reason for my apprehension of a return to the office. In London, at least, it's very common to find significant numbers of people on buses and trains without a mask.


Yes, just rebuild society instead. Simple.


In my opinion this is an argument fallacy.Almost any economic activity causes pollution and spike in environmental and economic costs.

Moving to WFH will not do anything to reduce emissions and it could actually lead to an opposite outcome due to increased consumption as people would have more time to travel longer distances.


At face value:

There won't be increased consumption at 7 AM and at 5 PM on a weekday if less people commute. I just don't see it happening. Additionally the tech industry isn't exactly a groundswell of people either -- if all tech workers stop commuting, that isn't going to have enough of an impact to change traffic conditions except literally in silicon valley. There just aren't that many workers in tech.

But let's examine the flipside... The average commute distance in the U.S. is 16 miles. The average tech company is located in a densely populated metropolitan area, and the average passenger vehicle in the U.S. emits 411 grams of CO2 per mile. Commuting two ways that's 32 miles * 411g = 13.152 kg (~29 lbs) of carbon emissions for your daily commute. The average American household in total has around 39.8 kg/day (~88 lbs) of C02 emissions. Reducing that by 29 on weekdays is a 1/3 reduction in emissions. That's huge. Also consider that the average person in the U.S. drives 36.9 miles per day. For working people cutting this by 32 miles on weekdays is an enormous change.

Consumption isn't going to increase proportionally because everyone is still going to be too busy working. The people who were already "consuming" during the day are going to continue to do so, but that population isn't going to increase. It's fixed. Maybe some will drive more, but it's not going to have the same effect that the people no longer driving 32 miles / weekday no longer having to do so will have.

I'm also ignoring the significant environmental and monetary costs of keeping an office running, and the increased work that needs to be done because of the (being charitable) at least 15% production drain of working in an office.

No one (save school trips) wants to pack into the bronx zoo at 8 AM on a tuesday. At best this would have diminishing returns -- the benefit of the roads being less crowded vanishes once the same number of people start driving for consumption reasons. There's no way it would exceed the original footprint of people commuting, because the motivation wouldn't exist once you approach commute levels of congestion. And this is ignoring the fact that there is an essentially fixed population of people who are able to consume during the workday.


>There won't be increased consumption at 7 AM and at 5 PM on a weekday if less people commute. I just don't see it happening. Additionally the tech industry isn't exactly a groundswell of people either -- if all tech workers stop commuting, that isn't going to have enough of an impact to change traffic conditions except literally in silicon valley. There just aren't that many workers in tech.

There's a delayed consumption.Time and money saved will inevitably turn spending time and money later. Also not only tech workers work in the offices.A lot of other people might demand to work from home (and they already did).That's a lot of people.

>But let's examine the flipside... The average commute distance in the U.S. is 16 miles. The average tech company is located in a densely populated metropolitan area, and the average passenger vehicle in the U.S. emits 411 grams of CO2 per mile. Commuting two ways that's 32 miles * 411g = 13.152 kg (~29 lbs) of carbon emissions for your daily commute. The average American household in total has around 39.8 kg/day (~88 lbs) of C02 emissions. Reducing that by 29 on weekdays is a 1/3 reduction in emissions. That's huge. Also consider that the average person in the U.S. drives 36.9 miles per day. For working people cutting this by 32 miles on weekdays is an enormous change.

I dont think you can make an equation like this.People instead of walking to their favorite restaurant might decide to order more or make longer rides to go to "the better restaurants" instead of just consuming what is withing the walking distance from their apartments / office.

>Consumption isn't going to increase proportionally because everyone is still going to be too busy working. The people who were already "consuming" during the day are going to continue to do so, but that population isn't going to increase. It's fixed. Maybe some will drive more, but it's not going to have the same effect that the people no longer driving 32 miles / weekday no longer having to do so will have.

Except a lot of people will gain time and money to spend later.And that's usually one of the main arguments in these discussions that people hate to spend time and money to commute.

>I'm also ignoring the significant environmental and monetary costs of keeping an office running, and the increased work that needs to be done because of the (being charitable) at least 15% production drain of working in an office.

I was under the impression that offices generally are environmentally speaking better buildings than your average condos and houses.They have to follow specific sustainability standards.


> I was under the impression that offices generally are environmentally speaking better buildings than your average condos and houses.They have to follow specific sustainability standards.

The house/apartment you live in is still there (because you still live in it) regardless of if you WFH. The difference is if you WFH, it's actually being utilized 100% of the time instead of just at night and on weekends. Conversely, the office literally doesn't need to exist in the first place if everyone does WFH. So we have to compare having your apartment + having an office, to having just your apartment. The office situation is a net negative no matter how environmentally friendly it is unless it is actually carbon neutral or carbon negative. And that's ignoring the commuting aspect. If we were to abandon all offices tomorrow and let nature re-claim them, it would have a massively positive effect carbon footprint wise. And it's not like offices turn off the AC at night.

> Except a lot of people will gain time and money to spend later.And that's usually one of the main arguments in these discussions that people hate to spend time and money to commute.

By this logic, we should keep everyone poor because god forbid they consume something. Consumption isn't negative across the board. And overwhelmingly these days it's digital anyway. If I stay at home and watch Netflix, I have a much smaller carbon footprint than someone who goes and drives somewhere. You can see from the statistics above, the average person drives ~39 miles per day. I'm saying reduce that by 32 on weekdays and you're saying "oh no, what if they replace that with other consumption???". I think it is borderline impossible people would consistently do something _worse_ than their commute (carbon wise) across the board. It's like saying "oh no, if we ban unhealthy deserts in schools people will buy them and eat even more unhealthy deserts outside of school". They won't -- on average kids would be healthier. It's a no brainer.

> I dont think you can make an equation like this.People instead of walking to their favorite restaurant might decide to order more or make longer rides to go to "the better restaurants" instead of just consuming what is within the walking distance from their apartments / office.

