Moving beyond remote
November 14, 2020 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Slack surveyed 9000 "knowledge workers" over six countries about their experiences working remotely in 2020. Among the findings include a preference for a hybrid office-home model, an increase in work-life balance but a small decrease in "sense of belonging", with a significant discrepancy by gender and those with and without children.
posted by adrianhon (39 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I wish I could experience his increased work life balance so many people report. The main impact to me of work from home has been that I’m only ever seconds away from the office. At least before I could leave and be away from it. I consciously choose a slightly longer commute to force that. I wonder what mechanism I’m missing out on.
posted by ElliotH at 1:11 PM on November 14, 2020 [16 favorites]

I wonder what mechanism I’m missing out on.

Something I learned a long time ago: "working from home means you never leave the office." At my company we've been work from home since mid-March, and it's looking more and more like we'll never return to the office again, or at least not in the same way we did before.

At previous jobs my work - life balance was very out of balance, but at my current job it is mostly in balance. I attribute this to a few things:

- My current company is very much M-F, 9-5. Working after hours and on the weekends is seen as something to be avoided unless absolutely necessary, not as evidence that you're a "team player" or a "go getter." As I'm learning, culture really matters.

- My current company provides me with a laptop, which I put to sleep and put in my work backpack at the end of the day so I can't see it. To be honest, not being able to see my work computer after I finish work has been a huge boost for my work - life balance. I don't put it off to the side and plug in my computer, I put it away where I can't see it. In fact, I put everything work related away where I can't see it. At previous jobs my work laptop and my personal laptop were often the same, so even after work I was still unable to escape work.

- I try to time my day so that as soon as I get done with work I get up and start on supper or maybe just doing a small amount of tidying up around the house. This helps enforce that mental break that I used to get from my commute.

- I am very lucky in that I have a very good work from home setup, put together over a number of years of working mostly from home at a previous job. Having a room where I do work (and also grad school) that isn't part of my living/dining/sleeping space really helps. I'm hoping to sell my house in a year or so, and one of the main requirements for me in any new space will be a place where I can put a home office that is not part of my living/dining/sleeping area.
posted by ralan at 1:35 PM on November 14, 2020 [18 favorites]

Separate computers is the key for me. When I quit work for the day I close my laptop and push it to the side, putting my personal desktop keyboard in its place. My personal PC doesn't have any work accounts on it.
posted by COD at 1:44 PM on November 14, 2020 [19 favorites]

A big part of my househusband duties during the time when I was away from work and my city was in lockdown was prying the laptop out of my wife's hands when she would ask me questions like "Do you think I can stop for the day?" at, like, 10 PM on a Friday.

I never, ever have to work outside of my official work hours (unions FTW), but that doesn't mean managers don't try to push the boundaries sometimes. I recently took a few days off and when I got back one of my managers asked me why I didn't reply to an email during that time. "Because I was on vacation." No further explanation or justification was necessary, nor did I supply one, but all the same she sat there for a few seconds evidently trying and failing to resolve our impasse in a way that ended with me saying "Yes, I'll check my email when I'm on vacation."
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:45 PM on November 14, 2020 [27 favorites]

I wonder what mechanism I’m missing out on.

Just speaking for myself, I work for a very supportive company that doesn't expect me to work outside office hours, and they've embraced the concept of being fully remote going forward, so "office hours" are generally what you determine for yourself in collaboration with your teammates. My coworkers have been pretty accepting of odd timing, especially in the current situation, but really, my company has always been that way - a couple of my coworkers worked 6:30am to 3:30pm before WFH became standard, and I've worked weekends before to be able to take time off in the middle of the week. I think the largest part of this is company culture.

Even with that culture, we do have people in the office who have the same difficulty you do, with work always sitting there staring them in the face. I don't know how to get around that other than by setting boundaries for yourself (and having a company culture that won't override them). I've worked for a couple really toxic places before, and I think that actually gave me some perspective - I know I'm doing a pretty good job, and I give the time that I can, so I just don't feel pressured to work outside of regular hours unless I have some big deadline coming up. I've done a lot of extra work for other places before, and it didn't really end up meaning anything other than pacifying the boss' anxieties. But I can usually just turn my computer off at 5pm and not feel guilty about it. I know I'm in a tremendously privileged position at the moment and my situation is rare.
posted by LionIndex at 1:45 PM on November 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

When I first started working for my current employer (which is based in another state, with multiple offices in the US and abroad) about 12 years ago, I worked in their local office in my city. But within a couple years some of us were given the option to WFH, which at the time I gladly took. So I've been WFH for around 10 years. I like not having to get dressed up every day, and I definitely don't miss the commute.

