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Ask HN: Why don't I see gold at the end of the remote working rainbow?
468 points by samuel_backend 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 787 comments
Saying the following feels like heresy and whenever I say it, fellow software engineers look at me as if I just asked them if there are GOTOs in Javascript.

I used to love going to the office. Discussing our team's latest Python problems over a coffee. Looking over at their screen and then asking them why they look like they want to beat someone over the head with their keyboard repeatedly. Guessing people's emotions in a heated Retro from their body language. Grabbing dinner with a few colleagues after a long workshop meeting in the evening and then realizing that, aside from all the differences we might have about static typing in programming languages, we all like the same exotic progressive metal bands.

Many of these things that made my job much more than slaving at a digital conveyor belt seem to be gone these days. And the worst thing for me is that I feel few people relate. On the contrary, many are screaming in outrage if asked to come to the office even for a single day a week and threaten to quit.

To provide a bit of context, I have been working in the Berlin Tech Startup scene for almost a decade. I remember thinking after the first few weeks on my entry-level job that this couldn't possible be the horrible "working world" I have seen relatives complain about all their lives. It was fun, gratifying and stimulating to learn new things, meet new people and all the while be payed for doing so and building a career.

Now, I am fully aware that there's a low of people for whom the horror of commute doesn't make up for the gains of socializing and others that just abhor having to talk to real-life people. Then there are people who work mainly to get paid and do not care to invest themselves beyond what is necessary. But are those really the majority? I always saw tech as the field where a disproportionally large amount of people truly love what they do. Mostly, because it takes so much grit and persistence to get good at it that most people wouldn't succeed unless they see something in it beyond putting food on the table.

Have I been under some weird form of Stockholm Syndrom where I actually enjoyed something that was pure torture to most? Have a lot of people realized they don't actually like being among other people, apart from their closest friends and family?

And finally, I feel no one else is realizing that they are happily hacking away at the amazingly well-paid branch they're sitting on. As soon as a company's IT department is practically fully remote, why should they page a German wage for someone who is a face on a screen, when they can pay a fraction for that same face broadcasted from a few hundred kilometers further east or south? German is hardly used in business context here anyway and lower-wage countries within ±3 hours timezones abound.

All in all, there is a gnawing feeling in me that Covid made a significant dent on the once fun (Berlin Startup) tech working culture for good. And worse, I suspect there is gonna be more consequences down the road for the tech job market at large that few people seem to see.

I know that "the office" is a bad place for a lot of people. There may be product managers that ignore the noise-cancelling headphone stop-sign and make you lose your stack of thoughts just to ask if the dev app URL is still the same it was yesterday. There can be bad managers and unpleasant situations all around. But shouldn't we rather work on fixing those things instead of making them bearable by just turning off a camera in a Zoom meeting?

From talking to friends, I feel this is a very controversial opinion to have and I don't really get why. Any help to make me understand would be greatly appreciated! And just to be clear, I absolutely do get that for some people (fresh parents, people living at home to take care of their parents etc.) remote work is a real blessing. I am just wondering if that is really the case for the majority or what it is that I'm missing.

Before the pandemic and surge of remote work, a lot of us complained not just about going to the office, but that the office itself was pretty crappy. The open plan creates an environment of high distraction, low privacy, and physical discomfort. Whether or not people wanted to listen to music or anything for hours at a time, they were pushed to do it just to drown out a constant background noise of words that are highly salient in your problem domain. You're probably constrained to the desk or chair set up that your office manager picked. The bottom line is you're spending a lot of time in an environment about which you may have zero input or control.

At home, I can work in silence if I want. If I want background noise, I can play music on a stereo or turn on the TV in the next room. When my back hurts, I can lie down on the sofa, or stretch and foam roll in a way which would be conspicuous in the office. I can be barefoot all day if I want. I can snack on the food that I like enough to buy, without broadcasting the pretention of bringing my own food to the micro kitchen. I can eat healthier lunches than the office catered food. Even without considering commuting, or the amount of time spent in synchronous interactions, just being able to control my own space is sooo much more comfortable. I injured my back this year, and taking care of it has been so much easier at home than it would have been in open plan hell.

A bunch of that stuff is nominally compatible with being "in the office" -- just give me a private office, with real walls, the ability to buy my own furniture, etc. But tech long ago decided that engineers get cubicles or open plan desks, that the way you know we're working is seeing that we're looking at screens rather than seeing our actual output, that a clean modern spaceship aesthetic is more important than workers being able to control or customize their workspace. Is it that we don't value the office, or that the office has been created by people who don't value us?

Or I guess to make it slightly more explicit:

- prior to the pandemic and the surge in remote work, people were already talking about how offices are set up in a way which can be unnecessarily miserable, but crams more people in the same space, minimizing real estate cost per head.

- but even though in my city, there's now a giant glut of vacant commercial office space, I've yet to see a single company make the pitch: we'll give you a private office if you come in to work face to face.

- things become clearer if we frame this using a term with some history: working conditions. White-collar workers that have never unionized are now pushing for greater control of their working conditions. A partial list of grievances has been a subject of public discussion for years. Some employers are willing to deal with remote work as a bundled solution to multiple issues, but so far I've seen no employers who are willing to meaningfully compromise on what the office looks like.

The place I am working at has an online booking system for all the desks available the entire office building (~14 floors) and while there are no private one person rooms, the offices are 4-8 seats and there is enough vacancies to find a quiet spot. Plus you get to know people from different departments by sitting in different areas of the building.

Works pretty well. On top, my team could decide to only have a presence day every two weeks and we have that as a meetings day where there is no expectation to write code or do focused work but socialize.

I found that this I am in favor of a hybrid setup like this. For the reasons stated in the post, I really do like coming together in person and at the same time I am a parent that appreciates the time saved when working remote from home most days.

Exactly this. My last in-office job was an open floorplan where I had over fifty colleagues in my direct line-of-sight. The only conversations that took place in the open office were about sports or Game of Thrones—real work conversations happened in conference rooms (when they were available). One team decided to turn a small open area near my desk into their own "conference room", but the rollable whiteboards they used as "walls" didn't block any sound, especially from their speakerphone.

Our team has decided to go in one day a week, and one day a week I am reminded why open work environments are awful. Mostly-remote work actually made it worse because there are multiple people near me who are now in wall-to-wall virtual meetings all day and just take them at their desk!

Indeed. I noticed my hearing was getting worse since in office I kept increasing music volume in (futile) attempts to block out chatterboxes at the next desk. Destroying your health is not worth whatever faster promotions in-office work promises.

Noise canceling headphones?

Noise canceling headphones don't do anything against human voices, which is the noise problem in open offices.

I have a pair of Sony wh-1000xm3 and wh-1000xm5 and they definitely block out human voices, for me at least.

they may reduce it to some extent, but not completely block it.

As it was a statement of my experience, I will reiterate it to make it clearer--they do block outside voices for me, completely.

Get some of the muffler things for building sites. One of my previous workspaces had a couple of these siting around.

A colleague of mine used them at a previous job.

I started wearing them too because they work well but also as a passive aggressive FU to whoever designed these open office floor plans (the ear protectors are usually bright colors like yellow so there is no mistaking them for headphones)

We’re treated like assembly line workers in more and more companies anyway so why not also start wearing the PPE that goes with it?

That's not really something I'd consider to be a perk of that office...

Some earplug and chuck white noise on top is what I did once. My issue is it is uncomfortable.

I've spent so much time wearing headphones in offices that I find headphones to be physically uncomfortable.

Well summarized. I think a lot of people forget how anti-productive many working environments were before the pandemic.

My employer at the time had us working in a retrofitted warehouse as software developers. Huge sprawling floor plans with cubicle farms thrown in. The sound acoustics of the building, lighting (sky lights mixed with arrays of fluorescent lights), and the shear amount of people walking around my desk made it nearly impossible to stay focused for any reasonable amount of time. This forced nearly all of us to use noise cancelling headphones which in turn killed any sort of social aspect of being in office.

Open Office, 1 hour commute each way in crappy transportation. No thank you.

I find communication over messenger apps at least as distracting as the office.

There are usually ways for you as a user to customize these apps and make them less distracting (e.g. "Settings -> Notifications", etc).

Plus that lazy category of people who seek help without even trying can be ignored for a few hours, and when you reply its usually "oh yeah i figured it out"

If you wonder why an argument might be controversial, it can helpful to imagine how it would sound like in mirror world:

Assume for a moment that working remotly and a flexible workday would have been always the default. And now some companies decide: Hey let's contractually enforce a 9 hour continuous workday where all our workers will be locked in a big ugly building that we build just for that purpose (Btw. at least one of the 9 hours will be unpaid because this is where people will have lunch. Also we won't reimburse anyone for their traveling expenses or their time spent during the commute).

Now read again the arguments you wrote to support this new idea.

Disclaimer: I support fully remote work and will likely never be returning to office in my lifetime if I can help it.

Here I play devil's advocate. Even though it is a hypothetical world you've constructed, you still framed it from the perspective of this world.

I can do the same thing you did with a different bias.

Imagine a world where everyone is socially isolated, forced to work 8 hours a day from their living space where they're supposed to be able to retreat from work. They're not allowed to have social in-person contact with any of their peers, but they must login to show activity on their computer every 15 minutes or else be fired.

Then along comes the "office". An amazing centralized place where you can take frequent breaks to have social interaction with your peers. You no longer have to wait for everyone to join the Zoom call and turn on their cameras and ask "Can you see my screen?" — you all can just look at the same whiteboard in the same room! Need to get in touch with Bill? Just stroll over to his desk. No need to ping him and wait for a response. We'll even feed you for free, and you can play ping-pong on your breaks! You won't have to bother furnishing your home office with a standing desk and complicated technology setups. We handle all of that for you, and even have in-house IT staff to fix any issues that pop up.

It all doesn't sound so bad when you frame it differently (which is what the middle managers try to do). Again, I don't really believe these arguments, I'm just pointing out that the way you framed yours can easily be done by someone with a competing view.

> Need to get in touch with Bill? Just stroll over to his desk.

Sorry to be flippant, but to me this is one of the worst parts of office life summed up in one statement. The bar for other people to carelessly interrupt you can be unbelievably low sometimes.


I am a fairly high level engineer. People would come over to my desk all the time to either discuss work or shoot the shit.

However I still have my own work to do. Most of the questions they came to me for are a short slack message. I’d often literally have a queue at my desk of people. I’d also be constantly running between meetings.

Having me work from home is better for everyone who deals with me.

I’m more reachable all the time. That queue of people no longer waste their time waiting on my time.

I’m insanely more productive because I am great at multi tasking when I’m not having to simultaneously hold a discussion in person.

It’s not hyperbole on my part to say that having me shift to working from home has been a force multiplier for everyone who depends on me for something.

> People would come over to my desk all the time to either discuss work or shoot the shit.

> I'm more reachable all the time

Does not compute.

You complain of people interrupting you, but you argue that WFH enabled you to be interrupted more, all the time.

It does make some sense to me! It's a lot easier to manage several slack messages simultaneously than several in person conversations (although the image of an engineer helping a bunch of juniors like Magnus Carlson playing a bunch of chess tables in a line is funny!)

I also like to move conversations to group channels so that even more people benefit from the conversation. It really is a force multiplier.

It's not surprising that people who would do this happen to be the people who want to return to the office.

