Remote work proving very popular
June 2, 2021 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Working From Home With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.
posted by tiny frying pan (288 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
 
Interesting that this came from Bloomberg. Lately I've noticed an uptick in articles about the benefits of in-office work from many of these business publications; between the above and this article about work/life balance from zapier, I'm interested to see if there's enough of a movement that even the pro-business cheerleaders come around and admit that having everybody in the same building is pretty inefficient.
posted by nushustu at 7:47 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


My employer started bringing people back into the office a few months ago. Within two months, a third of the IT department had found new remote-only jobs.
posted by Hatashran at 7:57 AM on June 2 [95 favorites]


A tremendous amount of office "work" is just performance, and more and more people discovering that is seeing just how empty the backstage is. Impostor syndrome's pretty common, and non-psychopath management is painfully aware of that too. A lot of people don't like introspecting about unfulfilling painful systems they're captured in, and would really prefer that performing-work go back to the show they're familiar with so they can feel less uncomfortable.

Also: I think anyone who's worked white-collar corporate with the luck of maintaining "job security" has had the experience of an employer trumpeting a new office, it's going to be so amazing!, and then the new office happens and everyone is inconvenienced for weeks or months of moving things around, an absolutely silly amount of politicking about spaces in it happens, and at the end of the process the shiny new office is worse in many ways than the previous ones. (And then a few years later, we're going to be getting a new office, it's going to be so amazing!) Basically: at uppermost levels, I'm positive there's some unsurprising but enraging investigative journalism to be done about intermeshing systems of not-quite-kickbacks (and outright kickbacks because who's going to enforce it) in the whole real estate etc market for Shiny New Office Complex sectors, and that whole grift sector is endangered by telecommuting getting even more traction.
posted by Drastic at 8:01 AM on June 2 [69 favorites]


I really like the people in my office, the office culture, we have nice desks in private rooms with a nice view, 20 minute commute.. and none of it can hold a candle to the additional dignity that comes with WFH.

Yeah, I wish I had the luxury of quitting now that we're back in the office, or "moving my kids to the jersey shore" (i.e., moving to our second house on the beach). I'm definitely looking much harder for a new job that is either hybrid or fully remote, but my industry is a little slower to adapt, I think they'll wait until they can't attract new candidates to make real change.
posted by skewed at 8:03 AM on June 2 [14 favorites]


I read this article this morning and it mostly matches what I'm seeing in my area and industry. As someone who has worked remote (with once-a-month train trips into the lab office) for twelve years, I really encouraged the (mostly younger) folks on my team to keep a sharp eye on the benefits of WFH, balanced against the difficult parts. Just cutting out commute times alone is a massive quality-of-life improvement: some of these folks would have 1.5 hours of driving per day if D.C. traffic was bad!

All it took was for folks to get a taste of being owners of their own time during COVID-19 to be hooked on the benefits. They can finish their work on their own schedule, roll out to go running at 4 PM, etc. So what if they have to put in a little extra care and effort in communication, planning, and relationship management? If they can get all that time, independence, quiet, etc., back, it's totally worth it for a lot of them.
posted by introp at 8:07 AM on June 2 [31 favorites]


I'm going to get forced back and while they are still making noises about "hybrid," I would bet large amounts of money that my group has to go back full time in person. It's really depressing to have to "go back to normal." I didn't want to work from home, but it's been awesome to feel rested and fed while working. I'll never have that again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:10 AM on June 2 [31 favorites]


At the start of switch to work-from-home last year I haaaaated it, especially the sense of having no separation between work and home. There are still some things I don't like; some would be alleviated if I had a big house with a fully separated office space so I could feel like work stayed there more, while others are more intrinsic to working remotely. (Like, I miss the casual hallway conversations and the easiness for meeting up after work for coffee or drinks on short notice.)

I have also seen junior staff struggle to stay connected, get the right kind of mentoring, etc. And, I suspect that it is easier to sustain some kinds of inequalities (like only inviting men to the meetings where things get decided) when it is all virtual and no one can see that the conference room is yet again 100% dudes.

The company I work for is sending mixed messages on the subject. They fought it at first, then figured out that there are big savings and have cut back on office lease square footages, and now are starting to make noises about "back to the office." I'm pretty sure my immediate team would all start looking for new jobs if we were forced to return -- several have moved further away (outside of a reasonable daily commute, though everyone is still close enough to come in for an important meeting). We have figured out how to function effectively this way.

I do have one coworker (not on my immediate team) who is really excited to return to the office but is waiting for the office mask restrictions to be eased (not because he is anti mask, just because he doesn't want to wear one all day). People with small kids who had childcare pretty much all returned to the office months ago -- they found working from home much harder than those of us without children.

For people with options (the right education, right skills, etc) who are in the position to negotiate, I think flexibility about work location (whether fully remote or simply flexibility) is going to be big and companies that want those people are going to have to find solutions.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:12 AM on June 2 [30 favorites]


This really highlights class differences. First, there are the many people in frequently low-paying jobs where they can't work from home: delivery drivers, warehouse workers, grocery store and restaurant employees, health care workers. Then there are people who can't afford to just quit when they aren't allowed to work remotely. People who face discrimination in hiring whether due to age, race, weight, or a host of other factors are going to find it more difficult to find new jobs.

I miss some things about the office, but I'm one of the people for whom the vaccines don't seem to work, so I'm going to continue working remotely. I'm extremely privileged to have that option. If I didn't, I couldn't afford to just quit, and age discrimination would make it hard for me to find another job.
posted by FencingGal at 8:13 AM on June 2 [68 favorites]


This really highlights class differences. First, there are the many people in frequently low-paying jobs where they can't work from home: delivery drivers, warehouse workers, grocery store and restaurant employees, health care workers. Then there are people who can't afford to just quit when they aren't allowed to work remotely. People who face discrimination in hiring whether due to age, race, weight, or a host of other factors are going to find it more difficult to find new jobs.

This. There was just an article the other day (that now I can't find), that quoted some study saying that the vast majority of people earning more than $100k expected to have location flexibility, but only a tiny percentage of those earning under $40k had that expectation. It will be both a marker and a perpetuator of class difference.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:15 AM on June 2 [37 favorites]


Management big mad about paying rent and utilities to buildings, when they never had to in the first place.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:16 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up.
—Ogdan Nash
posted by tspae at 8:18 AM on June 2 [40 favorites]


Work already takes up space in my phone without compensating me, I kind of want compensation for it taking up space in my dwelling now.

Anyway, time to read the article!
posted by Going To Maine at 8:20 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


It seems to me that all the talk about new flexible working models, hybrid locations etc are starting to evaporate a little bit. I think we will see more ‘reversion to the mean’ if that is the right phrase, where tolerance of working from home reduces. Pre pandemic someone raised a complaint to my boss when a colleague worked from home and you could *gasp* Hear Her Children In the Next Room during a call. (They were being looked after by a childminder).

Over the pandemic I’ve been on a video call with someone whose small child was having a Zoom guitar lesson in the same room, and no one really cared. I would love that to continue but I’m not sure it will, sure it may be company policy but if you are harshly judged, overlooked for promotions and treated as invisible it is less attractive for sure.

Interesting article in the Guardian today, which focused on the benefits for disabled workers.
posted by ElasticParrot at 8:21 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up.
—Ogdan Nash


There’s a reason that gout was seen as a rich man’s disease.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:21 AM on June 2 [11 favorites]


I transitioned to a job where I had the option to WFH shortly before the pandemic. My previous job was in office only, with one day of WFH per week that nobody actually took, and the one before that was WFH for several years.

I definitely prefer working from home and will not return to an office. The flexibility of living where I want and not having a commute is essential for my happiness and it's at least 2 hours of my day that I get back. 10 hours a week. 522 hours a year. 21 days per year of my life that's not wasted just getting to and from an office. Over a 30 year career that's nearly two years of your life that gets returned to you in the form of being able to do whatever you want and not be stressed out in traffic or on public transit. That's time wake up when it's light outside, cook and eat a breakfast at home, exercise and then ease into my work day. That's time to make dinner at home or go to the farmers market or meet with friends because I'm not exhausted at the end of the day.

It's definitely a privileged position to be in, but I'm not willing to give that up as a show of class solidarity because some people don't benefit. I want everyone to be able to have this option at some point in their lives, if they want it, and I'm actively working towards it with remote hires for junior employees and creating environments where they can succeed.

More power to the people who enjoy an office environment, or who have kids or otherwise unworkable WFH situations, effective working from home requires some structure and sometimes additional expenses on my part, but for me it's worth it.
posted by mikesch at 8:34 AM on June 2 [30 favorites]


Capitalism fuckin’ sucks

Management exists in all of the alternatives.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:34 AM on June 2 [59 favorites]


Maybe we wouldn't be so hesitant to return to the office if they hadn't done everything they could to make offices as unpleasant as possible. Even well-funded startups that take pride in their beer kegs and ping pong tables are heavily committed to the tyrannical open-layout format. And those offices are pretty awful for any kind of work that requires concentration! They're even worse at encouraging communication, since even a low-volume conversation will be overheard by all your coworkers and is guaranteed to break their concentration.

By contrast, my apartment is wonderful! It's comfortable, I've got a nice view, an ergonomic setup, my fridge is stocked with foods I love, and most of all, it's quiet. Even better, I can talk to my coworkers with near total-privacy any time I want — all I have to do is open a video chat.

No matter how high I rise in this world, I will never have an office as nice as my apartment.
posted by panama joe at 8:39 AM on June 2 [88 favorites]


I very well may be a unicorn in a unicorn job. I was repeatedly told I could work from home if I wanted, but I didn't want to because I like being able to walk away at the end of the day. One or twice my boss expressed some mild surprise that I didn't bring my laptop home with me every night, but honestly, there are rare reasons why I would have any need to do so. And the one time I did have something I needed to do really quick over the weekend, I live close enough that I just stopped into the office on my way to the grocery store on a Saturday and did it then.

I did end up having to work from home for a couple weeks at first on a self-quarantine, and then again when I first broke my knee - and while I liked having the ability to work in pajamas and do housework while I was "at work" (with one ear on the phone just in case), my roommate was also always underfoot because he was also working from home and I went out of my god-damn mind after only a few months and was actually begging them to let me start coming in again. If I'd have been living alone or had more of a dedicated room for "office work" that may have been different, but I was holed up in my bedroom all day because that was the only place to work. Conversely, if I'd had a longer commute I may have embraced the work from home thing more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on June 2 [17 favorites]


(Another thing that helps - my boss hates the open-plan office thing as well, so one of the things he made sure of when we were getting our building constructed was that "everyone has their own office, or shares with only one or two close colleagues, period". I actually have more privacy here at work than I did at home.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 AM on June 2 [17 favorites]


Management big mad about paying rent and utilities to buildings, when they never had to in the first place.

I think the light has *finally* gone on WRT this at my work, where we were, as of March 2020, maintaining 3 separate facilities, 2 bought or rented within the last decade.

All signs were pointing to our needing to adopt mandatory, full-time telework for the bulk of employees as early as c. 2005, but the culture was too conservative and resistant to change (they actually doubled down on the old ways of doing things in response, spending millions of dollars).

In the meantime, competition has accelerated, especially due to COVID's impact on higher ed. All that unneeded, underutilized space is at last being seen as the huge, expensive liability it is, it seems.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:43 AM on June 2 [6 favorites]


I am quitting my job not because I was happy working remotely, but because during the pandemic time I had to do a job remotely that absolutely should be done in person. I did a good job with it, because I made a part-time job into a full time job, However, because caregiving for family members affected from the pandemic took all my extra mental and emotional space that was left over after the job, I realized I had to change or be overwhelmed.

So I'm a stereotypical female pandemic victim.

Except that I quit not because I couldn't do the job, but because if I was going to be working at home in my study when I wasn't taking care of the grandchild or the sick husband, I wanted to finish writing my novels.
posted by Peach at 8:45 AM on June 2 [30 favorites]


I'm a public librarian, so working from home is not an option for me, but while a lot of my coworkers and I have been back in the building since last August a lot of the managers in my extremely over-managed organization have been "working" from home the whole time. What do they do? No-one knows, although in fairness they have managed to create at least two more higher-level management positions during the pandemic.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:46 AM on June 2 [58 favorites]


a lot of the managers in my extremely over-managed organization have been "working" from home the whole time. What do they do? No-one knows,

LOL, that's usually how I feel about all higher-ups. As far as I know, the answer is always "go to a bunch of meetings."
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:48 AM on June 2 [11 favorites]


To be the cynical Gen-X person here: Look out, because once remote work is truly entrenched, it will become a worldwide race to the bottom for wages.

I say that after a career mostly spent in media.

My business generally is conducted in-person although we now by necessity have some experience delivering online. I don't know if we're going to make it, and if we don't, I may take the luxury of doing more contract-based work where I don't care where I work but I take gaps between contracts (I have a steadily working spouse and my youngest has moved out of childcare age during the pandemic (!), hence my luxury here.)

There is a huge divide even in my organization between those who were able to do some work from home and those who still have to come in to access studio space/AV equipment. We took some financial hits to protect our team, not just in terms of infrastructure like ventilation and also PPE, but also in reopening late/closing early. (We're still not allowed to operate in person at all, not one student, in Ontario.)

But I think most of us in particular want to get back to normal because we are in general people people who chose our jobs because it was direct service delivery, active, and in space designed for the purpose.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:49 AM on June 2 [25 favorites]


People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up.

Pay scales aren't proportion to work done but as a badge of status. See also: disposable “essential” workers.
posted by acb at 8:49 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]


I was repeatedly told I could work from home if I wanted, but I didn't want to because I like being able to walk away at the end of the day. One or twice my boss expressed some mild surprise that I didn't bring my laptop home with me every night, but honestly, there are rare reasons why I would have any need to do so.

Wow this was me exactly. Then the pandemic forced us to work from home. I CAN'T go back.

One of the best things about working from home is not having to perform the utter bullshit "WORKING AT THE OFFICE" kayfabe.  I simply did not realize how much emotional energy in my soul and brain was being drained by being at the office and having to wear a specific kind of face for coworkers and bosses, one of the most utterly sensitive and fraught tiers of Other People we must behave a special way for.

So when I finish a stressful conference call, instead of looking around the stuffy germ-infested conference room at coworkers trying to contribute to our recap and formulate a comment like "yeah I agree, that wasn't so bad, it sounds like the client really wants to blah blah blah" so I can look like some kind of ENGAGED EMPLOYEE, now I can just flop onto my bed and curl up into the fetal position and moan in anguish for 3 minutes.  Then I can go look at myself in the mirror and ask myself out loud "what the fuck am I doing" before eating a really stupid lunch made out of whatever is left in my fridge, like toast with cheese melted on it, without having to hear stupid lunch comments from people walking by my desk ("Wow interesting lunch, simple, I love it ha ha!" "ha ha yeah totally"). 

I feel so hard for those who, like me, just despise their bullshit job and feel absolutely nothing for it beyond "this is how I achieve my survival points in society", and are being forced back to work to put the stupid smiley work mask back on. And especially for those who never had the option in the first place. So many jobs are just various levels of spiritual violence and torture - mine is pretty low pain-levels all things considered, but I'm also thin-skinned as fuck - and anything that can blunt the force of it all is a net positive.
posted by windbox at 8:52 AM on June 2 [193 favorites]


windbox, I would favorite that a hundred times if I could. It has been nice to just be able to briefly SEETHE without anyone knowing about it or especially getting in trouble for it. I hate knowing that I'm going to have to have Service Smile! back on my face all the damn time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:54 AM on June 2 [25 favorites]


I'll be "that guy."

Granted this was about 5-8 years ago, but I worked at an office (advertising) where about half the staff worked remotely, half signed up for the office. I was in the office. I'm not denying that the remote workers worked... they DID do work. But communication was not always reliable with them. They'd send in work along with a quick email. This would invariably need to be "fixed" one way or another by the in-office staff. And any time a client emergency came up (this often happened!) guess who the go-to people were to respond? The folks in the office.

Some SOME of the remote workers were creative slackers. Straight-up. They had an excuse for everything, being just late enough to respond to keep out of the immediate aftermaths. They were technically doing their jobs, but it was just not the same as having a group of warm bodies in the same floor of the building who could get together within a minute or two and hash things out.

None of the in-office folks could ever slack the way the remote workers could. It just wasn't possible. Now, many of the remote workers WERE hard workers and did their best to respond and communicate in a timely way. But even in the best cases, the brunt of "fixes" and additional, last minute changes and add-on work fell on the in-office people. Walking to another cube or office is just faster than email, or Zoom or texting. PERIOD.

I'm sure there are ways to make this all hunky-dory 100% but I have never seen it. I'd love to see more remote opportunities for people. But having a dedicated group of humans in one space able to talk and make quick decisions face to face is still better most of the time than remote work.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:55 AM on June 2 [19 favorites]


I've been WFH for 10 years. I was the only person in my team, and pretty much the whole org, doing so until the pandemic started. Now we're all doing it and it has made my life so much easier - everyone else better understands the accommodations that are needed, and the different ways of working (and not working) that make remote work as effective as office work, or more so.

Recently my employer has started making noises about whether people want to start coming back to the office a bit. Hardly anybody does. At the beginning of all this there was definitely a "this is temporary" feeling about it all but, to their credit, management is now thinking very differently about that. OTOH they have a lot to wrestle with. People in some locations are paid more than others (London has a traditional weighting for high costs compared to the rest of the UK, other countries are different again) but now people in the lower-paid locations are applying for internally advertised posts in London because they want the higher salary and don't actually have to go there. Some people will get huge benefits from WFH (e.g. no giant, expensive commute) and would even take a pay cut to stay WFH (and still end up with a better net income probably) but others live in situations where WFH is tough and would like the office. It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out. I don't know what the end result will be but it will for sure be different from before.
posted by merlynkline at 8:55 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


I started a new job in November, 2019. In the office, I was despised for my mere presence. Most of the folks were flown in from overseas. The management was told to hire an American by the C-Suite. As far as I know no one had an issue with me, personally. They questioned having that role in the first place.

By the following March, I was ready to quit. I had talked to some recruiters about lining up some contract work, and got other things in order. I was about to talk to my wife about it.

The pandemic hit. The contracts dried up, and recruiters advised me to sit tight. I did, and found working from home to improve my situation a bit. After a brief scare where my manager straight up told HR he did not believe any American could make him happy, I was transfered. While I still want to move on, I'm in a tolerable place.

Because of my history, my boss and the new HR division is concerned, rightfully, I'm a flight risk. I straight up told him last week that, while I'm in an OK situation now, I would start looking for a new job if I was told to go back to the office other than on an ad hoc, "special guest in town" basis. There is a ton of work--they really can't, in the short term, afford to lose me, so this may be the rare case where I can make that stick.

If they do make me go back, I already plan limitations I'll place on my involvement. And, if they say I have to choose working their or not, I have a letter of resignation printed--I just need to sign and date it.

I'm not going back to that office.
posted by MrGuilt at 8:55 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


One of the weird disconnects is that so many companies in the early days of the pandemic made it a point of pride to talk about how easy and seamless their transition to remote office was. I lost count of all the LinkedIn posts I read from various companies (including the one I work for) boasting about how quickly they had their entire staff set up in work from home situations in a manner that allowed them to continue to service customers without missing a step. Yet somehow a year and half later unless those same staff members return to the office it will be impossible to move forward with business? Were they lying then or now?
posted by The Gooch at 8:56 AM on June 2 [42 favorites]


Some SOME of the remote workers were creative slackers...None of the in-office folks could ever slack the way the remote workers could.

Perhaps your workplace worked that way. I've worked plenty of places over my career where creative slacking was even more of an issue in the office than outside of it. They knew where the holes were in the system, and what they could get away with, to make me believe across the workforce it averages out.
posted by MrGuilt at 8:58 AM on June 2 [36 favorites]


> I like being able to walk away at the end of the day

This was tough for me when I first started WFH but I realised I had to make a big effort to form a habit that lets me switch mindsets completely when I finish working for the day - the trigger used to be the commute, now it's something else. With the habit fully formed it's no longer an issue at all.
posted by merlynkline at 9:00 AM on June 2 [13 favorites]


One of the best things about working from home is not having to perform the utter bullshit "WORKING AT THE OFFICE" kayfabe. I simply did not realize how much emotional energy in my soul and brain was being drained by being at the office and having to wear a specific kind of face for coworkers and bosses, one of the most utterly sensitive and fraught tiers of Other People we must behave a special way for.

Oh, if I had been at any other job I've had over my lifetime I would totally have been down with continuing to work from home for precisely this reason. (Especially that time I was an EA in the trading floor of a bank and my desk was mixed in with all the traders out on the trading floor because MY GOD did that suck.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 AM on June 2


> LOL, that's usually how I feel about all higher-ups. As far as I know, the answer is always "go to a bunch of meetings."

I've been on a few committees chaired by managers over the years. Quite often they would be a bit late because the meeting I was at was their fourth of seven for the day. Did anything actually get done at these meetings? Almost never, but subsequent meetings were duly scheduled. Sometimes some paperwork would be generated.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:02 AM on June 2 [8 favorites]


boasting about how quickly they had their entire staff set up in work from home situations in a manner that allowed them to continue to service customers without missing a step. Yet somehow a year and half later unless those same staff members return to the office it will be impossible to move forward with business? Were they lying then or now?

In the case of my office: when nobody had the option to come in in person, it turns out we can absolutely handle stuff without people walking in. But we HAVE to come back in person, we can't deprive people of being able to see a friendly face in person!
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:02 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


I feel like as soon as we had viable vaccines, the media and business classes began a full court press of "WHEW IT SURE WILL BE GREAT GETTING BACK TO NORMAL AND BACK IN THE OLD OFFICE HEH HEH I BET WE ALL SURE DO MISS COMING INTO WORK EVERY DAY AND SEEING EVERYONE AND EVERYONE KNOWS HOW BEING TOGETHER IS WAY MORE PRODUCTIVE, RIGHT? RIGHT???"

I worked from home for about a decade before a streak of in-office jobs and felt like an animal having to go back to captivity.

It was funny, though, my current organization was full of meetings, just wall to wall. The instant there was a bit of friction in that process (having to schedule conference calls, etc.), they all just vanished. All those super-important critical meetings just POOFED. I suspect people were just bored/lonely/wanted to feel important/wanted to keep an audience captive and it's a little harder when you can't just walk the ol' parapets and grab a bunch of people.

I've been on a few committees chaired by managers over the years. Quite often they would be a bit late because the meeting I was at was their fourth of seven for the day. Did anything actually get done at these meetings? Almost never, but subsequent meetings were duly scheduled. Sometimes some paperwork would be generated.

My ex-manager was supposed to run a team but I saw her schedule several times and she was literally double and triple booked in meetings for like 10 hours a day, 5+ days a week. Consequently she never got to meet with/talk to her team. I think I got to talk to her once in a year before I got moved to a different team.

Didn't seem like a good way to run things to me but I'm not in the managerial class.

Walking to another cube or office is just faster than email, or Zoom or texting. PERIOD.

Maybe, but that's breaking someone out of their workflow and what they were doing to demand their attention right then rather than giving them a chance to think over the reply. Seems rude to me. PERIOD.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:05 AM on June 2 [50 favorites]


Walking to another cube or office is just faster than email, or Zoom or texting. PERIOD.