The lack of socializing (both during work and after hours) is a mixed bag - of course none of us like all our coworkers, but I'd guess most of us like at least some of them. Having none at all, for a long time, gets to feel isolating.

I'm lucky in the sense that the work/off-work line isn't blurry; My job requires me to be available to customers for my shift hours only, so at 5pm I can shut down my work computer and happily forget about my job for the rest of the evening.

This year, due to COVID, pretty much nobody has been working at the downtown office so they've closed it completely - apparently permanently. I'm very frustrated though that employees won't be seeing any of the money they're saving by losing those leasing and maintenance costs. Literally the only things the company has provided for any of us are a computer, monitor, and mouse, and in some cases people have been given the option to take home their office chair (I never got that). I'm beginning to see that my perception of the "benefits" of WFH has been preventing me from noticing that those costs have, in a way, been transferred to me - dedicating space in my dwelling for a workspace, buying a desk, a chair, my own supplies, etc.; and just because I happened to have already had internet service doesn't mean I don't deserve some amount of compensation for maintaining that connection to the company network for their benefit. People who are required to take occasional 24x7 shifts don't even get a company phone, they have to set up their own (that's even assuming they have one) to connect to the office network for required notifications.

Now all my coworkers are in the same boat, and none of us are seeing Dollar One for it despite the company not having to maintain an office presence. That's bullshit, period. And don't get me started about "Employee Appreciation Week"! We won't even get comped for a group dinner out, not that I'd bothered with that in previous years. Being "virtually" (in the modern internet sense, for extra irony) appreciated is an empty gesture that amounts to "Fuck you, employees! We got ours!"
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:46 PM on November 14, 2020 [13 favorites]

Prior to my MS-only office being rushed into supporting WFH-only in March, I wasn't all that enthused with the one-day/week WFH option that was offered.

But now that all meetings are WFH-friendly we've also expanded alternate work schedules, so when things go back to more normal I might be able to have a 9/9/4/(9)/9 schedule () = WFH, plus I can PTO most Fridays now so with a Starlink + Cybertruck or other similar WFH-friendly mobile workspace I could use Wednesday PM as travel time to get to a nice campsite somewhere, remote-work there on Thurs, stay Friday and come back home Saturday -- living the life I first read about ~40 years ago now
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 1:47 PM on November 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Literally packing away work laptops, notes etc into a crate and shoving it into a cupboard at 5.30 has helped a lot - thus far the City And The City act in our small apartment is working pretty well.

With that said this last week I've had my first day where I reached the end of the work day, was stressed from the work day, weather was too shitty to go out and the kiddo wasn't in childcare to have to pick up - so I'm just boiling away in our place with no way to decompress. First time I've missed the commute. Interesting.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:59 PM on November 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

A lot of my co-workers are parents, and almost all of them have their kids in remote schooling, which means they're trying to supervise their kids while they're working. And for sure, their work-life balance is terrible. I don't think that's a function of remote work, though. Similarly, my work-life balance was the pits when I was trying to work and take care of a disabled relative, because that was a lot. But it's fine now. I really like not having to waste time commuting, and I definitely spend less time getting ready in the morning. I've switched my hours so I start a little earlier, end a little later, and take a lunch break, which is super. (I used to eat at my desk during the half-hour set aside for answering emails.) I've found that I can do little things around the house during my lunch break, and I definitely think I'm eating better, which may partly be that I have to plan more since I'm trying to minimize grocery trips.

Part of it, though, may be that I'm a little less invested in work than I used to be. The people in charge are both incompetent and morally deficient, and they've failed every conceivable test they've been given in the past seven months. It's not really going to matter if I stop working at 5:30 even though I haven't answered all my emails. It's actually a little bit liberating to know that the people you work for are both stupid and evil.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

The main impact to me of work from home has been that I’m only ever seconds away from the office.