In my opinion, it's the employers that are pushing us to view these as two opposing extremes. I suspect this is because for so long (as long as I can remember) they've had all of the power and control.

Clearly something more personal is the best solution, there's likely also an age component here as well. I know that with a child it's much more convenient to be at home most of the time.

Now that employers have given up some control, I bet it seems risky to a lot of people to start talking about going back to the office even one day a week. In my own experience, that small concession could easily lead to my employer pushing harder and before I know it, I'm looking at commuting for 90 minutes each day and sitting at a desk Monday through Friday: back where I started.

If employers want to retain talent and get some people to spend more time in the office, I think they should make some concessions to make that attractive. Putting some dollars in to offset the commute (and not just gas, maybe just pay people as if they were at work). Maybe throw away the old mid-height cube system and put something in that's taller and more like an individual office, etc. I'm sure other people have ideas out there, but just asking us to "go back" isn't reasonable.

> I suspect this is because for so long (as long as I can remember) they've had all of the power and control.

We are heading into a recession (if not there already). As the strong labour market deteriorates, this power imbalance will shift back to managers.

My thoughts exactly. Even if software devs still maintain a better than average negotiating position, companies continue to have the upper hand and it's just going to get worse for a while.

I think inside of five years 9 out of 10 people who work from home today will be back in the office. Against their will or not. The company just doesn't need most of us more than we need it, and that won't change. I think a lot of people in the IT field right now just haven't been around long enough, so they think the current employment environment will continue indefinitely. The last 15-20 years have been pretty good, but they are almost certainly the exception.

I'm not sure the specific labor markets we are talking about will deteriorate substantially.

There’s already layoffs and downsizing announced weekly. Even pausing growth will have an effect.

There are more jobs in tech than people to fill them, places are always hiring even if FAANG is laying off. One day that dynamic will change, it hasn't yet.

> It all doesn't sound so bad when you frame it differently

I disagree, it still sounds bad.

It sounds like elementary school for adults.

> It sounds like elementary school for adults.

I think that sounds pretty amazing.

To people that loved their school days the current office culture is probably already great. To people that did not, the office is just as bad. Except it is worse, because it feels like something you inflict on yourself.

Sign me up, so long as there's nap time and recess.

My last couple of employers did, in fact, provide nap rooms for employees to use and they saw fairly frequent use.

do we get snacks and naps? I'm in.

So... a WeWork then?

I'm in a WeWork building currently, and I do kinda like it, maybe it's the novelty, but seeing so many other little start-ups and various micro-businesses doing their thing, often in shared spaces, is curiously inspiring and various other perks do make coming into the office attractive enough that I do it more than I technically need to or are even expected to (it helps that it's only a very easy 15-min bike ride away!). Plus for the team I work with, I generally do find it easier to get (and provide) help when in the same physical space, and it's rarely distracting.

Now throw in the fact that the workers may also have family (spouse + a little kid) living with them and present inside the house during the working hours. Suddenly, the idea to have a physically distinct place dedicated (almost) exclusively to work sounds very attractive and very sensible.

Of course, one could have a dedicated "study"/"office" room with a lock and sound proofing but that costs.

Now throw in minimum 0.5h + 0.5h commute or more realistically at least 1.5h total commuting time and suddenly you leave for work before your kids wake up and arrive back home 2-3h before they go to sleep.

Who do you want to spend more time during the day, your coworker Bill the senior Java guy or your child Charlie, who has just learned to walk but you were not there to see their first steps? I mean, Bill's a great guy, but I didn't marry the company.

> Now throw in minimum 0.5h + 0.5h commute

Minimum half hour commute? Definitely not a minimum. I've had a <15min commute practically my entire career. My current commute is 15 minutes by bicycle, 5 minutes by car, and my kid's daycare is on the way.

Minimum commute is more like 5 minutes. Sure, maybe average commute is a good bit higher, but then say average not minimum.

Thats lucky for you but you must be aware of how uncharacteristic that is. When you get a new job that commute disappears unless the new job is close to the old job or you up and move.

It might be a bit uncharacteristic, but it still doesn't change the fact saying commutes have to be a minimum of 30 minutes isn't true. Its not entirely out of the ordinary to have a <30min commute. Most people in my office have a <15min commute, with a few having a similar commute as mine (~5min by car). My wife's commute is 12-15min. Most of my friends have a 15-20min commute.

Many people have commutes much less than 30 minutes. Maybe 30 minutes is an average, I'd probably agree average commutes are close to 45 minutes, but that's an average not a minimum. Those words have two very different meanings.

This probably depends on your local traffic environment in your city. Depending on the time of day and exact routing, 7 miles in southern california can take you 45 minutes or more. If you take the bus like I do you are in for closer to an hour.

Sure, commutes in Southern California seem to be a nightmare. But most office workers don't live in Southern California, so using that as a global minimum of commute times is probably extremely biasing it.

> Now throw in minimum 0.5h + 0.5h commute or more realistically at least 1.5h total commuting time

This is what I'm responding to here. ihateolives is suggesting all commutes are a minimum of 0.5h each way, with 1.5h being a realistic figure. They make no mention about Southern California, they're talking about WFO in general. Would you agree that 1.5h commutes in general are realistic, or do you think that's pretty big hyperbole?

To me, 1.5h commutes are insane and are a massive outlier, and I live in one of the most sprawled out metro areas in the US.

You are wrong. Look up what average commute time is in US. 40+ minute commutes are uncharacteristic, except for a small fraction of Americans who live in a handful of metros.

> Look up what average commute time is in US. 40+ minute commutes are uncharacteristic

Emphasis mine. Average is not minimum. Those are two entirely different concepts.

I'm not wrong about my commute time, it's legitimately roughly 5 minutes. Since nobody is suggesting a lower commute time for WFO, I'd say that's probably a minimum. I totally agree the average is closer to 40ish minutes, but minimum is not average.

The commute is counted from the moment you exit your home door. It’s 5 minutes only if you work across the street.

My home door is the garage door, so I'm already in my car "door to door". The distance is <3mi. Assuming an average speed of 32mph (almost 1/3 of that <3mi is at 55mph, most is 40mph, I get that average speed often according to my car's computer) that's 0.5333 miles/minute. So that's then 5.625 minutes.

Sorry, I guess I was wrong, its 5 minutes and 38 seconds.

Next time use your watch and see how much time passes between going out of your door and entering your office. And your door is not the garage door, but the one you use to enter the garage.

I've looked at the clock before, it's been about 5 minutes. That's how I arrived at that value originally, as before needing to drop off my child at daycare I budgeted about 5 minutes to get to the office and was usually just about right. As mentioned, it's less than 3 miles on streets with 40+mph speeds. Sure, sometimes I get stopped on the by one of the two stop lights and it adds another minute and a half to my journey.

And ok, instead of my garage door it's my living room door 15 feet from my car door. Why not make it my bedroom door or shower door while we're at it.

Said space can also be rented in a dedicated co-working space (close to home or close to other place of interest) providing both the benefits of a space dedicated to work and the benefits of no commute, rent flexibility (you can choose a more preferable housing opportunity since proximity to work is not a factor), social mobility (you can choose to live in a different city) and personal security (a lot harder for physical harassment in a power imbalance context to happen when you are remote, a lot more likely for other forms of harassment to be recorded).

The fundamental drive of WFH is the opposition towards lords attempting to dictate how people live their lives. If a subset of workers want to work from the company office, good for them. If a subset prefer to work from co-working spaces, good for them. If some free spirits prefer to work from a tent in the mountains with a satellite connection and solar panels, good for them. If some prefer to switch environments, good for them.

This is the same as installing (side loading) apps on iOS. One group desires freedom (to install whatever from wherever) and does not care what others do (use only the official store). The other group (those who like the walled garden) prefers that all others do as they do (only use the official store and nothing else ever, preferably making it impossible or illegal).

I will actually express this in even harsher terms.

Mandatory WFO is a communist notion, it is fundamentally undemocratic and fundamentally un-American. It values uniformity the same way communism does. WFH values freedom and autonomy. So going forward, I will call all those who want to enforce WFO when it is not necessary: Commie-Bastards.

Do you get breaks to play pingpong and catered food at your offices? I've never worked anywhere that actually paid for food, honestly, and while a few places have had pingpong tables it's hard to justify leaving my desk to go use them when there's tasks I could be getting done.

A minor point, but I've always wondered if you're ever actually allowed to use the nice benefits like that, or if they're just something startups show off to investors to try and look more friendly to their workers.

> Do you get breaks to play pingpong and catered food at your offices?

Oh yeah, it was great ( billiards,pinball,foosball,restaurant catered lunches,beer fridays ). It never lasts, usually a company gets purchased and all those niceties are the first to go. This has happened to me three times.

It made for a fun workplace, those were definitely my favorite jobs.

Not gonna lie, the lack of free food in the companies I've worked for has left a chip on my shoulder, and this is after working at a place which pays slightly better than Amazon with the express purpose of poaching Amazon engineers.

I know it comes out to less than 10K per year, but I don't care I don't feel like an elite engineer until I get the damn free food!

> Imagine a world where everyone is socially isolated, forced to work 8 hours a day from their living space

Advocates of WFH rarely care if people want to work in an office if they want to, as long as they don't have to.

So that'd be "Imagine a world where everyone is socially isolated, able to work 8 hours a day from their living space or an office if they'd prefer"

Imagine a world where people work from home but aren’t socially isolated because they spend time with their families, friends, and local communities rather than whoever they happen to be working with at the time.

If the office was so amazing you wouldn't need to force people to come in.

The only relevant difference is in which part you use the word "force" in the description of the hypothetical world.

In the real world, however, no one is usally forced to WFH. But we were forced to WFO.

You make some good points, but...

> They're not allowed to have social in-person contact with any of their peers

I don't think any companies with remote work policies enforce a 'no in-person contact' policy.

> they must login to show activity on their computer every 15 minutes or else be fired

I don't think most companies have this policy.

> An amazing centralized place where you can take frequent breaks to have social interaction with your peers.

Those companies with strict policies on activity monitoring for home workers are unlikely to allow 'frequent' breaks. The few short breaks you have are mostly spent in the toilet, or queuing to buy coffee.

> Need to get in touch with Bill? Just stroll over to his desk.

Have we asked Bill how he feels about this :D

> We'll even feed you for free, and you can play ping-pong on your breaks, [and we'll give you a] standing desk!

Relatively few companies do this.

Your framing is heavily subjective and seems to contrast the best, employee-friendly companies' in-person benefits with the worst micromanaging companies' remote work drawbacks.

OP's framing is less subjective. Although the number of hours, the paid vs. unpaid lunch break, and the ugliness of the building do vary, the principles are broadly more objective.

If remote work was all 8 hours a day with 15 minute checks, you'd be right. But that happens in offices too, so it isn't the key difference.

> Need to get in touch with Bill? Just stroll over to his desk

Yeah, this is part of the problem most WFH folks have with most WFO folks. We fucking hate this.

I'm genuinely wondering if this is satire. No offense. I was just under the impression that the ping pong table has been the subject of enough startup-culture critique in popular opinion to put the idea that employees will actually see it as a meaningful perk to rest. Also interesting is the assertion that having to ask "can you see my screen" is enough of a problem for someone that it rivals waking up an hour earlier for a grueling commute...

I found that the sweet spot is somewhere in between these two extremes.

After a week of working from home, sometimes I found that I hadn’t left the house for anything other than groceries.