There is no reason to suspect this would happen. If you work from 9 AM to 5 PM, and you cut out your commute, you have _more_ time to for example make a home-cooked meal. If anything people will order out less. All the statistics on WFH (and I've done contracting for a meal planning company so I can guarantee this one specifically) support this. People order out less when they work remotely, across the board.

Regarding the "taking longer rides thing" -- people aren't going to do that so much that it becomes as demanding as their commute. Then it would be annoying.


>The house/apartment you live in is still there (because you still live in it) regardless of if you WFH. The difference is if you WFH, it's actually being utilized 100% of the time instead of just at night and on weekends. Conversely, the office literally doesn't need to exist in the first place if everyone does WFH. So we have to compare having your apartment + having an office, to having just your apartment. The office situation is a net negative no matter how environmentally friendly it is unless it is actually carbon neutral or carbon negative. And that's ignoring the commuting aspect. If we were to abandon all offices tomorrow and let nature re-claim them, it would have a massively positive effect carbon footprint wise. And it's not like offices turn off the AC at night

I am pretty sure most office buildings adhere to strict sustainability standards as opposed to residential housing.Only more luxurious condos are just as good as your average modern office space.

I am pretty sure most modern office buildings turn off the AC at night or have a mechanism to keep it cool by other means (external blinds).

>By this logic, we should keep everyone poor because god forbid they consume something. Consumption isn't negative across the board. And overwhelmingly these days it's digital anyway. If I stay at home and watch Netflix, I have a much smaller carbon footprint than someone who goes and drives somewhere. You can see from the statistics above, the average person drives ~39 miles per day. I'm saying reduce that by 32 on weekdays and you're saying "oh no, what if they replace that with other consumption???". I think it is borderline impossible people would consistently do something _worse_ than their commute (carbon wise) across the board. It's like saying "oh no, if we ban unhealthy deserts in schools people will buy them and eat even more unhealthy deserts outside of school". They won't -- on average kids would be healthier. It's a no brainer.

I am not arguing against WFH.I am arguing against your argument that going WFH would bring net positives for the environment.People with more disposable resources do things that cause more pollution because they participate in economic activity.That's just a fact.

Americans tend to consume much more regardless of whether they drive a car or not.

>There is no reason to suspect this would happen. If you work from 9 AM to 5 PM, and you cut out your commute, you have _more_ time to for example make a home-cooked meal. If anything people will order out less. All the statistics on WFH (and I've done contracting for a meal planning company so I can guarantee this one specifically) support this. People order out less when they work remotely, across the board.

Regarding the "taking longer rides thing" -- people aren't going to do that so much that it becomes as demanding as their commute. Then it would be annoying.

I think things like Jevons paradox beg to differ.Cooking a meal at home is an option many would not choose.


I think the environmental factor could go either way. It's much better for the environment if people are clustered in dense cities versus spread out in rural areas. If the result of the work-from-home boom is a massive exodus from cities, that's quite clearly going to be bad for the planet.


I totally feel the draw to both. Personally, I really like the freedom of WFH and it wins out against the benefits of being in office for me. But I can see the appeal to being in office too; there's something really nice about working with your teammates, especially if you get along with them and learn from each other.

The thing with your attitude though, is that you're saying it only works for you if everyone is in office. Basically that everyone has to be in office for you to enjoy your office environment. This only works on teams where everyone feels this way. And that's a perfectly reasonable approach to hiring for a new company. The problem is that people have been WFH long enough that every team is likely split on 'team-in-office' sentiment. If a company wants to require staff in office at this point, it should be for building new teams, not applied to existing teams. Then people with the same sentiment as you can choose to transfer to those teams if desired.


My main employer is always very flexible, even before the pandemic, I just met one day in the office (everyone else had to be there too) and the rest I was free to chose. Perfect combination of seeing eachother and WFH.

We had small rooms so distraction was not a point. Commute was 25minutes.

I do believe we should get more flexibility where possible.


I wonder how everyone would feel about WFH vs. office if highly paid, highly valued employees weren't forced into literally the smallest possible space for a third of their day. If we all had our own real offices and a work space not architected to be as abusive and "efficient" as possible, would we think differently about how nice it is not to go to the office any more?

Likewise for city design where commercial space is highly concentrated and disproportional to residential... if workspaces were spread out and there weren't hubs with way more jobs than housing... maybe commuting wouldn't be so long and so unpleasant and the thought of working from the spare bedroom or the couch would seem ridiculous.


I think that makes a big difference! Cubicles should be outlawed really, or at least optional. Seems like an archaic thing to me. For my own contracted jobs I went to place that had you choose between an open plan or a small room workplace. All flexible.

So I think you are right, if we had more choice, people are happier. Hubs are also a great way forward I think.

Maybe there are some exceptions, like high security or high demand for coordination on the spot, but a lot of sectors should or could be more flexible.


A cubicle had at least the resemblance of a piece of space I could call my own.

My worst experience involved commuting two hours by train to a high rise, tiny "open plan" office space (read: a few important people got offices, the rest of us were in one not very big room). It was like a sort of torture... for up to 15 hours a day the only escape from being within a several feet of and in eyeline of half a dozen people at least was hiding in a bathroom stall for a few minutes.... and a space which could be mine and any sort of private was usually two hours of a foul smelling, packed, and unstable public transit away. Growing up in an environment where the median number of people within a mile was usually 3... being forced to be constantly "on display" and knowing that there was no escape other than hours of public transit at the end of the day was deeply psychologically unsettling. I lasted about 6 months.


Yeah that sounds ugly! Personally I don’t think could stand that either. You need time to be able to shut off from the social hubbub.


>And that's a perfectly reasonable approach to hiring for a new company.

And likely discriminatory.

I prefer working from home because I (am caring for an ailing parent|just had a baby|am not neurotypical|have a disability|etc.)

WFH is going to start being seen as a "reasonable accommodation" because the last 18 months have proven that lots of jobs can be done just fine without a physical office and denying that to employees who benefit from it for protected reasons isn't going to fly.