This. And yet, how historically time the workplace (e.g. stamping in and out in the factory, etc) was done as control by employers of employees' time, makes me think of how to implement time limitations that protect workers from this encroachment. Servers that only deliver mail within working hours with mandatory, employer-paid phones with similar time limits (and personal cell and home landlines off limits at all times, unknown to bosses and coworkers-perhaps only by HR or emergency representatives). You know the whole "Hillary's Email" affair? Same logic: Records are audited to ensure that all professional communication is conducted via these channels.

Who does the audìting? Not HR! Not the bosses, but the workers. Something like a permanent committee made up of 1 HR rep, 1 executive rep, 1 union rep for each employee group/union represented in the employee pool (all during working hours, no "volunteer" basis), and 1 external labour ministry whose tax-paid job is to go to these meetings and report stats on compliance. Maybe 1 journalist from local press?

A law would define the process, timeline, outputs, roles, frequencies of these meetings. Maybe this already exists in some way? Maybe some will say it's impossible? We need something like this though.

By the way, please let me recommend a fantastic documentary I saw last night via OVID streaming service: Time Thieves. It's about time in capitalism being stolen from workers and consumers; time as money vs. other more liberating ways of conceiving our relationship with time.
posted by ipsative at 2:10 PM on November 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

That there are 4,700 respondents to requests of 9,032 people, if I'm reading the fine print correctly, suggests this sample may not be entirely representative of everyone on the planet. (I'm happy to have read this. But, skeptical.)
posted by eotvos at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2020

Also, one might expect some discussion of confounding variables, or statistics of any kind. ". . . feel their sense of belonging improve significantly (+10)" isn't actually useful information. Perhaps I missed the link to the actual study results in the article, in which case, I apologize.
posted by eotvos at 2:15 PM on November 14, 2020

A lot of these depend on a capacity for remote management that many managers simply don’t have. My office is back working on site because our boss likes to wander around the desks chatting to people. We all said we’d like to have a mix of home and office work, but he was lonely. That’s the only reason.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:16 PM on November 14, 2020 [23 favorites]

Connection is the biggest challenge to remote work.

My field has a lot of remote collaboration, so a lot of the work with working groups happened across time zones, way before the pandemic. Frequent "watercooler socials" were also part of the space, often on Fridays. My coworkers and I have scheduled weekly, primarily chatty check-in sessions where we talk unstructuredly about the working week, challenges, doubts and guesses about things that may or may not happen soon. The soft kind of info exchange that makes you feel like you're still working with people. It's been especially important for younger new colleagues onboarded during the pandemic, who had no previous experience working remotely and little experience otherwise in the field. When you're starting out, feeling connected to your team can make all the difference to whether or not you're able to find your footing professionally.

Reach out to your young or newbie colleagues, MeFites! Ask them how their week was. Feed them some benign (non-malicious!) gossip, have a Zoom beer or glass of wine after work. Work on those connections, it'll make everyone feel better.
posted by ipsative at 2:26 PM on November 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

I wonder what mechanism I’m missing out on.

Are you a part of a union? You should talk to your coworkers about forming a union.

My wife has been working from home for the duration. Her hours are by the contract. She's only allowed to work when she's cleared to work. Laptop starts blipping warnings to clock out 15 minutes before her shift is over. Her manager lets her flex some time, so it's not super hard and fast, but that flex time needs to be used within a pay period per union contract. Like, she's not allowed to work more just because she's at home.

My job can't be done remotely right now, but there are alot of people in my division that can. My union is specifically working on writing in a bunch of language to their next negotiation to require our employer to compensate us for WFH infrastructure; broadband reimbursement, home-office reimbursement, and even going so far as to pushing for other utilities and "rent" of home space by the employer. Their position is, your employer is using your home for their business, they should reimburse you for it. They're not going to get everything when the contract comes up for negotiation, but they'll get chunks. There's even a push to reclassify some jobs as productivity based instead of hourly based, because certain positions are actually showing far more productivity gains since the move to work from home positions.