In the mornings, I get up and get the kids ready. Then work. Then the kids come home. Family time, dinner and so on. Time to sleep. Rinse, repeat.

So yeah, I find going to the office from time to time refreshing. It helps that my team agreed that office days are for socializing and focused work is not expected.

>they must login to show activity on their computer every 15 minutes or else be fired.

This is the stupidest thing, I think - I don't care if you're at your computer all the time I am at my computer, I care if you get shit done

it gets a bit tricky when you ask urgent question to colleague and he is not responding to you for 30 minutes.

> it gets a bit tricky when you ask urgent question to colleague and he is not responding to you for 30 minutes.

This type of interruption culture is very harmful both directly to productivity (it takes a long time to get back to focus from being interrupted) and also to mental health from the pressure of being constantly interruped and expected to jump at every slack message.

There should be no question that is so urgent that it can't be answered tomorrow. Do a full day of work and check & answer your messages once a day, morning or evening.

The exception is people on call who of course do need to respond to things within minutes but that's why being on call is so exceptionally stressful. Rotate that so nobody is subject to such stress very often.

What question is so urgent? What’s the consequence of waiting 30 minutes, or until tomorrow, for an answer?

That’s not at all helpful and in fact it’s confusing.

Going to a place of work is the status quo with one of the exceptions being bubbles in IT. Some offices are nice, some not. Some are within walking distance, others are not.

You are not locked in to your office unless you work in a literal sweatshop. The lunch hour is a legal right in Europe.

It’s your task to check that you have a reasonable commute before accepting a contract. Why should a company care that you picked a job on the other end of the city?

Jesus, I can’t believe how spoiled and entitled so many people are. But that will resolve itself once remote developers start getting replaced with cheaper workers which can develop apps or websites just as well.

>Jesus, I can’t believe how spoiled and entitled so many people are

The entitlement is called workers rights. People fought quite hard to get the ones we have right now. E.g. my grandfather was still working 6 days and 48h a week (same country as OP). Back then people also called the workers "entitled" who dared to ask for more than one free day per week.

As I see it, this movement will only be succesfully completed once people can rent your skills without also owning your body during that time.

I love this style of reasoning. Status quo bias is a severely strong psychological effect on some people in some cases. This is a nice way to "bust the cache" ;)

There's a really cool philosophy paper "The reversal test: Eliminating status quo bias in applied ethics" - using a reversal like the one you describe (imagine a world where the opposite was true). But then the authors also do a double-reversal (imagine the world is identical to ours, but there's a policy about to be implemented which will make it into "mirror world" and we have the option to do nothing and let it happen, or act and prevent the reversal). Great thinking tool!


full paper PDF: https://nickbostrom.com/ethics/statusquo.pdf

> I always saw tech as the field where a disproportionally large amount of people truly love what they do.

You do confuse "loving what they do" with "being at the office" and "socializing during slack time". I do love my job but I do hate socializing with people, which is definitely not my job. That is why I'm working in IT, I don't have to socialize beyond the bare minimum to be successful. I think IT attracts introverts like me, and I do suspect we are the majority (but I have only anecdata for that).

> I know that "the office" is a bad place for a lot of people. [...] But shouldn't we rather work on fixing those things instead of making them bearable by just turning off a camera in a Zoom meeting?

Things have gotten worse and worse around the office. Small one- or few-person offices gave way to cubicles, which gave way to open-plan offices, which gave way to open-plan seat-lottery not-even-your-own-desk offices. No amount of pushback changed this direction in the slightest. Meanwhile noise and interruptions got worse and worse, where in my private office people knocked politely before entering or were kept out by the DND sign, nowadays the seat lottery puts me next to a loudmouthed marketing phone-drone, who when not screaming into the mic drones on about his awesome sales statistics and his new yacht. At least the boss can't easily walk over anymore and breathe down my neck because the seat lottery put him somewhere else usually. Any and all things that have been tried to fix this are band-aids and lip-service. It only got worse and worse.

WFH is great, finally a step in the right direction. I do have no sympathy for the extroverts, because they got us into the aforementioned mess.

While a bit snarky, this points in the right direction. OP simply seems to be more extroverted, enjoying personal interaction with colleagues more than their introverted peers. At least from my experience at work + university, IT attracts substantially more introverts.

In addition, family life/ living situation can make a huge dent. Think being single + living in a shared flat in the center vs being married living in a house 1h+ commute away from the office.

Honestly, I feel this is a bit of a black-and-white view that grossly oversimplifies things. And I am downright insulted by the last sentence to be frank.

Blaming shitty management on extroverted techies. Are you sure about that?

Sorry you see it this way. I agree with a lot of what the parent said. The post started the black-and-white framing - the current situation is bad, and we need to fix it.

A popular three wishes joke goes: "Three men are stranded on a desert island, when a bottle washes up on the shore. When they uncork the bottle, a genie appears and offers three wishes. The first wishes to be taken to Paris. The genie snaps his fingers, and the man suddenly finds himself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. The second man wishes that he were in Hollywood, and with a snap of the genie's fingers, he finds himself on a Tinseltown movie set. The third man, now alone on the island, looks around and says, "I wish my friends were back."[1]

If you looking for different points of view, I would urge you to look past the trigger words.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_wishes_joke

I've never seen anything that so perfectly encapsulates my feelings about this whole return to office thing.

Yes, I am sure that extroverts are to blame. But not only extroverted techies. Management is almost 100% extroverts. Extroverted techies went along, repeating the party line of "watercooler talk makes us cooperate more", "I like the new open floorplan, so social" and "interruptions aren't that bad, learn to multitask and get some headphones". For examples, just read some HN about open floorplans. The introverted techs, being introverts, were less heard and mostly had no say anyways. Extroverted management and techs lacked any interest and necessary empathy to understand them. Whats more, snark and derision for the introverts, not only behind closed doors. HR and management slides praised the new culture of constant social interaction and suggested the rest should just socialize more and learn to multitask and be outgoing. Be more extroverted like us, less like you. Same from the extroverted techies, e.g. here on HN. Introverts just weren't accepted and were not heard.

So yes, I think snark is warranted and the last sentence is fair play. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, where extroverts don't like WFH, I do only treat extroverts with the same contempt I was treated with.

You're demanding we waste our lives and energy to entertain you in the office. What did you expect?

> a black-and-white view that grossly oversimplifies things

Seems like a perfect response to your original post, then.

Haha, I really tried to make it clear that the post just is my opinion and I don't claim to be "right" about any of those things. The reason it's so obscenely long is just that, I wanted to elaborate on how these things appear to me. I really tried not to fall into "WFH is shit and everyone who likes it is wrong". I mean even the title basically asks for input.

And yes sure, in one or two places I phrased things bluntly but always tried to make it clear that it's how it seems to me and not reproaching anyone for their preferences.

It was harsh but anyone attached to the status quo shouldn’t be sensitive to snark from the fringe that doesn’t like it. People attached to the status quo always win.

Well said, I completely agree.

It sounds like you preferred the social aspect of being in the office. Not everybody does. The movie Office Space really hit on some key points: A mind-numbing commute, that wastes hours of "your time" that you don't get paid for. "Corporate Accounts Payable Nina speaking" Egomaniac of a boss/manager hovering over your shoulder telling you that you are typing wrong, and YOU need to work overtime while he buys a new sports-car. etc...

There is nothing that will pull me out of 'the zone' quicker then hearing distractions in the office. People talking, laughing, standing in front of your desk talking about shit that has nothing to do with you.

I would often go work IN THE SERVER ROOM, just to get away from the noise and distractions that existed in the office. [Open Office layouts need to be destroyed]

So WFH means I get 2 more hours a day of ME time. I sleep in later. I have more freedom of WHEN I work. If I get a flash of inspiration to solve a problem at 1am, I can jump in and fix it.

Being able to lean back and ask my co-worker: "Hey Bob, what was thing called in NGinx that we used last week?" is much less formal then trying to articulate in a slack/teams message.

BUT, I hated being interrupted by others asking things like "..what was thing called in NGinx that we used last week?" when I could have just been asked in Teams/Slack.

So to simplify these points; If you are pro-social: WFO is better If you are anti-social: WFH is better

> If you are pro-social: WFO is better If you are anti-social: WFH is better

I understand the characterization, WFO benefits social interaction around work.

But I’m not a very social person, and I prefer working in the office. Work serves as a dedicated space where I’m in contact with people with something in common. I get a lot of my social interaction from work.

I’m not disagreeing, just adding some nuance. I think the “extroverts work in the office and introverts work from home” is overly simplistic.

Some extra nuance is that there exists people who's entire lives revolve around work. These people's whole life schedule revolves around work and their social networks revolve around work people because they have no hobbies or other avenues of socialization. These are the type of people who live solely to climb the corporate ladder and only talk shop and office politics. Despite being quite a social person, I can't stand working with these types of people and would rather be isolated at home than be subjected to these types. At least this has been my experience working in large enterprise corporations in Silicon Valley.

What if I am pro-social person but I don't like people I have to meet with to be picked by my employer.

WFH is also better if you are pro-social - you have more time to pick up friends that you want to meet - not ones that you have to meet.

There's nothing wrong with that, and I have many friends that like the social upsides of having an office.

But I think it will become increasingly common to divide social life and work in the future. Imagine the following: You have a few good friends in Berlin and each of you work for different companies. But you all work remotely. You could rent a small office space with your friends everyone could work from there, but on different things. You can grab coffee together and talk about metal bands, you can grab lunch together, and you can get a drink after work.

I for one, would prefer this setup, then being force into a location and social life that I don't want to be part of. Sure, you can be lucky and meet great friends at work, but often times this is also temporary - people leave teams, people leave companies etc.

Every time that this topic comes up it goes the same way. I wish that we could all collectively agree that this is a PREFERENCE. One way is not objectively better than the other. They both have trade-offs. We could actually make some progress if we focusing on having WFO and WFH people better able to collaborate together.

One anecdote: I've been working fully remote for the last year. I prefer WFO but such is the world today. It is been going okay for the most part. Everyone is pretty good on Zoom and Slack.

Recently we all came in to the remote office to meet each other for the first time and do some planning for future features. It was an absolute disaster. Everyone has forgotten how to have a meeting outside of Zoom. 5 conversations at once, constant interruptions, etc. We also had some people calling in to a Zoom that the in-person people were on. This is also usually a complete disaster. The remote people have almost no ability to break into the in-person conversation.

IMO, this is the thing that needs to get solved. What process/tools can we add to a hybrid Zoom call to make it productive? What process/tools can we use to help WFH people adjust to in-person meetings? What process/tools can we change/use writ large, so that the WFO vs WFH choice can truly be an employee preference and not a mandate BUT still be a productive endeavour?

> I wish that we could all collectively agree that this is a PREFERENCE

If you read my comment, that's also what I'm saying in the first sentence. I think the issue is that living that preference within one company is really hard. A remote-first culture is usually very different from an office-first culture. I would never want to work remotely when most of my team is sitting in the same room every day (done that, been there).

So, what will happen is that will be an increasing number of remote-first companies, and people who like to work remotely, will work there. This way, the preferences can be shown.

What will the remote-first companies' share be of total companies? Who knows...

Crazy that it turned into a disaster. Ours went so well that we wanted more of it even after the in-person event. We only had one person on Zoom though. I don't know your situation at all, but it sounds like people felt the need for multiple conversations that may have been pent up like a dam til that meeting.