Nope, sorry, I am convinced that someone sending me an IM that says "hey - quick question" is the exact same as someone coming up to my desk except I do not have to see or hear their stupid face and pretend I care. I can even say out loud something like "oh great THIS fuckin' guy, WHAT, what now!" and then respond on the chat like "hey sure what's up :)"
posted by windbox at 9:06 AM on June 2 [131 favorites]


This was tough for me when I first started WFH but I realised I had to make a big effort to form a habit that lets me switch mindsets completely when I finish working for the day - the trigger used to be the commute, now it's something else. With the habit fully formed it's no longer an issue at all.

My work desk is *only* used for work, mostly not even for hobbies unless I'd benefit from the huge monitor. My work laptop lives on it and when I get up and walk away from it, I've left work for the day. That's enough to provide separation for me.
posted by mikesch at 9:07 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


Insisting that there's just no way to slack at the office has always been an important part of office kayfabe. In operations-type white collar stuff, the favored That's Where All The Slackers Are part of the performance was second and third shifts; in single-shift office settings, people had to settle for Well Those Guys Down In Receivables Or Whatever Don't Put In Like We Do. Remote working getting more common if anything removed some of the stress from the acting, so that's another benefit of it!
posted by Drastic at 9:10 AM on June 2 [13 favorites]


I VASTLY prefer getting ahold of my boss over Zoom or Slack to trying to track her down in person in the office when she may be in a meeting somewhere else. I can get stuff answered at least 80% of the time pretty quickly now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:11 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]


Windbox, GET OUTTA MY HEAD I swear I can't agree enough.

I hope this will be my last job and my mantra now is to just get through each day til I don't have to do it anymore and retirement awaits. Being able to WFH makes the stressful bits better and gives me the juice to get through the "OMG THIS FUCKING GUY" moments as they come.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:11 AM on June 2


I really like working from home in most ways. But I started a new job 6 months ago and I still feel like I'm working on a remote island outpost, sending emails out across the ocean to a bunch of strangers on the mainland.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:11 AM on June 2 [17 favorites]


I have said this before - "return to the office" has nothing to do with efficiency - it is all about propping up investments in commercial real-estate.

has had the experience of an employer trumpeting a new office, it's going to be so amazing!

I am essentially a "perma-subcontractor" and have been for most of my career - at one client, for 18 months, they constantly were trumpeting the wonderfulness of the new office...

The Monday after the "big move" finally arrived... Headed into the new location, and... there was a huge group of people milling around outside - all of the other subcontractors... Apparently in all the planning, no one had taken into account that the subcontractor security badges would need to work with building access in the new location.

I turned around and headed home - sent my agency an email... It was all sorted - eventually... The new digs? Not so great - the kitchen and lunchroom facilities were even worse than before...
posted by rozcakj at 9:14 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


Back in my last job, about a decade ago, we went from a 5 person group in a cool Seattle Pioneer Square loft, then we got bought out by a company in Tennessee. The engineer guy moved there, the accountant and intern-like guy were let go, and the President and I moved to a shithole office over in Bellevue. The President started spending a week in TN and then a week in WA. And then he quit...

The company really didn't want to pay my rent, but I maintained that I had no space in my house for all the computers and equipment I needed. So for about 5 years I worked alone in an office about 7 minutes away from my house. All the benefits of WFH, without it having to be in my home. It was pretty great.
posted by Windopaene at 9:15 AM on June 2 [23 favorites]


Fairly certain that people most likely to resent not being able to interrupt others in real time to "get decisions made right! now!" are the exact kind of people who everyone else is extremely glad are not able to interrupt them in real time so they can concentrate and get some fucking work done.

They're probably also mediocre white men, but that's not as certain.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:16 AM on June 2 [62 favorites]


And, I suspect that it is easier to sustain some kinds of inequalities (like only inviting men to the meetings where things get decided) when it is all virtual and no one can see that the conference room is yet again 100% dudes.

As a counterpoint (I have no idea of the validity of this "counterpoint" just saying hey here's an alternative), some folks are suggesting that the gender disparity in WFH preference (women more likely to want to WFH, men more likely to want to go back to the office) will mean that "the office" becomes even more fully male-dominated and that will result in even greater disparities in promotion and pay.

[which, tbh, kinda reads to me as a bit of astroturfing in favor of getting everyone back into the office, but on the other hand maybe they do have something of a point in there somewhere that actually sort of works with your point, and the linked article isn't the only place I've been seeing this but I'd rather link to BBC than, say, Bloomberg or whatever.]
posted by aramaic at 9:17 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]


The big learning point this year has been that having everyone work remotely is a very very different thing from having some people work remotely.
We used to have a handful of remote workers and all the communication issues that caused just disappeared once everyone was remote.
posted by Lanark at 9:19 AM on June 2 [36 favorites]


I started a new job 6 months ago and I still feel like I'm working on a remote island outpost, sending emails out across the ocean to a bunch of strangers on the mainland.

You're not alone. So to speak.

There are a number of benefits to WFH, says the woman still in her PJs without her hair brushed. But I really resent having to lease a chunk of my small apartment to my employer for free, pay the day a/c bills for them, etc., and I'm surprised more people don't. I don't think that in the end the majority of workers will benefit from a move to pawn off all the costs of office space and supply maintenance on them.
posted by praemunire at 9:20 AM on June 2 [38 favorites]


There's a market opportunity here: VR Tours for Investors. The CXO straps the goggles to the investors heads -- they see an infinite plain of happy developers working tirelessly. No more need for the ten-second basement tour. The workers can continue sitting at home in their underwear and muttering profanity.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:21 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


> My ex-manager was supposed to run a team but I saw her schedule several times and she was literally double and triple booked in meetings for like 10 hours a day, 5+ days a week. Consequently she never got to meet with/talk to her team. I think I got to talk to her once in a year before I got moved to a different team.

A lot of the managers here are aggressively uninterested (to a point where they get annoyed if you bring anything about day-to-day operations to their attention) in knowing anything about their employees, what they actually do or how they do it because if they actually did so they might wind up bearing some responsibility for problems which arise, and if and when problems do arise this knowledge could deprive them of the opportunity to heap all of the blame on the employee.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:21 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


Before the pandemic hit, my wife's biggest complaint about being in the office was she couldn't get any of her real job done because she spent so much time putting-out other fires and dealing with emergencies. So, she ended up bringing her work home and spending evening getting caught up on her actual work.

She's been working from home since the pandemic hit. Now, she's working seemingly 24/7, still putting out fires and dealing with emergencies, and damned near everything else. There's also no longer any semblance of "office hours." Her boss and co-workers are constantly calling/zooming/facetiming/texting without regard to time of day. So, she still can't get her actual work done during what is now facetiously called "work hours" and now pretty much has to spend all her waking hours glued to her laptop.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:23 AM on June 2 [19 favorites]


Fairly certain that people most likely to resent not being able to interrupt others in real time to "get decisions made right! now!"

In my experience this was just replaced with Slack which is more stressful because multiple people can Slack you at once whereas in the office 3 people would be less likely to descend on you at the same minute and demand answers to unrelated questions. Plus in Slack there are DMs AND channels to keep up with. And you can’t hide in the bathroom.
posted by rogerroger at 9:25 AM on June 2 [8 favorites]


Did anything actually get done at these meetings? Almost never, but subsequent meetings were duly scheduled.

Paul Graham's - "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule" is a great little essay on this topic.
posted by rozcakj at 9:26 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


One of the serious potential downsides of WFH is the very absolute need to be comfortable setting and enforcing boundaries between job and life, for sure. And that is likewise very dependent on personality and more than a bit of privilege, as at more extreme cases it can literally be a matter of being willing and able to say "my day ends at This Time, I will only be back online tomorrow at That Time" with a subtext of "fire me if that's a problem."

A lot of people are in no position to be able to do that, and perhaps even more feel they can't even if they could. Some of the management anxiety over trends of people saying "okay, I quit" if pushed too hard about back to the office or else, and actually calling the ultimatum, is that also a fair amount of those kinds of ultimatums can't really afford to be called if enough people do so. (And this is of course veering very quickly into why so much time and energy has gone into the cultural project of poisoning unions and collective action.)
posted by Drastic at 9:32 AM on June 2 [14 favorites]


FWIW, the article's evidence of a mass WFH resignation movement is mostly polls and anecdotes. I'll be skeptical until it shows up in national job data. (And it might!)

I think hybrid work schedules are a good idea and "company culture" is BS, but the isolation of 100% WFH is not good for us. It makes us lonely and crazy and easier marks for stuff like QAnon, which exploded in popularity during the pandemic.

My last two jobs have been 100% remote. Between that and locking down alone in a new city, my social skills are so atrophied that I can't even talk to MYSELF without stuttering awkwardly. If I had an office to return to, I would, if only to regularly get out of the damn house (which, btw, is boiling hot as I type this because highs are in the 90s this week and I don't have A/C).

I've had long stretches of un-/under-employment since I turned 40, even though I'm quite good at what I do. If a huge segment of workers DO decide to never return to an office, then the possible upside is maybe I'll have an edge in future interviews because I'm willing to work on-site...
posted by frogstar42 at 9:34 AM on June 2 [8 favorites]


One of the weird disconnects is that so many companies in the early days of the pandemic made it a point of pride to talk about how easy and seamless their transition to remote office was. [ . . . ] Were they lying then or now?

This is easy. They were lying then. They didn't have any options, and pretending it was all great meant maybe slightly better morale for employees reeling from a fargin' pandemic. But also that they could pat themselves on the back, which they love doing. (This to the power of N for consultants who write crap on LinkedIn.)

Obviously not all jobs are the same. But I had a discussion with a manager who freely said, yeah, I lied at the all-hands meeting, but what was I supposed to say? And in my industry I know about some of the productivity metrics that had some other companies (not mine) move people back in the office.

I will say (again with the proviso that it varies by field) that people are cynical about why managers want you in the office but maybe not cynical enough about why they are fine if you work from home. Learning the subtelties of my kind of job are tough--you can easily do enough to get fired without learning enough to really advance. I feel like younger people in this position who work from home for a decade are at risk giving themselves second rate employee status without realizing they've done it.

But I'm old and actually looking forward to being able to go in the office one or two days a week, so take all this for what it's worth.
posted by mark k at 9:36 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


As someone who's autistic and has severe PTSD, working from home has provided me some accommodations that I would never have known to even ask for in the office, and it's generally been a net positive. I think my team is moving to a flex schedule of 2 days in the office and the rest working from home; I don't think I can go back in full-time and my coworkers feel the same. We're in biotech, so there's potentially a lot of leverage we can wield.
posted by zenzicube at 9:36 AM on June 2 [15 favorites]


In my particular line of office work, over the years, orgs have repeatedly cut positions that were designated "receptionist" and instead "distributed" receptionist duties across 2-3 people who sat in the main lobby but whose work was not primarily reception. Like imagine they cut Pam's job in the office and decided Jim and Dwight would just handle walk-ins since they're closest to the door.

So now this past year we all learned that Jim and Dwight can do 90% of their job from home, but they want us back, 40 hours a week, to do Pam's job. It will be interesting.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:38 AM on June 2 [20 favorites]


To drive the analogy home, let us say it would more likely have been Phyllis and Karen who "just happened" to get reassigned to reception.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:40 AM on June 2 [17 favorites]


Going to the office one or two days a week, especially if there's an important in-person meeting or something, sounds fine and fair. Forcing people to sit in big open office germ cesspools projecting "I Love And Care About My Job But Also Is It Friday Yet LOL" vibes for 9-10 hours a day five days a week is torturous.
posted by windbox at 9:42 AM on June 2 [80 favorites]


windbox, I wish to subscribe to your newsletter
posted by skewed at 9:46 AM on June 2 [39 favorites]


Unrelatedly tho, I hope people also keep pushing that it's a LOT better for climate change if millions of cars aren't on the road, or even for two days a week instead of five.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:48 AM on June 2 [25 favorites]


The big learning point this year has been that having everyone work remotely is a very very different thing from having some people work remotely.
We used to have a handful of remote workers and all the communication issues that caused just disappeared once everyone was remote.


I already knew this from my past experience with mixed teams vs. fully remote teams, and I had been trumpeting it for awhile and then the pandemic happened and I was fully, fully vindicated.

I think my agency will probably go to some kind of hybrid model where some people are in the office and some are remote and some are a mix, but hopefully they will learn the lesson of fully remote meetings versus mixed in-person / on-phone meetings and not ever try to do that. As a person who lives alone and gets depressed, it would be better for me if I could go back into the office most of the time, but if my whole team ends up working from home, there won't be a lot of value-add for what is a fairly long commute.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:49 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


I miss the ritual of going to work, but I'd be okay having a 3/2 split between home and office.

It is my grandest hope that people who detest working in the presence of others get their dream jobs of working comfortably from home forever. That way, I won't feel like I'm an ogre who forces societal expectations on an unwilling soul by accidentally making eye contact as we pass in the hall.
posted by kimberussell at 9:53 AM on June 2 [17 favorites]


At the places I've worked, before the pandemic only managers were allowed to work from home. It was a perk that came with their status (apparently they're more trustworthy than the peons). It's pretty rich that they're now trying to claim that working from home reduces productivity, when they've been doing it all along.

That said, my current workplace has wholly embraced working from home. It's not out of the goodness of the C-suite's hearts. WFH is cheaper, more attractive to workers, and pairs nicely with their move to outsource and automate everyone and everything.

Walking to another cube or office is just faster than email, or Zoom or texting. PERIOD.
I mean yeah, probably for you. But it's not faster for the people who have to deal with these interruptions. IMs allow me to get back to people when I have time. I get to have a choice now. I do not miss That One Guy who would send me an email and then immediately walk over to my desk to pester me about it.
posted by Stoof at 9:55 AM on June 2 [32 favorites]


I think hybrid work schedules are a good idea and "company culture" is BS, but the isolation of 100% WFH is not good for us. It makes us lonely and crazy and easier marks for stuff like QAnon, which exploded in popularity during the pandemic.

There is the possibility of having a social life out of work and not just whoever you're crammed together with for 8 hours a day. WFH actually makes socializing with people who align with your interests and personality easier but that takes some effort.

During my last WFH stint I lived in downtown San Diego and had bars and coffee shops and art galleries I went to. I live in the bay area now and pre pandemic I had the chance to catch up with people I was mostly too exhausted to see before because my social battery had been spent. On weekends I have several groups of friends who all have different interests and hobbies. Luthiers, hobby farmers, fiber artists, cooks, etc. None of these people are people I'd ever have met working in an office.

Even when working I worked in ad hoc WFH groups on occasion with people in entirely different careers from myself. It was great and so much better than being stuck in a room with a bunch of engineers all day. Seeing how people like graphic designers worked informed my own work in ways that still impact how I approach work 12 years later.

The pandemic gave us the chance to change social structures and figure out new norms apart from the toxic work balance that we've all been indoctrinated with. It's sad to see society try to flock back towards what was making everyone sick. We had the chance to rethink how schools could operate. Do we really need kids sitting still in classrooms for 6-8 hours a day or is 2 hours of that active learning and the rest is day care. In temperate areas could we have set up something effectively outdoors to take care of the learning and day care aspects?

I acknowledge that the old ways work for A LOT of people, but to not take a once in a century chance to reimagine things like work life balance and how we take care of children as a society is really sad and disappointing.
posted by mikesch at 9:57 AM on June 2 [24 favorites]


the best part for me was after we came out of the first hard lockdown (around this time last year) and the managers mostly went back in, and we held our regular department meetings ... on Teams. So we were all in our open space and having a meeting with each other online, so as to avoid all gathering in the meeting room as in the before times because of social distancing. ridonkulous.
posted by chavenet at 9:58 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


Blaming QAnon on people working from home is hilarious if you read the numerous accounts of "everyone at my work is a Q believer and now they're firing me for getting the vaccine," etc., on Qult_Headquarters, QAnonCasualties, etc.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:02 AM on June 2 [8 favorites]


(Just finished lunch and put in a load of laundry before I sat down to read this. WFH w00t!)

There are huge class differences here, oh yes -- but also within white collar work, there will be very strange gaps opening up if WFH becomes common but unevenly distributed. That is, some organizations and some workers and some industries are well-suited to WFH -- but many aren't.

Young people and new hires will lack the social bonds that tie together distributed teams. People whose jobs require them to be in-person will have riskier lives: e.g., they commute! They congregate! People who live in small homes won't have the dedicated space required by certain jobs. People who don't have access to broadband will be edged out.

I just worry so much that our system isn't flexible enough to make it through this transitional period.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:02 AM on June 2 [11 favorites]


I don't think we can or should reduce working remotely, or working from e.g. an office building, to one 'thing.'

I appreciate the range of perspectives here, for example. With my situation, I can see a blended model being a good thing. I certainly don't see a return (partial or otherwise) to the office as simply a legitimization of investment in real estate.

Some of the impacts from the forced move to work remotely have only started to materialize in recent months, for some of my team members. In the longer term, I'm not sure we can foresee all the ramifications of what we are experiencing now. I have been finding the workplace silo question to be interesting: remote work is reducing the silo effect in some ways, and contributing to the effect in others. My point is: if remote work is solving All Your Problems, great for you. It's a complicated situation and I doubt any limited range of response will adequately capture this phenomenon for all of us.
posted by elkevelvet at 10:04 AM on June 2 [17 favorites]


But I really resent having to lease a chunk of my small apartment to my employer for free, pay the day a/c bills for them, etc., and I'm surprised more people don't.

Oh, I absolutely do resent it. It's just that I resent having to spend time dressing up and commuting, for the "privilege" of working in a noisy open-plan office, even more.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:24 AM on June 2 [50 favorites]


I have worked remotely at my job since I started 4 years ago. Almost everyone was remote, we only got an actual office 3 years ago, which we have (obviously) since closed, that about 1/3 of the employees went to.

We stay really engaged with each other through 15 minute weekly all-hands meetings where anyone can put themselves on the agenda to share things. We do monthly activities, like bingo, or online virtual museum tours. Theres actually been a lot more options for fun stuff like this since the pandemic hit and people started going to VR stuff more.

They send bottles of wine and Doordash giftcards so we can all have dinner and drinks via video chat in whatever groups we want (or not, everyone gets those regardless of participation.

You can absolutely maintain company culture without an office. That's just an excuse by bad management who needs to see butts in seats and for whom 'culture' means a bunch of people pretending they are constantly busy for 8 hours a day.
posted by ananci at 10:26 AM on June 2 [15 favorites]


Hey, I'm "that guy" from upthread responding to some (sort of snide) comments about my post.

Sure, you could say it's "rude" to walk to someone's office or cube, thereby disrupting their workflow. Sure, you could say responding to an IM is "just as efficient" as having a brief face to face with another worker or boss.

But the bottom line of my post was that the BRUNT of the changes, last minute fixes and add-on work invariably fell on the folks at the office. Especially in a world where PDFs and same-day turnaround has become the norm.

I feel like the responses to my post here are similar to the defense you hear from owners of SUVs and pickup trucks when the issue is "You generally don't need to be driving a small truck around for quick errands in the city." Some SUV/truck owners will respond with a variation on "Well, I regularly have to haul 700 lbs of coal in my truck, so it's bullshit that SUVs aren't necessary!"

Congratulations! You are among the small percentage of truck/SUV owners who genuinely NEED to drive a small truck around the city!

The fact is—in the experiences I had in my situation—that the brunt of the work and much of the mundane, last minute details DID get dumped on the people who were in the office. PERIOD.

Getting an IM can many times be as effective as talking face to face—except when it isn't. Not surprisingly at all, many people working from home are NOT in front of their computers all day (as evidenced from the stories posted in this thread about folks doing laundry while working, doing dishes, etc posted here).

In my experience, the remote workers are simply held to a different standard and often got out of a lot of the mundane quick-solve problems that inevitably came up every single day. Shit has to get out the door, often the same day. Waiting even 20+ minutes for a remote worker to read an IM/email, respond, then get that response processed and resolved, etc just adds up, over and over and over.

I also said that I would love to see MORE WFH solutions. I just have not personally seen any case where remote working was as efficient as a dedicated team in a single location. And I freelanced for years in various different companies which all had a mix of WFH and in-office personnel.

Certainly—some tasks do not need to be done in an office. Of course this is true! And I don't want to see a world where we are all forced to work in person in an office. But I just do not buy that an all-remote team is as efficient as a team working in the same physical location. In a Perfect World this would work. Advertising is not a perfect world.

I am not against working remotely. I'm simply saying that in practice it's not always the awesome system that some here are touting. Maybe you work in a place where it is an awesome system. I've never worked in a place where it is an awesome system, and I've worked in many, many different companies—from mega-huge corps to small offices.
posted by SoberHighland at 10:27 AM on June 2 [17 favorites]


Not surprisingly at all, many people working from home are NOT in front of their computers all day (as evidenced from the stories posted in this thread about folks doing laundry while working, doing dishes, etc posted here).

Not surprisingly at all, many people working in the office are NOT in front of their computers all day (as evidenced by the existence of meetings, the fact that offices have breakrooms, the continued financial success of Starbucks, etc).
posted by jacquilynne at 10:30 AM on June 2 [51 favorites]


Clearly everyone will have different experiences of remote work, but I don’t know how you go from “I’ve always had bad experiences with remote workers” to “everyone else in this thread who’s had good experiences is just one of the ‘small percentage’”.

Incidentally, I think if a company is repeatedly running into situations where not getting an answer from a worker within 20 minutes is causing problems, it’s a badly-run company.
posted by adrianhon at 10:31 AM on June 2 [26 favorites]


Soberhighland - I sure know the feeling you are talking about, but I wonder how much of that is just bias. When you see other people working, you sure think they are working harder than the people at home. But, in the office, you also see the people in the break room and bathroom and think it's okay. It's a weird system that's been reinforced with us a lot, and I think the pandemic has shown that it's not true. Potentially, when there are problems it's easy to blame the people that aren't around!

I'm one of the people that don't have the highest productivity record. You probably need me to fix something about my work. But, that is true in the office or at home.

I think you're in a unique situation where a certain group of people were in the office and others at home. The experience most of us have had in the last year is that EVERYONE is at home, and productivity has increased, and business has been great. There's not really any strong reason to change the status quo.
posted by bbqturtle at 10:33 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]


it’s a badly-run company

Welcome to 21st century USA!
posted by SoberHighland at 10:34 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I spend four hours every day commuting. My first two hours of work every day earn the pretax money that pays for the commute. At least half of what I do can only be done in the office, but the other half can be done remotely from anywhere. My boss seems to be of the opinion, however, that work isn't getting done unless he can see it getting done.

I was actually managing to save some money (by which I mean, pay down my debts) during the lockdown. In the coming months I don't know what's going to happen.

My dream of being eligible for Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness in December of 2024 precludes me from looking for a new job at anything other than full-time work at a non-profit, which I've been doing, with no luck. I'm remembering more every day my feeling from last year that I'm going to die on the train and my body will be found some hours later at the yards.
posted by Devoidoid at 10:37 AM on June 2 [16 favorites]


I'll bow out after this. But I wanted to add (too late to edit) that not all remote workers were/are slackers. Many did great work. My point is that the last minute stuff and inevitable final tweaks and changes almost always fell on the in-person folks.
posted by SoberHighland at 10:38 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


But the bottom line of my post was that the BRUNT of the changes, last minute fixes and add-on work invariably fell on the folks at the office. Especially in a world where PDFs and same-day turnaround has become the norm.