In short: suck it up. Dialing a few people in to an in person meeting is fine. Maybe it doesn't work exactly as well for some reasons but so what? Getting along well with your coworkers doesn't require colocation.


For arranged meetings including the remote workers won't be a problem but there are many 'meetings' that happen in a work context where important information is exchanged that are informal that remote workers will miss out on.


I think this is an org-smell though, I shouldn't miss out on important details because I was in the stall or taking a quick walk either. My first job was remote communications oriented despite being overwhelmingly in-office employees, and it was amazing how much information you could find by searching communication channels and wikis. The norm was to ask questions and talk about impromptu problems in chat, and if you needed to collaborate you went to designated areas or scheduled a meeting. Remote workers weren't out if the loop and on site new hires like myself had a huge wealth of searchable info to absorb


That only really happens if the on-site people neglect to provide the remote workers with a summary. Even when everyone still came in to the office, this happened to sick workers, people on different shifts, locations, teams, etc. In other words: it's about emotional intelligence and seeing yourself as part of a team, not working in an office.


for a small effort. is not difficult to say, "George should be part of this discussion". Ok you may need to all put on headphones or get a room so you can use a speaker phone, but really, not that hard.

What if George had been away getting coffee or at the bathroom when you started the conversation, he would have missed out anyway.


why is this downvoted?


>why is this downvoted?

I didn't vote, but probably it's mostly because of "In short: suck it up", because it seems like a crudely-expressed attempt to deny others the option of disagreement or further discussion


Why should your preferences dictate what other people do? What makes your preference for having people in the office more important than their preference to want to work from home?


That's not what they said, though. What they said was that the benefit of being in the office is lost of it isn't the case that most of the team are in the office. As such, either

1. Most of the people on the team should be working from the office (benefits of being together as a team), OR

2. Most of the team should be working remote (benefits of working remotely)

The point being made was that the third option, each person gets to pick what they want, isn't really a viable option. The team should pick one option or the other. Nowhere was it was that the "in the office" option should be the one chosen, just that it was their, personal preference.

* There are some other reasons for working in the office besides being in proximity to your co-workers, but that's generally seen as the primary benefit by a lot of people.


Why should the people preferring to work from home get preference, either?

At the end of the day, like it or not, the majority of people working for a company of beyond a small size are going to be in some level of a collaborative environment. Logistically, it's easier to accomplish that in person. No dropped calls or poor connections or VPN drops or whatever.

As an engineer, I sympathize with the poster. When I need to focus and get something done, I'm generally happier at home with either fewer distractions or more of the distractions under my control. I also like my privacy and loathe the feeling of someone. looking over my shoulder. I'm so very sensitive to motion in my periphery and find movement around me distracting, too. But, I also value the in person communication and collaboration I get in person.

Personally, I'm looking forward to heading back part time, especially considering that the "new normal" appears to be about a 50/50 split between home and office.

Of course, everyone is going to have their own preference, but the company you work for (and your coworkers) will have theirs as well. But, if someone's attitude is "my way or the highway" they as well start looking for a new job, because they'll need one regardless...


> At the end of the day, like it or not, the majority of people working for a company of beyond a small size are going to be in some level of a collaborative environment. Logistically, it's easier to accomplish that in person.

You say this like it's a foregone conclusion, a fact. I disagree with it completely. It's far easier to collaborate remotely. You don't need find a meeting room, you don't need to worry about making too much noise, you don't need to worry about adding one person from another location suddenly changing the entire dynamic.

It's nice to work together in person occasionally, but I'd much rather collaborate remotely... and get together for lunch now and again.


> You don't need find a meeting room

You have to pay for your own.

> you don't need to worry about making too much noise

Unless other people live in your home.

> you don't need to worry about adding one person from another location suddenly changing the entire dynamic.

That’s comparing all-remote to some-remote, which is a different comparison than all-remote to all-in-office.


If you have a company with more than one office I think having some meetings with remote participants is an unavoidable truth. Perhaps not every meeting - but anything requiring collaboration between teams or features groups could require it.


> You have to pay for your own.

You have to do it anyway. The rent did not went up due you being at home during day.


Either you paid for more space or you lost space at your home during the 8 hours you were previously working at an office.


> you lost space at your home during the 8 hours

I guess that's true, but I'm not sure why I would care about my home getting slightly smaller when I'm at work. It will affect some people, but I don't know if it's many.


I would expect it impacts a large number of people that work primarily remotely. A lot of us have a home office because working from the kitchen or other shared space just isn't effective. The cost of an extra room (even if a bonus room, not a full bedroom) can increase the cost of a house by a dramatic amount; and then you also have to consider utilities and the like. Every time I've done the math, working from home costs more (for the worker) than going into the office; usually my many thousands of dollars a year.


Needing a dedicated home office room for various reasons is a big issue but it is not the issue I was responding to.

In "Either you paid for more space or you lost space at your home during the 8 hours", a dedicated office is the "paid for more space" side, and I was talking about the "lost space" alternative.


Not just when you’re at work, unless you tear down your desk and store it out of sight every single day!


Only if you got an extra work-only desk. Even then, an extra desk by itself isn't very big.


Desk, monitors, keyboard, mouse, external hard drive, and other things that go on a desk. I'm certainly not going to tear all that down every evening and set it back up every day.

Plus a separate office means a door to keep out noise, room for bookshelves and other office items, and the ability to just "put things down" without having to spend time cleaning off the kitchen table before dinner.

Any setup other than having a specific office for work is, in my opinion, sub-optimal. Sure, you can make due... but you could make due with a poor environment in an office building too... but why would you? You can't compare the setup in an office building to a much worse environment at home and then say "home is cheaper". For a like-for-like comparison, it costs the employee more to work from home.


> Desk, monitors, keyboard, mouse, external hard drive, and other things that go on a desk. I'm certainly not going to tear all that down every evening and set it back up every day.

At worst that's still only a desk of space wasted.