> But I think it will become increasingly common to divide social life and work in the future.

I am pretty sure that is a already the case in most of the world. The exception really is Asian and US work cultures (and perhaps specific worspaces like Academia or Startups).

> And finally, I feel no one else is realizing that they are happily hacking away at the amazingly well-paid branch they're sitting on. As soon as a company's IT department is practically fully remote, why should they page a German wage for someone who is a face on a screen, when they can pay a fraction for that same face broadcasted from a few hundred kilometers further east or south? German is hardly used in business context here anyway and lower-wage countries within ±3 hours timezones abound.

Funny. If I was a person from the east or south, my answer would be: Great, bring it on, share the wealth! Why should Berlin get all the best jobs?


Incidentally, there was a now-deleted reply to my comment that made mention of the danger of a race to the bottom, and I'd add the following in response to that:

Eh, I have a less pessimistic view. For at least 30 years now we've been frightened by the spectre of outsourcing, and in the end, those fears never really materialized. Certainly a lot of work moved to India, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and so forth, but it certainly hasn't come at the expense of tech in more expensive markets.

The reality is a) there's more than enough tech work to go around, and b) outsourcing is incredibly complicated for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with the physical location of labour. There's no shortage of factors for this--regulatory differences, labour quality differences, cultural differences, communication barriers, timezone issues, etc--and Zoom hasn't magically fixed them.

You're conflating not wanting to be in an office with being mediocre at their job, and that's simply not true. Some of the best developers I've met were remote long before COVID, and I'm certain it's because they were so good at what they did, they could just command such a work benefit.

Now that such a benefit is widespread, the majority of people get to design their own lifestyle for the first time ever, and they really enjoy it, instead of designing their lives around the needs of their employer (or your needs). It's not just commuting, it's moving closer to the office; its time away from family; it's cost saving conveniences because they're short on time; it's expensive lunches when they forget their brown bag; and feeling obligated to hang out with people they really just have a business relationship with (and maybe one they don't want). And yes, a lot of people's mission in life is their family, but that doesn't make them 'less than' you.

Remote workers aren't enough to outsource, outsourcing is not a new thing, it's been around for a very long time. There are a number of reasons why a company might not outsource such as tax incentives, cultural clashes, work style clashes, and logistical challenges.

I would encourage you to do some introspection as to why you think you need the office in the first place. Why do you need the social aspect of it? is something missing from your outside-of-work social life? Design your life around your own needs. Co-working spaces are still a thing, and I even go to them sometimes.

>Remote workers aren't enough to outsource, outsourcing is not a new thing, it's been around for a very long time.

Outsourcing is not new, but the covid WFH was basically a manhattan project to sand down it's rough edges. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of very smart people around the world who are willing to work for a fraction of first world wages, and are proficient enough in english that timezones are the last remaining barrier. Outsourcing won't leave us unemployed but I do believe that it will slowly drain the 'potential energy' of the current massive income inequality both within countries (bay area vs south) and without (usa vs elsewhere)

I'm skeptical of this to be honest.

The global employment market is a free market (of sorts), and so people will happily pay more for employee they perceive to be better whether they are or not. People still buy Rolexes, iPhones, and Teslas despite there being cheaper alternatives that do exact same things. So companies will hire employees they perceive to be better simply because they share a nationality. While I don't think it'll prevent every job from outsourcing, the high earners will flee to the unequal income areas to spend their wealth. If we see more equitable income in both countries (so to speak), it'll be far in the future if at all. Boots on the ground says internet connectivity in service-based economies remains unrivaled compared to the agricultural and industrial economies often touted as the outsourcing alternatives.

> I used to love going to the office. Discussing our team's latest Python problems over a coffee. Looking over at their screen and then asking them why they look like they want to beat someone over the head with their keyboard repeatedly. Guessing people's emotions in a heated Retro from their body language. Grabbing dinner with a few colleagues after a long workshop meeting in the evening and then realizing that, aside from all the differences we might have about static typing in programming languages, we all like the same exotic progressive metal bands.

This sounds like hell to me and a way to keep someone at the office longer so work becomes more ingrained in their day to day life. I don't want work and my life so connected that I'm going to dinner with co workers.

Discussing issues? Lets do that over a video call. Works really well.

Want to socialize? Thats what my friends are for. Guess what? Since many of us work from home we can actually walk to the local coffee shop or lunch place and talk about something other than work.

Want to get dinner? I'll go with my wife and because I don't have to commute home I might able be able to get a table before 8pm.

Everything you are describing sounds like it could be solved with having friends instead of only co workers.

EXCEPT for the hiring cheaper labor in x country. But that has already been happening. It will always happen. Sometimes more, sometimes less. There are massive dev and qa outsourcing teams located across the globe. Why doesnt everyone do it? Well there are a ton of reasons but if its been happening since the 90s its incredibly unlikely that in y or yy years it become exclusively the norm.

I don't want to be friends with my coworkers, but I do want to have a relationship with them. WFH has meant that we're basically all just doing our thing, occasionally talking on slack/jira but mostly just blissfully unaware of the interesting challenges others are facing, especially on other teams. Imo collaboration is much more difficult with people you have no relationship with, and video calls absolutely do not work as well as in person whiteboarding,

Then thats on you. Our team collaborates with three time zones. There was never full work from the office. Yet we still collaborate fine and share these things when we meet over zoom. Maybe your group should have a regular meeting where if people want to sign up and share what they’ve been working on they may do so. We were doing that even when our side of the group was in person because thats about the only way to get the full scope of someones work: a 45 min end to end presentation where you can ask questions, not chitchat in the hallway.

That's fair, and maybe my company just sucks at WFH, but it's not getting any better, so I think we need to go back to in person.

Thanks, that is my point exactly! I was expecting the good ol' "Get some friends and stop complaining" argument here and it's completely besides the point. I am talking about group identity of teams and understanding social dynamics. It greatly increases my intrinsic motivation working for a team I identify with on a personal and social level instead of "for the company"

My biggest frustration with the WFH discussion has been that the vast majority of people say that the #1 (and sometimes only) reason they prefer WFH is to save time on the commute. But this has not led to any discussions on how we can actually improve the commute, improve housing policy so people can live closer to work, etc.

Instead, people have simply decided that theh will WFH instead, an option which isn’t available to the majority of workers, who are generally not as privileged as the people who can WFH.

The next step will be all the WFH people who are almost certainly significantly higher earners complaining about having to pay taxes towards improving commutes and public transit which they don’t even use, so gradually public transit will get worse and/or more expensive at the turnstile, making life even worse for the largely underprivileged who don’t have the option to WFH.

The push for WFH has been approached entirely from an individual perspective, which will result in further separation between the privileged and the rest, a further rise in inequality, a further increase in social disunity and a further destruction in community.

It didn’t have to be this way. We could have approached WFH in a much more community oriented way, having people WFH but simultaneously investing in making the lives of those who don’t/cannot WFH easier as well, through investing in better public transport, etc.

> But this has not led to any discussions on how we can actually improve the commute, improve housing policy so people can live closer to work, etc.

Letting most office workers not commute is the fastest way to improve the commute of those who must.

Letting most office workers not live next to their company's headquarters is the fastest way to free up housing space near company headquarters.

Making marginal improvements to the commute of 100% of workers pales in comparison to ending commutes altogether for 20% of workers. It doesn't matter if a lot of people still have to go to work, the ecological and economic benefits of getting that many people off the roads are massive, especially for those who still have to drive to work.

On the other hand, allowing those who can WFH to do so clears up road space so that people who must WFO don't have as much traffic to deal with. When you live in a society like the USA that has already created a car-dominated dystopia, and those cars don't scale for everyone to commute at the same time without massive traffic problems... it does take some of the pressure off the system, and ought to help some of those WFO people's commutes.

I think you're right that public transit won't fare well with WFH. But it was already so bad in the USA I'm not sure it can death spiral much more.

I don't want to live downtown! I want separation between my neighbors so I don't have to hear them, and so they don't have to hear me. I lived in apartments for nearly 15 years... never again.

We also have the cost of housing. I can't afford to live anywhere close to the places that tech places typically pick, and they like picking downtown because it's cool, hip, and trendy. Thanks to investors, people moving from the west coast to my city, and the significant lack of affordable housing being built, I had to move even further away from downtown to afford a house.

> improve housing policy so people can live closer to work

Or, improve labor policy so work becomes a much smaller part of most people's lives.

Come on... people work far less than they ever did before, that should be pretty obvious if you just think about it.

Further, tons of "work" is done with zero physical strain, lots of those "work" hours are the in-between stuff -- travel, meetings, calls, lunches -- meaning that actual hours laboring are even less.


Have you heard about 4DWW - Four Day Work Week? This is arguably the biggest and most-needed improvement in labor / worker rights in at least a few decades.

I can't wait until it is implemented across the whole world. England, Portugal, and other countries are at the forefront already.

Hey, I like the idea of working less too. But why is this needed? If 4 becomes the law, how long until people will demand 3? And we have already experienced shortages of goods recently, how will things get made or shipped or fixed if people are working 20% less?

All the efficiencies and productivity gains we've seen in the last 30 years have not resulted in increasing wages, but instead resulted in higher incomes of the executives and owners.

Perhaps more importantly, the 4DWW isn't a pie-in-the-sky proposal, there are numerous companies that have switched over and have found the productivity gains offset the lesser hours.

As for "how long until people will demand 3?" - we'll see. When AI starts pumping out the same quality of work as humans do, should all humans starve? Or should all humans work fewer hours and capture the benefits?

Wages have increased, but they've also been distributed to places like China, India, Vietnam, as business owners naturally seek low wage costs (and demanding 4-day work weeks will only accelerate the exportation of labor).

Although many first-world countries' median wage hasn't increased much (despite wage growth all around in warehousing, fast-food, etc), the number of high-paying jobs in tech, finance, law, healthcare, media and more has certainly increased. How many software engineers were making $150-250k annually in 1997?

> people work far less than they ever did before

Sure, if you look at the last 150 years, but the data you linked is basically flat since 1980: over the last 30 years in the United States, working hours are down 2%.

Yeah, if anything that chart highlights how workers in the US are getting screwed compared to countries like Germany on number of hours worked. They're working only about 77% as many hours, on average.

Yea, really screwed. Choosing the top country by least hours worked is not appropriate as a baseline. Look at Mexico, or any Asian country besides Japan. They work their asses off compared to Americans.

Meanwhile software engineers in the U.S. make more than twice their German counterparts' salary: https://www.google.com/amp/s/codesubmit.io/blog/software-eng...

Of course, not everyone is a software engineer. But it doesn't seem surprising there would be a correlation between fewer hours worked and lower salaries, likely because employers who are able to pick countries to hire from will avoid those where individual workers do the least amount of work.

It's not 1:1 for other reasons either besides just pay, like you don't have to pay anything for college tuition in Germany and they have universal healthcare, so you pay a ton less for healthcare expenses also, so that helps close the gap for lesser pay (also, you're working 30% less hours on average, so you have more free time to pursue other things, including a part time job if you really need to).

$400/month of my take home pay for over a decade was just in student loan payments, and I got off easy compared to a lot of Americans there. My wife, for example, is still paying about $1000/month, and that's after knocking it down by about $30k recently thanks to a couple windfalls. And she's been paying hers for almost 10 years at this point as well.