I've said this before, but I'm fucking amazed at what the union does for its workers. Having only been employed in non-union positions until recently, it's been jaw droppingly shocking on a pretty regular basis at how many more protections we have as union members (to the point that in a few instances, I'm like, woah, this is kind of abusing the contract, and even reached out to union stewards and said 'hey this gives us a bad name').

Workers need unions. Every worker needs a union, syndicate or guild. They are a net good for workers in almost every situation.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:40 PM on November 14, 2020 [18 favorites]

My wife and I have a physiotherapist who says she's seeing way, way more people for neck/shoulder/back pain since the transition to working from home. There's just so much less moving around, moving from place to place, and it all gets replaced by stationary desk work.
posted by Beardman at 2:41 PM on November 14, 2020 [8 favorites]

My solution for work life balance is that I use a tower desktop computer at a desk. I have always hated work laptops. For me , being able to “work anywhere” is a bug, not a feature. If I’m at my desk I’m working (at home). If not, I’m not.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:31 PM on November 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Chiming in with positives of remote work. I work for a fully-remote company (always has been, always will be) and it is the best place I've ever worked (in 25 years of doing software development). What we honor is flexibility and trust. As long as I'm getting the work done well, I'm pretty free to manage my days how I need. Some days, I'll work extra to give myself a break on other days. Some days, I'll take a long break midday to get personal things taken care of and make up for the time at night. Yes, I have the advantage of living solo (though I have a child and he's going through a health crisis and this flexibility has also allowed me to be there for him in ways I would not be able to in previous jobs I've had). I'm able to take a day during the week when the woods are less crowded to get out on the trails and clear my head. I'm able to drive the 4hrs back and forth to pick up my kiddo at times when he's with me and work around that.

Part of the trick is to plan the day and the week and the two weeks (our sprint length) to get a sense of how I'm going to get everything done that I'm responsible for, with allowances for the unexpected (though we're pretty good about dropping one thing when a new thing arises). I track my time for myself (not a work requirement) so that I'm keeping to a reasonable amount of hours and not burning myself out (this is, admittedly a work in progress, but I'm finding a good groove now).

As a company, we seem to have found a way to use our tools with a balance of work and water-cooler/kitchen-area chatter (opportunities to connect with people about more than just work).

not to turn this into a pitch or anything, but we are hiring too... memail me if you want to chat about that
posted by kokaku at 3:31 PM on November 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Some of the complaints about WFH not seeing the added benefits has a lot to do, from my understanding, the way corporate taxes and expenses line up. It is for lack of a better term much easier to expense out a team dinner than it is to send a $50 gift card. So it may be that our tax codes need to keep up with reality, but accounting departments can get creative when they want to.

So I've been WFH for around 10 years. I like not having to get dressed up every day, and I definitely don't miss the commute.

I've been WFH for the last 5 years, it has always been tough. You've been in the same place it sounds like for 10 years. If you're new, and I'm freelance consultant it is a bit different. Sometimes it is a bit in describing my role as not just staff aug, but things like that get magnified when remote. People get micromanagey and when project managers don't see people at desks or see status indicators as green, the ones that are not confident get a lot of anxiety quickly. I had a recent engagement go bad when I was brought in to talk to a client. It was blamed on not being in person. After some needling I got the account manager to admit basically their charm did not go as far as they thought it did and the outcome would have been the same. Going in we knew there was no measure of success defined (a red flag that I brought up), the executive stakeholder was not involved and a different part of the company did not need us there and more importantly had significant leverage in determining the outcome. So really anyone reading a retrospective on this or even seeing the engagement up front should have known immediately it had nothing to do with being remote (really not knowing what success looks like is a huge, if not the defining, red flag for any sort of knowledge work). But I'm sure my account lead was not unique in believing their charm helps on difficult projects and only remembering successes and minimizing the failures. That's true of any profession to a degree but when you've spent your career communicating in person, communicating remote is hard to accept as simply different, not just adversely impacting the outcome. There was nothing we did that required a physical presence, this was a software project in the end.

