I went to the office for the first time.
July 27, 2021 11:29 PM   Subscribe

 
join the same useless meeting on zoom (with coworkers from around the globe, what's the f. point? )

This is when I stopped. I hated being in war rooms, hated being in roaming desks, hated commuting to the office to be in a conference call. Last office I was management at, every 3 months for about a week and we'd informally come in from 10AM-2PM for meetings. We'd rent out a suite at a hotel or something similar and kind of just bond. It was great, it wasn't required but senior staff all went.

People wanted to be there and the devs that just wanted to pull tickets? No one cared they didn't come. People would bring their families, it was encouraged and we'd do it somewhere people would want to vacation at. It was pretty much all we needed.

Managing is really hard, I was bad at it at first. I took the butts in seat, work hard mentality. Letting go and allowing people to do what they want feels like you're not doing your job. But hopefully enough people will see the light that we're not just serfs some change will come.
posted by geoff. at 12:01 AM on July 28, 2021 [25 favorites]


Our company moved to work from home globally before the lockdowns around the world started due to Covid - as we felt the governments were slow to act.

Worker productivity increased, in my opinion. Company profits certainly haven't been affected. I'm in the management layer, and I also work less hours than I used to.

Early this year we decided to make work from home permanent, globally, to allow for certainty of operations.

To tell the truth, I do miss being at the office. Worked there 14 years. One of the funniest moments I had was having someone lobby in a meeting to share a cube with me. It reminded me of grade school, who wants to sit with whom. The atmosphere was pleasant, and the company invested well in the infrastructure, even providing meals on site. Now I have to prepare my own meals! If I had the option to go back to the office 2-3 days a week I'd take it, but unfortunately that's not going to be possible any longer. I didn't know going home on a Friday last year in March would be the last time I worked in an office, I was still expecting to head back in on Monday, and we got the notice on Saturday not to return until further notice. Well it's been 17 months since then, and I've only just gone and picked up my personal effects from my desk and emptied it for the last time. I took a picture of the panoramic view out the side of my desk: great environment, throughout the year you get flocks of cockatoos, ducks, all kinds of birds, rabbits, even foxes, of course, the occasional kangaroo in the car park at dusk, and in spring they have their babies out with them.
posted by xdvesper at 12:15 AM on July 28, 2021 [19 favorites]


I deeply miss the structure that working in the office provided my day, the clear line it drew for me between work and home life. The lack of domestic distractions and the presence of my friendly coworkers made it much easier for me to stay focused and do my best work, as well.

At the same time, as someone with significant digestive issues, I also love not having to prep meals that suit my restrictions, are easily transported to work, reheat well, and taste good. I prefer my own computer equipment and I like having all my amenities close at hand. I can use my lunch break to do a quick grocery run or put on some laundry. And the view from my desk is of some lovely greenery, not a concrete jungle.

Working from home has proven to be a real double-edged sword for me. It's really hard to say whether I prefer it or not.
posted by Panthalassa at 12:37 AM on July 28, 2021 [71 favorites]


So, this looks like opinions are going to be divided here. Personally, I love love love remote. At my job it seems to me the biggest advocates for going back to the office are (a) management and (b) extroverted coworkers who spent 85% of the day shooting the shit and farting around on Twitter and lament the loss of group lunches*. We are going to a part-WFH/part-office model that management says has the best of both worlds . . . but as a coworker wisely pointed out, the half-ass model contains the WORST of both worlds too. I love my five minute commute, not needing to pack meals, no dressing up, being surrounded by my cats, and the ability to apply my complete focus to my work. I am absolutely more productive at home.

There were all these predictions that after the pandemic there would be a sea change and all companies would start going remote. Instead it seems like management everywhere got together and said "fuck quality of life, fuck productivity, I need to see their screens". The CEO of my company, completely against WFH pre-pandemic because they claimed it hurt productivity, said at every all-hands meeting in the past 15 months that output was better than ever. Yet we're still going back to the office. So clearly the success of the business is not the main driver behind this decision to return.

I wish it were as easy to find a fully remote job in my field as it seems to be for commenters on that post . . . I am in a quasi-tech job that I guess is just "quasi" enough that employers want it in person. If anyone knows that One Weird Trick please share.

*Not hating on group lunches . . . but do not advocate for us ALL to return because you miss wandering between cubicles and group lunches
posted by Anonymous at 12:53 AM on July 28, 2021


I have a friend who's being forced back to the office. She requested some accommodations as her chronic respiratory (and other) ailments put her at a high infection risk.

She asked for Plexiglass barriers around her desk. They put up a pipe-and-drape made out of PVC tubing and literal dollar-store shower curtains. She asked for a door; they put up a rope barrier. Apparently they don't know how air works and subscribe to the Les Nessman school of architecture. So now she's having to fight with HR and hire a lawyer she can't possibly afford.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:46 AM on July 28, 2021 [53 favorites]


So, this looks like opinions are going to be divided here.