They also pay about 80% of your prior salary in unemployment, whereas here it's a hard cap at a really small amount (I think last time I was on it I was getting about a third of my previous salary, and my salary was a lot lower then).

You seem like a rational person. Why haven't you moved to Germany?

I don't know German, I don't think it's in the best location for geographic and geopolitical reasons (see Russian invasion of Ukraine, energy crisis, climate change), my family and friends are here and I value that a lot (also why I haven't moved to Silicon Valley despite living in the US), I already own a house where I'm at and it would be a pain to move, I've never visited and I don't tend to move to a place I haven't at least visited first (I had an opportunity to go in 2019 to volunteer to work a booth for a friend's company at the Essen board game convention, but got too busy), etc.

Personally Canada appeals to me more and I might move there at some point (or at least closer to the Canadian border), but I can still acknowledge there being good things about Germany while having reasons not to move there myself. I do think I should probably move somewhere with universal healthcare before I get too old as I will probably have enough health problems that would either bankrupt me or wipe out my retirement if I stayed in the US, like has happened to several of my family and friends.

We're definitely heading in the right direction. I don't think we're there yet though.

If my time isn't free to use as I will it's work. I don't care if it involves zero physical strain or if I'm on a call or in a meeting. Being in a meeting is obviously work.

Your company is trying to get you to work as many hours as possible for as little money as possible, as a working person you should strive for the opposite. As a worker you are selling your labor (of which you possess a limited amount) and any rational actor in a capitalist society should attempt to maximize the gains on what they have to sell by charging the buyer as much as they can for as little as they can. I don't expect a large corporation to strive for less profit because they're "already making more than they did before".

To be clear I don't _like_ this state of affairs but so long as these are the rules ignoring them only deprives yourself and helps your company.

You are ranting, but not addressing the point that was made. The post above mine wanted work to become a "much smaller part of most people's lives."

I'm all for maximizing the earnings I make while working, and to be honest, sure, I'd like to build platforms and methods to earn passive income while I am not working. But I don't think it is necessary or required to somehow normalize a 20 or 30 hour work week. Further, I recognize that if my workday allows me to sit in a chair all day, as opposed to hard physical labor in harsh weather, then the moment my work ends, I'm physically capable of whatever leisure activity I want to enjoy. You might technically "work" by sitting in meetings for the same number of hours as people whose bodies are broken down by 40 due to backbreaking labor, but obviously you haven't "sold" your labor to the same extent.

Hot take this is the right line of thought. Restructure society so we work less, not so that we can work more.

But doesn’t this drive home OP’s point further? For people who work in service jobs - healthcare, schools, shopping, and restaurants/cafes, for example - how would you approach working less? People want to go out and eat and places are already struggling to hire. Parents want in person learning for their young kids.

Pay people more, hire more employees. The market will decide which businesses remain viable. I am honestly hopeful demand for places like restaurants decreases or the market becomes less viable because of the labor shortage, simply because that industry has mistreated its employees for so long and many have moved on the bigger and better things for themselves.

The only places struggling to hire are places not paying enough.

Pay people more. Wages have been flat for 50 years for these positions.

Its not just the commute but the other things around the house you can parallelize e.g. during a zoom meeting and save time. Doing the dishes, laundry, working out, running errands midday without traffic, not having to go to the dmv on saturday. That really opens up a lot more time than just the commute. Its really an entire paradigm shift of changing work from a block of time removed from the day, to just a series of tasks in your job queue that has some home chore tasks as well that can be taken care of when its actually convenient. You basically become an hpc job scheduler. Thats way more efficient than the blocks of time approach with going into the office and not being able to do these things.

This privilege (which is really just code for $$$) you mention existed in the same exact way prior to mass WFH, except that it resulted in more air pollution, more wasteful traffic, etc. Individuals rationally take a small scale solution to a direct problem instead of potentially solving a huge problem in 50+ years. The post in general is like ranting about not collectively curing cancer when someone asks for a bandage for a small wound.

I actually enjoy my commute. About 30-35 minutes each way. Gives me time to listen to a podcast and mentally separate my work and home lives.

As an individual I have essentially no ability to improve housing policy, etc.

I can however apply for and work at WFH jobs.

There's nothing controversial.

You like working in an office. Cool. Go work in an office.

I don't like working in an office. Cool. I work from home.

The only thing that's changed is that we have more choice now. Like when I finally landed the first job where I didn't have to wear a tie anymore.

The problem for us office advocates is that you travel into an empty office and sit on Zoom calls anyway.

Of course we shouldn't drag you into the office just to appease us, but the experience of working together is effectively not available right now.

This is why it’s controversial.

For someone working remotely, a meeting with someone remote or in an office is irrelevant.

For someone working in an office, it makes their “in the office” experience irrelevant and meaningless.

It is not controversial because of the people who like working remotely; it’s controversial because of the people who dont, because they force their choice on other people.

You know how many people have to work remotely before it has to be a zoom meeting to be inclusive?


So, in order for you in office preference to be meaningful, it has to apply to everyone.

No one likes having their choice overridden by someone else’s preference.

Thus; controversial.

When you say “I want that old school in office experience…” what it means is “I want you not to have that flexibility”, “what I want is more important than what you want”.

That might not be the intent, but let’s be blunt and realistic:

The blue sky dream of that in office experience doesn’t exist any more.

It can only exist if everyone is in the office at the same time.

Personally, I think the cat is out of the bag now. What are the chances that everyone will go back into the office full time? Not big.

That means the blue sky dream of the in office experience is probably gone forever.

It’s probably time to start trying to figure out an alternative set of practices and social outlets for people who like in office work.

I even said in the second line of my two line post that it’s not fair or realistic to expect everyone to come back to the office.

My point was that the 2019 style office experience is not available (or much harder to find) even if we want it.

>You know how many people have to work remotely before it has to be a zoom meeting to be inclusive?


People on site are together in conf room with lap on table so remote person can hear?

Only if you work with all people who highly value remote work. My office always has people there. And we have the option to work fully remote. Some people have never been to the office.

Finding the right company culture for you is often overlooked in favor of things like the right tech stack.

Yeah, our office now seems to always have at least 30 people at it, maybe as many as 75. Hard to tell for sure, I've never been, just judging by pictures people have taken at company meetings and the cacophony of chatter and office noise I hear when someone on my team hops on a meeting when they went into the office (only one person on my team does, and even they don't seem to go in more than 1-2 times a week).

But there's still plenty of people WFH, and plenty of people who couldn't come into the office if it was suddenly mandated (which it hasn't been yet, just encouraged), because they live several states away.

I'm almost certainly giving up a better bonus and performance review by not going into the office regularly and playing office politics, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I shouldn't have to make that sacrifice, but I never really played the office politics game even when I did go into the office every day, so not a big change there.

But 30+ people should be enough to get that "in-office watercooler" experience for those who like to work in the office.

An elegant solution to this has already been proposed: go and share an office with like-minded people from the same or across different companies.

Actually something I am doing at the moment. It's definitely a huge improvement.

Regardless, having a good brainstorming session in person and actually building a strong sense of community and shared responsibility with a team you're on is so much better in real-life than remote for me.

Another thing is that finding an office space was really hard and we got extremely lucky. Try finding a payable office space in a capital city is not an "easy alternative" for the regular Joe I would say.

Heh, finding office space in a capital city is much easier now.

But you're ignoring your own responses too, if office space in a CapCit was so expensive and impossible for you, what do you think a business is spending per year on it. You could have an office, or 5 more virtual employees.

Software companies having offices in big cities make as much sense as a manufacturing company having a production building downtown. Maybe it made sense in 1850s but doesn't make sense in the 2020s.

This is what I currently do, and it is not a solution in the slightest. Most of what I enjoy about working in office is face-to-face collaborative work. I cannot do that with folks from other companies. I cannot do that if every meeting I take is forced to be a video call.

There is no solution for the office crowd except an office based org. It's time for us as an industry to acknowledge that, and to have remote orgs and office orgs separate.

> an empty office and sit on Zoom calls anyway

For at least 15 years leading up to covid I worked in satellite branches of large corporations and had to spend the day on zoom calls with coworkers in remote offices anyway.

But that’s for you, people attached to 2019 didn’t have that office experience. People who like the status quo grow to believe they deserve to get what they want. Then when workers win some flexibility or supply chains kink up… it’s unheard of.

For those of us with multiple offices, that's what it already was, except you'd fight over a call booth, be communicating over narrowband voice.

But the upsides, coffee, lunch, dinner random conversations can be achieved if you work out of any co-working space or a park bench.

You could join a company that is in person first. I've joined a company that is remote first for their tech team and in person first for their non tech teams.

It works great. If I wanted to work in person I know a dozen companies that want that are willing to offer than. Just like I know a dozen companies that offer a slew of other factors I may or may not care for.

What you did here?

Listing 3-5 things in positive tone about going to the office.

Listing 3-5 things in negative tone about working remote.

It is just a point of view. Let's see how I fare:

I love not to see people wanting to bash others in the face, not having heated discussions but calm and easy to control meetings that are up to point because you cannot just speak louder over people on a remote call. Love to provide actual value instead of hanging around coffee machine and bike shedding.

I am fully aware that there are people who rather go drink beers or have coffee with their coworkers than spend time with their family or neglect house pets they got because they felt lonely even if they live in a small flat in Berlin.

Hiring people from outside EU is not that easy/cheap - you either go via intermediary that will rip you off or you will spend time/resources on finding good people. Screening/hiring people from your own country is much easier, handling any issues that may arise after you hire them is also much easier.

I think a lot of people that get into computers have something where they enjoy interacting with computers more than real people.

Granted, even on the internet I enjoy interacting with people, by reading and writing comments like this.

But real time conversations are not always enjoyable. They can be enjoyable in the right place and time, but the company office is often not that place or time.

Also you don't get to choose your office mates, and it's not uncommon to have some sort of overbearingly loud/chatty office mates who just enjoy torturing you with their stories even if you are not interested.

I can't help but feel these takes come from a lack of empathy; I'm the exact opposite, but I fully accept people have your view. What strikes me as odd is the incapability for the pro-in-office crew to see that they're seeking participation for what they want, for what I now see as a considerable personal cost (commute time, comfort, simply not seeing the work place as a social venture), the participation from the WFH clan is much lesser (putting up with video meetings etc.).

My social life exists outside of work, and I see "work" as an exchange of money for my time and expertise.

I empathize with the shitty commutes of kitchen and janitorial staff who aren't paid enough to live closer. My fellow SWEs are paid more than enough to live comfortably in the city. Some of them choose to trade off commute time for other goods; that's up to them.

I disagree that coming into the office is such a burden or that Zoom is so benign.

It’s not just about how you view work, it’s how you prefer to work.

When you pick up the phone do you start by asking someone how are they doing or wake it clear idgaf?

When I changed jobs I realized what a game changer it was that people turned on webcams during meetings. That’s not negotiable for me. I had a really good colleague who only wanted to communicate through Slack messages. He left. So a job is just money for me to, but I want it to be driven with the warmth of human interaction kindness and not between robots. YMMV.

Maybe they think people who WFH are getting more value from WFH than they are contributing ans employees. yhey fearmonger about outsourcing rather than admitting (understandably) that they want to be on the winning end of the deal again.

I think a lot of this boils down to kids vs no kids.