There are always cases where things need to get turned around quickly and an in person interaction is great for that. We occasionally have quick meetings around emergency work with little notice. You just invite who you need to an in person Teams/Zoom/whatever call. It's faster than getting on an elevator and going from the 11th floor to the 13th in most office buildings.

If these quick last minute things are a constant for a workplace than that's more of an indication that something's deeply broken about management, the company, the workplace, something. If you're constantly rushing to get stuff out the door at the end of the day, something's not being prioritized well and you're burning people and not delivering your best work, remote work be damned.

There are cases where this is the norm, quick turnaround to demanding clients, etc. I get it. But failure to deal with this isn't a problem with remote work. You have problems that remote work is shining a spotlight on.
posted by mikesch at 10:39 AM on June 2 [19 favorites]


My company has had trouble being attractive to the in-demand hires they want, and were still dragging their feet on any work from home policy whatsoever. If your boss was flexible, you could absolutely do it here and there to be home for the plumber or whatever, but not on a regular basis. Despite the vast majority of our work not being client facing (and when it is, it's going out to a site, not an office).

But after a year of pandemic, they are letting us do a blended model. Every single person on my team (17 ppl) has opted for the max number of WFH days a week (2).

I have three people on my team that were hired in the last year that I have had to train remotely, and we did ok, but that kind of sucks. I am happy to be able to meet them in person finally and hang out a little.
posted by emjaybee at 10:42 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


I'm about 12 years from retirement and have worked in some sort of not-home-location since I was 15 and I am honestly just done with it all. Right before the pandemic I negotiated a new job with my employer and the chance to work 3/5 days frome home anyways. The pandemic hit and I have not been back to the office for 15 months and have worked just as hard from home, if not harder helping my org adapt to a pandemic world. I have zero desire to go back to commuting, but I also had an insane 4-hour per day commute because the job was worth it to me and I was not interested in moving as I have 3 years left on my mortgage.

I feel like I am living the dream finally. I don't hate my job and I don't have to go anywhere to do it. I'm hoping I can stay 100% remote until I retire, and I will stay at this job until then if they let me stay home. Honestly, if they make me come back, I might start poking around for something 100% remote. I love being home and have a system that works. The old normal was soul-draining in so many ways. Why would I want to go back to that.
posted by archimago at 10:43 AM on June 2 [16 favorites]


Things Management Cares About that are better in the office (For them):
1. They can bring around donuts for cheap employee happiness.
2. Having full team meetings that everyone is forced to go to, because if you stay at your desk everyone looks at you funny.
3. Impromptu Meetings with their bosses
4. Being seen by higher ups
5. Lunch meetings with coworkers and managers
6. Happy Hours after work
7. Awkward breakroom conversations
8. Seeing people working late
9. Those rare brainstorming meetings where you write on sticky notes and put up all the ideas (even bad ones)
10. Seeing how bright, professional, and hard working everyone is
11. They don't have do deal with their many kids
12. More opportunities for employees to suck up and make impressions and "network"

Things that managers care about that are better in WFH:
1. People getting actual work done (hard to measure)
2. They can work from anywhere they want (but they still dress professionally for some reason)
3. They get to have more zoom meetings where they can talk about employee engagement survey results and have employees suck up and talk about how they agree

Things managers hate about work from home
1. Employees can get all their work done in 2 hours and everyone knows it but now they can do laundry for the other 6 hours while wiggling their mouse every 15 minutes, but that doesn't "feel right"
2. Nobody joins their meetings or they are on mute all the time
3. Their kids bother them
4. Their job feels way more redundant
posted by bbqturtle at 10:44 AM on June 2 [37 favorites]


I did my first day back yesterday.

I am taking off next week. Then I'm putting in my notice. This is not a joke, it is not hyperbole, I will (hopefully) be selecting and applying for a bootcamp during the next week to do data or coding. I will not be back in that office for long if ever again.

I cannot. CANNOT. CANNOT CANNOT CANNOT CANNOT state enough that I will not be working in that office again. My brain has seen the light, and regardless of all the personal reasons why that particular office repels me, I will be remote mostly in whatever I do going forward.

Anyway, I'm at peace for the first time in so long. Also terrified. But I'm accepting that my ADHD/anxiety/prone to depression brain can't do the forced open office, nonstop being looked at, huge overhead lights, POP MUSIC ON THE RADIO office life anymore.

So yeah. Again, I am not exaggerating. Too bad for my company, I guess since I had the most successful professional 14 months of my life and they got a bunch of new business that I'm doing. They'll keep that, but I'm sure it'll be rough sailing for awhile. They wouldn't negotiate with me on remote-ness.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:47 AM on June 2 [77 favorites]


1. Employees can get all their work done in 2 hours and everyone knows it but now they can do laundry for the other 6 hours while wiggling their mouse every 15 minutes, but that doesn't "feel right"

Everyone who uses Microsoft Teams, I advise you to look up caffeine.exe
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:48 AM on June 2 [22 favorites]


Capitalism fuckin’ sucks

Management exists in all of the alternatives.


Also to this, which I've been thinking about a lot - yeah, obviously, management exists in all economies but the point is they would have *less power* to decide things like "everyone has to come back to the office for no reason other than I say so". I mean just imagine if more workplaces were democratically run. I bet they'd decide all kinds of cool shit like, hey you know what, we really only need to be open for 35 hours a week, also people can work from home if they want, also we should have 6 months of parental leave, also the CEO isn't allowed to make more than 10x the lowest paid employee. Not all companies would be like this, but man what a world it would be if they knew they had to compete with more and more democratically-run co-ops over not just pay/perks/stupid ping pong tables and pizza in the office gifted upon their peons by management, but "how much of your non-working life do you get to actually keep for yourself AND get paid enough to survive with dignity" would be a serious thing that is negotiated and accepted in society.

So yeah capitalism sucks and yeah management would still exist but it all wouldn't suck AS MUCH if we just did away with a little more capitalism and sprinkled in just a little more "democracy in the workplace" as the democratic socialists say. Not to be all marxist about it, but I truly don't think the increased risks of isolation and alienation that people are discussing here comes from not being able to chit-chat with coworkers at the coffee machine; I think it comes from being totally divorced from having any kind of stake in their workplace in any capacity at all and being forced by tyrannical bosses to do dumb shit that makes no sense...like having to go back to the office if you really don't have to!

One can dream!
posted by windbox at 10:50 AM on June 2 [35 favorites]


I've worked remotely for over ten years, I'm also a female parent, and I'm not going to lie: I am delighted that one of the end results of this past year is that I don't have to deal with people thinking that my for-real full-time job is actually some sort of dressed up self-esteem embellishment. Because wow, was that getting old.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:54 AM on June 2 [25 favorites]


Everyone who uses Microsoft Teams, I advise you to look up caffeine.exe

thank you for changing my life.
posted by bbqturtle at 10:55 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]


If your workplace culture and return on investment depends on cloistering you and your employees in one physical location, you have a toxic culture.
posted by parmanparman at 10:57 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


I am reading the variety of opinions about remote work in here and feel like I should crack the joke that "In conclusion, remote work is a land of contrasts."

And the serious note - look, everyone is different, every job is different. Remote work will not suit everyone and it will not suit every job, but it absolutely should be offered as an option more frequently than it currently is. It's not an option I would use at this particular job, but that is only true of the person who is me and the job that is this. (I'd have totally been down with working from home at any one of my other jobs I've had over the years.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:58 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


everyone is different, every job is different

Yup. Teaching college, I would rather spend eternity eating shards of broken glass than spend one more hour talking to a matrix of students' names on my laptop screen, at least without some new very good reason to be doing so.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:01 AM on June 2 [21 favorites]


I work for a big hospital with ongoing space issues, so my employer is happy to let us keep working a 3/2 split so they can double us up in one office and free up an office for the medical providers who really do have to be there every day. They have the opposite situation to workplaces with expensive leases they can't get out of so they've acted quite differently.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:02 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Everyone who uses Microsoft Teams, I advise you to look up caffeine.exe

This would get flagged by my company software. Putting something that moves, like a watch with a second hand, under the sensor of an optical mouse, does the trick as well.
posted by MrGuilt at 11:02 AM on June 2 [57 favorites]


Everyone who uses Microsoft Teams, I advise you to look up caffeine.exe

Blocked (even downloading on another machine, then bring onto the work machine)

Also blocked... executing PowerShell/VBS script that loops and sends the same virtual keystrokes that caffeine does...

Am now looking for one of these...
posted by rozcakj at 11:08 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I do wish excutive types would work from home more often rather than continuing to occupy the ridiculously expansive and environmentally offensive offices they favour.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:09 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


I'm sure your IT has thought of this, but could you email the file to your personal email, and download it there? If that's not allowed, can you change the filetype to a txt file then rename it to an exe? If that's not allowed, can you install it on a second PC and login to teams through that?
posted by bbqturtle at 11:10 AM on June 2


This would get flagged by my company software. Putting something that moves, like a watch with a second hand, under the sensor of an optical mouse, does the trick as well.

You can also buy a hardware mouse jiggler that plugs into a USB drive. Most of them have on/off switches. Computer just thinks it's a mouse.

I am impressed by your solution though
posted by bradbane at 11:15 AM on June 2 [14 favorites]


I'm sure your IT has thought of this... if they haven't they aren't much of an IT dept!
Even if you manage it technically, circumventing security requirements and installing 3rd party software on a work computer is really not advisable.
posted by Lanark at 11:19 AM on June 2 [13 favorites]


I dunno, if you're not in something actually-life-and-death like heart surgery, it seems to me like constantly having to get something done in 20 minutes or less (Unless it's Domino's or something) by running to someone's cube and bugging them is emblematic of poor project management and planning and/or poor management and/or poor team communication. I also carry a phone for actual-life-and-death emergencies if I'm not answering IMs/email/Zoom fast enough.

I've worked in the kind of office where you had to email someone (for documentation so they couldn't say they hadn't seen it), then go chase them down to make them read it (because they would never actually read it), but I think that kind of company is poorly run and badly managed, not JUST THE WAY IT IS, BUDDY. (And that company in particular is out of business).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:20 AM on June 2 [11 favorites]


Everyone who uses Microsoft Teams, I advise you to look up caffeine.exe

This would get flagged by my company software.


Last time I looked, most companies tended to thwart Caffeine (and programs like it) using Windows Group Policy. That was generally configured to refresh itself only every N minutes, and it was possible to configure a task scheduler to disable/reenable a program in sync with the anticipated Group Policy refresh time. Having (happily) not worked in a Windows Group Policy environment for a while now, sadly I can't remember exactly how this was done.

You may of course also have had some global security policy running, checking for the installation of unauthorized programs, in which case the way forward was to legitimately acquire permissions to use the USB port (e.g. a mobile developer might require it to flash devices), and then stick your program onto a thumb drive, mounting and dismounting it accordingly; as the thumb drive itself is read-only, the security gate shouldn't complain.

(Geeks will understand; but, yes, it is probably much simpler to just strap a mouse to your ankle and wiggle your foot all day.)
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:21 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Golly, reading this thread, I muse that an awful lot of people loathe their work and their coworkers. I loved my job and loved helping my college students become classroom teachers, and my university job never involved actually visiting the university--I moved from elementary school to elementary school part of the week, and corresponded with students about their placements and their projects during the reast of the week. But at the height of the pandemic neither the children nor my college students could be in school in person, not safely. We figured it out as we went (and my students really appreciated my flexibility and gave me good evaluations) but it just wasn't real.
posted by Peach at 11:24 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]


I think a lot more companies are going to be subscribing to co-working spaces. There's going to be a lot more of them, for one thing, as major employers abandon expensive real estate. And some people are going to need an office -- they have small children at home, or noisy roommates, or for whatever reason working from home is sub-optimal. But it's a lot cheaper to subscribe to a handful of co-working spaces around the local area so employees who want/need to can go five minutes from home and have high-speed internet and a door that closes, instead of maintaining big buildings and forcing everyone to commute to a central location.

(Speaking of which, I have long thought that employers should have to find out what percentage of their workforce commutes for more than 30 minutes, and if it's more than 25%, have to count commute time above 30 minutes as work time. They can decide if they want to increase salaries so people can afford to live closer, or lose work hours, or support remote work.)

I've worked a lot of different kinds of jobs, and part of what the pandemic has made clear is that a lot of employers don't have any idea what kinds of jobs their workers do, and so model them all on 8-hour factory floor shifts and insist everyone be busy all the time. ("If there's time to lean, there's time to clean!") But some jobs are task-focused -- you need to get X done by the end of the day, week, or month, and there's no point to making you sit in the office staring at the wall once the task is done. Others are volume-focused -- in any system with hourly billing, you will always be encouraged to increase your hours well past the point of negative productivity (because negative productivity is actually just EXTRA BILLING! for all those mistakes you get to fix!).

But a lot of white-collar jobs are essentially on-call, or some combination of routine tasks and on-call. And the most pernicious part of work culture is insisting that if we need a "communications specialist," he needs to be working 8 hours a day, every day, instead of recognizing that some days he may finish early or not even have any work at all, and in the leadup to the annual meeting, he may be working overtime every day. Like, just let him chill when there's no work for him to do or the pace is slow, don't pile it all on so he has enough fake-work to fill it.

The best jobs I've had always said "You have to be here in case X happens, but once you've completed the routine daily tasks, you can just read a book until X happens." The worst say, "Since we are paying you to sit here for 8 hours in case X happens, we are going to give you a shit-ton of meaningless paperwork to do." I feel like remote work is exposing the weaknesses in systems that don't understand their on-call people are on-call, and that have no idea how to evaluate people's productivity if they can't forced them to obviously work 8 hours a day.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:25 AM on June 2 [39 favorites]


Golly, reading this thread, I muse that an awful lot of people loathe their work and their coworkers.

"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar."
--Drew Carey
posted by MrGuilt at 11:31 AM on June 2 [51 favorites]


Really not looking forward to going back to the office and experiencing day-ruining, brain-paralyzing misophonia.
posted by delight at 11:32 AM on June 2 [15 favorites]


I have been home office based since long before the pandemic (I work two states over from my company headquarters so the daily commute would be a challenge). I do have to defend some of the folks arguing that there are at least *some* advantages of working in office though since I see them getting piled on a bit. As one example, my department has an opening right now for an entry level sales admin role. It wouldn’t have been impossible to hire for this role when we were entirely WFH, but it would be infinitely more difficult to get someone trained and up and running relying on Zoom and messaging apps, rather than having someone available to sit with them, around to answer questions immediately. The process can be condensed in a way that would be way more difficult if done remotely.
posted by The Gooch at 11:32 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I saw a TikTok of someone who tied their wireless mouse to the back end of their Roomba for the "jiggler".
I had two weeks of WFH when I was on post-travel quarantine. It was great, mostly the 5 minute commute. But about half of my job has to be done hands on (I can't repair a user's laptop remotely), so I haven't been out of the office since. I am happily supporting people remotely, and we're stepping back to a hybrid schedule this week. It's TBD if we stop there, or go full on back in the office at some point.
posted by msbutah at 11:32 AM on June 2


having a dedicated group of humans in one space able to talk and make quick decisions face to face is still better [FOR ME] most of the time than remote work- my bolded edits, ed.

I'm also gonna suggest that your productivity model is wrong if you have to go around interrupting colleagues all day to get your shit done. why not write a decent spec in the first place? someone is slacking.

office kayfabe
brilliant
posted by j_curiouser at 11:34 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]


The worst say, "Since we are paying you to sit here for 8 hours in case X happens, we are going to give you a shit-ton of meaningless paperwork to do."

And if you try to hit 100% capacity, you have no room to manoeuvre when the inevitable happens (blip, problems, another sick person, a change in business,etc.) That's been the Really Bad Trend over the last 20 years, IMO - the idea that time to think, plan, etc. is just A Waste.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:36 AM on June 2 [30 favorites]


I had a 90 minute meeting yesterday. Six people went into it.

It was to create a list of products, their ingredient, how to refer to them and what they protected against. Because after 6+ months our account person did not know these things. What proceeded to happen:

15 minutes of gossip.
5 minutes of her failing to open a spreadsheet.
30 minutes of me dictating all the products after I said "hey I can do this and send it back to you all" as I know the products.
A client brought in cookies shaped like cows and that was basically the end of the meeting as people just gossiped and talked for the remaining 40 minutes.

So yeah, I ended up filling out most of it this morning in about 10 minutes of Googling the few things I didn't know and sending it to everyone.

Anyway, I'm fine working from home, playing with my new kittens, cooking breakfast/lunch and taking a walk with my partner instead in less time than a day at the office would be.

Also, I'm fine with anyone who wants to work in an office. Go for it. Enjoy! I do better work remote. Extroverts seem to understand introverts a lot worse than the reverse and this seems like the same old thing.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:37 AM on June 2 [30 favorites]


Last Fall, during the height of Covid cases in my state, I had new neighbors move in next door. A family of three with a 7 year old, 5 year old, and a newborn. I don't know too much about them, but enough to know the mom has a job in the public schools and the dad is white collar working in healthcare tech (I think).

We chat a bit across the border of our properties, and I also have some insight into the fact that it seems like the dad is a good dad. He's able to get his older kid on the bus each morning, and is waiting for him every day when he gets home at 3 and they play a little basketball and then go inside.

During the work week, he gets to play with his kids outside. They have a trampoline, they play whiffleball, hang out, and while I might be projecting, it seems like the dad enjoys the hell out of every moment of it, he's kinda like a kid himself, rolling around, playacting, it's kind of heartwarming to see.

I don't know his working situation, but I wonder what will happen if suddenly he has to go back to a commute, and the kids have to adjust to the "traditional" life of having two working parents.

Looking at the ages of their kids, I realize they haven't had exposure to that world yet and I imagine it will come as a bit of a shock if he has to start commuting again.

Because my wife and I did that for the entirety of my son's schooling. I remember 10 years ago, I had a job that 50% of the time did *not* need to be done in the office (I was writing). I also remember fighting tooth and nail to be able to get one or two days of WFH. My commute could be torturous: on a good day it was 45 minutes (both ways), on a bad day it could easily be twice that. On days when I had to pick my son up from daycare, it was super stressful (and expensive) if I was late, then we would come home and if we were lucky, just maybe we had planned dinner beforehand.

After making convincing arguments that I was actually much more productive at home, there were ramifications as a co-worker started complaining because she couldn't understand why I was "allowed" to WFH (even though I quite literally never interacted with her and she had a different job role). After she kept up her complaints, my bosses asked me to start working in the office again because my two days of remote work a week was "affecting morale". I quit the next week.

So yeah, I can see why people with the privilege (and it is a privilege, make no mistake about it) to make the choice, would decide to quit rather than go back to the grind.

Yes, there are significant class issues that we need to acknowledge and try to address. Some people simply don't have the option, and that sucks. But for those workers whose work and life situations aligned well over the last year, this development should not be surprising to anyone who has actually experienced the life of the stressful, commute-heavy, two parent working family.
posted by jeremias at 11:42 AM on June 2 [22 favorites]


As a freelancer I'm reeeeaaaly looking forward to going back to work in the office coffeeshops
posted by gottabefunky at 11:50 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


I miss the ritual of going to work, but I'd be okay having a 3/2 split between home and office.

The problem I've seen is that everyone will want to be in the office on Tuesday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday. Will companies allow that, or force the workers to split up and choose different days? At that point you might as well all be remote again.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:54 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


I would bet that the office assigns which days you are going in and shuffles them about.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:58 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I think a lot more companies are going to be subscribing to co-working spaces.

I'm a little surprised more people here aren't running into security issues with this, as I would've thought it would be a serious concern for tech. I can't work in a shared space, or with someone else's wifi.
posted by praemunire at 11:59 AM on June 2 [4 favorites]


I would bet that the office assigns which days you are going in and shuffles them about.

Anyone with kids in school/daycare will be printing out their resume at the sight of that phrase.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:01 PM on June 2 [16 favorites]


Incidentally, I think if a company is repeatedly running into situations where not getting an answer from a worker within 20 minutes is causing problems, it’s a badly-run company.

I've yet to work anywhere where that wasn't a problem. I've worked for small startups, Fortune 100 corps, and things in-between, and I can't honestly say any of them, at the levels where the actual work gets done, were particularly well-run, or didn't constantly need answers immediately, especially in response to demands from higher-ups. That's just american business.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:07 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


We just got a survey asking who wanted to work in the office full or part time and, if the latter, what days people wanted to work. We were told we may not get our requested days, though in our case, the concern is more with the office being very crowded and not having room for everyone when putting desks further apart.

I'm sure different places will handle this in different ways - some very fairly, considering life circumstances, and others not so much.
posted by FencingGal at 12:08 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I was speaking to a friend over the weekend and he was telling me about how his employer, a large bank, initially said that people would be able to work from home indefinitely but have been walking back their statements. He much prefers working from home although he has found it hard to integrate into the team he's been temporarily assigned to because he's never met any of them. By working from home he gets to save the 1.5-2 hours of commuting every day and is able to pick his kids up from school instead of having to pay for after-school daycare. I don't think he'd quit his job if he had to go back to the office but now that he knows what could have been there'll definitely be some resentment.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:14 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


... can't honestly say any of them, at the levels where the actual work gets done, were particularly well-run, or didn't constantly need answers immediately, especially in response to demands from higher-ups. That's just american business.

Sick Systems: How To Keep Someone With You Forever is an old blog essay that's stuck with me for a long while. It's one of those getting at the heart of guiding principles like "the purpose of a system is what it does" and the much more recent "the cruelty is the point." Which is to say, american business being overwhelmingly incompetent and near-to-objectively badly-managed with maladaptive practices isn't an accident, or weird coincidence. It's deliberate.
Keep the crises rolling. Incompetence is a great way to do this: If the office system routinely works badly or the controlling partner routinely makes major mistakes, you're guaranteed ongoing crises....Regular crises perform two functions: They keep people too busy to think, and they provide intermittent reinforcement. After all, sometimes you win—and when you've mostly lost, a taste of success is addictive....

Chop up their time. Perpetually interrupt them with meetings, visits from supervisors, bells and whistles and time clocks and hourly deadlines...Make sure they have barely enough time to manage both the crisis of the moment and the task of the moment; and if you can't tire them out physically, drain them emotionally.
And so on; the whole thing is very pull-quoteable. And again, I'm very sure that a lot of the management and executive anxiety over greater levels of WFH is that it can interfere with some of those abusive strategies.
posted by Drastic at 12:25 PM on June 2 [38 favorites]


I manage two small teams in .edu IT. If we go back to the office part-time, my only reasons for doing so would be for periodic group work sessions -- so having everyone together for training or brain storming.

We have spent 15 months without scheduled presence and I don't see a need for it. *shrug*

That said, being in the office allowed me a nice, long lunch for walking downtown or shopping or whatever, and I do dearly miss that.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:28 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


"Here's an essay from our CEO about how the bestest employees are all clamoring to go back to the office and everyone else is a no-good slacker!" is toxic bullshit, but it's also true that working from home has downsides and isn't a good solution for everyone.