And if you're willing to commute, you should probably be willing to spend 2 minutes putting all that stuff away. If you still decide not to, then it's because that space isn't needed very much.

> Any setup other than having a specific office for work is, in my opinion, sub-optimal.

I agree, but this line of conversation is specifically about if you don't have a separate office.


If you don't have a separate office, then odds are you have a sub-optimal work environment. So you're not considering "if you can save money working from home" but rather "if you can save money by working from a worse work environment". Which I guess is a valid argument, it's just somewhat orthogonal to the question of whether or not working from home saves money.

> only a desk of space wasted

There is a lot more to a dedicated, optimal work environment than "only a desk of space". Plus the fact that a LOT of people live in places that don't have an extra "desk of space". Approximately half the places I've worked couldn't give up a desk's worth of space without it being in everyone's way.


That’s still aligned with my point. Either you pay rent for an additional separate office (lots of money), or you reduce your existing living space to make room for work stuff. The only case where you don’t notice is this is when you just so happened to already have completely unused living space that you don’t mind filling up with work stuff, or you just so happened to have an office setup at home that overlaps perfectly with what you need for work.


> That’s still aligned with my point. Either you pay rent for an additional separate office (lots of money), or you reduce your existing living space to make room for work stuff.

Yes, but the reduction for a desk is only if you don't have another usable surface, and even then it's only a tenth of "lots of money" because a desk is so much smaller than a room.

A tenth of lots of money is not all that much, and very likely cheaper than commuting.


I think part of the disconnect is that (it appears that) for you, a suitable work from home environment is

- a 2'x3' area on a table, anywhere in the place you live

For a lot of us (at least for me and some others), a suitable work from home environment includes

- a 4'x3' desk (or larger, for multiple monitors)

- a door or other way to separate the workspace from house interruptions (and vice versa)

- a bookshelf and other miscellaneous items

- good lighting

In general, all that ^ is necessary to be as effective as one would be at an actual office, and generally means a separate room in the house/apartment; and that is fairly costly. The last time I did the calculations, it came out to several thousands of dollars per year.


All of that except the door is easy to do at low cost.

Whether you can get a nice isolated place depends on the particular place you're living.

But I was never arguing that isolation isn't necessary! Please look again at the initial comment I replied to.

"Either you paid for more space or you lost space at your home during the 8 hours you were previously working at an office."

My concern was only with the second half of that "or". To get to the second half of the "or", you have to take it as given that there's a suitable spot in your home. When you argue that many homes don't already have such a spot, I agree, but that's irrelevant to what I was trying to comment on.

Everything I've said here should be interpreted like this: "Okay, so you've decided you don't need an additional room? Well in that case, I don't think the space taken up by working from home in an existing room is a big deal, because xyz."


A desk is big if you live somewhere where property and rent prices are high. Like California, for instance.


Still, it's a tenth of what an entire room costs. When you do something like weigh the cost of commuting vs. the cost of that space, a desk is probably going to win.

And maybe I'm weird but I'm going to have a desk no matter what.


If you already have a desk that easily accommodates both your work computer and whatever other non-work things you use the desk for, then sure, but you could say the same thing for any new at-home requirements for a job that you just happen to already satisfy. I don't have any reason non-work reason to have living space dedicated to a computer desk, and I suspect that's true for most people.


> I don't have any reason non-work reason to have living space dedicated to a computer desk, and I suspect that's true for most people.

How do you typically browse websites at home? Do you play any PC video games? Steam has a ton of users.

(And if you use a table, then you could use the same table for working.)


Home computer use is limited to my phone and tablet on the couch or in bed. Haven't had a gaming PC (or any Windows computer) since around 2013. I get enough desktop computing exposure at my day job, thank you very much!

It's true that PC gaming is as popular as ever, but I suspect its rise has been at least somewhat countered with a decrease in desktop computing at home as smartphones became ubiquitous.


Unless you're typing all these comments with no keyboard (why??), then I think your work experience, with getting your fill there, isn't the most typical.

And there's been a decrease in desktops, but far more households have a desktop/laptop than a tablet and it's not far behind the rate of having broadband.


We're probably both just swapping anecdotes, but I suspect you might be surprised just how many general computer users overwhelmingly use their smartphones for nearly everything. I remember years ago being confused by the steady and swift increase in smartphone screen size. Why in the world would people want the little communication gadget in their pocket to be larger? The reason, I realized, is that it's not "the communication gadget in their pocket." It's their only computer.


I'm not working off anecdotes. It's 78% of people that have a desktop or laptop at home. Households that only have a phone or tablet as a computer are only 14%.


Laptop is a different story, because of the whole lap top thing.


If your laptop is comfortable to use that way, then you can work on it that way.

Or just put it on a table.

I don't see any need to distinguish between desktops and laptops for working from home. Laptops have built-in webcams too.


It sounds like your office setup is much much more minimal than mine too then. Obviously you’re very fortunate if you’re fine working 8+ hours a day on a laptop on your dining table.

Literally neither. Same space, nothing changed. I pay maybe more on electricity, but save much more on food and transport.


>You don't need find a meeting room,

maybe it's just because I've never been the meeting room finding person but in most places I've worked it hasn't been a big problem.

>you don't need to worry about making too much noise,

I've never had the problem that a meeting was being too noisy for the people outside a meeting, but I have had the problem that kids in the house were being too noisy for the online meeting and everyone has to laugh and talk about how wonderful having the kids is.

>you don't need to worry about adding one person from another location suddenly changing the entire dynamic.

Why wouldn't this affect remote meetings?

Obviously there are any number of things that can affect remote meeting quality. I would think for meeting quality an in person one is likely to work better as a meeting, although people might prefer the remote one for all sorts of other reasons.


> in most places I've worked it hasn't been a big problem

In every place I've worked, there's been a limited number of meeting rooms and you needed to plan ahead to get one. And if your meeting ran over, it wasn't uncommon to have a group of people standing outside waiting for you to vacate.