I really enjoyed working in the office when I didn't have kids. Hanging out with coworkers after work was pretty normal, and sometimes my wife would come along too. We're still good friends with a lot of my old coworkers. In fact, those are the people we hang out with now.

But now that I have kids I'd rather spend time with them or on my hobbies with them or hanging out with other people with kids while the kids do kid's stuff.

It's true, I don't know my current coworkers nearly as well as I did my old ones, and that's been a bit of a problem. We have occasional in person events and it's always a good time.

But that's because it's infrequent. Giving up my flexibility of working from home is something I will never do. But I totally sympathize with people who don't have kids and their social circle is their coworkers (that was me!).

FWIW, I have kids and strongly prefer going into the office. Keeps my home life and work life separate and when I am home it is easier to be in the mental space of being with the family. When I worked from home for the first 18 months of the pandemic, I lost that separation and it was stressful.

Yes, Very hard to solve that bug with a toddler throwing tantrum to gnaw on a raw eggplant.

Nah I don't have kids I am way happier working from home. I can spend more time with my partner, and when she and I both have a quiet moment we can make tea/coffee together and have a short break in our work day. I can do things like fold or hang laundry during meetings. I save money and so much time and energy by not commuting. I like going into the office occasionally for a change of environment and to have access to some of the things in the city after work, but I want that maybe one day out of every two weeks

Pretty much yep. I'd also say it boils down to age which tends to correlate with having a family and also better WFH conditions. When I was young, single, living in a small apartment going into a nice office was great. Nowadays I'm older, have a wife, a kid, a house with a nice garden office. I still love and enthusiastic about what i do but thanks to the internet i can do it from the comfort of my own place.

As an aside, I've worked from home my whole career and that time you spent after work with coworkers, I spent with my friends. So I never really needed to use work as a social outlet.

Most of my friends I see in person come from my high school days or online gaming.

I think remote work is here to stay. There are too many people who insist on it, and will move jobs for it. The downsides you mention are valid, but rampant offshoring will be mitigated because of reasons pertaining to culture, language, and timezone. Office work is not going anywhere, though. Many of us do enjoy it for the same reasons you do.

I think the value of removing commuters from the road is an enormous win. Cities can be re-fashioned at the scale of pedestrians, and urban cores can be built around residential and recreational uses.

> commute doesn't make up for the gains of socializing

You've put your finger on the problem. It's about how people socialize.

From your text, it's clear that you've done a lot of your socializing in your job.

Many people don't. In fact, many put on a fake smile and just get on with the day.

The extra hours a day allow me to socialize with people I really like in my actual life. I've rebuild friendships that were on life support and rekindled with my partner.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the occasional team building exercise. I also value workplace relationships and do my best to make sure people are okay with their mental health. But I'm not out to make friends. In fact, I've always been annoyed by people who used work and the office as a way to hold their colleagues hostage in office "friendships." I'm not saying you do that.

Now everyone is free to do what they want. In our case, the office is open and the 5-10 people who were leading the office social life still go there. It's how they enjoy their workday and it's absolutely valid to do so.

All the other people who were just friendly for the sake of professionalism no longer go in and interact with others except for professional reasons.

If we lived in a world where we had complete control of our workspace (as long as we were physically present in the office) I would work in a private office with a door that locks. I would walk in every morning, work without talking to anyone, and leave in the afternoon. It would be identical to WFH except with an added commute.

For me, it's a dream.

First, they'll send your work home, then, they'll send your work abroad.

People are too drunk on work from home having experienced it for the first time.

I have done it for years. It has its pros and cons. I agree a huge reckoning is coming for white collar work writ large. (1) It can be more easily outsourced. (2) It's easier to fire someone you don't see every working day.

This is happening already. Have you seen how many people Big Tech is hiring in India while laying off folks in the Western world?

Working from the office is not a solution to cheaper software talent in the developing world. In fact, I expect what happened to blue collar workers in the West is now coming for Tech employees.

Spare me the concern trolling. If your job can be outsourced, it will be outsourced. People were happily working in offices in the 90s and it didn't do much to keep their jobs from being outsourced. I don't see any correlation between WFH and outsourcing.

There are institutions which never in a million years dreamt of work from home being viable. You're right, software has dealt with this for years... But what about other industries historically averse to work from home like finance and healthcare?

Also English speaking abroad has far improved since the 90s.

I see this as a strong reason for:

(1) becoming a domain expert who is fine at coding rather than a coding wizard who doesn't know much about the business/ domain.

(2) working at a small company with little process/ few middle managers rather than at a larger corps with many departments and clear role separation between feature requirements and engineering.

Don't want to jinx it, but even if my employer were to move some engineering to eastern Europe, odds are pretty low that I'd be affected. I might code less and spend more time Jira more, though.

As if it hasn’t been the norm for companies to outsource white collar jobs and fire people at the drop of the hat for decades now. I don’t see WFH as enabling anything that wasn’t already enabled from that perspective.

> First, they'll send your work home, then, they'll send your work abroad.

They've been trying to do this as hard as possible for years now. If they could, they would have.

> then, they'll send your work abroad

They've been trying for at least 25 years now. If they can, they will - and whether I'm sitting in an office or at home when it happens, it won't factor into their decision.

I don't even think you're wrong - at some point I actually enjoyed many of those things you list. But either it's being 5-15 years older now or enjoying that I don't have the flu several times per year or saving 60-90 minutes of commute every single day... between all these things I don't miss my coworkers enough that I want to go back to this. This may sound unfair to my current coworkers, but some gigs are somehow special and you make friends that you want to meet in the evening twice a week, and sometimes you just don't.

I see advantages and disadvantages for both, and if we could completely ignore covid I guess I'd still hold my stance of "if the office is not too far and I see a worth in being there in person, I'd like a 2-3 or 1-4 split every week". Depends on your job I guess, with the way my team works 5 days in the office would be actively detrimental as we're basically on zoom calls with different people of the team a lot (we don't have one project/product, but several small ones).

Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Connection is one of our core emotional needs [1], and wanting to interact with other humans and feel like you belong is a very healthy desire.

At my company, I can work fully remote if I so desired, but I go to the office most days of the week precisely because I want to interact with other humans. Sitting alone in my room hacking at a keyboard isn't exactly emotionally fulfilling.

That said, I appreciate the flexibility. Today I didn't go because it was raining (and here I am browsing HN, haha), naturally, I feel lonely, because I have a need for that connection with others. I've had more than enough loneliness during college years.

[1] https://www.yourpsychologist.net.au/what-are-your-emotional-...

Oh my - I've been waiting to hear this since forever, and you couldn't have said it better. I feel exactly the same way, and I feel like specially the younger tech workers are losing a big chunk of what it means to build work relationships (which are some of the best), and to connect with people. I don't know how to fix it as like you said, most people will scream when you mention work from office/

> younger tech workers are losing a big chunk of what it means to build work relationships (which are some of the best)

I dont want to judge but its really hard not to if you see work relationships as some of the best relationships available.

They are absolutely relationships that are formed from forced repeated interaction. Maybe I have had a few co workers who I would have naturally become friends with outside of work in the past but I can count those on one hand. If the only reason I am friends with someone is because we are both forced to see each other multiple times a day five times a week then its not a good relationship. Maybe this is a young person thing? A type A person thing?

Actual friends, family, sig others, hell even casual acquaintances that I see around town that can develop into actual friendships are all more valuable than work friends.

Repeated, unplanned interaction is the basic formula for all friendship development. Most people don't "naturally" become friends with strangers they brush past in public one time.

Work is not the only place that can provide repeated, unplanned interaction but once out of school it is the big one.

When I WFH it opens up time to have repeated, unplanned interaction with other people than those chosen by whoever is employing me at the moment.

Why would you struggle not to judge someone who had developed some of their best relationships from work?

Studies have shown that the best way to develop friendships is repeated, unplanned interaction.

I certainly didn’t make friends with everyone I worked with, but out of that pool, there have been some great ones I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I certainly empathize with the feelings of the parent.

Would you feel the same if the parent commenter had some of their best relationships from school, and seeing the same people in class everyday? Or the military? I don’t think the location of these interactions matters.

Also, apparently one advice that keeps showing up from successful entrepreneurs is to build a strong friends network from different places you've worked in. Changes are those people, apart from just being your friends, will probably help you on your next adventure and forward. School is definitely another big one, but once you're out, it's over. Now, if you're stuck at home, it becomes a bit harder to build that bond.

That's... how people make friends.

Did you have friends in school? Same thing.

Neighbors? Same thing.

Soldiers that fought together and keep in touch after the war? Same thing.

Befriend someone you run into at the gym? Same thing.

Something has to bring you together. Might as well be work.

depends on where you live, I guess. I don't know what has been your experience. I've lived in various places of the US, Latin America, and London. I found that the best friends I've made have been from school and work. Not sure I made any good friends "around town"

Second this. After working fully remote for 2+ years and now back to the office, for me it's really great to have an office.

Generally speaking people on HN are well established in their career and have families of their own, so work is less of a priority for them. I'm 21 and actually prefer being in the office because I live with family and hate having to use my bedroom as an office. I like seeing people and being able to swing my chair around to look at a problem together. I want a dedicated work space to enter 'work mode' in. But my commute is an hour at the minimum and about £13 for a round trip.

If housing in the city was more affordable and people could live a few minutes from the office, maybe they'd be more inclined to go in. Thanks to vampiric landlords who want to suck every penny out of tenants, the young people who do want to go in can only afford to live an uncommutable distance away.

Be careful what you wish for, or you might end up with less expensive housing near your workplace because they moved into a suburban office park.

> As soon as a company's IT department is practically fully remote, why should they page a German wage for someone who is a face on a screen, when they can pay a fraction for that same face broadcasted from a few hundred kilometers further east or south? German is hardly used in business context here anyway and lower-wage countries within ±3 hours timezones abound.

This has already happened and has resulted in unification of salaries across region (and is probably why the German salaries stayed relatively low in the past decade). In Berlin, a lot of seniors are still making no more than 70k euros a year. People of similar caliber will easily make 60k euros a year in Poland, while having incomparably lower taxes and costs of living.

If that is the case, why are dev salaries in, for example, Dublin so much higher than Berlin (€115,000 vs €86,000 if Levels.fyi is to be believed)? Both are EU capitals with excellent, well-educated workforces.

Ireland is a special case because its economy revolves around tax avoidance. As a multinational you credit your Irish division with all your European profits in your financials and claim the German operation is making a big loss - moving your tax burden to Ireland where it can be taxed cheaply or moved to tax havens.

This relies on doing certain finishing work in Ireland so that all the companies IP and operations can be credited there. You need your servers there, or shadow managers to sign off sales and investments made in Germany so that the sale can be credited to Ireland. So you need to hire in Dublin specifically.

e.g. but not the totality: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leprechaun_economics

"in 2019, the IMF estimated 60 per cent of Irish foreign direct investment was "phantom"

My main point here is that you can't use it as an example for this discussion as it is a special case.

You absolutely can use Dublin as an example, because the vast majority of software development jobs are not "finishing work" for engineering performed elsewhere. That's a myopic and absurd claim. Dublin is in itself an engineering hub.

Ireland is certainly a low-tax haven for companies operating in the EU, but that isn't the sole reason there are 50,000 developer roles in the city. Your sources do not support your claim.