Employers need to be flexible and accommodate people and meet folks where they're at. That means letting people work from home or an office or a hybrid combination of the two. It means having redundancy in staffing so that people aren't expected to constantly function at 100% productivity and can actually put work aside when they're sick or need space, and people aren't constantly looking over their shoulder to figure out who's doing less than whom. It means paying anyone who is expected to work entirely from the office extra in order to compensate them for the risk and trouble, especially if they're at the lower end of the pay scale.

Some people are going to jump at the opportunity to spend more time at home with their kids. Others need quiet and the ability to separate work and home life. Some people need strict structure. Other people are more productive doing a bit of this and a bit of that throughout the day. Some people have dedicated offices at home with doors that close. Other people live in studio or one bedroom apartments with a partner, or with terrible roommates, or on a block with construction and bad smells, or in a neighborhood with street noise or low flying helicopters, or don't have a/c or decent heat at home. For some people, home is a sanctuary. For others, it isn't a safe place.

I have worked from home in the past, but my apartment isn't well set up for one person to work from home, let alone two. It's noisy and smelly and hot and cold and I have spent most of the past year working from a 6'x8' bedroom that is, as you might imagine, mostly bed. Given the opportunity, I'll probably go back into the office a few days a week. I can use the structure, exercise, and change of scenery, and there are definitely times when it would be easier or better to accomplish something in the office than on screen. There are difficult situations where it's easier to hash things out in person, share information horizontally, or ask someone senior a question in passing. There are also days where I feel like I can't deal with being around other people or ride the subway for hours and I have detail-oriented work to do and I just want to hide, and it honestly makes more sense for me to stay home. It's both.

The answer is to let people to have latitude insofar as it's humanly possible.

And in a situation where people in an office aren't getting the same consideration as people from working from home? The problem isn't that people at home are slacking off, it's that people in the office are being treated unreasonably. That's the part that's unfair and needs to stop.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:29 PM on June 2 [22 favorites]


Golly, reading this thread, I muse that an awful lot of people loathe their work and their coworkers.

I think a lot of people hate their work, for sure. Most people (including myself) work for money that we need, not for fun. It's hard to really _like_ that, IMO. If you actually have a job you would do even if you were financially independent, then thats different (and I even have coworkers who this is clearly true for --- they have no need of money but still work. I can't fathom it myself, but I can see it happening!).

Coworkers I think varies more --- some people dislike their specific coworkers, many more dislike the way companies/management handle them (for example --- when I had a private office in a previous job, I liked my coworkers much more than my pre-pandemic open office. It's like the difference between hanging out with a friend and living with them).


I can't honestly say any of them, at the levels where the actual work gets done, were particularly well-run, or didn't constantly need answers immediately, especially in response to demands from higher-ups. That's just american business.

Definitely not my experience across various companies, with one exception (a very poorly run startup that crashed and burned). Like most things, this is up to company culture and varies widely I think. Responding within 24 hours is what I'd consider normal at my current company, and I think thats reasonable.
posted by thefoxgod at 12:31 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


I VASTLY prefer getting ahold of my boss over Zoom or Slack to trying to track her down in person in the office when she may be in a meeting somewhere else. I can get stuff answered at least 80% of the time pretty quickly now.

+1. Not that this necessarily applies to my boss, but it's currently so much easier to get a hold of certain co-workers now that there's a far greater chance that they'll actually be at their computer instead of spending an hour or more at another cubicle or on another floor "going over work stuff" (i.e. chilling and gossiping with their co-workers).
posted by gtrwolf at 12:35 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


I would bet that the office assigns which days you are going in and shuffles them about.

I see someone is on the "fast-track" to management...
posted by rozcakj at 12:39 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


I want to say that I was in one of the darkest places I've been in yesterday, and this thread hearing from people who feel the way I do has helped me so much. Thank you, Metafilter. It was all worth it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:39 PM on June 2 [36 favorites]


My SO works from home. Actually has no choice. The company moved its headquarters from here to California. There is no longer anyplace to work from, but home. :D
posted by Splunge at 12:48 PM on June 2


Just a note, you can get a "mouse jiggler" pad for about $20 from AliExpress. Or a USB dongle that registers as a mouse and just sends random movements (it has a button so you can turn it off and use the regular mouse).

....
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:54 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


As mentioned above, three full weeks (24 hours a day/7 days a week) of my life is spent each year commuting to the office. Not to mention gas/wear on the car/etc. If they're gonna try to make me do that again they better have a damn good reason. If their reason is "that's the way we've always done it" they've obviously got no leg to stand on. My employer is looking into moving into a new building which is worse in every way (noisy open plan/14 floors up in a building connected to a hotel/no reserved parking/no private bathrooms). It just looks nicer to clients than the old building. So it's obvious they don't care about the employees. They're putting on a show.
posted by downtohisturtles at 12:58 PM on June 2 [10 favorites]


Pre pandemic worked with a a guy who commuted 2 hours one way. He did that for awhile and then only came in 2 days a week. But he also then worked nights and weekends. That's the kinda thing I wanted to NOT get into, sure I brought my laptop home every night when I had a commute but it was just in case bad weather prevented a drive in.

And then the pandemic and, well I save time not driving. I can actually get away for lunch. My industry is one that's impossible to shift overseas and our company had already opened an office 2 time zones away. It's a shame that it took a pandemic to make a shift.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 1:02 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


I've worked from home most of my career and certainly prefer it. One thing I've noticed, though, is that it's tough to have a mixed team. If three people are the office and you're remote, that's a VERY different environment than a fully remote or fully onsite team. It's easy to forget the remote person in ad hoc meetings, and even the slightest friction to bringing them into a conversation leaves them on the outside.

So generally, I've tried to maintain that if some people are remote, everyone should be remote, at least as much as possible. I have a feeling that will be another nail in the coffin of having offices -- why am I coming in to talk to someone who's remote anyway? So it's sort of a phase change rather than a slow gradient.
posted by condour75 at 1:06 PM on June 2 [13 favorites]


I muse that an awful lot of people loathe their work and their coworkers.

I distinguish strongly between the work itself, which I generally love, my coworkers whom I generally respect and admire, and the quagmire required by senior management on a daily basis. The hurry-up-and-wait, the artificial panics about nothing at all, the rigid rules for us made up by central agencies that want everything dropped into their quivering mouths pre-chewed, on a strict timetable and according to endless excel templates.

I'm fine with things to keep the lights on, and the regular accounting you have to do to keep the books straight. I'm not fine with gatekeeping, having to file all our paperwork as if they were legal briefs (actually, it's easier to file evidence sometimes), the immediate presumption of wrongdoing on our part whenever we ask to do something.

I loathe the largely useless "business theatre". I enjoy and appreciate my work.
posted by bonehead at 1:07 PM on June 2 [16 favorites]


I muse that an awful lot of people loathe their work and their coworkers.

The work is typically great - and all but a tiny percentage of coworkers are also great (everyone has potential to be great).

But... typically I hate... management, middle-management, executive management, etc. - the vast bulk are either; clueless, power-hungry, egotistical, obtuse, sociopaths, incompetent... Most of which do not know the first thing about actually managing people - or the first thing about the actual work being performed... (Dilbert/Peter-principles also typically apply)

In nearly 30-years of working in dozens and dozens of different organizations, I have had less than 10 decent, competent management experiences...
posted by rozcakj at 1:12 PM on June 2 [9 favorites]


My employer just announced that we'd be returning to the office in 3 weeks, and I'm struggling to understand why other than old-fashioned-ness and a desire for "normalcy."

My productivity and general job satisfaction have been way up working from home. We successfully pushed out a very ambitious major release, and an update to that. We literally just hired another developer who lives out of state, our product manager and QA lead are on two different continents. There is no reason the locals all have to be gathered in the same, expensive, rented space breathing the same air... each of us in our separate cubicles never needing to communicate face-to-face and many of us not really wanting to anyway.
posted by Foosnark at 1:26 PM on June 2 [13 favorites]


We're not being forced to return to the office but those of us who are returning are being forced into a "hoteling" situation. It's stupid and I hate it and if their motive was to prevent some/most of us from being in the physical office, they've succeeded. I was planning on going back 3 days a week. Now they're going to be lucky to get 2 days, if that.
posted by cooker girl at 1:30 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]


I'm in the US and all my co-workers are based in India. I used to call into meetings with them from my desk at work. Now I call from my desk at home.

Soon we'll re-open our office and I'll have to drive to the office again to preserve office culture. But I'll still be on a call with people thousands of miles away in India.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:32 PM on June 2 [13 favorites]


The best jobs I've had always said "You have to be here in case X happens, but once you've completed the routine daily tasks, you can just read a book until X happens." The worst say, "Since we are paying you to sit here for 8 hours in case X happens, we are going to give you a shit-ton of meaningless paperwork to do." I feel like remote work is exposing the weaknesses in systems that don't understand their on-call people are on-call, and that have no idea how to evaluate people's productivity if they can't forced them to obviously work 8 hours a day.

I mentor a lot of younger workers and lately A LOT of them have been expressing anxiety about the fact that they don't have enough to do, and feel like maybe they're taking advantage of the company.

If you've watched The Wire: there's this scene where City Council member Carcetti is thinking about running for mayor and decides he needs to better understand how the city gov't works by doing ethnography: he sits w/ people in various jobs, watches them work, sees how things really work.

He sits with the murder detective department. The police chief introduces him to the group and then leaves them to it. These detectives all start shuffling papers, and pecking at computers, and generally try to look really busy. And then Carcetti says "Guys, I'm not here to judge you or your work. I really am just trying to see how things operate. Please, please just act like I'm not here and do what you'd normally do." And the cops all look at each other and agree to trust him. And then a couple of them get out books, and one of them goes to sleep, and one of them starts carving dollhouse furniture for his side gig.

They do this because sometimes, there is nothing to do. Yah, sure, you could kill yourself opening up a cold case and trying to solve something that probably won't go anywhere, or you could just wait for the next murder case to come down. But it's not like working harder will make more or less murders happen. So they just do nothing. And that's okay.

I tell that story to these newer workers. Because sometimes there is nothing to do. And that's okay. In my field, people are getting paid to solve problems, and sometimes there are no problems to solve. But there will be. We don't work on a line, we don't make widgets. Slacking off for an hour or a day won't affect our output in the way it would on a line. So don't worry about it. Work when there is work. Don't when there's not. And absolutely don't ever think that your employer is getting ripped off by paying you.
posted by nushustu at 1:39 PM on June 2 [32 favorites]


It took me a while to get used to WFH, but my fully-remote co-workers told us that it took them 9 months - 1 year before they fully got the hang of it. That's where I am now; I'm going to be perfectly fine continuing to WFH, and heading into the office 3-4 days a month. (I still like being in the City from time-to-time). My company is fully embracing this new approach and giving workers and teams the flexibility to do what's best for them. Most listings for new jobs are no longer going to list a location, but just a time zone.
posted by mach at 1:39 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but the problem in some jobs is if you look idle, they realize they can easily get rid of you because why pay you to sit and do nothing?
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:41 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


There's still a prevailing attitude at my job that we'll be in person sitting around the same table at some point in the future (you know: 10 or 15 people next to each other, physically :::shudder::::). In fact, a workspace is being designed with that in mind.

I've got a healthy imagination, and so I don't need the physical presence of my colleagues to know they exist. And my social anxiety has enjoyed the respite from er um people. No confirmation yet as to whether telework will be permitted as a rule or an exception.
posted by datawrangler at 1:46 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


The company I work for is sending mixed messages on the subject.

Mine too. Well, my manager is anyway. I had an in-person meeting with her last week (my choice to come in for it) and she immediately wanted to know what made me decide to come in to the office, and how did I feel about coming back one or two days a week? I actually feel kind of ok about it, especially after she explained I wouldn't have to commit to a particular schedule. It would be nice to get out of the house and talk to actual people once in a while, but I don't want to lose my power of choice.

Then, she suggests I nudge my assistant to also come in a day per week. When I tell her I know the assistant doesn't want to, she seems annoyed by this and tells me that upper management may decide at any time that we all need to come back, and then assistant will have no choice. But she also somewhat grudgingly says she won't force anyone to come in, yet.

Next topic, we talk about an open position on our team. She tells me she already has a potential candidate in mind, but they are in another state so they will be fully remote.

Pretty sure I made this face out loud.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:51 PM on June 2 [17 favorites]


The urge to "get back to normal" is so bizarre when "normal" sucked for most people.

We can do better, we mostly choose not to.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:52 PM on June 2 [28 favorites]


I'm in the camp of people who used to go into the office to work with people in other states and countries. I can definitely continue to do that just as well from home.

It's also reassuring that management doesn't make sense to anybody else either.
posted by diogenes at 2:20 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


I muse that an awful lot of people loathe their work and their coworkers.

Well, yeah. That's why they have to pay people to do it.

If it were really such a barrel of fuckin' monkeys, if it were really so joyful and rewarding, they wouldn't have to pay people to do it. Instead, it would be one of those activities that people pay thousands of dollars to take a vacation to do.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:20 PM on June 2 [17 favorites]


Walking to another cube or office is just faster than email, or Zoom or texting. PERIOD.

If you can walk, sure.
posted by Mitheral at 2:23 PM on June 2 [17 favorites]


I hate working from home, and so far we have no date when we will be allowed back in the office.

I like walking to my office every day, I like my co-workers, I like having lunch with my friends at work, I enjoy my work more when I am not sitting in a lonely office by myself at home, and I loved the fact I could just leave at the end of the day. I had a landline at my office (only managers were permitted work cellphones). Work intranet and email can only be accessed from a work computer. When I left at the end of the day I left work. No-one could contact or bug me, I couldn't check work email even if I wanted to.

Now I have all that intruding into my house and a work cellphone that pings all day and night. I mostly ignore it after I am done for the day. I find the constant interruptions of messages and video calls and emails all day much more irritating and interrupting than a phone call or someone stopping by my desk . .. only one person could call or talk to me in person, but I end up with piles of concurrent messages.

From what we have been told by upper management, we are most likely not going back to an everyone-at-the-office workplace ever again. I am going to miss that, but I know I am the exception from the polls they took of our staff. There is certainly a division, where most of those of us who live downtown like to go into the office, while most of the suburbanites and rural employees are glad not to have a commute and want to keep some sort of working from home arrangement. I probably would feel the same if I had to drive for an hour instead of walk 15 minutes.

I don't think the office will be as enjoyable a place to be if it is mostly empty all the time, but what can you do.
posted by fimbulvetr at 2:23 PM on June 2 [10 favorites]


Yeah, one of my discoveries of the past year is that I really hate my job, whether I'm working from home or in my office. I burned out a numbers of years ago and have never been able to recover, and the fact that my current department head is a colossal asshole just doesn't help. I thought I might be able to wait her out, and retire next year or a little later and sit on the money until my husband also retires but then dept. head decided all her staff had to come back to the office part-time in May, even though the next semester doesn't start until August.

My office on campus is just too depressing - I'm in the core of the building and have no natural light. It's all concrete, fluorescent lights and old linoleum. I'm in poor health. I feel like doing a job I hate, in an office I hate, with a boss I hate is just going to be the end of me, so I'm planning to quit by the middle of this summer.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 2:29 PM on June 2 [13 favorites]


I'm assuming that people who like working in their office don't have major audio-visual things that bug them nonstop at the job. I imagine that's really cool to have.

1. Lights that are super bright in your eyes and reflects off all surfaces including your keyboard and monitor top part
2. Music playing just on the edge of hearing or loudly
3. Loud conversations
4. People rushing by you all the time

Anyway, I should probably feel bad about taking a week of vacation then putting in notice. I don't. What I do feel bad about is that my best friend and best man at my wedding is set to go on paternity leave in 1.5-2 weeks and I'm going to do the bulk of his work. I'll offer to stay on as long as I can if I'm fully remote.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:34 PM on June 2 [25 favorites]


Indeed, OnTheLastCastle. My migraines have been so much rarer since I started working from home - probably because of the fluorescent lights.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 2:41 PM on June 2 [9 favorites]


my migraines too, though attributed to fragrances worn in and cleaning products used around the office. maybe ventilation too.
posted by 20 year lurk at 2:45 PM on June 2 [10 favorites]


I fucking hated working from home. Not because my employer wasn't paying part of my rent, electricity, internet etc. (which in a roundabout way they did anyway, via tax concessions last year and probably again this year), and not because I wasn't productive, but because of the fucking Teams meetings. People got this idea that they still needed to have "face time" so what could have very easily been a short email, fired off in three minutes, became a fucking meandering thirty minute Teams meeting while they figured out how their equipment worked and then one of their idiot children fell over or some shit and just, ugh.

Note that after a year of Teams meetings people still join teleconferences unmuted and unveiled, still don't know where chat is, still don't know how to share their PowerPoints or whatever, and their quirky custom backgrounds fucking suck.

I am back in the office 100%. I brought my work-supplied laptop and screens back into the office. The fancy keyboard and mouse and gaming headset I bought for myself with my own money, to make my home work space more comfortable, I have also brought back into the office because a) they're good and b) I don't even have a computer at home because if I did somebody would probably fucking Teams me on it.

The most beautiful thing? My office desktop doesn't actually have a video camera. So now people try to Teams me at work and I'm like, nope, sorry champ, I'm in the office, no A/V, you'll have to email me or drag your sorry ass in same way I did. This headset? It's my own, just for listening to tunes.

But of course the "new normal" works very well for a lot of people so bless them and bless their homes. If the option is between staying at home or driving your car in to the office (whereas before you would have caught a train or bus), keep your ass at home. And don't Teams me.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:50 PM on June 2 [21 favorites]


~just wanna bang on the drum all day.....
posted by lextex at 2:55 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


Work from home has been absolutely wonderful. With regard to the "living at work" mentality, that's a failure to set boundaries and routine.

Every single day at 9am I put the dogs in their crates, open work email, our ticket center, and remote-access into my work computer.

At 1pm, dogs outside for a break, lunch for me. A walk if it's nice.

At 5pm, close all work-related tabs, feed the dogs dinner and go outside. A drink with the spouse may happen.

Sitting outside for half an hour with my spouse and dogs is infinitely more pleasurable than riding the train, and a great mental break between work and home.

If your work was actively intruding into your home time, if your boss or coworkers are calling you after 5pm (or whatever your shift end is)? They're still going to do that once WFH stops. This isn't a problem with WFH, but with your office culture.
posted by explosion at 2:58 PM on June 2 [11 favorites]


1. Lights that are super bright in your eyes and reflects off all surfaces including your keyboard and monitor top part

One of my professional regrets from the last 10 years is that I didn't *immediately go on a five-alarm-fire job search* as soon as it became utterly clear that management at the agency I was FT employed by was either deeply thoughtless about the glaring cool temperature lighting and how it clearly affected people, or they didn't give a damn.

That was only one of several points of conflict, but it was a high profile one I *knew* affected something on the order of half the engineering team. And I knew it was hurting my productivity, but I didn't know how much until I finally left that place and got back into the swing of development and started having so much more stamina for extended engagement with work.

There are some things I don't like about full remote (which I've been on for over three years), but on balance it's a net good for me.
posted by weston at 3:04 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


If your work was actively intruding into your home time, if your boss or coworkers are calling you after 5pm (or whatever your shift end is)? They're still going to do that once WFH stops.

Anecdotally, I'm not sure this is 100% true. My husband's work is pretty crazy all the time. but there used to be at the very least a pause as people all commuted home, and then people were home and aware they were calling from home. Now because there's less transition, people have stretched out their work days and seem to be forgetting where the leaving point used to be. Also, with parents time-shifting in order to provide care (schools are still virtual here) I think there has been a lengthening of availability as well.

and then one of their idiot children fell over or some shit

And people wonder why women/caregivers are disproportionately leaving the workforce.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:22 PM on June 2 [26 favorites]


There are some things I don't like about full remote (which I've been on for over three years), but on balance it's a net good for me.

Same here. No commute is wonderful. Wearing leggings and a T-shirt every day is wonderful. I’ve long ceased thinking I would go on camera for meetings, I get better connectivity with no video anyway. i’ll glam up if I have to do a demo or presentation but that’s very rare. At least at home I have control over my environment. I’m not subject to some idiot’s design whims or lighting decisions or desk alignment or migraine-inducing perfume or cleaning products or hot and cold air blasting from the overhead vents… if I’m cold, I put on a sweater. If I’m hot, I turn up the AC. If my dog farts, I laugh.

It’s unfathomable how much time and effort and money was wasted in 2019 at my company on building renovation, where the desks were supposed to go, what color for this, what finish for that… It’s all abandoned now and I don’t think anyone even sits in that space anymore. How can any of that type of decision-making be viewed as anything but frivolous and stupid going forward? How was it allowed to get so much air time, ever?

I think back to a former employer who is the epitome of “butts in seats is the only thing that matters”. No one was allowed to work from home. A silver lining for me in the pandemic was simply knowing that this guy had to let that go and let everyone work from home. I bet it just killed him. I bet he made everyone keep their cameras on all day long. And then I bet they all quit.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:29 PM on June 2 [11 favorites]


My partner works for the federal govt in Canada and they have raised a task force about "the future of work" because there's a lotta civil servants who don't need to have $40/sf office space in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver etc etc etc just to sit at a desk and shove a mouse around. The past year has shown that shocker the government's departments didn't fall to pieces... so why are taxpayers chorking up all this money for space they don't need?

Labs and warehouses and research facilities and secure sites etc are definitely necessary but for the admin folks who grind away on the documents? Naaahhh....

But they better figure out how to compensate us for the space/electricity/equipment/etc/etc/etc. And I am sure the union has its own task force on that very question.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:48 PM on June 2 [5 favorites]


We used to have a handful of remote workers and all the communication issues that caused just disappeared once everyone was remote.

Did having remote workers cause the communication issues, or did the people in the office cause them by failing to include remote workers in stuff they did? Because I feel like the blame is in the wrong place here.
posted by fedward at 3:54 PM on June 2 [9 favorites]


I had been WFH one day a week before this all started, and was beginning to recognize that perching on a stool at the kitchen table wasn't ergonomically great. So when my department got sent home from the office, my husband and I put together a better workspace in one corner of the living room.

It's not bad – the desk is reasonably sized and fairly comfortable, we installed a couple of semi-sheer retractable shades on the ceiling that I can pull down to indicate "in work mode, please don't talk to me", and I was able to get my monitors, desk chair, and chair mat from work. With a few fake plants, some art on the walls, and a cushion behind me for the cat to sleep on, it's arguably much nicer than my cubicle was. Also, as an autistic person, I love not being in the office and having to deal with people burning microwave popcorn or having loud chats in the kitchenette or whistling while walking past other people's cubes (love you, C, but there were times I wanted to stab you with my letter opener).

And this morning as I walked toward that corner of the room, my heart just sank. Here I am again, about to spend 8 hours in the same 6-square-foot space and I don't even have the change of scenery from riding the bus to work or being able to take a walk at noon to pick up a sandwich or something.

Wound up having a conversation with my manager about whether we can make it work for me to go in one day a week. If I can go into the office for two hours (the maximum allowed time in the current minimal hoteling setup) on Friday morning, then go to the farmer's market on my lunch break before going home to do more work, I think it would be much better for me overall.
posted by Lexica at 4:16 PM on June 2 [12 favorites]


Did having remote workers cause the communication issues, or did the people in the office cause them by failing to include remote workers in stuff they did?