> I've never had the problem that a meeting was being too noisy for the people outside a meeting

Fair. I was really thinking about the impromptu meetings of 3-4 people around a desk (because getting a meeting room takes too much time). Those almost infallibly annoy other people in the area, even if they don't say anything.

> Why wouldn't this affect remote meetings?

Suddenly adding a remote person to a meeting that was planned to be in person is difficult at best. It's common for the people on location to just not "play well" with the remote person. When meetings are "remote first", adding one more remote person doesn't wind up with that person being an afterthought. This is a fairly well known issue, honestly.

> I would think for meeting quality an in person one is likely to work better as a meeting

Under optimal circumstances, the in person meeting does tend to be best. However, there are so many different variations from optimal, it's my experience that remote-first meetings wind up being better in nearly every _actual_ case.


>And if your meeting ran over, it wasn't uncommon to have a group of people standing outside waiting for you to vacate.

having a meeting run over is a problem, having someone waiting to get into that room is a solution to the problem.


Our experience following the covid lockdowns and everybody working from home is that even if a majority of us are in the office, we still have meetings over Teams. It allows far better control, easier background chat, sharing ideas that can be raised in the verbal meeting and people to get on with real work if the topic under conversation is not important to them, but keeping them in the loop. Win win.


Even before the pandemic, in the office, most of the collaboration was remote. Even with people in the same building, because lack of meeting rooms, noisy open-space office and loong looong walks down endless hallways we'd all rather do a quick telephone conference. My direct colleagues were just a table away of course, but collaboration isn't just with them. On the other hand, teams were also spread out across half the world, so lots of things could only be done remotely. Working from home wasn't much of a change there. In total, 90% of communication wasn't done in person but by some kind of remote com.

And since the current trend in our company (and I guess a lot of others) is "hotdesking", where you pull a ticket when entering the building which tells you what desk might be free. Well, no sitting near direct colleagues anymore. So the last advantage of the office is gone as well. Unfortunately it doesn't stop management from hallucinating the great back-in-the-office future after the pandemic...

Yes, I'll also be looking for a new job.


Don't forget the hours of commute time lost daily. Compared to a few minutes lost by a few people in Zoom, commute is everybody every day.


You think you're being witty but you're using the exact same argument that the people are using to force people back into the office.


Work isn’t a democracy.


Nope, but leaving your current employer is up to you if they are inflexible.


depends on the company.


oh hi Jeff! shall i pee in the bottle?


Own preference (whatever that is) is always more important than other preference.

If you don't think your own preference is important then don't complain when other dictate the outcome.


I agree, mixed remote and non remote is very difficult to get right.

I think we should all just switch jobs to remote companies if we like that and our company is not, and vice versa.


My company has gone to mixed but everyone naturally picks the same days Monday to Wednesday typically at home and Thursday/Friday everyone is in.

This avoids all the issues of mixed.


Yes, this is a good solution, as long as everyone agrees on the days, sounds like it should work.


This is why I have doubts about hybrid. I work for an aggressively hybrid company. All it means is that I have to go in and have meetings at by desk beside other people having meetings at their desks.


I thought hybrid meant that two days per week everybody goes to the lab, the rest of the days are remote.


Yes, but if everyone is out three days a week, in pretty much every meeting, at least one person is going to be out, making nearly all meetings virtual by default.


No, I mean monday and tuesday everybody goes there. This is how we are planning to do it from september and most people seem happy (especially new recruits).


Ah ok. Yes, this might work better for people.


at the end it may as well be just one day per week. The "pizza seminars" used to be a happy routine before the pandemic, and even colleagues who love WFH want to recover that.


I agree for internal meeting, but in my industry where external meetings are a huge part of my job, it's meant way less driving to meetings for me which has been a huge boost to my productivity levels.


Oh, my complaint is more that I am now Zooming in an open concept office with others talking right beside and behind me. I am fine with virtual meetings.


Are you in SW? Over the last 20ish years of being a SWE, most of the time I had the option to work 40-100% from home. That's as an embedded SWE, which often means I'm dealing with HW. I just setup remote controls and measurement devices and WFH. I keep hearing people talk like they're going to be forced to sit at a desk 100% of the time. Is that really the case?


There's a pretty massive 0-1 difference in weekly WFH.


That does work. Before the pandemics I worked many years with the majority of my team being overseas, in multiple companies. There's nothing wrong with the hybrid approach and never was. For many companies it's always been the default approach, for global companies specifically. I am also not sure why you put "that doesn't work" and "I prefer" together - your preferences are not really relevant to this case.


> I am also not sure why you put "that doesn't work" and "I prefer" together

Here, "that doesn't work" is short for "that doesn't work for me". It is in fact a statement of preference, colloquially phrased.


What do you mean their preference is not relevant? They're providing an example using their personal experience.


Then they should’ve used “this doesn’t work for me”.


I dont mind being in office, but I meetings are much much better online. Especially those long ones. You can stretch legs, exercise a little, eat or whatever.


do the laundry, cook dinner, Get some real work done on the side.


Do you only have a single office? Because even back when we worked at the office, we had people split between multiple offices so we had to do teleconferencing anyways even if no one was remote (and usually at least one person was remote as well).


Yes. It's also a < 20 person company. I acknowledge that both of those may be coloring my view of things—because yeah, if half your team is on another continent, I really don't know what the point of an office is. I also don't think I'd want to work in a company like that.


> If some people are remote, then we have to do Zoom meetings, so I may as well be remote too.

so no reason to go back to the office at all.


Likewise, people who prefer working from home would rather not be sidelined by people working in office.


> The best part is that the cubicle doesn't have tall walls so I can literally see/hear everything, including other people's monitors.

Open offices are awful. In my experience most people end up wearing headphones all day, and I did too. My ears would get red and irritated after a while. But I'd keep them on because it was like an unspoken social rule; that if you looked busy and had headphones on, people won't interrupt you as much.