I see a lot of complaints that were the same when e-mail got onto phones. I get that pulling away from work is hard, but I think it is defining work in the context of how quickly you can respond. You're not Jeremy Irons in Margin Call coming in at 4AM to beat the markets on a trade. A lot of decisions do not need immediate responses.
posted by geoff. at 3:31 PM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I have to agree, for me, I have a work computer, that's only used for work and when the work day is done, it's turned off and I have other computers to do other things. I also work with a good boss who would prefer we don't work over our normal schedule. Also, I'm a lazy fuck and never fell for the protestant work ethic nonsense.
posted by evilDoug at 3:43 PM on November 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

I feel like they must have really emphasized that respondents narrowly assess the impact of remote work specifically, because any overall analysis of lockdown that doesn’t show a night-and-day difference between parents and non-parents is absolute bullshit.

Compared with trying to engage 2 kids who haven’t been to school or daycare in 6 months (and seeing the psychological toll this is taking on them every day), any WFH issues I’ve had are a fart in a hurricane.
posted by bjrubble at 4:00 PM on November 14, 2020 [16 favorites]

I believe less in work/life balance than work/life isolation -- put boundaries in place to help prevent work from spilling out and starting to subsume more of your time and attention. There's some good advice upthread: use dedicated work devices (phones, computers) for all work communications, do not install any software or app on a personal device that can send you a work-related notification. Turn all your work devices off outside the time you're contractually obliged to be working, and stow them somewhere you can't see them, so there's less temptation to check. Little rituals or habits to mark the beginning and end of the work day help as well: maybe going for a walk round the block. Anything that puts you physically and mentally in a different mode than work mode.

If you have a small amount of security/power in your role at work you can also speak up to help push the work culture of your team in a healthier direction. E.g. express surprise/concern if people indicate they are doing work way outside business hours (emails/slack messages at 1AM etc), berate people in a good-natured way if they if appear on work comms when they're meant to be on holiday ("oh no! aren't you meant to be on holiday?"). If people start suggesting that work needs to happen outside of standard business hours or on weekends you can say things like "I understand that it's important to the company that XYZ happens, but with my business hat on, my contractual agreement with the company means I only get paid for working 40 hours a week -- so before I'm able to help with XYZ outside of agreed business hours, we'd need to renegotiate the contract to include appropriate compensation for out of hours support so that the arrangement is win-win". If possible, try to do this in a way so that more junior/naive employees can see it. It probably helps a lot if your company's culture starts in a place that's at the "professional monday-friday 8-5 routine" end of the spectrum rather than the "endless death-march" end.
posted by are-coral-made at 4:00 PM on November 14, 2020

Last Friday, I had to tell 3 different clients I don't work weekends. Because I don't. I work 9am-7pm with 30-60 minutes off for lunch, Monday to Friday, from my living room. As the owner of a small business, if I let work start creeping into my off time, I'd never leave the office.
posted by signal at 4:49 PM on November 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I don't much like the work from home routine (though it is still better than being in the office with the covid-deniers, because of course those are the people still going in...), but there just isn't any comparison between my situation with its mild inconveniences and someone who is trying to both work and support their kids doing whatever version of remote learning is happening. (To be fair, that's caused by society, not employers being jerks, because we provide zero support to families and have prioritized reopening bars rather than schools.)

I remain resentful of how work from home imposes costs on the employee rather than the employer, but I also think it remains to be seen how much of this turns out to be permanent rather than temporary.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:44 PM on November 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I started at a new company a year ago. The only reason I haven't straight up told my boss and HR that I hate it there, that I made a huge mistake leaving my old company for this one, is the fact COVID hit, I could work remote, and minimize the hell out of my interactions with that awful place.
posted by MrGuilt at 7:05 PM on November 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Kokaku I have the same experience in my fully WFH job. I'm young and I don't have kids though. Seeing my co-workers trying to cope when they have kids at home (for all genders) looks like a nightmare. For me that's a strong argument for reopening schools.
posted by Braeburn at 12:49 AM on November 15, 2020

I’m dying to have a remote job. Like I am stealing food from the grocery store because we are on lockdown again and there’s no stimulus and I need to afford rent. If I had a remote job, things would be different. I love sitting in my room.
posted by gucci mane at 1:08 AM on November 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