Sure, a lot of foreign investment in Ireland has to do with tax loopholes, but you're not answering the question fully here. Tech companies also like Ireland because it has a large, highly-educated fluent English speaking workforce. We also have a high cost of living here, which contributes to the higher salaries. Ireland is not really a special case - London doesn't have the same tax implications yet it has similar (if not higher) tech salaries compared to Dublin.

Because of the additional cost that the employer is imposed on by the state in Germany.

I bet that the total cost per employee is pretty close.

You need to give the actual numbers, otherwise I don't believe it.

The cost is not close when you consider US tech employees who earn almost double what EU and UK employees earn. Corporate taxes in the UK have traditionally been lower than the US and UK companies don't pay for medical insurance. It's simpler and cheaper to launch a startup in the UK compared to the US.

I doubt the situation is much different between US and German or German and Irish companies. It's rare in my experience that companies can explain away salary differences by showing cost differences. Which should shock no one. Most companies seek to minimize labor costs and at best pay close to local market rates. Or even hire in foreign markets to reduce labor costs. If instead they were seeking to share profits you might see the result you're describing.

> Because of the additional cost that the employer is imposed on by the state in Germany.

There are similar employer taxes (at somewhat lower rates, topping out at ~11% vs ~18%), but the total cost of employment in Dublin is much higher than Berlin.

Is it though? https://blog.eurodev.com/costs-of-hiring-european-employees

Also, in Germany you have a lot of holiday (20 minimum, most companies pffer 30), 3 month notice period, 3 years parental leave (per child), pricing these in, I would always expect lower salary in Germany.

With respect, minimum paid leave in Ireland is 30 days (20 days + 10 public holidays). While paid parental leave is not a legal right, all the developer jobs offer sick leave, generous parental leave, notice periods, vesting, etc.

Commercial property, services, etc are far cheaper in Berlin. Hence why it's common to move start-up dev teams from Dublin to Berlin to save money. My own experience is that Berlin is significantly cheaper to employ developers in particular.

Neither your source nor your list come close to justifying a €30k salary difference. And your source already includes your list.

Maybe unrelated but Dublin has an insane housing crisis. You need to offer large incentives for people to come to try to find housing.

I know a company who agreed to pay €5,000/mo for an aparthotel while they find somewhere. The person came from far edges of Europe, not a specialised or very senior role at all

A friend of mine had an offer to move to Dublin. After looking at housing situation and calculating the costs to bring wife and kids (daycare, babysitter etc) along he declined, because his would be salary wouldn't have outweighed comfortable living costs that much.

I don't have direct experience, but IIRC it's much more difficult to fire someone in Germany than in Ireland. Having a concept of at-will employment that is closer to the US version would be a good reason to pay more in Ireland than Germany.

Not sure where you picked up this information, but it's also very difficult to fire an employee in Ireland. About the same level of difficulty as in Germany (once past your probation period, that is).

I know when the Fortune 500 US company I worked for opened their European office they

1) chose Dublin 2) Flew over multiple well paid engineers and paid for them to live there to train the new Dublin team.

So I think because of some of the tax strategies mentioned by others US companies choose Dublin which strongly influences the salaries paid there.

Taxes and access. I believe Dublin is one of the closest EU airports to the eastern seaboard. There is even an Irish airport (not Dublin, Sh... something) with a USA passport check on Irish soil, so once you step on the plane you're officially in the US and once you land it's like taking a Boston-NYC shuttle.

Shannon, in the west.

I listened to an interesting podcast about how the first every Duty Free shop was started in Shannon airport.


Dublin also has-preclearance. A live-saver when I was doing a weekly DUB-SFO commute.

They are not "that" high (ok, maybe in total compensation but still)

It's for two main reasons:

- Because American companies have a better sense of what the employees are worth (especially FAANG competition)

- Because Dublin COL is crazy

But outside of FAANG those salaries are not that high

Irish cost of living is much, much higher than Berlin though, so I think overall the Berlin dev would be coming out ahead, at least this was the case until 2021 when everything exploded in terms of cost of living.

I don’t think these salaries are normal in Dublin maybe senior level at Meta would go up to €115k max (I recently talked to a recruiter about a job there and that was the level)

Personally I’m on around €80k and senior but not in Dublin.

6 figures salaries for senior devs in Berlin are quite common, even since a couple years ago.

I am in the same boat as you. I like to work from the office as it feels lot more social and productive too. Brainstorming or white boarding is not the same for me when I am remote.

I have made so many good friends at work because we were meeting everyday. While I have made some good friends in remote setup too, I haven't met them outside work (working hours) ever.

However, there are people, who don't like interruptions, don't want to commute, don't want to get up early to get ready for work and I respect that. There are some valid reasons for some to work from home, it may be more productive and be able to get into the "flow" / "zone".

Future is remote, more transactional work relations and lonely. (I know, people would jump on me for saying this :)

Work relations have always been transactional. The idea of everyone being buddy-buddy at work is pushed by a company right up until the moment they lay you off because it is in their best financial interest to do so.

For many of us, we are happy to trade less time spent socializing these forced, thin relationships, for more time with the meaningful relationships we’ve created with friends and family.

>> Work relations have always been transactional. It's a function of where one works. I've had examples in my past work life where I have made wonderful friends at work and I am still meet them even after leaving the company. I am not even an extrovert types. And it's not just about making friends but being able to meet diverse set of intelligent people and having interesting conversations over lunch or a tea.

How does one make their first set of friends? school, neighbourhood where we live, college? These all social places give us opportunity to meet new people, and only those who we feel more comfortable with, become our friends.

Would we want kids to just learn from home using Zoom and not go to school? I would not, because I want them to learn social skills and make new friends.

For me, workplace is also one of such social places which provides opportunity to meet new people. But that does not mean I'm not meeting my other friends or losing touch with the family.

I don't want to extrapolate my experiences over others' and I am generally very empathetic to those who prefer to work from home and want to maintain transactional relation with people at work.

It sounds like you're an extrovert. The tech scene tends to have more introverts, hence why this is a controversial opinion for your friend circle.

I think of it like this - extroverts gain energy from social interaction, introverts lose energy from social interaction. Working in an office environment with all extroverts is great so long as the company's work doesn't require more introverts than it has available.

But if introverts work alongside extroverts, the introverts are essentially paying a subsidy to the extroverts in the form of their own Lebenskraft. When people got sent home, extroverts lost this subsidy while introverts stopped having to pay it. Of course, they don't want to start paying it again. Who 'wins' this power struggle is essentially a question of who has more leverage, and extroverts of course have more social capital (because gaining it is a self-renewing function for them). However, because they dislike interruptions introverts tend to do more 'deep work'[1] which makes them harder to replace in an industry like tech.

Regarding your point about attacking the branch we're on, that's valid, but I would point out that almost everyone says they want an equal playing field for the global village, and leaving 'but not if it impacts my personal standard of living in any way' unsaid at the end doesn't go over well if you do have to say it aloud. For myself, I can only say that if I can't stay competitive in the global marketplace given the advantages I'll retain in such a marketplace, I probably need to rethink my strategy.

For your personal situation - can't you find a co-working space to work alongside other extroverts in? I would imagine Berlin doesn't have a shortage of them.


I'm an introvert who treasures deep work. I'm not a monk. Going several days between IRL contacts is as distressing as going several days without solitude.

I think it's more nuanced than the introvert/extrovert duality. One needs a mix of socialization and stimulation levels. And ideally, control over that mix. Cycling between social and private spaces throughout the day was a way to achieve that. Now there's only one space. Either it's got other people in it, and there's no escape from them, or it doesn't, and you'll only ever see people by explicitly scheduled plans. Both of those are bad.

The open office wasn't a particularly good equilibrium, since you were stuck in a highly stimulating environment the whole workday. What I'd really like is what I had in college: access to a private room, shared but silent workspaces, and social/lounge settings. No one's going to pull you out of deep focus if that's where you want to be. But when you want to come up for air, you can wander over to a more social space and there's probably a few people there.

"The quiet guy who just likes listening to intelligent conversations and chiming in when they can" also misses the social interactions that happen by default in an office.

Overhearing conversations about other tech stacks/problems, conversations about vacations or plans, conversations about random political/education/local/global events - and learning something from those conversations is what's missing for me.

Switching from a vibrant office built around a family doctor's practice, with people who'd worked there for 15 years - to working from home where the only regular conversations with your wife are about her manual labor job or the details of what needs to be done around the house - has been super frustrating.

I don't want to go back to spending 30 minutes each way in the car, and going into some random office at a new job seems painful. The office building I was at was closed and the team's mostly disbanded, so that life is gone.

I miss the intellectual stimulation and I'm not sure how to get it back, the loneliness of not having someone with the same interests as you is killing me.

Try coworking spaces?

I'm 50/50 type of person, I want to be left alone when I need to concentrate, but I need someone to chat with once in a while. The best job I've ever had had flexible schedule, I could clock in and out at any time or not come in at all, just had to let the team know about my plans. But the best part of that job was that I could walk to the office. 0.5h walk is so different from 0.5h sitting in a car that I wouldn't even call it commuting, it's just hanging out in the city on my way to work. It was the best and cheapest way to improve my mental well being each day.

Ya, there aren't any local to me without driving 20 minutes and finding parking, and I'm too cheap to join one anyways.

Running group has helped, just hanging out with adults and overhearing conversations is nice - they're mostly running focused though.

My commute time was nice to just veg and listen to podcasts; it's weird how you have the same time in a day but don't ever just go sit in a chair and listen to a podcast for 30 minutes when that's what you did regularly for years.

This part: <<However, because they dislike interruptions introverts tend to do more 'deep work'[1] which makes them harder to replace in an industry like tech.>>

I see this a lot on HN. There is an explicit bias here for introverts and deep work. This view overlooks the more extroverted roles usually held by direct managers and product managers. (Introverted sales doesn't even make sense in most cases; so ignore that side.) I have seen too many introverts who think they are doing genius-level work, but hardly talk to their teammates. The worst reinvent the wheel over and over again. (Proof reading this post, I thought of one more strange pattern that I observe: More extroverted people tend to write more documentation than introverted people. It's like a 'technical performance'. The introverts just keep it all inside. Sure there are exceptions, but that is an odd pattern that I observe!)

To be clear: I'm not for or against any side, but I can and do see the benefits of both on a daily basis. Also, I acknowledge the continuum between sides and inherent dynamism (people can temporarily "shape-shift" between sides).

Another thing that never gets talked about here: What about people are more extroverted than average, but still do plenty of deep work? It describes me very well. (Please do not read that description as humble bragging / uber-genius. I am an average developer. Also, I am neither a direct manager nor product manager.) As an example, if I go too long on deep work mode, I frequently stall with "analysis paralysis". My extroversion allows me to step back (heh, sometimes!) and ask for help. If the advice is unsatisfying, or "go away, I am busy", then I try someone else. In my daily work, I try to form a rough sin() wave between 80% deep work and 80% highly collaborative tasks.

If more people saw the benefits of having both on a daily basis I imagine this conversation would look rather different. Speaking only for myself, I was told from a very young age that being introverted was a disadvantage I'd have to overcome, and that the world was built for extroverts - in the case of office culture, I wouldn't even disagree with the latter. A bit of a backlash as introverts assert our own value is probably to be expected. And a lot of that assertion just comes in the form of insisting that no, we don't want what our extroverted colleagues want, and the fact that we skew towards the quiet side doesn't mean we skew towards wanting it less.