Oh it was entirely the office workers, and mostly the management level being obstinate and unreasonable.
posted by Lanark at 4:18 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


Hahahahaah, I just got out of a meeting with my boss in which she is also annoyed at the lack of er, guidance regarding going back in person or not, since we no longer have someone running the office officially and the boss above that and the interims are a giant "who knows," apparently. I just said flat out that they're going to make us all come back full time, no choice, no cares about their child care issues. I don't think they can handle or figure out hybrid at all because the second someone calls out sick, the dominoes fall.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:28 PM on June 2


I work for a university in a non-academic role, and we were on WFH most of last year (and in lockdown a good amount of that time). Early this year we were told there would be a blended work approach for the foreseeable future, with some days WFH and some in the office. They even gave us a one-off payment to buy home office equipment. We were told it was up to each division how the blended approach operated - whether people were in the office one day or five or none, it would be an agreement between managers and workers in each division. I work in a small team which is much smaller since pandemic job cuts, meaning we have got used to working together efficiently and well from home. We generally agreed on two days in office, three at home, varying according to the operational and personal needs.

Then all of a sudden about eight weeks ago they announced that everyone would be expected to be in the office 60% of the time. No explanation, just flat out announcement. They then enrolled all people managers in compulsory training about how to encourage people back into the office. Every single person in my sessions said they and their team were happy with the flexible approach and had no issues getting people back in for a few days a week. Nobody seems to know where the 60% directive came from or why the tune was changed. But it's a bugger; for a while we had great flexibility, everyone was happy, and felt respected and treated like adults. In my team, at least.
posted by andraste at 4:41 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


Reading this thread I feel like I'm another species.

I miss going into the office and I hate working from home. I realize the office days are over but I can't express how distraught I am that everyone prefers to stay at home all day rather than interact with other people.

I'm not an extrovert, but I have friends all over the world from one particular job that I would never be as close to if we hadn't all been together in the same crazy office.

At home I'm constantly being interrupted by messages from people who seem to think I have nothing better to do than answer their messages - I've had as many as 5 people pinging me at once, and at least if we were all together in an office they might see that I was busy. It was fairly standard in several places I worked that if you had your headphones on you shouldn't be interrupted. People are definitely expecting things to be done within 20 minutes of pinging me. There's definitely just as much of an attitude of needing me to be at my computer as there ever was to do any kind of performing in the office. It's been over a year and at the end of the day I'm exhausted and overwhelmed by having to deal with people through technology when I find it so much easier to deal with people who are actually in front of me.

Just before the pandemic we had moved to a really nice office. I took a ferry and rode a bicycle. I remember thinking that my life was so great I didn't know how I was going to handle it. Now I'm back to being lonely and miserable. Sucks to be me I guess.
posted by maggiemaggie at 4:57 PM on June 2 [31 favorites]


When I left at the end of the day I left work. No-one could contact or bug me, I couldn't check work email even if I wanted to.

This is where "everyone's job is different" comes in again. In the pre-covid days, my peers and I were not allowed to work at home at all (except for very unusual projects). One of my co-workers got a phone call at 4:00 am because a partner on the East Coast was confused by something and he couldn't wait a few hours for an answer, so co-worker caught the earliest bus she could get while the partner fumed because bus service doesn't start until 5 am or so.

I don't want to field a 4 am call ever, but since that's within the realm of possibility at my job, I'd much rather commute 10 feet to my desk at home than the alternative.
posted by creepygirl at 5:03 PM on June 2 [5 favorites]


I like all my co-workers, but I also like the absolute silence I frequently need to get work done.

I believe the absolute silence is going to win.
posted by freakazoid at 5:15 PM on June 2 [14 favorites]


I love my work and co-workers but we had to move sites during the pandemic and now instead of a 15 minute bus ride I am commuting 45 minutes each way and I fucking hate it. I had spent my entire career making housing choices based on the shortest commute by foot or bus. I didn't even own a car capable of making that commute, so I had to borrow my Mom's Prius. I would LOVE to start working from home.

What do people do? I'm in management at a large homeless shelter. I'm able to do maybe 1-2 hours every 2 weeks from home. Reading this thread closely, I can't even figure out what everyone is doing from home. I would LOVE to do part of my week at home, but that's not feasible when you need people on site. Sometimes I'll make people take a "paperwork day" at home, which really means I want them to take a day off to destress without spending their PTO. They'll spend a couple hours working on documentation and answering emails and the rest of the day relaxing. But again, this really is in person work, and I've never worked in another field, so I'm pretty clueless about what 'Office Work' looks like

No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.
If I needed to be called at 4am it would mean I needed to physically respond to an extreme emergency, unless I was the after hours manager and expected to field that call for a week once a quarter.
posted by kittensofthenight at 5:16 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


3. Loud conversations

I used to get furious headaches from trying to concentrate on my work while multiple conversations went on around my cube. I'm so happy to sit in my quiet home office and be able to do my work in peace.
posted by octothorpe at 5:18 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]


What do people do? I'm in management at a large homeless shelter. I'm able to do maybe 1-2 hours every 2 weeks from home. Reading this thread closely, I can't even figure out what everyone is doing from home

Cybersecurity consulting here. All project based, all digital. We occasionally during the pandemic have still sent people onsite for very specific testing, but honestly we've been using offshore resources for a lot of years on projects so everything was setup for remote - it really was flicking a switch to take it from maybe 60% remote with 40% onsite, to 100% remote.

I think in my job (with one of the large global consulting firms) we likely are going to be highly remote for a long time if for no other reason that us being onsite will lag the clients returning themselves, but also because client's are enjoying not paying an extra 15% travel expense on projects - and having already removed that from their project budget forecasts for the last year will struggle to add that back anytime soon. Many of my clients are only returning to the office for 1-2 days a week or for ad-hoc meetings , and us travelling for that makes no sense financially for anyone

But I definitely do feel for those more junior in their careers there is a lot they miss out on not having time to be in rooms with clients and develop a lot of soft skills and relationships that happen when you have to be "on" from 9-5 at a client site / in an office, and have more chance to interact in less structured ways than Zoom. A lot of my junior staff were also attracted to consulting roles here in the US because of the travel (and the perks that come with that - nice paid dinners out multiple times a week, airline / hotel status, corporate expense points, the ability to stay over weekends in other cities, international travel etc.) But none of that is happening, so I do wonder, in a reverse of the main post article, if more of them will move on from consulting more quickly into industry roles without the "fringe benefits" of being a consultant, as going into an office may give them some of the career development they otherwise will miss.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 5:28 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

My old job, in the construction & engineering industry, wouldn't let people work remote no matter what even though everything was done in software -- in my favorite example there was a blizzard bearing down on the city, everyone else was leaving work ASAP to get home, and the bosses at AECOM (not my firm, but I knew like six people there) said "we expect you to fulfill client obligations so stay at work and if you get stranded we got a $250/night deal at a local hotel." If I recall correctly, they didn't even reimburse the hotel expense (after all, you *could* have just slept on the office floor or maybe called a nearby friend, so this "deal" was just them being hero-type bosses who care about their people and value professionalism!).

...so I quit that industry. God bless software and god bless having a specialized skillset.

Shitty bosses in crappy industries are gonna have to retool pretty quick. I sometimes daydream about saying hi to my old boss, pointing out how much more money I make than he does, and then laughing for a long time.
posted by aramaic at 5:41 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

For me it's producing online courses :
  1. Writing and reviewing curriculum.
  2. Collaborating with instructors (who are typically not local anyway even pre-Covid, so lots of Google Docs, occasional Zooms).
  3. Building LOTs of slide decks in Keynote, then recording courses in my basement. Editing and reviewing video.
  4. Meeting/collaborating with a team of 5 a few times a week.
Pre-covid, the only part that really benefited from being in the office was #4.
posted by jeremias at 5:54 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


There exists in this world some middle-managers (not all, there's some great middle-managers) who's only justifiable function in theory is to pointlessly hassle workers who are actually trying to do their jobs. Their jobs are threatened by remote work.
posted by ovvl at 5:56 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]



No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

Copyediting for a medical journal. The authors we communicate with are all over the world, and science editors are spread around the US. As of this year, our journal only exists online.
posted by FencingGal at 6:00 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


maggiemaggie — you’re not alone in feeling that way. What I am seeing in this thread, though, are that many of the things I miss about going to the office are closely related to certain privileges I have: living close to work, having a nice commute on public transport that isn’t during the height of rush hour (or having the option to just ride my bike over a bridge), having a job that I genuinely enjoy, working with people that I like and respect in a highly collaborative creative environment, having the option to stop at the local for a drink or see some live music with work friends at the end of the day, not having sensory issues that make office lighting and noises hellish for a lot of people, etc.

Echoing praemunire, when you live in a small apartment it’s nice to have a separate space to go to that is also, in some fractional way, yours.
posted by theory at 6:04 PM on June 2 [10 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

Project manager/engineer for a major public-sector agency. My current role is mostly detailed review of technical documents, research, collaborating with colleagues, and sitting in Teams meetings. I've been far more productive since I've been allowed to WFH - so much easier to focus.
posted by photo guy at 6:05 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

Academic advising and academic program coordination. The advising moved to Zoom, and most of the other work is computer based - scheduling classes, support for admissions, hiring graduate students. Budgets and handbooks. All of it requires a computer and internet, but not really my presence in a specific building.

I think the faculty miss being able to wander into my (glass walled - great for an introvert) office and ask questions, and it has made some things more time consuming over email that might've been dealt with in hallways chats, not that I care.

We all have to go back to the office because equity blah blah whatever.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 6:08 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


Drastic and others upthread highlighted that a lot of the return to the offices are because of expensive real estate that's sitting empty. That tracks: Apple just informed its employees that they will be returning to work. Considering they just built a four billion dollar campus, I can understand why they want their money's worth.

That said, when I inevitably hear the argument that we should all come back to work because Apple is, and blah blah Apple innovation leader blah, I'm going to point out that the rest of us don't get to work in the eighth wonder of the world.
posted by nushustu at 6:36 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I'm a trade worker so zero percent but my sister is an Employment Insurance agent and she spends all day verifying the information entered by people making unemployment claims. She basically phones workplaces to check that Bob worked where he claimed. She also assists claiments correct incomplete or inaccurate paper work. There are a stack of online forms that she has to fill out and she spends half her time on the phone. She's been working remotely for the duration no problem as far as work goes.

She misses the social interaction but the actual work can be done anywhere now that the infrastructure has had a forced roll out.
posted by Mitheral at 6:49 PM on June 2


No judgment. I just want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

Newspaper copy editing and page design. Writing headlines and captions. Updating a newspaper website. Helping reader-contributors whittle down their submissions to a manageable length.

Re: productivity: I like my co-workers -- I really do! -- and I miss a lot of our interactions.

But I get so much more done at home, in a far more succinct time frame. Open plan offices are hell on wheels for me as a person with ADD.

The differing schedules we all work -- combined with the location of my desk at the border between two departments -- means that I'm right there when Person A who's just leaving for the day catches Person B who's just starting their shift.

Boisterous conversation ensues, during which neither party suggests adjourning to one of the areas set aside for one-on-one convos. Why go sit down? Person A is just about to leave! It's a lot easier to talk things out right there, next to my goddamn desk.
posted by virago at 7:00 PM on June 2 [10 favorites]


For now, I'm an admin for an international NGO. My coworkers are based all over the place and used to travel a bunch, so we were already set up for remote working. I have to keep up with the teams I'm on and the projects we work on, coordinate with other departments and offices and external partners, process payments and manage project budgets, set up contracts, review documents, organize events (still online only for the moment), post articles to one of our sites and manage the related social media accounts, and for better or maybe worse, organize internal inclusion initiatives. There are research projects I could try to take on if I felt like I could handle it, but I can't.

Oh, and attending meetings, reading updates, and talking to coworkers about the reorganization that's going to lay a bunch of us off before the end of the year. I should probably be figuring out what to do with the rest of my life after that but I'm out of ideas and too old to join a circus.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:10 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


No judgment. I just want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I do research support (putting surveys online, telephone interviewing, submitting ethics, documenting studies, now writing up some results) for a public health scientist ... who has worked from home 4 days a week for ~25 years.

We talk more now than when I was at the office :)
posted by jb at 7:21 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I do litigation support for my law firm right now so lately it's been:

1) Keep an eye on email for anyone important asking for database searches, or a copy of a specific pleading. (All pleadings are electronically filed and stored).

2) Check email for recently-filed pleadings and interrogatories, add them to a database, then index the documents in the database so they are more easier searchable.

3) In between email queries, review large pleadings and discovery responses, extract data from them, and put the data in an Excel spreadsheet.

4) Check a website for periodic updates of reports, download them, upload them to the database/index them, and if there's time, summarize them in a spreadsheet.

5) Occasionally field queries over email about our user-unfriendly database software. Once I had to handle a phone query about it, which was nerve-wracking.

6) Write step-by-step instructions on how to do things in user-unfriendly database software so that someone can take over in case I get hit by a bus.

Before this I did document review for the firm. Reviewing electronic documents for certain issues, analyzing them, and coding them in a litigation support tool. The last time I did a review that involved me touching actual paper documents was 2008 or so, and it was unusual even back then (and seen as a concession to an eccentric client). These days, every paper doc gets scanned and loaded into a litigation support tool for electronic review.

I really do think both jobs are well-suited for remote work, keeping my fingers crossed that the bosses think so too.
posted by creepygirl at 7:22 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I'm a technical writer. Working from home allows me the ability to concentrate for hours at a time without having to listen to the inane conversations around me. No, I don't care about your kids, or your sports team, or what band you like, or about that TV show you just won't shut up about.

Working from home also means I don't have to spend 2+ hours a day in my car fighting traffic.

There is nothing I can do in the office that I can't do from home. If I need to ask someone a question, I can Slack them and we can converse asynchronously. If we need to talk, we can schedule a Zoom meeting. Email still works too. I'm more productive at home than I ever was at the office.

I'm lucky in that the company I work for has always had a number of fully remote employees, including several C-level executives. And not "at the lake house an hour away" remote, but "in a generic suburb in a midwestern city two time zones over and only travels to the office once a year" remote. So remote is built in to the way the company operates.

My guess is that we'll allow the people who really want to be in the office to come back in, eventually. But most of us will stay remote and only come in maybe once a quarter for team get-togethers.
posted by ralan at 7:30 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

Historian working for a rehabilitation-focused architecture firm. One year ago I thought I was forked...how was I going to be able to work when all my research sources were shutting down?! The reality is I never slowed down. We found other ways to get the research done or made do without it.

I love my job and I mostly love my co-workers but I was BORN to work at home. I need quiet to research and write. My collaboration with co-workers mostly takes place while we are on site research/survey trips. My particular team was already in different locations around the country anyway, so we noticed little difference in working over Slack/Teams, etc. when the quarantine came down.

I'm pushing HARD to be almost fully WFH with trips to the two local offices on an as-needed basis. I don't mind working a day or two in the office when I can group my needed in-person interactions or attend a brainstorming session or whatever. Otherwise I am far more productive and happy at home.
posted by Preserver at 7:35 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


But I definitely do feel for those more junior in their careers there is a lot they miss out on not having time to be in rooms with clients and develop a lot of soft skills and relationships that happen when you have to be "on" from 9-5 at a client site / in an office, and have more chance to interact in less structured ways than Zoom.

My first legal job was for a terrible manager, but at a firm prestigious enough that they could compel clients to eat the costs of having a useless first-year following the partner around and sitting in on meetings. I learned more from that informal training than from any formal legal education I got. Could not be the same remotely.

At my current job, I mostly look at documents and think about them, then write about them. There are a few important tasks that are very challenging to do remotely and which I really hope we return to doing in person, but, while they are important, they are also relatively infrequent.
posted by praemunire at 7:56 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


Is it just that metafilter attracts a certain type of person, or is it kind of weird that the VAST majority of people I hear from/read the opinions of prefer to work from home? I know we've seen a couple of people who prefer the office in this thread, but most people don't. It's the same among my co-workers/friends/relatives. Almost nobody wants to go back to the office. Why can't we all just not?
posted by nushustu at 8:07 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


Though I can work from home, I will be glad when I don't have to. I don't have an office at home, or office supplies, or a reliable printer -- or an adjustable chair.

My boss is all set up with that stuff because she already worked from home. But a lot of people, including me, can't afford the space.
posted by jb at 8:10 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Dispatcher for technicians in the field here. Apparently this job is expected to stay remote indefinitely, which is fine since I only expect it to last another 6 months before I've outgrown it and want to move into something more technical and less public facing.

I could not give up work from home. I worked from home for a while doing tech support for one of the FAANG companies (cannot say which one, NDA) and it was hell. The security requirements made me literally unplug the work computer they mailed me when I was done with it (a thing against company policy because IT liked to push updates at night), I couldn't even have my phone in my room, couldn't wear a smart watch that wasn't branded with the company logo, couldn't have my cat in my room, and it was treated as normal. Like it was a great place to work. Meanwhile, they seemed to have absenteeism problems and I know one coworker who is now basically a non-functioning PTSD ridden shell because of the combination of panopticon surveillance and dealing with screaming people all day.

WFH comes in many different flavors, and some are significantly more toxic than others. My current job has some idiotic rules, and I certainly have zero desire to move into a field technician role (the likely promotion they will offer me with my skillset), but it's a far cry better than the above paragraph full of shit.

To the people who hate working in an office, you're not alone.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 8:20 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Is it just that metafilter attracts a certain type of person, or is it kind of weird that the VAST majority of people I hear from/read the opinions of prefer to work from home? I know we've seen a couple of people who prefer the office in this thread, but most people don't. It's the same among my co-workers/friends/relatives. Almost nobody wants to go back to the office. Why can't we all just not?

Working from home is clearly popular, but it's not nearly this unanimous in surveys. Or among my acquaintances, if you want more anecdata. In my company we're running a voluntary pilot return to office, and I think around 30% of us who had been mandatory-from-home opted to come in a few days a week (which is a low estimate of people who'd come back voluntarily--sign up was a while ago, when the pandemic was less apparently under control.)

So I think there's definitely some skew. MeFi definitely attracts certain types (including simply "happy to type things over the internet," which is not everyone).

I'm idly curious about your demographic--I think age, type of job, family commitments, commute, etc. would all heavily influence how enthusiastic groups are to keep working from home.
posted by mark k at 8:28 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


I just want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

Software technical support for remote customers, via email/phone/webconference (screen sharing). I could literally do my job from anywhere on the planet that has an internet connection.

I've been WFH for almost 12 years now and I'm happy to continue doing so. I never looked to my workplace (in this or previous jobs) for a social life - I can manage that on my own, with people more like me than most corporate office drones. I prefer the quiet solitude, and having my own fridge nearby, and most of all NOT COMMUTING. Even taking public transportation is a big hassle, and I live in a city that supposedly has a good pub-trans system.

Fortunately for me, since the pandemic hit my parent company doesn't even have an office in my city anymore (same for other employees in other cities), and has basically made WFH the norm from here out.* Still, I know WFH doesn't work for all jobs/all individuals; I wish everyone could find their own perfect work environment.**

* not that the HUGE money the company is saving by eliminating the cost of maintaining offices is getting passed on to the employees, beyond a measly $50/month internet stipend.

** and while I'm at it, I'll wish for a million dollars and a pony.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:46 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

Software development, for an engineering software company.

We use Microsoft tools for source control, bug/feature/task/schedule tracking, and text/voice chat. My supervisor and the product manager prioritize things and sometimes assign them to specific developers, sometimes just put them on the schedule. Everything is nicely organized and prioritized. In a typical week we will have one voice meeting on Teams that lasts less than 10 minutes. Almost everything else is handled through email, text chat, and maybe one brief voice chat per month to discuss a bug because some of the support engineers are chatty and like to do things that way. My team doesn't directly deal with customers (that all goes through support engineers), and our interaction with the QA department is entirely through the bug tracking system and email too.

It's all very slick and we have zero need for face-to-face meetings. And all of us are introverts. We never hung out with each other outside of work or anything (very unlike my previous job!)

The engineering team does some research projects as well, and might have a different take. But I suspect they were mostly able to work without 8 hours of in-person contact per day anyhow. And we're not going to allow guests/customers in the building anyway (not that it was common before).

After months of being told that there was going to be some discussion of WFH options, there was no discussion, just a declaration. And the document said "now that a majority of employees have been vaccinated" when we were not actually asked if we were vaccinated, and the vaccination rate for the county is still around 36%.
posted by Foosnark at 8:56 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

IT sales, sales engineering, and management of same. HQ may be, say, in the PNW but the field sales team is geographically all over the place.
posted by jquinby at 9:05 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I know we've seen a couple of people who prefer the office in this thread, but most people don't.

Surveys among employees (not managers or CEOs) about returning to offices show that most people seem to want to return to offices 3-4 days a week. In that particular survey more people (13%) want to return 5 days a week than those who want 0 days (3%) or 1 day (7%). People who want fully remote work arrangements are rare. I would expect that the "comfortable typing words on a computer" demographic here on MeFi isn't quite representative of the greater population. And if you think about people who want the time away from their roommates or kids (or both) or who don't really have a good home office setup, or even room for one (hello, New York!) it would make sense that they don't want to be giving work that much free rent.
posted by fedward at 9:13 PM on June 2 [10 favorites]


Finally, she doesn't need a space heater under her desk anymore. Oh, the bliss that is control of one's own thermostat.
posted by amtho at 9:26 PM on June 2 [12 favorites]


FWIW I've been a software developer and/or manager of software developers for 20+ years. I've loved WFH since I lost my desk with a view back in 2001 in a stupid departmental power play (a manager who outranked mine took her office and annexed all the cubes nearby for his team). I was shunted to a shitty location, but I realized I could make a couple semi-authorized hops from the VPN and access everything with the full network privileges given to the workstation I left on my desk. Most of the people I worked with were in other offices in other time zones. There was very little reason for me to go in. Every now and then I'd go in for a meeting and people with desks near mine (none of whom I ever worked with directly) would be surprised I still worked there.

Since that job I had one job where the entire leadership team was ex-military and there was no remote anything (they liked to play up the physical access controls when selling our services), one where remote was technically possible but frowned upon, one where I worked out of the DC office but ended up managing a team based in the NYC office (and again, mostly ended up WFH because I didn't interact with the people around me anymore, so why waste time commuting), and one where the company piloted WFH ahead of an office move and then said (before the move was even complete) that everybody in the pilot could just permanently work from home and wouldn't have desks in the new office.