There are many things I (no children, living alone) quite like about wfh but that all comes down to:
- having a desk, monitors and office chair at home, I.e. a dedicated, somewhat ergonomic setup
- claiming back the time I don’t have to spend on commuting and turning it into productive work hrs thereby reducing overtime
- actively scheduling my lunch breaks, time to exercise etc and sticking to that
- being able to get a cat because I won’t ever be in the office full time again

They had started to encourage us to go back to the office for a couple of days a week over summer and it was nice to actually meet people again. And I get the impression that’s where my employer sees us long-term. But I also instigated calls with all my teams to discuss how we would be working with each other remotely for the next six months or so when that became the preferred option again in October. This included asking people if they had somewhere to work at home and encouraging them to think about what small, inexpensive changes they could make to their space to make it more sustainable for them to work from home.* Sharing what we each found specifically difficult about wfh in the spring and sharing how others had perhaps overcome those same problems. Accepting that you do need a workspace, putting your laptop away, turning off notifications and finding an activity, be it a walk, going for a run, doing some yoga or having a shower, that signals the transition from work to play were all considered helpful.

*in an ideal world our employer would contribute to that but at the same time the money I have spent on my setup was money well spent and even our trainees get paid enough to get a monitor and headset/microphone/cheap webcam to make the endless video meetings more bearable
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:27 AM on November 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Slack surveyed 9000 "knowledge workers" over six countries about their experiences working remotely

Next week: Pablo Escobar surveys people about their experiences with cocaine addiction.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 3:24 AM on November 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

even our trainees get paid enough to get a monitor and headset/microphone/cheap webcam to make the endless video meetings more bearable

And maye I say truely, that the Master is a generouse and godlye Manne, who does paye his Apprentices that few Groates more, that they maye suitably coate theyre Backes with Grease, for to make the dailye Floggings more bearable. Would that there existeth still such godlye Masters five hundred Yeares hence!
posted by Cardinal Fang at 3:34 AM on November 15, 2020 [7 favorites]

Came here to mention the double selection-bias of both the survey respondents and those in this thread who have the time and capacity to comment, especially positively.

I am one, am all of the above.

But also a parent with the capacity to mix work flexibility with outlay of cash to make my two bedroom apartment an office, gym, two-grade elementary school, daycare, industrial kitchen, print shop, light manufacturing plant, greenhouse, and very occasionally, home. Privileged af with an employer who does all the good things above as well as allow additional leave for care of whoever needs it and an allowance to make my home workspace usable.

Every week I ask my team to rate their capacity over the last seven days, so I make a fair evaluation of the progress they've made based on what they could realistically have done at 50% or 80% or the occasional 10% when things in the world make focus nearly impossible and time unavailable. (I recommend this approach to anybody trying to help a team succeed in this time - be up front with your own capacity, help your team be up front with theirs, actively communicate about priorities given what will sometimes be way less capacity than you want but better that than magical thinking that results in overwork and burning people out).

And with all that... each week is still a crap shoot.

One small change to school schedule for, say, ten minute parent conferences changes the hours of schooling (announced days or hours before it happens) changes when I've scheduled backup childcare so my spouse and I can work changes when meetings can happen and when that backup childcare can then work at their other job and on it goes.

I'd love to hear from mefites who know things about unions about organizing in a time of wfh - the stories my neighbors tell (ten feet apart from behind masks on the open-air building rooftop when it's nice out) about bosses expecting ever more since they have no commute or anywhere else to be... I want to be able to say "have you considered organizing for $Union? They represent knowledge workers working from home..." I've looked but am overwhelmed with options none of which seem to actively fit the bill.
posted by abulafa at 4:00 AM on November 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'd really like to see a breakdown by living situation as well. I live alone in the UK, and with the removal of a lot of my normal social activities, I'm really missing just the human contact of being in the office.
posted by MattWPBS at 5:44 AM on November 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'd really like to see a breakdown by living situation as well. I live alone in the UK, and with the removal of a lot of my normal social activities, I'm really missing just the human contact of being in the office.

There's another distinction. We who own our space and have exclusive privacy and access rights to it must not forget our privilege. A lot of people - especially young people - are in house shares with people who they don't know particularly well, or at all, whose presence and behaviour may be making it very difficult for them to work at home.