That said, I also don't want my extroverted colleagues to lack the option to all work under one roof, if that's what they prefer. Because most working groups benefit from having both on the team, the question has to be how to make an environment that benefits both. Frankly, the employer is in a relatively good position since it makes no sense to overpay workers who have moved to a low-cost-of-living area or maintain office space in an expensive city. But attracting top talent is definitely more complex post covid, given that different kinds of talent has different needs and wants.

Working next to people who aren’t working on a similar system as you gives you nothing to talk about. It’s about the manner of work not just having people around.

So many words to say you are lonely. You are lonely and that is perfectly understandable. For most of my corporate employment experience even being at the office felt distant lonely. So for me it isn’t so much the distance between employees but the culture imposed by leadership. I actually feel less lonely at home where my cats and dogs are in constant need of affection.

I was kind of expecting this argument. And honestly, I don't think this is it. I see friends almost every day after work and most days during lunch.

My main point was that work used to be much more than 8 hours of screen time for me before. And since it's a third of my waking time, I feel I lost something significant.

Are you accomplishing anything during those 8 hours or do you sit in meetings all day listening to people qualify their existence? I changed employers because of this and sacrificed compensation to do so. That resulted in a quality of life improvement for me.

Definitely, and I absolutely love what I am doing. It's only that I really miss the whole communal and social aspect around it and feel few other people do.

Honestly, your work seems like it's a huge part of your life, and it's not anywhere near that for the vast majority of other devs, working remotely or not. People generally spend their "absolute love" points on their kids, spouses, pets, friends, etc. and leave work to be a transaction involving time and money. And why shouldn't they? If someone absolutely loves Wells Fargo, GE, Microsoft, Amazon, or whatever, that company is not going to "love" them back.

Nah, you're wrong there. I actually only work 4 days / week for most of the year. It's not that I am requiring my working time to fill my life with meaning, it's more that I feel the almost third of my life I spent working has significantly lost in fun and meaning for me personally. The whole point of the post was to see how others felt about it and get some insights into different (and similar) perspectives.

Even so, this meaning was never really there at the scale you might be thinking of. I understand its significance for you, but not many people are shedding tears over not having to commute 1 hour or more 5 days per week to be around people they don't really like in an environment filled with distractions, later coming home to a house they can barely afford on 2 full time salaries. To understand the change that has happened, you have to consider the greater context.

If you're a hotshot, you should honestly consider gathering some like-minded people in your area and launching a startup.

OPs post resonates with me, even though my wife is often WFH at the same times I am. In an office it’s nice to be able to go for a walk with someone while you talk, or grab a coffee and sit with it. With WFH all interaction is through a screen, it feels subpar to me.

Cats and dogs cannot understand your frustration with a tech stack or share a similar experience. I have plenty of people around ready to talk to me (sometimes actively trying), but all I can discuss with them barely overlaps with my true interests and situations.

Tech stack frustrations exist regardless. Some people need things to be easy and thus expect some framework to do their job for them. I would rather write the lowest level universal solution possible. Being in the office never resolved these conflicts. The only solution occurs when somebody makes a firm decision. I have always attempted to make my case in writing and in my career it seems many developers are hesitant to put anything in writing.

At least for me, my primary hangup for going back to the office is that COVID -isn't over-! Since I can do my job just as well from home as from the office, I'd far prefer to stay in an environment where I have control over my level of risk. (I realize not everybody has this at home, but I live alone)

For this reason, when I hear corporate taking advantage of the between-wave lull to trumpet going back to the office, it smacks to me as corporate deciding their need to see butts in seats is more important than my desire to not get sick. Long COVID is a scary thing and AFAIK we don't know any predictors for it!

If it weren't for COVID I would likely prefer to be in the office for the reasons OP lays out. (though now that COVID has happened, I think I'd try to make my commute shorter than it is now)

At this point COVID is about as over as it will ever be. So do you plan to continue living as you are for the rest of your life?

Depends on where on the covid-panic-scale your local government is. In Germany there is still talk about waves, mask mandates and possible restrictions.

I dunno, that seems reasonable. If you're were already on the fence about working in the office, and there's a new risk of getting terribly sick for 2 weeks, that could swing the chances. One of my biggest pre-pandemic office frustrations was how often I got sick from the train ride and from obnoxious coworkers who would hover over me with audible congestion.

You can pick and choose what you want to be exposed to, and how often. Like I'm willing to risk being exposed with a few friends once a week to play board games, dine indoors every once in a while, preferably during a time when they're not too busy, meet up with family once every month or so, shop in some stores sometimes, depending on how widespread it is currently, how long it's been since I've been vaccinated, etc (I just got the new booster so I'm a bit less strict recently), etc.

If I have to go into the office every day it's extremely difficult to manage that, especially since I know most of those people aren't going to be taking it very seriously.

Also there's been so many 'Covid exposure' emails from my workplace it's been ridiculous. They stopped bothering to report it a while back, but it was already in the double digits.

Downvoted for implied reckless disregard for others’ lives

do plan to continue living without chronic fatigue?

I'm going to add... since I stopped going into the office, I stopped getting the flu.

I have a crappy immune system, and some auto-immune disorder stuff. I would get the flu for about a week, three to five times, every year. Given I'm in the U.S., that also means I would usually need to get furloughed for any kind of Christmas holiday.

Now... I get to not be sick (inevitably from a co-worker coming in sick, saying 'I'm fine, I can push through', then coughing all over the open floor plan) and I get my vacation time for vacations.

> I know that "the office" is a bad place for a lot of people.

There's certainly a number of us where 'work from office' (WFO) really means share a vast open plan area with people and all their annoying habits.

That's why I don't want to go back. And that's why others don't want to go back. I believe the whole "I'm an introvert" thing to be mostly false for a lot of people for the reason above.

I don't mind socialising at lunch time, or in the office kitchen. But I'm paid to work, and work is code, and code is thinking. Thinking is done silently and without distraction.

But if employers want me in the office. Give me an actual office.

Where I can close the door and don't have to listen to someone eating at their desk, or some other annoying personal tic.

A lot of other people have the opposite problem: even an open-plan office is significantly quieter and easier to think in than in your own apartment with your kids around.

Agreed. I'm fortunate that I have a room that I can work in and close the door.

I miss working in the office.

But I don't miss having to live hundreds of miles away from my friends and family, who live in a rural area with no tech jobs.

I am sure Berlin is loads of fun. But I'd rather be here with the mountains and the sea and the people I love.

Outsourcing existed before covid, it's swings and roundabouts. Most orgs are trapped in a way by their IT dept. Could they really pull off a total outsourcing gig without a business ending walkout / strike action or just dirty tricks from angry employee's who's motivation falls through the floor.

I would worry less about this, keep coding, get more exercise and consider seeing about scheduling meetings at equidistantly located cafe's with your team for a bit of fun.

Speaking from a purely tech perspective: Outsourcing is one of those things that a fresh MBA suggests because it cuts initial costs so dramatically.

Of course, you get what you pay for. And the most talented labor is paid highly for a reason. Replacing one talented (and expensive) engineer with 3-5 less talented engineers can be a recipe for disaster. Outsourcing usually starts when a company has an opening that they can't find a good domestic candidate for. So they outsource the role to a company in a foreign nation that promises the same quality of work for less money.

It's actually pretty rare that the initial goal is to replace the best engineers with cheaper copies. It most often starts from the inability to find a single candidate that meets the needs of the position.

Lot's of folks talk about outsourcing with the implied assumption that you can find the same quality of labor for a cheaper price. But this is very rarely the case.

Those MBA's dont' know, and their bosses sometimes forget, that long term cheap stable employee's who keep the magic happening are in a way an like an appreciating asset. As long as what they know is in use, they are relevant and probably to costly to replace. Cheaper to buy a new MBA and get a different suggestion.

But will the best talent continue to be geographically clustered? Geography historically dictated educational and professional opportunities so there was clustering and then, arguably an amplification effect from the top professionals being physically proximate and collaborating.

You can argue how much of this geographic advantage erodes with the move to remote, but it seems hard to dispute that at least some of it will go away.

There's a certain % of people who prefer WFH, a % who prefer WFO, and a % who want hybrid. The same person could change preferences over time as well.

People will sort themselves into the teams who share their preference over the next 5 years.

Just like how not everyone wants to work 100 hour weeks at an investment bank, but a certain group of people want to take that deal. You self select for it.

I think this debate gaining the fervor of a religious war stems from people not wanting to have to leave their current job to obtain their WFH / WFO preference? The re-shuffling will take a few years, but if you prefer something different than the pre-COVID status quo then you should be happy the shuffling is happening.

Thinking about it more, the WFO crowd grouping themselves only with people who actually want to be there is probably better for them too. The great re-shuffling benefits all! Don't go all Spanish Inquisition on those who don't share your work arrangement preference.

I don't like WFH, but I hate WFO more. Actually, what I like is WAFO: "Work Away From the Office".

I usually prefer cowork spaces, or coffee shops as a fallback. In such environments, socializing is possible, but opt-in. People around are not (usually) your colleagues. But they're still people, so if you're looking to make friends over coffee or lunch, it's available.

You also have expectation of privacy. No one looking over your shoulders and drawing conclusions. Whether your screen is filled with code for 10 straight hours (which often goes unnoticed in the office), or decide to spend your time watching YouTube clips (which may raise some eyebrows in the office), in a cowork, no one cares. It's your process, you're the adult.

> But shouldn't we rather work on fixing those things instead of...

People will be people. You can't fix that. The social dynamics are too complex. The challenge is akin to not thinking of a pink elephant.

I'm a WFH guy. All the stuff you talked about for yourself is valuable, it's valuable for me too! It's just not worth the trade offs.

The stuff you said for WFH people is largely a bad take.

I'm doing some volunteer work at my kid's school which would be a major hassle if working at the office. Her teacher said most years she gets 3, maybe 4 volunteers signing up. This year she got 14.

In my experience, I've developed closer chemistry and more socialization with my team while we've been fully remote, than when we were in person. There is a generation right behind you that is raised on socializing online, that may find it more rewarding than you're willing to.

This experience relies on there being other people of your age or others who have the same attitudes to online socialisation. I am the only person in my department younger than thirty and we all work fully remote; I feel a distinct genrational barrier when talking to colleagues online that is not at all present in person.

you call it chemistry and socialisation. What I call chemistry and socialisation are actual sensory inputs like smell, touch, sound and real eye contact. I can't bypass real human contact with a flat screen.

> I always saw tech as the field where a disproportionally large amount of people truly love what they do. Mostly, because it takes so much grit and persistence to get good at it that most people wouldn't succeed unless they see something in it beyond putting food on the table.

I went into tech because I fell in love with programming as a pre-teen. I love building things. I love the everyday magic of typing incantations and seeing the response on the screen.

I'm also a world-class introvert. If I never had to interact with anyone in person besides my wife and kids, I'd be a happy man.

You're conflating "I don't want to be in the office" with "I don't love my job", when in fact the exact opposite is true. I love my job more than ever now that all the parts of it that I disliked (such as my boss wandering in and starting a conversation in the middle of my flow state) are gone. And I don't think I'm alone here—most people I've met have been programming since they were kids are also extremely introverted. Whether it's cause or effect, there's a strong correlation.

People like me don't want to avoid the office because we dislike our job, we don't go into the office because it allows us to spend more time on the parts we've always loved.

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