As a developer I can't get any work done in open plan offices. As a manager I'd have to pull people away from their desks to talk to them anyway, and if the team needs to talk through an idea as a team they probably need whiteboards, which means a conference room and not just a bunch of desks. The whole "teamwork! collaboration!" excuse given for open plans is almost entirely inconsistent with the way I've seen software get made, which is mostly people staring intently at computers by themselves.
posted by fedward at 9:29 PM on June 2 [7 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I'm kind of in an oddball position in my field, but I work in architecture. When I started at my firm in 2017, they had their main office in a smaller town in West Michigan, and had opened up a smaller office in the much larger city of Grand Rapids, where I had just moved. I applied to work out of the GR office and was hired, but I had to spend a few months in the home office to get my bearings with the firm. Everyone else on my team at the time was based out of the home office, so we realized early on that we'd need some communication tools to facilitate what was, essentially, working remotely even though I'd still be working from the office. At the time, the firm just had email, a chat client that was tied to our phone system that wouldn't save messages once the chat window was closed, and we used GoToMeeting for the times when there was a meeting involving people from the 15-person GR office in addition to those working in the 100-person home office. Given the nature of the profession, there are frequent times when me and someone else from the home office would need to be looking at the same drawing simultaneously and possibly be able to mark it up. So we started using Slack, which allowed us to have different channels for every project we were working on, and Zoom which has the annotation feature. Once I moved to the GR office, I was working "remotely" from a different office and hardly had to interact with my physically present office coworkers on projects at all, but was constantly communicating with the home office in some way. Shortly after I started, we expanded to Indianapolis, and a year later we expanded to the Detroit area. During that time, based on our early experimentation, Zoom had taken over the office as our remote meeting app and we hired more people to my team that worked in Detroit and were also basically working "remote" from an office. Additionally, the GR office kept growing while the home office stayed the same size, so there were a lot more people that were kind of in the same boat. Eventually Teams showed up and we switched to that from Slack, but kept using Zoom (no annotation in Teams). So basically, something like a third of my firm was already working "remotely" before the pandemic hit. When covid happened, we all went home to work, boosted our VPN capabilities, and moved all our project work to the cloud, and it was kind of funny what happened - a lot of people that had spent their entire careers in the home office became totally unmoored, while staff from the other offices chugged along without missing a beat. We had surveys in our team meetings and all the non-home-office staff said that their workflow and processes hadn't really changed at all. Eventually, still early in the pandemic, the firm decided that we'd just prioritize remote work as the standard from then on and trust our employees to decide whether they needed to ever come in or not once things got more normal. Surveys sent out indicated that there were around 10% of our firm that wanted to be in the office 4-5 days a week, but the vast majority preferred only coming in once a week or less, so they just rolled with it - we already had the infrastructure and protocol in place to deal with a mostly-remote workforce. In addition to just accepting the facts on the ground, we're also looking outside our geographic region for employees and didn't want to limit ourselves to two states in the Upper Midwest. There is the issue that we build physical objects in physical locations and sometimes those locations need to actually be seen firsthand, but we've accepted that that's not something required of every role in the company.

Did having remote workers cause the communication issues, or did the people in the office cause them by failing to include remote workers in stuff they did?

This was definitely a thing with people from the home office who'd always been able to just go to other people's desks with questions and could all sit together in one of our Zoom-equipped conference rooms and have side conversations amongst themselves. The GR office staff had been loudly complaining about being second-class pre-pandemic, but WFH for everybody has been the great equalizer, along with the GR and Detroit offices growing rapidly so that they're too big to ignore - even if we were all still in the office, someone on a project team, more likely two people, would be permanently remote from the rest of the team.

And now I'm probably going to move back to California to work from home forever and that's perfectly fine with my company.
posted by LionIndex at 9:30 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


"I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home."

I work for this weird little website ...
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:31 PM on June 2 [35 favorites]


But seriously, my siblings all work from home -- one is an attorney with an insurance company; one is the head of the communications staff for a major university; one does intelligence-community-type threat assessment, but in the private sector for corporations. (Like, he'll tell your company, "Due to ongoing threats and violence against Americans, pull your American staff from #city, and probably your Canadian staff too" or "Be prepared to close your offices in Chicago early today due to local anti-police demonstrations" or whatever.) My brother-in-law is some kind of tech consultant that I do not understand even after ten years, and he's able to work from home. Another in-law is a programmer who was remote pre-pandemic. The attorney and the communications person want to be back in person at least sometimes -- their jobs benefit from some in-person interactions -- but both hope to do a lot more work remotely and avoid daily commuting, and try to stack up the in-person stuff on one or two days a week (and shift times to make commutes easier).

The people I personally know who have been actually at work (at least some of the time) are mostly medical professionals, scientists with lab jobs, retail workers, delivery people/drivers, IT hardware people, and K-12 teachers. I'm mentally running through my friends -- other people at work in person work for fed, state, or local parks departments (where even if they're in management, they have to sometimes go physically look at the park in question). A lot of pastors, who have mostly been "as remote as possible" and attempted to limit their in-person work to things like food banks or sacraments -- but most of them receive a rectory as part of their compensation package, so they live right next to work. However, a lot of them have been using their spouses and children as "support staff" as much as possible, so the church secretary doesn't have to come in in person. A handful of state legislators, who DID have to attend session in person, because our state didn't have legal provision for remote sessions, and they DEFINITELY needed to pass some Covid-related stuff. But their staffs have mostly been at home.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:53 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


According to Redfin, housing in my region has gone up ~70% in the last five years. My employer isn't going to cover that, and won't talk about it. They also won't talk about moving to remote so people can afford to live.

I expect I will be forced to leave them, and they will, somehow, magically, be surprised.
posted by SunSnork at 10:42 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I have my own professional practice and have worked for myself for 30 years with occasional consulting projects on the side. I started out with a home office and when we moved interstate to a smaller, ie. cheaper real estate, city, my mother was enthusiastic that I should set up a home office again. Due to the logistics of moving (phones etc) 15 years ago, I had set up a temporary office at her house before the move.

While we were sorting out various professional and domestic arrangements, my mother would come to my house to look after the children and I would go to her house to go to work and as it was walking distance, we would say hello to each other on our way to work. Aaaaand after about two months, she was, "Don't set up a home office."

"Why?" "I've realised that the house is less stressful when the business isn't in the house. I don't have to worry about the children being noisy or the house being disorganised or who is turning up at the front door."

So, I have an office within walking distance of my house. And I enjoy the ten minute walk to and from work as a physical and intellectual transition.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 10:55 PM on June 2 [7 favorites]


I prefer the quiet solitude, and having my own fridge nearby, and most of all NOT COMMUTING. Even taking public transportation is a big hassle, and I live in a city that supposedly has a good pub-trans system.

Say it, Brother Greg_Ace, say it!

Mind you I realize how lucky I am to have public transit as an option, but it's been so nice (not to mention productive) to be able to get up at 7:30 instead of 5:45 for work (the latter involves forcing myself, usually unsuccessfully, to get to bed by 9:45 the night before if I want to get 8 hours sleep). Plus I can add the couple hours I would have spent on round-trip commuting to the "life" part of my "work/life" balance, and I don't have to worry about having to drop everything and leave work in time to catch a train home that isn't so crowded that I literally can't get in it and thus have to wait for the next train. (Yeah, good luck with that "six feet distancing" thing once Rush Hour ridership resumes). And the increase in my electricity bills has more than been made up for by the decrease in my commute (gas/train/parking) expenses.

Have to wonder how many folks with similar commutes that want to Go Back To The Office will be looking back nostalgically at their WFH days by Week 2.
posted by gtrwolf at 11:38 PM on June 2 [11 favorites]


(not all, there's some great middle-managers)

Where?

(no need to out them by name - a what3words location will do)
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:41 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


By contrast, my apartment is wonderful! It's comfortable, I've got a nice view, an ergonomic setup, my fridge is stocked with foods I love, and most of all, it's quiet.

Hopefully this isn't too TMI, but it's also nice to have your own, ahem, restroom facilities as well.
posted by gtrwolf at 11:41 PM on June 2 [14 favorites]


Neurotypical people who want fully remote work arrangements are rare.

FTFY
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:43 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


It's interesting to read the group of articles on work posted today because they deal with interrelated subjects that necessarily will have an effect on each other, but are taken more as individual concerns, which only speaks more to difficulties in the larger picture.

People who are able and will use their leverage to work from home will have a strong impact on the many businesses that rely on people working away from home as part of their business model, for example, restaurants that catered to the business hubs for lunch hour traffic and post work gatherings will lose out as other shops that will no longer see the same foot traffic as Amazon and a few larger chains will continue to gain from those who spend ever more time centered around the home.

The demographics of this are also something to wonder about, where home owners skew older and tend to have more financial security and less interest in social interactions that often came from being in work environments, so how companies respond to the different demands of their workers will be something to keep an eye on as pleasing the more settled part of the workforce may have unintended or even unpleasant consequences for newer entrants and it all will effect the stability of the localities where money is no longer being spent and the better off may no longer visit as frequently or ever.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:05 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Chatting with a realtor friend the other day about what this is going to do to the already insane housing market. A family used to need a 3-bedroom house now needs what, a 5 or 6 bedroom house so that each parent who works from home can do so? Or at least a 4 bedroom with some sort of den or office area? She is already doing a full pivot on talking up the specs of a home in those terms. Big yard? who cares. How's the wifi reception out here? Is it quiet during the day, or is everyone leaf-blowing and lawn-mowing all dang day? Is there a door that closes or must I work in that weird open area at the top of the stairs?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:43 AM on June 3 [12 favorites]


There's definitely going to be uneven effects of people working from home in different places. Here in Edinburgh, which is a very walkable city in general, I've noticed a lot more people going to their local shops and cafes and restaurants, which are much more likely to be indie than the chains able to afford the high rents near the business hubs.

I'm sure this will continue to shake out in unanticipated ways if WFH continues, but at least here, it seems to have benefitted smaller businesses rather than bigger ones.
posted by adrianhon at 3:05 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

My pandemic WFH gig was working for the state sorting out COVID data. I started doing just straight data entry of labs faxed to the state. It was as mindless as it sounds. One person on the team would be in the office scanning the labs into the shared drive, and everyone else would enter these into the database from home. Then, I moved up to do data cleaning/mentoring new hires/fielding questions from county health departments, and that was still all remote.
posted by astapasta24 at 3:43 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Is it just that metafilter attracts a certain type of person, or is it kind of weird that the VAST majority of people I hear from/read the opinions of prefer to work from home?

It's also possible that people who want to work from home are more interested in this particular thread.
posted by FencingGal at 5:12 AM on June 3 [13 favorites]


I do academic instructional support, similar to jeremias functionally.

I wanna go back though, because "water cooler" conversations are how I ever know anything about anything, and in my vast organization I prefer to know. Also, and more importantly, humans. I live alone. Too much alone.
posted by wellred at 5:36 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


I did not work from home before the pandemic because I did not want to. I have been full-time working from home for the last 15 months. I could probably do this indefinitely but it does not make me happy. I miss the separation and transition of my commute. I miss wearing different clothes on work days. I miss getting lunch from the shops nearby. I miss interacting with people in an unplanned way. Our house is mid-renovation and while I've got a whole room to work in, that's the room we're supposed to be finishing off so I've had to be professional next to walls with holes on, a temporary temporary window covering, a tonne of tools and bagged rubbish.

Our internal surveys show that most people in the organisation are planning on resuming something like their pre-pandemic work patterns, but with more WFH days. We already had a real mix, so I think it will mainly be people doing 3 days in the office rather than 4, or people coming into the office 1 day a week rather than 2 or 3. Some people were full-time WFH with occasional office meetings, and I think they will do much the same. Those of us who preferred full-time in office weeks, may go back to that or have regular or occasional WFH days.

The main thing that I personally might change, is that I'm open to considering jobs in a wider range of locations if they would be happy with me only being in the office 2 days per week. But if there's a local office in a buzzing location I'll probably prefer to use that.
posted by plonkee at 5:57 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


Neurotypical people who want fully remote work arrangements are rare.

FTFY


*bangs gavel* court adjourned

I wish the spirit in my company was more "let's build a new normal" instead of "let's return to normal." Like - what about half days in office? Only one rush hour commute but we still get that sweet sweet in person time. If we HAVE to be physically present in the office, can we do a six hour workday instead?

I spent a half-day in the office recently and I was a total squirrel. I spent an insane amount of energy coping with everything I hate about the office (even though it was empty - coworkers were a layer not present and I was struggling). I'm thankful I got really into The Magnus Archives podcast, there's a snippet from it that helps describe why I feel awful in the office:

[The fear of] being watched, being followed, having your deepest secrets exposed. [...] The feeling that something, somewhere, is letting you suffer, just so it can watch.

Especially as offices open up the floor plans - and the office lights get brighter and brighter - and people start filing back in with varying degrees of care and comfort... it's just deeply voyeuristic. We know we do fine remotely, but we want you back in because we want to behold see you. The work isn't the point, seeing you is the point.
posted by snerson at 6:31 AM on June 3 [11 favorites]


[The fear of] being watched, being followed, having your deepest secrets exposed. [...] The feeling that something, somewhere, is letting you suffer, just so it can watch.

I have an office with a door at my company, BUT the front and back walls are glass, and regrettably a restroom is located behind my office. So I constantly have people walking behind me and seeing what's on my screens (even with privacy filters on them, which thankfully my company provides). I've even had people comment on what they saw on my screen, which I find unspeakably rude.

I am someone in the middle of both extremes here. I am not required to but have started going in once a week to get some of the benefits of office time, which (even without many other coworkers going in) include: a change of scenery for doing work invigorates me; despite my best efforts a WFH life is much more sedentary than going in to the office which includes almost 2mi round trip of walking if I take public transit or a 20mi round trip bike ride; I like having the option to pop out for lunch that someone else makes (my home is not close to many restaurants esp ones open during the day); I love my giant whiteboard in the office and air conditioning I don't pay for; having that commute as a transition between work and home really helps me gear up for/decompress from my work day.

On the other hand, my commute is over an hour each way (and with capacity restrictions still in place for CTA buses, the commute home can be extra long as I wait for a bus that isn't too full to let anyone on) so I definitely don't want to go back in every day. Once a week is good for now, maybe up to twice a week would be ideal, and for now I'm picking those days based on weather and my schedule to prioritize a bike commute.

There has been some mention in this thread of the difficulty of managing collaboration in a hybrid environment, especially in workplaces that demand a lot of real time interaction and I just want to emphasize that. My org has always had a few distributed employees (a small DC office in addition to our main Chicago HQ, plus some flexibility to work from home as needed though not previously done in great numbers). So our conference rooms are mic'd for sound and set up with cameras and all of that and it STILL was hard to make sure that those who were not present in the room were able to participate. It's hard to be a part of conversations when no one can see your body language signaling you have something to contribute. Even with the best of intentions and technology, our DC staff always felt neglected and anyone calling in remotely to a given meeting might feel left out. I just hope companies and their leadership are prepared for the fact that successfully operating a hybrid in-person+remote workplace requires deliberate effort. It won't just happen on its own without a culture shift and training and possibly better tech in the office.

For now my org is optional work-wherever-you-want through the end of this calendar year, and all they've said is they are considering all options for after that. Our DC staff at least temporarily no longer have an office because that lease came up during the pandemic and it wasn't worth renewing. It will be interesting to see how much remote work sticks around.

(Also, we're an org that hosts an annual conference which has obviously been virtual the past two years, and now there's talk about making THAT hybrid as well and hooboy let's just say I'm glad figuring that out isn't my job.)
posted by misskaz at 6:57 AM on June 3 [8 favorites]


I was wary about going 100% WFH last year but now after 14 months of it, it feels like normal and I never want to go back to the office. I have a nice quiet space in the spare bedroom where I don't have to deal with a parade of people walking past my desk or having loud conversations next to me but not involving me. It's just as easy to ping people on Slack and to have impromptu meetings via Google Meet as it was tracking them down in the office.

I put four tanks of gas in my car in 2020 and while I'm driving a little more than that this year, I still go weeks without driving. My current job is only about 25 minutes away but it's inaccessible by transit so I'd have to drive in rush-hour traffic almost 5 hours a week while now I just walk up the back stairs from my kitchen when I'm done with breakfast and open up my laptop.

I have less than a decade until I retire and I could work like this until then without complaint.
posted by octothorpe at 7:13 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


What do people do? [...] Reading this thread closely, I can't even figure out what everyone is doing from home.

I'm a secretary - the assistant to the COO of a tech/manufacturing company. The bulk of my job involves keeping my boss on track with attending his various appointments and managing his calendar - if anyone wants a meeting with him, they have to go through me. ....This was REALLY easy to do from home during the depth of quarantine, since everyone else was living on email and zoom anyway. There's also some random reminders that "hey, so-and-so wanted you to sign this thing don't forget" and also some random research he'll ask me to do ("can you track down the best phone number for this dude in Congress" or "tell me whatever you can find about water quality in Florida"), or processing his expense reports (and expense reports are something I am freakishly good at for some reason so this usually takes me only five minutes).

The only thing that being physically in the office adds is that I can personally go stand in front of him with the paper he needs to sign instead of emailing him throughout the day, and I am there to cope with random fire drills like "HOLD UP A SECOND we just learned that Big Time Investor is coming to visit in two hours, we need to scare up a sandwich platter RIGHT NOW". Plus, at the moment it is involving some "I've finally set up the bookshelves in the new office, can you help me unpack and sort my library of 300 books." ....I know that last bit sounds tedious but it was weirdly fun, because the dude has some really funky books.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:15 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


(not all, there's some great middle-managers)
Where?


I have a good manager and a lot of it comes down to her valuing people management as a skill and responsibility even though she's doing it on top of the rest of her work. She makes sure we have a regularly scheduled team meeting (with an agenda) and she has individual check-ins with everyone on the team once a week. In addition to working on her individual projects, coordinating with other senior folks, tracking the team's work, sorting out bottlenecks, and putting together team-wide submissions, she makes sure she knows how people are doing, tries to help us sort out the problems we're running into, encourages folks to take time off, recommends professional development opportunities, and puts people in for promotions and raises.

Previously, the team went without a manager for 1.5 years even though it's split across different locations in different time zones on different continents. The people involved are incredibly skilled and self sufficient, which is why things were able to run on autopilot for so long, but the lack of leadership and coordination was a nightmare. Things were kind of imploding. After our manager came on board people stopped checking out mentally and emotionally, started getting along, and got excited about collaborating again. Projects flourished as a result.

It turns out there's a huge difference between someone who becomes a manager because it's the next step on the ladder, even though their expertise is in something else entirely and they don't care about other people, and someone who actually gives a shit about coordinating projects and mentoring people and works hard at both.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:18 AM on June 3 [16 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I'm a CRM administrator. I provide user support which is mostly done over email or phone; occasionally I have to get online with a user through some screen-sharing platform in order to help them with an issue. Other than that, most of the rest of my time is spent entering data into the CRM, or running reports out of the CRM and working my way through the resulting spreadsheets for various purposes. I supervise one person who I keep in touch with daily through email, and a weekly phone call. The two of us used to meet weekly with my boss over Zoom but that has just changed into a weekly, possibly in-person, meeting with just my boss and I. Other than that I don't have to attend too many meetings.

I like working from home, particularly not having a commute, the opportunity to get a few things done around the house in odd moments during the day, not having to mess around hauling food to work for lunches, being able to get dinner started early, etc. Plus at home I have a window with a nice view to sit by, and cats to pet, and a door I can close. But I miss the conversations I used to have with coworkers in the office, and the ability to walk over to someone's desk to help them out with something or ask a question. I am looking forward to being in the office a little more now that I'm vaxxed. Probably a day a week, to start. Not more than two if I can help it.

My husband is a software developer for a different company, and his team has been 100% remote during Covid and now permanently. His team programs in pairs so he is on a phone call with a partner much of the day, with a shared platform for working on the code. As the team anchor, he also spends a LOT of time in meetings over Zoom.

He loves working from home, particularly because he had a grueling commute before. I also think it helps that he spends so much time interacting with other people that he doesn't miss much of the social interaction he used to get at work. He hopes he doesn't ever have to go back in person, even occasionally. He thinks maybe his team will try to meet up for lunch occasionally once everyone is vaxxed and comfortable going to restaurants.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:29 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


someone who actually gives a shit about coordinating projects and mentoring people and works hard at both

I like to think this is me now. I have to say the first time I was given responsibility for a team I was given no change in workload, no information or training other than one anti-harassment session (important!) and one session on keeping costs down. And I sucked at it and was terrible. Like, I get a knot in my stomach thinking about it. It was also a cage match environment.

Then I took a sole contributor role which I enjoyed to a point.

Then I took what I thought would be a back office/assistant role but it turns out the assistance was needed a lot on the supervising/training/development end. I had a long think about it and sought out training and information. It makes a big difference to enter into it humbled.

I love where I work but - even though I think I've come a long way, I kind of hate being a manager. I think in a good organization it's tough. In an unhealthy one, it's hard to stay in that role for long enough to get good at it without basically turning off a lot of awareness.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:29 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I work in a very old, very traditional organization (not in the US) that has never even entertained the idea of WFH prior to the pandemic, even though the commute is frankly horrible for most of us and is a complete timesuck. I legitimately thought their key takeaway from the last fifteen months would've been that yay, employees are just as much if not more productive at home because we eliminate the physical and mental grind of 4 hours of back-and-forth. Instead, the push has been consistently to get bodies back into cubicles, ASAP. I don't understand it.
On the other hand, the boundary between work and non-work blurred so quickly as to have entirely disappeared now- and I made the mistake of not enforcing it from day 1 (partly because I had no prior experience of WFH at all and thought I needed to prove my productivity, or something) and now I have no idea how to. The one upside of WFO was that there was a clear demarcation - once I'm outta there people wouldn't call unless it really was an emergency. Now 'emergencies' are when someone above us has something to discuss/has a random bright idea that must immediately be worked upon and anyway we are home and can't go anywhere so why can't we attend right then? Argh. And this expectation is doubled for me since I live alone with cats and don't have a family to tend to, so what am I spending time on anyway? ARGH.
You say you enforce timings and never check mails and work at odd hours even though you're home all the time? Teach me how. Seriously.
posted by Nieshka at 7:33 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


One hidden aspect of WFH that I don't think many people have touched on is the ability to take care of yourself when you're feeling mildly sick, but still able to work.

Days where you might have some tummy trouble and getting on a train is daunting? You don't have to ask "am I sick enough to take a day off?", you can just work 10 feet from your own personal bathroom and make that call for yourself.

Seasonal allergies where you're not even infectious, you're just a mucousy mess that's kind of unpresentable for the office? No problem.

Obviously if you're actually feeling sick, do take that time off, but there are those "borderline" days where you're feeling well enough to get the work itself done, but not well enough to do the commute or make a social presence, and work from home has been great for that.
posted by explosion at 7:37 AM on June 3 [37 favorites]


Working from home is clearly popular, but it's not nearly this unanimous in surveys

My office had to physically lock the doors and deactivate everyone's ids in the middle of COVID to prevent people from working in the office, so yeah, there definitely are people who prefer to do their work in an office.

Me personally: I've done WFH on and off for the last 10 years. I like both it and the office fine.


Also: Yes, at the beginning of COVID, lots of places were lying about their ability to support WFH for all employees. There are tons of data privacy and audit requirements that the government let slide while people were working from home and specific development of new products had to be done to support many different industries. Of course, not all that development is complete, so for certain jobs, it's easier to meet those requirements by having people in office than completing the development of security and asset protection products so that people can work from home in about 1 year. Doesn't mean those efforts will stop, just they will get longer timelines.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:41 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


there are those "borderline" days where you're feeling well enough to get the work itself done, but not well enough to do the commute or make a social presence, and work from home has been great for that.