I originally hated open spaces. But eventually I grew to love open spaces for being social. In fact, I had one of the most enjoyable times I ever had at a big tech company being in an open space!

But I was probably producing about 10% of what I normally produced in a closed space. I was OK with that :-) My company probably wasn't, but hey, I was salary; that's their problem.


The book Peopleware had a nice description of cubicles:

"Today’s modular cubicle is a masterpiece of compromise: It gives you no meaningful privacy and yet still manages to make you feel isolated. You are poorly protected from noise and disruption; indeed in some cases, sources of noise and disruption are actively piped into your space. You’re isolated because that small lonely space excludes everyone but you (it’s kind of a toilet stall without a toilet). The space makes it difficult to work alone and almost impossible to participate in the social unit that might form around your work."


I have a mild case of tinnitus which I attribute to headphone use for 9 or so hours a day (commute plus time trying to work in the office).

At home these days I rarely have music or anything on, I can work for the most part in comfortable silence.

Means that music is saved for when I actually want to listen to it and can give it my attention, instead of while I'm trying to debug or avoid someone's armpit on the train.


A lot of the time I had my over-the-ears headphones on in the office, I wasn't even listening to anything - it was just nice to block out the environment noise a bit, and let people know not to bother me.


Not sure about the definition, but a "cubicle" without high walls is not really a cubicle, right?

I have worked at Google and a cubicle would have been better than the open source we had.


I wonder if wearing a reflective face shield would be a more effective deterrent to interruptions. If people can't see your face then they would probably be much less likely to engage in conversation. You could just take a normal face shield and put reflective sunscreen window film on the inside.


I think this would work the opposite way because people would think it's a great conversation starter.


You make a good point. Maybe it would need to also be worn with hearing protection until the novelty wears off. And adding a chin strap would prevent other people from removing it.


I'm bit puzzled what sound a monitor makes?


You can't hear it but you can see it.


I predict the balance we're heading towards for many office jobs is going to be something like 2 mandatory office days a week, 1 optional day, and 2 mandatory WFH days, with "mandatory" really meaning "highly encouraged". Like Monday and Wednesday are in-office, Tuesday and Thursday are WFH, Friday is optional.

Preference for WFH depends on so many individual factors, not just personality but also your commute length, home size, children, neighborhood, friends, etc. Although a lot of discussions on HN seem to be dominated by "I prefer WFH", I reckon in reality the divide is probably pretty close to 50/50, just like with introverts and extroverts. Companies will find strong candidates in both types of people and find out they can't fully satisfy them all, and the end result will be everyone compromises.

Encourage some days to be WFH so that WFHers won't feel career pressure from missing out on office politics. Encourage some days to be in-office so that office-lovers won't go to the office to socialize and find it half empty. Have a flexible day or two where people can do whatever they want. Maybe throw in some flexibility on start and end hours so that people can avoid peak traffic.


> I predict the balance we're heading towards for most office jobs is going to be something like 2 mandatory office days a week, 1 optional day, and 2 mandatory WFH days, with "mandatory" really meaning "highly encouraged".

Or a lot of people are going to be looking for full remote jobs and companies which are full remote will be able to get some folks they were not able to hire before.


That selection works both ways. I'm excluding all fully remote jobs from my current job search.


good. we all get the best of both worlds then.


I would suggest that Friday makes a good time for the mandatory day. Means people can go out for drinks at the end of the day. The in office days will never be as productive but they can be good socialising times so you may as well make use of that.


Throughout my career I've found Thursday is consistently "the day" when work people are most likely to go out together. In some places it may have been because the last Thursday of the month is payday, but largely I believe it's because the majority of people are likely to have commitments with other friends, partners, children etc on a Friday.

I'm also in favour of Thursday as the mandatory day if I need to be in the office as the last day of the week to do release management, e.g. minimise the risk of a bad deployment on a Friday affecting someone's weekend.


There is also a trend towards four-day work weeks to account for. I work 4 × 8, and Friday is a good day to have off; you get a long weekend and unlike Monday¹ shops are open in the morning too.

1: This may be a Dutch phenomenon, but many shops and amenities are closed on Monday morning. Especially with the gradual increase of shops being open on Sunday afternoons.


> This may be a Dutch phenomenon, but many shops and amenities are closed on Monday morning. Especially with the gradual increase of shops being open on Sunday afternoons.

This is the case in France too, it's common for small shops to close Sunday and Monday, and be open the rest of the week.


In London, I'm inclined to agree with this. 2 days seems a fair balance.

The trouble is that the majority of employees have signed a legally binding contract that says "your legal place of employment is <insert address here>", meaning that you are legally obliged to go back into the office.

Some companies think it is a "competitive advantage" to have people back in the office. A couple of banks and accountancy firms certainly seem to think so.

But as everyone has said "it depends".

I've worked in 7-to-a-row open plan offices in banks, to small companies.

I was more productive in open-plan when I was in my early 20s, and far more productive on my own or in smaller quieter offices as I've gotten older.

Going back to this from the other day [1] "Insulating developers from interruptions" is the best reason to wfh.

[1] https://hackernoon.com/the-generational-divide-in-software-d...


It's going to take a few years for companies to learn how to implement hybrid model. Especially for traditional companies with lots of works force that are grow up with the office work mentality. And I'm not only talking about how to run remote meetings, but everything including on-boarding and training new engineers and cross team collaboration.

Luckily full-remote companies have lots of good documentation about remote work. So I think other companies should start reading their playbooks or try to hire some of their talents to learn how proper remote work is done.


remote work changes the dynamics, when half the team is on zoom, everyone goes on zoom, not the other way around. Also, half-empty offices are much much less useful than full offices. So i think things gravitate naturally towards all-remote


Seems like a waste to pay expensive rents for office space when you are using it 2 days a week. I would imagine that is not a stable equilibrium


With the 2 office days fully understood by all parties as fully non-productive days, more like team building?


Sounds complicated.