The universities also need to be taking a good hard look at this. What may tip a lot of first-year students over the edge is not that they are lonely, or homesick, or deprived of social activities, but that they are stuck in small bubbles with a random group of people, and that it is statistically highly likely that they are going to find it intolerable to live in the same space as at least one or two of those people. This has been proven over years of experience, and this - 2020 - is the first time that the situation cannot resolve itself in the natural course of events.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 8:14 AM on November 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

There's another distinction. We who own our space and have exclusive privacy and access rights to it must not forget our privilege.

Oh aye, there's upsides and downsides to both. We don't have housemates or partners starting to get on our nerves, we don't have children interrupting us while working, we don't have to worry about clothes if we don't want to, we don't have to worry about others in the house having different risk attitudes, etc, etc, etc.

I just miss people.
posted by MattWPBS at 9:12 AM on November 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm in New Zealand and since lockdown ended, I would guess about 50% of our staff have chosen to stay working remotely all or most of the time. Perhaps not surprisingly, this is mostly people who have long commutes AND childcare options (or no children), and particularly our developers who love the peace and quiet and unbroken concentration (assuming they have no pre-school children at home).

It's working fine. But as a colleague of mine observed, this is partly because we all have relationships we formed in the Before Times. If this pattern persists, as people come and go we'll lose that. Onboarding remote hires is a real challenge in a company that isn't formally set up that way from the get-go. We have a lot of cultural change to go through if we're going to be a "remote-first" company. Not clear at all how this is going to pan out.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:29 PM on November 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

That's a good point. When I first started with my company, although I was in an office with lots of other people working for the same company, most of my actual immediate team was in another city. Supporting the software I was hired to support involved a very steep long-term learning curve, and I always felt guilty for constantly bugging the more senior members of my team for help. Now I've been here a while, and some new hires are bugging me for help because they're just as bewildered and lost as I was when I was in their position, so I do my best to help them as much as my own workload allows. Which is more than I can say for some of the other people on my team... I agree with joe's_spleen that that sort of interaction and positive assistance needs to be actively encouraged.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:52 PM on November 15, 2020

I’ve been in a contract role since the first week in September. We have daily stand ups and no one ever turns on their camera.

I like WFH, but I really miss facial nuance. Of my ~15 team members, I’ve seen three of their faces once, at my interview in August,
posted by bendy at 2:31 AM on November 16, 2020

I've been work from home since mid-March. I always hated working from home, because I could never focus fully on feeling like I was at work, and would get less done. I'm also an extrovert, so I got a lot of pleasure and energy from my coworkers, who I genuinely enjoy being around (and one or two of whom I have developed a real-life friendship with).

Since I've been work from home, my productivity has raised back up to what it was in the office, barring some personal life events that would be creating time away from work anyways. I still put away my computer at the end of the day and don't often check it beyond work hours, although there is the occasional week where I have to (again, this isn't new).

I've really enjoyed the extra time I've gotten back for my family - eating an early dinner and playing with my kid is something that I've enjoyed. With that said, I'm moderately desperate to be back in the office. My spouse is an introvert and being one of my sole points of social interaction is definitely wearing on them.

The zoom calls are rough - we do most of our calls via teleconference and I'm starting to get burned out more frequently from staring at a screen. Our work culture was always a meeting-heavy one but that used to be more of a time away from screens, not a more intensive screen time. Right now, it's unlikely that we'll be back in the office by 7 months from now, and it might even be a full year since we're taking COVID so seriously. I'm glad of that - I just miss seeing people face-to-face.
posted by turtlebackriding at 1:08 PM on November 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'll also add that in some ways I have an ideal wfh setup - a designated and shared office with my spouse, with plenty of room to go elsewhere if we're both on calls, minimal disruptions during the day, almost flawless high-speed internet, a good desk, a nice chair, a very supportive and flexible workplace. And yet, I hate it. I miss the office so, so much. On the other hand, my spouse would be perfectly happy to go into the office 1 day a week and spend the rest of their time at home. So clearly it is more to do with me than the actual situation.
posted by turtlebackriding at 1:17 PM on November 16, 2020

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