This is such a great point, and something I would think many people could get behind. In addition to being helpful for all the other reasons described in this thread, IBS/IBD/chronic GI conditions are so, so, so much easier to manage without taking

a) a train or a bus (or, worse? a car on a crowded freeway) into
b) an office with
c) a long hallway (or staircase!) to
d) a multistall bathroom that echoes.

Which is not even to mention the ease of staying hydrated and fed without being stuck with whatever "mild" food can be found at Au Bon Pain or the office vending machine.
posted by knotty knots at 7:53 AM on June 3 [9 favorites]


I think it might be partially an age thing as well. I've spent nearly 40 years in the workforce, commuting. I've had everything from a 5 minute commute to a one-way 2-hour commute, and I have no desire for any kind of commute now. I don't desire the interactions of coworkers to remain social, and I don't look for friends where I work. The time I used to spend commuting is my time now, and I can use it to do the things after or during work that I used to do on weekends like cleaning and yard work and errands so then on the weekends I can join a community social group (like a hiking group) or take a class at the community center in beekeeping or sit on my deck and read a book or . . . . . I also am not limited now to doctors who have weekend hours or having to take a half day off from work for a routine doctor's visit. I've spent the majority of my life working, and as I approach retirement, I'm just over it all. On many days I resent even having to log in from home, and I genuinely enjoy what I do and I work for a great place. WFH has been life changing for me, and I do NOT want to go back to what my life used to be and will leave this great job that I like if they try and make me.
posted by archimago at 7:59 AM on June 3 [7 favorites]


One hidden aspect of WFH that I don't think many people have touched on is the ability to take care of yourself when you're feeling mildly sick, but still able to work.

Yes, this! I mentioned my migraines being less frequent during WFH previously, and I think being able to fully manage my environment makes a huge difference.

Wake up with a migraine, take the med, go to work in the terribly lit, very loud, glass-walled office with constant interruptions and try to roleplay being normal while I suffer greatly? No, probably I will take the sick day.

Or wake up with a migraine, take the med, close the window in my home office, turn the screen brightness way down on my computer, wrap an ice pack around my head, and get a an okay amount of work done? Yes, I can do that.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 8:07 AM on June 3 [20 favorites]


Is it just that metafilter attracts a certain type of person, or is it kind of weird that the VAST majority of people I hear from/read the opinions of prefer to work from home?

A number of people at my office don't particularly like working from home. My boss feels she is more productive in the office, and more accessible to her team. I'm told our CEO has been in the office every day during Covid, and loathes having most everyone else work from home because he is a people person and there is currently hardly anyone to talk to... lol. Thankfully he's not selfish enough to make the rest of us come in just for that. I've heard there are a few others who chose to come in all or most of the time, but I don't know why. I do think the ones who came in felt fairly safe in doing so because there were very few people there so not difficult to stay distant from others.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:08 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I live a 20 minute walk from my office. I have the easiest commute of all time, basically, in the beforetimes. I like hanging out with my coworkers. But literally getting 45 more minutes of sleep as a night owl has made me feel physically so much better. Waking up at 7 a.m. makes me literally queasy and I haven't had that go on in over a year. I get up 15 minutes before work and I'm not falling asleep sitting still in the 8 a.m. meetings any more now that I work from home. I had more time to rest my body, and don't have to sit Perfectly Still Staring At Other Humans, which I was always, always, always in trouble about because Sitting Perfectly Still and Staring guess what, made me tired. If I'm fidgeting beneath the keyboard, who's to know and complain about it? If I'm doing just enough activity to keep me focused, nobody bitches me out for it. THAT is why I'd rather work from home. Or at least just only have to come into the office in the afternoons when my body is finally okay with being alive and awake.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:22 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I miss going into the office and I hate working from home. I realize the office days are over but I can't express how distraught I am that everyone prefers to stay at home all day rather than interact with other people.

I am 100% with you. I've always had jobs where I enjoy my co-workers and this whole thing has made me realize how rare that is. We're starting to voluntarily creep back into the office and it's a huge relief for me. I also think it's important to me as an introvert, which seems counterintuitive. I miss the casual, low-pressure social contact.
posted by Mavri at 8:26 AM on June 3 [11 favorites]


I'm really enjoying just reading everyone's experiences in this thread (and going around favoriting comments that are wildly in conflict with one another!). As for me, my employer fundamentally lost my trust at the beginning of the pandemic and I've basically just been pissed off at everything since then-- and I won't pretend to find a way to make it rational. I was pissed off when they took too long to send us home. I was pissed off when we had to work entirely from home. I was pissed off when I had to come partially back into the office. I was pissed off when the number of days I was allowed to come into the office were limited. Now I'm pissed off that we're losing the option to work from home, even though I hate working from home!
posted by dusty potato at 8:27 AM on June 3 [16 favorites]


You say you enforce timings and never check mails and work at odd hours even though you're home all the time? Teach me how. Seriously.

I'll have to admit for me, part of that is being in a line of work (government) where there isn't an expectation of responding to inquiries at all hours. I still have a few coworkers who insist on responding to emails/IMs no matter the hour, but that is frowned upon by management.

Also removing the temptation helps a bit. In previous jobs, unless there was a VERY clear expectation I was on-call after hours (like it was part of my stated duties), I purposely turned my work phone on silent and put it somewhere I can't see it when I wasn't on the clock. I also force myself to turn off my laptop at 5pm each day. If I absolutely must have work apps on my personal device for whatever reason I disable all relevant notifications and hide the shortcuts so I'm not tempted to open them. Last but not least, I don't give out my personal phone number to coworkers - there are plenty of other ways to reach me if they need to.

Of course, making yourself unavailable outside of 9-5 doesn't help much if the issue is company culture.
posted by photo guy at 8:46 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


Neurotypical people who want fully remote work arrangements are rare.

FTFY


Don't mistake statistics (posted in response to a question about how this thread seemed not to be representative of the greater population) for my own point of view. Anybody who does an information-worker sort of job that can be done remotely should be able to do that job remotely as often as they want, full stop, without them having to justify it to their employers. In another comment in this thread I detailed my own WFH history, which spans multiple jobs and includes me managing a team remotely. I will never defend managers or companies that insist people be physically present to do jobs that can be done from anywhere.
posted by fedward at 8:57 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


People want what they miss, and they idealize the past.

That is to say, people right now are saying they want to return to the office life, but after 2 weeks of it? They might be pining for WFH.

Also, I would be shocked if people weren't conflating WFH with pandemic lockdown. Imagine working from home, but meeting a friend for lunch for half an hour, and then returning home. That's something that will be possible, but currently hasn't been.

Maybe you'll feel less compelled to work outside of "office hours" once people stop assuming that you have nothing to do, rather than a social life, gym membership, etc. to fill those extra hours.
posted by explosion at 9:09 AM on June 3 [8 favorites]


None of that addresses my main concern, which is that I used to have an office and a studio apartment. Now, I just have a studio apartment which is worse for working in almost every way, and I don't have any leverage to somehow move to a more expensive place. I've travelled a few times to visit my partner in their 1-bedroom apartment, and it coincided with a lockdown once; neither of us enjoyed spending the whole workday with our headphones in and the other having a video meeting out of the corner of your eye.

I'm also early in my career, and I desperately miss the visibility I had to people 2+ levels above me, something that felt important to any sort of advancement in the long run.
posted by sagc at 9:16 AM on June 3 [17 favorites]


"Why?" "I've realised that the house is less stressful when the business isn't in the house

Been fully remote since April 2018 - from first an unused bedroom, then - when my daughter moved back home with our granddaughter, from the rarely used basement living room, that unfortunately had an open-set of stairs to the upstairs kitchen.

It was rough - between 3-adults, 1-baby, 4-dogs and a cat - I always felt guilty about the never ending concalls and having everyone "tiptoe" around. Then we made plans to jointly purchase a house with the in-laws - so, another 2-adults.

In what some would consider a perverse move, when everyone started working remotely - from home, during the start of the pandemic, I rented a small office-space - just 1-room, 350sq, unfortunately not walkable. But - I am a subcontract consultant - this is a business expense, so it gets paid by my private corp.

It has improved everything - home is separate from work (even though, sometimes I work very long hours), no one needs to fear me being on the phone, no dogs barking.

It does mean that if I do want to take work home, it is not as "nice", because my big monitors and ergo KB are "at the office", and it does mean an extra expense for "business internet" (which is also an expense to be claimed off the billable).

(And - I have a fridge, microwave, coffee-maker, toaster - heck even a couch - plus, alot of other things, because... we now use it for storage as well, my desk area takes-up only a quarter of the total space)

Yes - there is alot of privilege to be able to do this - but, if you have your own company/sole-proprietorship even - I highly recommend it, if you can find a decent priced space. Pro-tip though... If you live anywhere that gets hot/humid, ensure that you know what the HVAC/AC situation is... I was sold by the "free electricity/central-heat" - only to find out very quickly last summer that did not mean AC... So... now, I have a portable unit, but on hot summer days, it does not keep-up, so I jokingly refer to my office as "the sweatshop".
posted by rozcakj at 9:24 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


In the job I mentioned where the company piloted WFH as a prelude to an office move there was a tremendous waste of time and energy(1) that went into the number and location of desks that were going to be in the new office space. The office was moving from a convenient downtown location (near Farragut Square, for people who know DC) to a building on the edge of a suburban downtown (Bethesda). Most people were going to find their commute more than double in length. Company executives basically refused to admit there would be any sort of problem with the commute or the office, insisting that everyone would still be expected to work in the new office most of the time once it opened.

But it was an open secret that there wouldn't be enough desks. For a few weeks, many teams (including mine) tried to play nice, saying we'd be fine with hoteling one or two days a week as long as we had a team area we could use on those days. We even talked to other teams about which days of the week we could agree on (like, we'll take Tuesday, they'll take Wednesday). We were happy to play along with some scheduled office days, but the executives maintained that there wouldn't be any need for hoteling and nobody would have shared space.

And then one day there was a surprise announcement that acknowledged there were more people than there would be desks, and thus anybody who'd been involved in the WFH pilot would be converted to full-time WFH and would not have a desk in the new office at all unless they specifically requested one right then(2). All of this happened before a single person moved into the new office. None of it seemed to be based on what it took for any of us to do our jobs, just a bunch of wishful thinking from executives who selected new office space without even making sure everybody would fit.

I think so much of the "return to the office" mentality that's coming from CEOs and (bad) managers is the same sort of wishful thinking those executives had. They say they need everybody there, and they can't picture how many people they have working for them unless they can physically see them all at the same time. But there's a whole lot of work that can get done without people all being colocated, and good management accounts for workers who can't all be seen in the same office.

1. Par for the course at this company. They also tended to do the stupid political "all these people need to be here" desk moves. I got moved twice, once to the desk right next to the desk I had previously been in, and another time when they shoved my whole team to another corner for some reason. It was such a waste.

2. There was one guy on my team who had a tiny apartment that was halfway between the old office and the new one. He requested (and got) a desk. His commute was the same length, just in the opposite direction, and he never liked working from home anyway. The rest of us just took the WFH offer.
posted by fedward at 9:24 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I'm struggling with this myself as we've all gone fully back to the office at my company. Now that there's no excuse everybody's expected to be back at his or her desk 40+ hours a week and furthermore we can forget the meager one hour of flex time a day we had when working from home. 8 to 5, noon is lunch, love it or lump it.

I've been talking to another company that allows a couple days a week of working from home but the commute is over an hour each way on the days I'd have to go to the office unless I'm willing to move closer their office but I refuse to live in a redder state than I'm already stuck in and I discovered earlier this year that hybrid work is even worse because I have to remember to take anything I might want to use for work back and forth between the office and home or just have two of everything.

The worst part is we're a civil engineering firm. There's no reason we need to collaborate in person. We're a pack of nerds who do homework at each other. I can do math, write, and draw at home as easily as I can do so in an office, and screen share beats printing things out and schlepping them to a conference room any day. If I need to go to a job site or visit a client at city hall I can drive out from my apartment as easily as I can drive out from the office.
posted by The Monster at the End of this Thread at 9:30 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


The worst part is we're a civil engineering firm. There's no reason we need to collaborate in person.

We're looking for civil engineers.
posted by LionIndex at 9:37 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]


I'm in government, and my WFH experience has been pretty good in a lot of ways, because most of my work is research, writing, analysis, coordination, and outreach to regulators. Aside from not having access to our hard-copy files in the office (which go back to the mid-1800s), WFH in a content-based way has been pretty good.

The down side is that our tech infrastructure was in no way set up to more than quintuple the number of people logging into the network remotely, and the first 8 months of the pandemic were a clusterfuck of tech problems. Those of us on the west coast usually had to download our files to work on outside the network in order to get any work done at all, because we couldn't reliably get into the network before noon or 1 pm most workdays. This was in violation of our agency security protocols (no emailing files to your home email address!), but for a long time was the only way to be at all productive. And in August they turned off our ability to read our email from outside the agency firewall, which really caused problems.

It's gotten better, and now I have an agency laptop with a pretty solid VPN connection. But our bandwidth and software solutions are still poor enough that I'm the only person I know (outside my own office) who has had fewer than a dozen full video calls during the pandemic. The engineers and architects in my division mostly kept working at the office because they couldn't get the technical support they needed to do the work at home.

In any event, our management is leaning more into getting people back into the office, but with a more more flexible WFH policy, to the extent that some people have relocated across the country and are still kept on their teams.

All that said, I think I'll be going back in maybe 2-3 days/week. It really is helpful for me to meet the new staff that have been hired, and chat with my new boss (he was hired in August, and I was promoted in February), and yeah, go out to eat at the lunch places downtown. Now if only they'll re-establish full capacity on the bus system so I don't have to drive every day...
posted by suelac at 9:44 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


You say you enforce timings and never check mails and work at odd hours even though you're home all the time?

This part has been an utter disaster -- in my company people have just been working 24x7x365. Ten at night on a weekend? I can guarantee there are people doing substantial work. Same for 6am the next day. I pretty much work until bedtime, have pings waiting for me when I wake up, and can hear pings coming in as I drift off to sleep.

The company started to get straight-up terrified of burnout.

First, it was stupid "how to take care of your sanity" videos they made people watch.

Then it was mandatory no-meeting days (they literally went in and made it impossible for anyone to schedule a meeting on certain days, the software would not accept entries on those days -- if you really needed one you had to ask your VP).

Then it was mandatory "fun" time. Ha.

Then it was mandatory days off for the entire company and intermittent emails hectoring people to stop working so hard maybe take a walk or something guys? Anyone want some meditation classes? We've got a deal on art classes too! Anyone? Anything?

None of it has worked, too many people are still going more or less flat out, like they have nothing else to do with their time so they may as well get some more projects landed. It's like one of those cautionary tales, where the executives probably worried about productivity at the start of lockdown and are now reaching the end of lockdown spending most of their time being worried about too much productivity. Darn magic monkey paw.
posted by aramaic at 9:58 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I realize the office days are over but I can't express how distraught I am that everyone prefers to stay at home all day rather than interact with other people.

Uhhh, we are all telling stories about how they are NOT over because people are being forced back. I'm... confused.

Also, I'm a writer. My job is actively better remote.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:58 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


One hidden aspect of WFH that I don't think many people have touched on is the ability to take care of yourself when you're feeling mildly sick, but still able to work.

As someone noted above about IBD or IBS, the ability to work from home (some or all of the time) is a very important accommodation or benefit for people with chronic health conditions, precisely because it reduces the stress of commuting and gives you more opportunity to care for your health while continuing to work. I've interviewed people who've described having a bad flare of arthritis, but still being able to work because they could do so while lying down on a couch, or take a nap during their lunch break.
posted by jb at 10:12 AM on June 3 [12 favorites]


None of it has worked, too many people are still going more or less flat out, like they have nothing else to do with their time so they may as well get some more projects landed.

Is there something about the culture of the organization or field that is driving this? I turn off my work email after 7.5 hours, and no one expects me to look again until the next day - or Monday, in the case of a Friday, and I similarly never expect a response to anything that I may have sent late (because I started late or had something to catch up on).

But if your management is not demanding such long hours, what is driving it? Fear of not being kept on? Competition for promotion? Habit?
posted by jb at 10:15 AM on June 3


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I manage the stewardship/donor relations end of fundraising for a nonprofit organization. There are only a few things that I need to be in the office for, like to print up letters and process checks. But those tasks really only take up maybe 1-to-2 full days any given week; that number is much higher when our annual campaign launches. The things I can do at home: pull donor lists from the database, assist with grant research and writing as needed, enter pledges, write letter templates, run data, clean up the database, meet with teammates via Zoom or Teams, participate in advocacy, write social media posts, and run email initiatives via one of our applications, attend webinar learning sessions (like an annual conference that I probably wouldn't have been able to attend in person, due to budget concerns, but was able to attend virtually), just to name a few.
posted by cooker girl at 10:18 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


This's been interesting for me, going from
• "10 minute walking commute!" where I rather liked the office, going out to lunch with coworkers, etc. to
• COVID layoffs, find a bridging 1-year contract with a timezone difference, so I'm WFH but also during a pandemic. Upside though, it's an hourly contract, so I've had a hard-enforced "no extra work" rule. Downside, no days off. But also either
• I'm working on a couch (less-productive, but better for video meetings, good for days when I'm reading articles or dashboards & absorbing) or
• I'm working from my personal desk, which is properly desk-y but also would mean I'm basically spending ~14 hours a day in that chair between work and not-work
• Now I have a permanent role coming up (yay, also odd since the company in question was keen on poaching me which was a new thing), and that's going to be remote from the outset/job offer. At which point I'm thinking I really need to figure out something more sustainable, set aside some dedicated office space, I don't need to be close to my former office anymore, etc.

Except wait, me and seemingly everybody else is also looking for that, so the housing market is obscene (and who knows how long that will last/what the other side of that might look like). And I'll probably have to figure out "getting movement in", loathe as I've been there. And...

Not a bad outcome, per se, but there's definitely a lot of moving parts. But hey, I'm able to pitch my sub-specialty nationally without having to figure out moving from one hot zone to another!
posted by CrystalDave at 10:19 AM on June 3


On the sick note, I do have a bad head cold today and am home doing work. If I was in an office, I'd be terrible and also feel much more terrible. I haven't just fallen back into bed in the fetal position yet, but I'm sure tempted to.

My boss probably thinks I'm lying just to stay home, but I do sound like Batman so... I'm not.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:32 AM on June 3


I've interviewed people who've described having a bad flare of arthritis, but still being able to work because they could do so while lying down on a couch, or take a nap during their lunch break.

I threw out my back again in November and I'm pretty convinced that I was able to recover relatively quickly because I was able to do most of my work either lying flat on the couch or standing up and pacing around (calls), rather than spending a lot of time in any kind of chair. Maybe not great for certain other muscles, but definitely better for the sciatica.

But if your management is not demanding such long hours, what is driving it? Fear of not being kept on? Competition for promotion? Habit?

I don't think there are tons of people who are putting in extra hours just out of a sense of duty. It's management-driven.
posted by praemunire at 10:41 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I believe there are many people who put in extra hours because they have no life outside of work. Some also really enjoy what they do. And many are in management.
posted by Rash at 11:05 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


"I realize the office days are over but I can't express how distraught I am that everyone prefers to stay at home all day rather than interact with other people."

Part of what's great about both of us working from home is that I get to interact with so many more people! Neither of us has to commute! When the workday is over, we can pop over to my brother's house for a weeknight barbecue! Last night I went over after dinner to see a friend, who in the commuting days got home around 6:30, exhausted from the commute and daycare pickup, and immediately had to swing into dinner and bedtime. Now she and her husband knock off at five, mosey to the kitchen, hang out with the kids, teach the kids to cook, play catch in the backyard, and have pleasant, unrushed evenings, so I could drop by after dinner and we could have wine on the patio.

I'm excited about things opening back up (when it's safe), and things like, my husband can take half an hour in the middle of the day, walk to the kids' elementary school, and be kindergarten story reader. Instead of having to schedule his entire WEEK around wanting to be kindergarten story reader for half an hour because it ends up taking half a day out of the downtown office to go to a school in walking distance from our house. I was already remote, but I won't have to load all three kids in the car to take one kid to an appointment or activity after school! My husband will be in the house! I can volunteer for PTA things without having to have a nanny!

He won't be seeing people in the office nearly as often, but we'll BOTH be seeing a great deal more of our local friends, of our kids' activities, of our hobby networks, of our town and community. Already community life feels more vibrant because so many more people are around. I used to be the only person home on the block during the day ... now I see neighbors out walking their dogs at lunchtime or sitting in the shade sending e-mails or picking some backyard tomatoes for a snack and it's just so PLEASANT and I see so much MORE of people.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:16 AM on June 3 [16 favorites]


Some also really enjoy what they do.

If you enjoy what you do, it's much less of a problem.

When you're in the helping professions, there's internal pressure, but this is mostly not that crowd.
posted by praemunire at 11:16 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


I am in a helping profession and there is a lot of pressure and stress. Mostly just people being mad at me every single day (literally all day today, nothing but angry emails). It's a joy. But at least I'm not expected to do a lick of work come 5:01 p.m. Between 8-5 is hell, but at least it STOPS because nobody wants to pay me overtime. I presume those working on other statuses literally do have to work 24-7, though. This is one of the reasons why I stay a peon.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:26 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I'm torn on this one, although I don't know if or when I'll actually have to make a decision about it. It's lovely not having to cope with the sensory onslaught on the train and in the office; it's lovely to have a big desk that's the right height for me to sit with my feet on the floor; it's lovely not to have to get up unpleasantly early and start every day in a frantic rush; it's lovely not to have to spend a significant fraction of my take-home pay on train travel. But I miss London and I miss my friends at work. Without the office this past year, I've had no social contact at all. Moving closer to London isn't an option, for all the same reasons it wasn't an option to buy closer in the first place, and I do love this area (beautiful open countryside), but the isolation is no joke.

As for the work itself, meetings and collaboration are vastly better in person -- but the vast majority of what I do is solo work, which is much better from home, where it's calm and quiet and I can concentrate.

I think optimal for me might look like working mostly from home, coming in one afternoon a week for meetings, and shifting my work day a bit earlier a couple of other days so that I can hop on a (super-off-peak, hence cheap) train later on and meet colleagues for after-work drinks or dinner. Goodness only knows how that would look to anyone else though.

The cost of the commute is the real sticking point. I don't really mind the time too much (3-4 hours per day, but most of that is spent reading and the rest of it is spent walking, both activities I enjoy), but not having to take the train to work this past year has been equivalent to about a £10k pay rise, and the prospect of the equivalent pay *cut* is... not enticing. Train fare pricing here is baroque as well as expensive, and no matter how I tweak things, if I need to be in the office by 10am more than one day a week, I can't get away with spending less than about £6k over the year.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 11:33 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I'm in a helping profession where I do a combination of counseling-type work and community-building/organizing type work. Both of these generate a LOT of phone calls and paperwork for every hour of in-person work.