Surely no more complicated than it is for hourly workers to keep track of their shifts, or for college students to keep track of 5 different full-day schedules that change every few months. "Come in Monday, stay at home Tuesday" is not exactly the peak of complicated scheduling.


The sense of sitting in office is a tremendous waste of time and potential is inescapable.

I work in the engineering industry and am lucky enough that I get to have privacy and my manager is good. I ensure I do my work and well at that.

But I know friends in IT who absolutely loathe the feeling of being in a monitored jail cell.


Yeah but the real root cause (of that awful "I am wasting my time and life right now" feeling) is that modern office work often involves getting M hrs (M < 8) of real work done and having to stretch it to fit an 8hr shift. WFH masks that symptom very well but does not actually solve it.

IMHO it can actually be more frustrating because one feels more on the hook for keeping an eye on notifications. At least at the office I can zone out or focus on something personal or work related, safely assured if a boss really needs me I can be found in person, rather than just missing a ping and being assumed to be a slacker.

The above depends a lot on your company culture though. It's a common failure mode though.


Or just the ability to easily rearrange when I do those 8 hours to fit with appointments, flights, and other life events.


> involves getting M hrs (M < 8) of real work done and having to stretch it to fit an 8hr shift. WFH masks that symptom very well but does not actually solve it.

Our team has a backlog of approximately 500 tickets / bugs / work ideas. Nobody has to stretch anything, the backlog will outlive us all.


Yeah, everyone has a backlog like that. A lot of them have very little or negative business value in retrospect, but we can't know that now, so we prioritize, and it's a good thing, because if we ever actually got most of that backlog done we'd have seriously diminishing returns to the point where we would not even be covering our wages by the end.

If you don't believe me, and your system allows this to be reconstructed, find out what your full backlog looked like about 10 years ago, find everything on there that still hasn't been done, and find out what percentage of them actually would have significant business value today.

I know this is a gross generalization but we are dealing in generalities. This is what I have found across many projects. We are not always great at predicting what we will need, and the backlog is BY DEFINITION prioritized. By the time we get down to the lowest priority stuff the statistical expected value gets low enough that we are not even covering our own wages.


And yet, pretending to work an extra 2 hours every day has even less value. BY DEFINITION.


You need a chatbot that replies to messages with "I'm heads down on a task right now. I'll read your message when I have some time. If you need to interrupt me please reply with 'interrupt'." And if you get that keyword your chatbot plays a sound or texts you.


I mean, that's almost exactly how Slack's DND mode works. The thing is, it's too open to abuse by that one prick who stays on DND for months at a time, or (for less vitriol) maybe you just forget to turn it on/off, then you try to automate it and then never follow the schedule you set for yourself, etc., making it basically useless.

It's pretty difficult to fix bad social behavior with more tech.

On a tangential note, thanks to WFH, I've grown to hate clockwise with a passion. It's the single most disruptive tool in the remote workplace, especially when combined with private-by-default calendars. Maybe I only worked with bad users, I don't know. I just haven't seen anyone with that consistent a schedule, and no one pays attention to their calendar schedule after they set it once anyway. Have to set a meeting for 5 clockwise users? Tough, you'll either have to ask them individually if that time works, or just ignore calendars altogether and hope the relevant people make it work. I hope it dies soon.


Teams can do this. Create a calendar event or manually set yourself to busy and you will not receive notifications and people can see this. There is also a button on the sender side to mark the message as important to notify anyway.


Like most people, I enjoy being physically around my colleagues from time to time. There is real value in that sort of interaction. It is not, however, an essential component of most jobs that traditionally have been conducted in an office. This fact has been indisputably proven over the last 18 months.

If you want to go to an office every day of the week, go ahead! That’s great, who’s stopping you? But if you think everyone you work with should also be there in order to interact with you? In the environment where you like to work, regardless of how productive your colleagues are there? I shouldn’t have to tell you that you are the one who is being unreasonable.


Seems like their life would be dramatically better if they didn’t have some horrible car hellscape based commute. Pity cities are designed and spread out so because of cars.

Then making the office more comfortable and flexible without people micromanaging would be the next thing.


This is U.S. thing, right? People in Europe are using public transportation to get to work from the edge of the city with no problems. Come visit Prague to see how it's done :D


> People in Europe are using public transportation

No we don't. It would add 90 minutes each way for my 15km commute. We really need to stop with the idea that public transportation in Europe is awesome, it not, it actually pretty terrible outside a few select areas. It's actually faster to ride a bike to work in my case, except bikes aren't allowed on the motorway.

Europe need to fix it's public transportation system. So far the solution is to make driving more expensive, while providing no alternatives. Maybe it's better in Czechia, but in general I don't think we can seriously claim that Europe has good public transportation.


I think the problem is someone in Prague can say "Public transport in Europe is cheap, frequent and reliable" when talking about their experience and be totally correct ... while someone in some British cities can say "Public transport in Europe is actually expensive and quite unreliable" and also be correct from their experience. I think that at least in central Europe if you randomly select a city with >100k people you're likely to find that there's a good bus/trolley/tram network that can take you to your work - I don't know about Mediterranean countries, the Balkans or Scandanavia.


So you're saying that because you live rather far from work, and precariously located proximate to transit terminals, people in European cities don't use transit?

15km is far af. It's only not far af if you use a car. If your frame of reference though is not commuting by car, then you select employment and residence differently.

I currently don't have a car or a job, and walk or take transit everywhere (not in Europe), and as such I'm sure as hell not looking for jobs located 15km from my house. Sure, let me just thru-hike to work np.


>It would add 90 minutes each way for my 15km commute.

Oo

I've been commuting 40km each way before pandemic with public transportation and it took me (65min of travel + waiting for train + 10min of walking) each way


In Madrid (Spain) we have a good radial public transport system. Works very well if you want to go from/to city center to suburbs. Nowadays a lot of companies are leaving the city center. Office space is expensive and go to the suburbs or satelite cities. The radial system does not work anymore: people have to either take the car for a 30-40 minute trip, or spend 1-1:30h to travel to city center then take another transport to the suburbs.