Pre-pandemic I worked in an open-plan cube farm, and had to find empty offices to take private calls or meet with clients. I spent 1-3 hours a day commuting depending on our highly-variable traffic. In my dream work scenario, I would meet with clients on a couple of set days in a pre-reserved office, work in the community a couple of set days, and do my paperwork and phone calls from my much more private home. I am ready to move away from telehealth but I don't see why that means I need to be physically in a particular spot 40+ hours a week. And being home more during the regular work week would make the evenings/weekends that I sometimes have to work much more tolerable.
posted by assenav at 11:54 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


"I've finally set up the bookshelves in the new office, can you help me unpack and sort my library of 300 books." ....I know that last bit sounds tedious but it was weirdly fun

It sounds like my dream job as long as it wasn't every day for 8 hours. I would love to have something like this for 2-3 hours once a week or so at my job. It doesn't have to be sorting or book-related, heck I'll assemble office furniture or hang pictures, just something a bit physical combined with some thinking. WFH has enabled me to sew and craft while on calls or breaks and it's immensely helpful.
posted by soelo at 12:10 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I would love to have something like this for 2-3 hours once a week or so at my job. It doesn't have to be sorting or book-related, heck I'll assemble office furniture or hang pictures, just something a bit physical combined with some thinking.

Oh, for me part of the appeal was getting to see all the random weird books my boss has. Like every five minutes I was marveling over stuff like "....you own ten books about city planning" or "wait, you have a copy of Aristotle's Poetics" or "holy shit I've always wanted to read this biography of Robert Moses, can I borrow it?" or "I didn't even know mid-18th-Century Latvian Design was a thing you could even write a book about". And half the time, if he noticed me studying something, he'd either tell me some bit of trivia about it or would reach over to another book on the shelf and indicate "this one is even better if you're interested". The book sorting took even longer because we were grinding to a halt every 20 minutes to discuss "oh hang on, lemme show you what the typography is like on my copy of The Decameron, it's really cool".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


For me I would be much more amenable to considering a hybrid or flex schedule if it wasn't so obvious that they just want things to go "back to normal" and in pink collar land, I'll just say it, "normal" is a woman sitting at a desk for 40 hours because her unstated job is to Look Available and Helpful even though we all learned this year that yes, 90% of her work can be done remotely. And I hope women are just done with giving up 40 hours every damn week for that.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:30 PM on June 3 [11 favorites]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I design circuit boards and machine parts for a small startup. So basically I poke at the computer all day. Every now and then I send some files + a credit card number to China, and a week or two later, metal parts and circuit boards show up.

So, pretty much the story of US manufacturing, I guess.
posted by ryanrs at 12:31 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I believe there are many people who put in extra hours because they have no life outside of work. Some also really enjoy what they do. And many are in management.

When I hear stories like that, those statistics come to mind about people dying not long after they retire. Like they don’t know what else to do with their time.

I can accidentally pick up a new hobby rolling out of bed in the morning, so if I make it to retirement (crossed fingers knocking on wood) the main issue the first day, after making the best cup of coffee of my entire life, will be which activity to start on.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:03 PM on June 3 [6 favorites]


And I hope women are just done with giving up 40 hours every damn week for that.

I wish that was an option. I couldn't find anything else before pandemic and I don't have any hopes that I could now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:06 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


No judgement, I just really want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

I am an attorney and I help manage, analyze, coordinate etc. 8/9 figure deals and do some related litigation-type work. I also do some pro bono litigation on the side. We had a huge advantage in moving to remote work because our work is already so time-sensitive and unpredictable that everyone was already completely equipped and prepared to work from home at a moment's notice.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:12 PM on June 3


We had a huge advantage in moving to remote work because our work is already so time-sensitive and unpredictable that everyone was already completely equipped and prepared to work from home at a moment's notice.

aka, "The client was already quite comfortable calling me/the partner at 3 am." Phew. That lifestyle.

In my dream work scenario, I would meet with clients on a couple of set days in a pre-reserved office, work in the community a couple of set days, and do my paperwork and phone calls from my much more private home.

I have a relative who does work with the juvenile justice system and that is more or less what her job looked like pre-pandemic, except I think she didn't need to meet clients in the office that often. Her work hardly changed at all, except for appearing in court remotely.
posted by praemunire at 1:22 PM on June 3


I'm in cybersecurity. My entire team is far-flung (three in CA, one in VA, one in AZ, two in India, two in NY), so this idea of "we gotta be in the office because Face Time!" is a total non-starter for me, thankfully. Plus, as one with ADHD, being seated in an open office plan next to the kitchen, front door, and ping pong table sometimes made me want to light things on fire.

Also, I have food intolerances and am prone to headaches. I absolutely never want to go back to a place where I have to decide whether to work or whether to take care of myself, if I can even successfully do so. (Getting my migraining ass home on a subway is a new slice of hell.)

(As a side note, I've developed a moderate case of agoraphobia from the pandemic, so there's a real chance I'd go back to the new office and have a panic attack in front of my coworkers. Fun fun!)
posted by XtinaS at 1:31 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


I've interviewed people who've described having a bad flare of arthritis, but still being able to work because they could do so while lying down on a couch, or take a nap during their lunch break.

Same thing applies for people dealing with certain pregnancy symptoms like fatigue, nausea and pain, which can be severe for some people and isn't always sympathetically viewed. Or you may not wish to disclose a pregnancy to coworkers early in the first trimester for many practical reasons. I would have had a very difficult time with my 1.5 hour bus commute or even just making it through the workday without a chance to lie down for a few minutes to settle my stomach, but WFH makes everything much more manageable.
posted by randomnity at 2:04 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


A third or fourth reality for those folks emailing or working at 10pm, they are juggling responsibilities. Sure, that one guy you know might be a workaholic with no life who will die the morning after his retirement party but lots of people have been doing the juggle. Which means taking care of X tonight to that you can do necessary home caregiving (children, elderly, pets, whatever) at that Standard Work Time of 8 am. They are swapping some thing for another. You don’t have to get all mad about it unless it’s your manager who is wondering why you’re not also available.
posted by amanda at 3:04 PM on June 3 [12 favorites]


I’ve had to remind clients that, ‘yes, even your electrician, a man, might have needed to alter his schedule due to childcare responsibilities.’

Having said all that, I’ve worked for myself for the past six years and off and on throughout my professional career. A training program wouldn’t be out of line for transitioning and/or supporting positive WFH workplaces.
posted by amanda at 3:06 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


A bit of advice I give to my clients if they are looking to reduce their hours - work every day, but be strict about cut-off times and develop a good script for explaining how much time is required for a task.

That way, if something comes in close to cut-off time, say, "That is the first thing I will do tomorrow when I am fresh and have X hours uninterrupted", rather than working back late.

I don't believe people are productive 24/7/365 - I know I do 40 hours a week of the really good stuff, I can do another 10 - 15 hours of low level management/admin a week, and anything past that is not safe to leave the office without being reviewed and checked.

One law partner I worked for, his comment was that the work you rushed to complete after 3pm on Friday, usually took Monday and Tuesday to fix. I call total BS on anyone who says they do 60 hours a week productive work consistently. You might be able to do it once every few months - but consistently - high on your own supply.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:25 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


be strict about cut-off times

Years ago I managed somebody who took a commuter train out of NYC every night. One day she'd said something about needing to leave the office by a certain time to catch a particular train, because if she missed that train it was an hour until the next one. And then that very day she got a late request from somebody and told me she was going to stay to finish it. "Won't you miss that train you just told me about?" "It's fine, I can catch the next one." "You can also just do this work tomorrow. Go home." "But …" "Go home. The work will still be here tomorrow. If you have too much work to do in your scheduled time, it's not your fault and it's not your problem. The way we get another person here starts with showing there's too much work for one person to do. Everybody knows you work hard. Go home."

She left the company to follow somebody else we'd worked with, but then came back with a promotion. When she came back after working somewhere else she told me that "the work will still be here tomorrow" was the best work advice anybody had ever given her.
posted by fedward at 5:57 PM on June 3 [11 favorites]


In heavy construction we are actually trained to take a few seconds at regular intervals to make sure we aren't rushing to get something done before quitting time or even worse quitting time on Friday. Also to not start new tasks near the end of the day/end of the week that a) must be completed once started and b) that can only be completed in the projected remaining time if nothing goes wrong.
posted by Mitheral at 6:15 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


In software that's "never release on Friday." I had a client ask why we always released mid-week, never on weekends. "Do you want to pay for the overtime?" "Oh." "We make sure nobody has to work weekends so you don't have to pay for it."
posted by fedward at 6:32 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


I have read this entire thread waiting for one, just one, person to mention how difficult it has been to work from home while trying to watch young children or help them with distance learning. Am I the only person here dealing with endless snack demands, school technology-related freak outs, harassment of the household cat, and bored whining the entire work day? The longest I have worked uninterrupted since March 2020 is a single two-hour stretch when my husband took our kid to the dentist. I will never stop being bitter about my work’s all-staff meeting last summer when the male CIO asked staff how we felt about working remotely, and a bunch of men said, “Great! I love not commuting from the exurbs to downtown. I’ve never been more productive.” I feel like I am living in an alternate universe, and my cortisol levels are sky high.

I work in IT and for a couple years pre-pandemic finally had a job where we were allowed to work from home two days per week. It was great. It was quiet. I sent my kid off to school on the school bus on those two days, got work done if I had to, and did laundry if things were slow. I vacuumed the floors over the lunch hour, even in the basement - my house was so clean. Now? I have hours of conference calls per day, often back to back to back. My team deals with critical system production support, so sometimes I have to drop everything and put out fires and send out status updates to thousands of employees. My kid leaves a trail of debris wherever he goes. I work from a desk in the living room/kitchen area, and my husband splits his time between the kitchen table, his downstairs office (WITH A FUCKING DOOR), and the lab at work. Will full-time working from home be better once my kid can go back to in-person school? Obviously. But my shoulder is quite fucked up from my living room desk chair, I feel more silo-ed than ever on an ultra-specialized scrum team, and I desperately miss my bike commute (and even the winter bus commute where I could read in silence and get a mile of walking in). My department is on the “maybe you’ll have a new dedicated office space in 2023” list, and I have mixed feelings. At least most of my colleagues have finally figured out how to share their screens during conference calls (but not all, though).
posted by Maarika at 7:48 PM on June 3 [13 favorites]


You are not alone Maarika, although my youngest was 9 at the start of the pandemic - so in some ways a different planet. But also not; uninterrupted time AH HA HA.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:52 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I'll tell you what, it's wicked hard to have your husband working from home and then he he gets wicked sick from some weird liver thing that no doctor has ever seen before and then he dies. So I'd like to find a WFH job, right about now.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:06 PM on June 3 [17 favorites]


I'm an introvert and I've been a web developer most of my career. I worked from home for a couple of years. That was pretty great; my wife went to work and our daughter went to school so I had the house to myself.

About nine months before the pandemic I got a job in the IT department in my city. Now I'm a systems analyst/web developer. The IT department office is in the former admiral's suite on an old naval base, so I have a ridiculously large office to myself. That was also pretty great. My commute is 5 minutes. I get Fridays off and work four nine-hour days. I'd break up the days by coming home for lunch.

When the pandemic hit we were all at home all the time. I love my family dearly, but as an introvert it was a challenge at first to have them around all the time. We have a small house, so we've spent over a year all sitting at our dining room table literally within four feet of each other and our computers and screens.

We started having to come into the office two days a week about two weeks ago. I start my day at home around 7:30 checking emails and stuff and then go into the office. It's much easier than having to be physically in the office at 7:30. There's no reason for me to physically be in the office to do my job since I'm on projects by myself, rarely need to meet with other city workers (which we can do on Zoom now) and never need to meet with members of the public.

The city manager is a butts-in-the-seats person so we'll have to start going back four days a week in July. I don't mind having to go into the office personally, but my wife's still working at home and doing extra work wrangling our daughter. We're hoping school will go back to normal in the fall.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:24 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


One hidden aspect of WFH that I don't think many people have touched on is the ability to take care of yourself when you're feeling mildly sick, but still able to work.

Along with what's already been mentioned, it ready does help (at least somewhat) to be able to lay down during your lunch hour if you were woken up by a car alarm or bathroom break at 3 AM and never did fall back to sleep.
posted by gtrwolf at 10:23 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]


As someone with anxiety, I've now had two nights where I've woken up like 5/6am and had potentially 2ish hours left to sleep but... nope. At least with WFH I could roll in slightly later after I checked for any pressing messages and it would be fine as I'm output based. But nope, my anxiety brain would not shut up so I'm exhausted.

I guess having a really bad virus doesn't help.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:30 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I'm really sorry, Maarika and all the other parents who have had to deal with kids + pandemic. I'm an old, so my kids are launched (well, one is starting her senior year of college in the fall, so not quite launched yet but also doesn't live at home currently). I have watched my friends with kids younger than mine handle *waves vaguely* all this and it just sucks.
posted by cooker girl at 7:10 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


I definitely recognize that the fact that we have a house large enough that my wife and I can work from home and not even see each other during the day is a huge privilege. I wonder how much the crazy house-buying frenzy in the US is being fueled by the need for WFH space?
posted by octothorpe at 8:14 AM on June 4 [4 favorites]


I have read this entire thread waiting for one, just one, person to mention how difficult it has been to work from home while trying to watch young children or help them with distance learning

I don’t have young kids, but I still felt this comment in my bones.

As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I’ve been a remote worker for years. Part of the reason we bought our current house five years ago was because it included a loft area which made for a perfect home office for me without having to dedicate a bedroom for this purpose.

Prior to the pandemic it was a perfect scenario. I could work in this open portion of my house while my kid went off to school and my wife went off to work. Then once the pandemic hit I had my kid here doing distance learning fighting for the same internet bandwidth (we ended up having to upgrade since I was getting a ton of drop offs during important meetings) since we were both on video calls pretty much the entire day, sometimes requiring my IT assistance getting connected to his classes. My wife’s job was a casualty of the pandemic rather early on. She started to feel a bit trapped in her own house since even doing something like turning on the TV in the family room could be a distraction if the volume wasn’t just right (the noise would feed into my video calls with customers and sometimes they would complain).

We talked about my moving my office into the spare bedroom to help with this which seemed like an ideal fix but then we were hit with another common pandemic situation: my 25 year old stepson needed to move back in so the spare bedroom became spoken for. Which also meant his 3 year old son is here a few days a week, which I generally love, but not super convenient when having executive team meetings and having to defensively block a 3-year-old trying to climb in my lap or playing his tablet at excessive volume.

Even typing this out, it feels like such “first world problem” things to complain about, and I do realize how lucky I am to continue to be employed throughout this whole situation, but I have to confess, I do kind of miss when my office didn’t have as many “co-workers’”.
posted by The Gooch at 8:24 AM on June 4 [3 favorites]


I'm so sorry, Marie Mon Dieu.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:48 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


Similar to time saved commuting, we would probably save a few days of our lives if we stopped apologizing for having problems regardless of where we're at in life. Life can suck. It's okay to have pain, and your pain is your own.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:55 AM on June 4 [4 favorites]


Marie Mon Dieu, I'm sorry for your loss. My wife's brother landed in the ICU in March with advanced cirrhosis. He never really regained consciousness before passing away a week later. My wife and her mom were able to be in the room with him because of his terminal diagnosis, and it was incredibly hard.
posted by fedward at 9:00 AM on June 4


Terrible, Marie Mon Dieu, so sorry. We can never know.
posted by Rash at 7:37 PM on June 4


I feel bad commenting from Australia, where the pandemic has been much less dangerous, but the WFH changes have been life changing.
I moved out of the city 18 years ago to cheaper housing to raise kids. The drawback was a 2hr one way commute. Pre-pandemic, i worked from home one day a week, and at a past job, two days a week.
Full time WFH meant 2hrs more sleep 4 days a week, a 7am wake instead of 5am.
And 2 hours in the evening means more home cooked meals with my family, I can join the trivia team at the local, I can have dinner before the P&C meeting. I save $60 a week in commuting fares. I am not a write off Saturday mornings from tiredness.

I have a desk in little landing at the top of the stairs - so not a silent office, but away from the noisiest parts of the house. When kids were home from school (only for a few months in AU) they did school in their rooms, or didn’t and we let it slide, but we are lucky they are big enough to look after themselves. My spouse has a medical job where she works for herself doing house calls at a schedule she sets, so she was largely unimpacted, though did more Telehealth calls.

Since the end of last year, my work team has been back in the office 2 days a week. I support a gregarious sales team of half a dozen, so there is extrovert energy they need to burn off, and they were keen to spend more office time. Curiously, they have had pretty lax attendance. Lots of WFH because a kid was ill, or a repairman was coming, or feeling under the weather.
I think they defaulted to “get back to normal” without much introspection, but really like the flexibility of WFH.
We hit the office Wednesday and Friday. Friday is always lunch together, and I look forward to it for the social aspect. Wednesday often is too, but I also like being able to walk around town, visit the library, shop, visit ethnic groceries and the the other things different to my home.
For a while, going to the office was a bit of an event, and we went out for drinks after - making up for the shut in times. That has settled down a bit after 6 months.

Our local tourist town is still hurting from missing global tourists, but there are many more WFH people in the cafes mid week, or around during the day.
I’d be very supportive of ongoing WFH indefinitely, likely mixed with one day a week in the office (or even one a month) and the feeling here is it is much more possible.
A work colleague has been talking about moving out of town when his child is born. Another friend is considering the move from an inner city apartment to the hobby farm always dreamed of.

I really see more flexible working arrangements as an opportunity for people to self actualise and create a new way of living. I would 100% leave my job if they insisted I go back to more frequent office attendance.
posted by bystander at 2:37 AM on June 5 [2 favorites]


Oh, and a follow up. A friend who is a real estate agent says they used to get 2 or 3 people at an inspection for a rental property, but have been getting 20 or 30 for the past 6 months. People want to leave the city if they don’t have to commute.
posted by bystander at 2:41 AM on June 5


I'm one of the lucky ones. I've got a nice, steady job I can do remotely. I've got a decent dedicated home office space. I've got a house big enough that Mrs. Example and I can get away from each other when we need to, and she's been working in the office this entire time. (She works for the NHS.) We don't have any kids, so the only demands on our time are from the cats. I've generally been okay and managed to get work done and keep money coming in. I'm really privileged and I appreciate it.

Still.

Jesus Christ, I miss my office sometimes. I never thought I'd hear myself saying that, but it's true. I had a little routine going--walk about a third of a mile down to the tram stop, take the tram twenty minutes to the stop near work, walk about a quarter-mile to work (optionally picking up some light breakfast on the way), settle at my desk, and start the day. Sometimes I'd go out for lunch, and sometimes eat at my desk while reading things like MetaFilter. Then I'd reverse the commute at the end of the day, except on gym days, where I'd get off the tram two stops early and go to my local gym for an hour or so, then go home.

Was it a little boring a lot of the time and did I complain about it? Of course. But it marked the days and gave shape to the week, and more important, it had me doing a bit of exercise regularly and interacting with other human beings in person and not on a laptop screen. I was a lot healthier back then. I was looking forward to restarting most of the routine, if not all of it.

Now it's fourteen-plus months later, though, and still no one in management has any clue when we're going to be able to go back...oh, and oops, they hired so many people in the interim that we no longer all fit in the building at once, so there's talk of hotdesking everyone who works on-site fewer than four days a week. I'd theoretically be okay with that if I were working in the office, say, three days and at home two days.

Except I have two monitors, a giant whiteboard, a bookshelf, various wall decorations, a Linux test server under my desk, and oh yeah, my fucking desk with all my stuff in it in my old office, and I am not going to try to cart even a quarter of that from room to room...so it looks like I'm stuck either just staying at home for the foreseeable future or going back to work fully in the office just to lay claim to my own space again.

Sorry. That turned into a bit of a rant. I've been holding that in for a while.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:59 AM on June 5 [5 favorites]


Oh, and:

I just want to know what kinds of jobs people are able to do from home.

A hybrid software development/system administration job for a university. There are some inconveniences (like needing to connect to a virtual machine for running database queries I used to just do from my laptop), but overall I can do my job fully from home. I just don't want to most of the time.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:36 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


Marie Mon Dieu, I am so sorry for your loss. Virtual hugs if you want them.
posted by virago at 8:38 AM on June 5


Related articles from the past week:

As offices open back up, not all tech companies are sold on a remote future (Washington Post)
Big tech companies were some of the earliest to shut down and lead the way for remote work at the start of the pandemic. Now many are evaluating the future, some choosing at least limited returns to expensive tech campuses, in which the largest companies have invested billions.

As they announce their plans, it’s becoming clear: Many of the same companies behind the technology that has made remote work possible for the past 15 months are not willing to buy into a fully remote workplace for themselves.

That has created tension among some white-collar tech workers, as the companies try to balance retaining control with the demands of employees who have grown used to managing their own locations and schedules. They’ve commiserated on internal forums and pushed back on early offerings from employers.
Apple employees push back against returning to the office in internal letter (The Verge)
“Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored,” the letter says. “Messages like, ‘we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,’ with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating...It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote / location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple’s employees.”

The letter, addressed to Tim Cook, started in a Slack channel for “remote work advocates” which has roughly 2,800 members. About 80 people were involved in writing and editing the note.
Workers Are Gaining Leverage Over Employers Right Before Our Eyes (New York Times)
“Companies are going to have to work harder to attract and retain talent,” said Karen Fichuk, who as chief executive of the giant staffing company Randstad North America closely tracks supply and demand for labor. “We think it’s a bit of a historic moment for the American labor force.”

In effect, an entire generation of managers that came of age in an era of abundant workers is being forced to learn how to operate amid labor scarcity. That means different things for different companies and workers — and often involves strategies more elaborate than simply paying a signing bonus or a higher hourly wage.

At the high end of the labor market, that can mean workers more emboldened [same Bloomberg article as in the FPP here] to leave a job if employers are insufficiently flexible on issues like working from home.
Post and Times articles are behind the usual sort-of-leaky paywalls.
posted by fedward at 11:08 AM on June 5 [6 favorites]


I want to say my office has been "open" for 4 days and already today my boss said I'd have to be there almost all the time, not the 3/2 it seems. lol. I've been evaluating tech bootcamps and am spending next week applying to some and getting info.

I'm not going back, lady. It's really too bad you didn't follow up, "I need you to be really tuned in." with a coworker going on paternity leave with "So how can I make that easiest?" instead of "So you need to be here most days." I don't, everything I do is remote and my client is remote until September so... you're not fooling anyone.

Employers are in for a rude awakening with some people if they think they can force us back. Maybe 70-80% of the people in my office seem very willing to work fully in there, but there's some of us who don't want to and can walk.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:17 AM on June 5 [4 favorites]


I would like to propose an occasional "so how's it going?" thread, because I think it would be interesting to see how things worked out for everyone in all of these different industries, but I have no idea of when would be appropriate. Six months?
posted by aramaic at 7:52 PM on June 5 [9 favorites]


Following up on Maarika - part of the reason I set up my home office 3 decades ago was - having children.

When my second child was born in 1993, my assessment was that out of home child care was much, much harder than accepting that my house was going to become a centre of economic engagement with employees and an employer - so I have employed nannies (who wanted to be secretaries), receptionists (who liked children), housekeepers (who liked conveyancing). And once we had two places to work, it was easier to define the behaviours expected from children and employees.

As a grey-haired old lawyer, one of the startling aspects of talking to similarly aged FEMALE professionals who were NOT working for themselves, was how stressful holidays, illness etc was when they were going to work, because there were no alternate arrangements for their children.

I always found holidays and illness SO MUCH EASIER - because the children just stayed with me.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 12:22 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


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