> People in Europe are using public transportation to get to work from the edge of the city with no problems.

In theory. When there are no strikes or public transportation issues.


There are plenty of people with long commutes in Europe as well. I suspect we tend to trade off the commute against housing until the commute is just bearable.


In my experience, public transport is great in europe if you're in a capital city. If you're not, then it is very patchy, and you end up having to drive everywhere.


Even then, I currently live in a European capital city, and my commute is either 1h in public transportation or 15 minutes by car.


Same here.

12 minutes on average (there is one 2 min semaphore) with car. Would take on average 45 min by public transportation Takes about 25 min by bike.

But i think i am in almost worst case. There are plenty of my friends in same city that have usable commute with public transportation


As a counter-experience

I've been traveling 40km in 65mins each way using a train from the village "at the end of the world :)" that has a few thousands ppl, so definitely not capital city


No problems doesn't mean enjoyable. It's still 90 minutes of overcrowded public transport. I may prefer it over sitting in car, but no commute at all wins.


Rush hour sucks though even if you use the metro/tram/bus/train. The idea that the majority of the adult population should be travelling either in or out of the city centre at the same time seems quite preposterous now.


They shouldn’t be travelling that far at all. They should be within a walkable distance of where they need to go. Walking to work is never stressful and often does reverse.


Should they move if they switch jobs? What if their spouse works at the other side of the city?


I agree but unfortunately that would require rebuilding a large number of the world's cities, which is not very likely in the near future.


Yes I'm going to live in an ugly industrial zone with no shops or nature around.


And only be able to afford a 700sqft studio if I'm lucky


That's around 65 square meters? Where do they make studios that large?


Unfortunately even in Chicago I found the commute to be exhausting when I lived right next to a train. It was still 40+ minutes if you got there right as the train was leaving, and most offices are still 10-20 minute walk from the stations. Living closer was possible but then you'll be paying significantly more on rent for less space (a problem for families)


I miss being able to tell if I'm interrupting a coworker's state of flow or not with a quick message.

When everyone's in the office, I can _see_ when they get back to their desk and haven't gotten into anything again. I can see that my question isn't going to interrupt them.

As it stands, I interrupt everyone and they interrupt me. I haven't been able to get into flow during office hours in 18months.

Code review discussions which would take 5 minutes take 3 days. You have to write multiple paragraphs instead of walking over and saying "dude, look at this right there, like _seriously_."

Nothing like a little pair programming to work through a code review.


ping "Hey, Bob, can I share my desktop and show you something?" Five minutes later, Bob is fixing his mistake. Or, Bob has notifications turned off, and he lets me know as soon as he's available again.

My point is that the tools are there to address this concern. I don't go a day without sharing my desktop or looking at someone else's. And in some ways it's even more efficient and less disruptive than getting up, walking over to someone's desk.


I can't describe how distracting it is for me personally to have to overhear every screen share in a physical office, and how great and easy it is to do it remotely and even pull in another couple people if something they're knowledgeable about comes up


I have found that the introduction of using remote tools (Teams etc) regardless of in/out of office location has dramatically improved collaboration.

People seem to be a lot more open to sharing ideas. We tend to chat back and forward all day. If you really need to, kill notifications and mark yourself as busy or focusing and review the chat when you are available.

The only down side I've found is that workgroup chats, being somewhat private, can tend to become a bit of an echo chamber if there is any dispute or controversy in the workplace. Dealing with this tend has required everybody to step back and examine their behaviour. I would assume that if you had a team in a different location you could have a similar problem.


On interruptions, I turned the notification indicator off for general messages in Slack, so I only get system notifications for DMs or mentions. Slack obeys DND (on Mac OS at least), so I use that a lot to mute it when I am doing work. I check it a couple of times a day to catch up on messages.

It's amusing to see the occasional "hi" sent without any context, then an hour or two later, the real question the person wanted to ask. I think I'd get in trouble if I set https://www.nohello.com/ as my status though.

Unfortunately we also have to use Microsoft Teams which implements its own notification system and doesn't obey the system-wide DND, so I usually just quit Teams when I am not actively using it.


> You have to write multiple paragraphs

This I actually like. My short summary of my work in Slack usually becomes the first draft of the documentation I need to write later.


Same here, I also like having time to proof-read and refactor what I've written to remove redundancy, clear up any amiguities and look for assumed knowledge.


> Code review discussions which would take 5 minutes take 3 days. You have to write multiple paragraphs instead of walking over and saying "dude, look at this right there, like _seriously_."

Honestly, I've found screen sharing better on a video call for pair programming. I can switch to the branch and share on my screen to code through a solution, give or take control of their workstation without crowding around a tiny desk, and if I need to have an in-depth discussion that takes 45 minutes to work out what core concept is missing, then we can do that without annoying everybody else in the office or needing to find a meeting room.

Three days is an epic amount of time for an open pull request to be resolved, unless there's been some massive miscommunication. To me, that would indicate there's some other problem with the team.


So in synchronous communication, you have to spend time _watching_ for someone to be available for a question? I much prefer async communication where I can ignore notifications for a bit, and check them when I come up for air. In the open office, I'm _constantly_ interrupted/distracted, so you might as well interrupt me anyway <sigh>.

If people keep interrupting you, update your notification settings.

Why are you not doing screen-share code reviews? You can easily say "dude, look at this right there, like _seriously_." via screen-share.

> Nothing like a little pair programming to work through a code review. I enjoy pair programming MUCH more when we both have our own computers (with dual monitors, etc). This works GREAT with screensharing


> Nothing like a little pair programming to work through a code review.

Screen sharing works better for me for that kind of thing.


I solved this by creating calendar events for just myself. I’ll book an hour of dedicated programming time and then after that I’ll respond to all of my messages. Or if I don’t need to be hyper focused on a task I’ll bounce around and respond to various messages and check the status of stuff.


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