And in a world that wasn't clucking insane, the divided opinions shouldn't be a problem. Letting people who do better in the office come to the office and those who do better working remotely keep working remotely is the most glaringly obvious way to move forward.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:49 AM on July 28, 2021 [88 favorites]


SLRP (single link Reddit post)
posted by subaruwrx at 2:10 AM on July 28, 2021 [7 favorites]


Old news, welcome to onion wearing old man yelling at clouds territory. The 80% of work can be done with plain text email and conference calls in your PJ's while you're watching TV. Ten percent needs physical presence to get it done. The horrid other ten percent is the meetings and the horror of 9-5 butt-in-desk BS. Kids are all-right, hope they can pull it off.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:39 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


If you're job-hunting for a position that could be remote, the good news is: you could potentially get positions that are based anywhere--nationwide, possibly even worldwide. The bad news is: you're now competing with other jobseekers in that same broader market.
posted by gimonca at 2:47 AM on July 28, 2021 [12 favorites]


I'm watching the skies here to see how everything shakes out, given the CDC's recent recommendations about masks indoors again even for vaccinated people. My company is supposedly welcoming everyone back right after Labor Day, but along with that plan they announced a hybrid work environment where Mondays and Fridays would be WFH days and Tues-Thurs would be optional work-from-work days, no requirement to go in. I'm pretty sure Virginia is one of the states where the 7-day average per 100K is high enough that masks will coming back. And what that will mean for my suddenly-busy-again band is more than a little disheartening.

For me, an hour of driving every day just to sit on Zoom meetings with team members in other states makes zero sense, and the Reddit post's mention of cubicles with pointlessly low walls reminded me of that iteration of my office environment, which eventually transitioned to rows and rows of standing desks with about two inches separating them.
posted by emelenjr at 2:56 AM on July 28, 2021 [10 favorites]


the biggest advocates for going back to the office are (a) management and (b) extroverted coworkers who spent 85% of the day shooting the shit and farting around on Twitter and lament the loss of group lunches

In other words, the decision-makers (most of the time). So yeah- the rest of us are screwed.

This was worth reading, thanks for posting.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:04 AM on July 28, 2021 [9 favorites]


Of all the things that can be true about this topic, this is the one I return to, and see as kind of critical to the issue if there is any sort of hybrid in place (pulled from the comments on the linked Reddit post). My team has had this discussion and it's a real thing. All the side conversations, in-the-moment pull-you-into-a-meeting moments, pre- or post-bathroom serendipitous chatting... these are all perfectly cromulent artifacts of corporate culture and they can lead to anything from a new project to a promotion. Those things can and will keep happening, but only for those in the building (a previous comment on this).

It really depends on the company and whether they can get the processes in place to support it properly. My employer has been hybrid for months and we're already seeing a division between WFH and on-prem employees. Basically, our company is pulling most decision-making from the hands of the WFH employees because they're "less accessible". The re-emergence of the hallway meeting is rapidly cutting them out of the decision-making cycle. Instead of them providing input on proposed changes, they're being informed of change decisions after the fact. This has already led to several of our long-term seniors quitting.

There may be a solution, but I suspect that this will be a common problem with hybrid workplaces. When we were all remote, it wasn't a big deal to loop others in on our Zoom or Slack chats. But when we're face to face, heading back to our desks to fire up Zoom or jump on Slack for every random discussion becomes a bit more onerous.

Functionally, face to face work creates an entirely separate communications medium that WFH coworkers are unable to access. That's a problem.

posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:16 AM on July 28, 2021 [36 favorites]


I'm heavily conflicted about it. Nearly all my work is non-collaborative, so I can do my job perfectly well from home, and in most respects I prefer to do so. My commute's exhausting and burdensomely expensive, and between introversion, social anxiety and a lot of sensory sensitivities, the modern office is not a comfortable place for me at all. But the office is also my sole social outlet, and while I'm not actually craving company the way you'd expect after getting on for a year and a half of isolation, I worry that the solitude has been damaging.

Also, there's that one meeting a week that would be a lot easier to navigate if we could point at each other's screens, wave our arms around and maintain some background awareness of everyone's body language.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:29 AM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


Pre-COVID, my job involved facetime at the office, a pretty formal dress code (think suits with ties optional but preferred) and a weekly metric for client visits - face to face, not virtual. So I had a horrendous commute most days as I could not take public transit - I'd have to drive into the office and then out to a client's. I did get my miles expensed, but that would just be enough most months to cover my gas costs.

We were sent home on March 13, 2020 and aside from one trip in on an Saturday evening two months later to clean out my desk (the least likely time to see any coworkers), I haven't been back to the office. Likewise, our company mandated virtual client meetings, gave us a small allowance to set up WFH stations, and relaxed the dress code.

I agree with all of the advantages of WFH described in the Reddit post. I can now start my days by walking the dog and a healthy breakfast, I can catch up on chores and errands throughout the day, and I realized that on any given day, I really only have about 3-4 hours of sustained work. We estimate that between lunch on the road, car maintenance and fuel, dry cleaning and laundry, we're saving about $500 a month. That's a real, positive impact to my state of mind and life.

That said, it is much harder to develop business, remain connected with my manager and colleagues - we do have frequent Zoom touchpoints and socials and one on ones, but I absolutely miss the watercooler and cubicle wall discussions. "hey, I just got this weird request from Client X, can we even do this?" "oh sure, we can actually, let me show you." Those conversations still happen over Slack or phone, but it's just that much harder.

The company has announced that post COVID, our jobs will be primarily based at home with occasional in-person meetings at a central office two or three times a month. We'll be expected to continue meeting clients, but virtually whenever possible. On an immediate, personal basis, I'm very happy, but I'm going to reserve judgement on the long term benefits for jobs centered around relationship management, and for career development. My company is great to work for but who knows.
posted by fortitude25 at 3:35 AM on July 28, 2021 [10 favorites]


I am not a particularly extroverted person--in fact I'm pretty well introverted--but I am also torn on this issue. I'm a teacher, so my bread and butter is being in a classroom in front of students and having them do tasks in the same room is what I know. It's what I did until 18 months ago. Online has its benefits, for sure, but it just depends. It depends on the type of class; some are well geared for online/asynchronous/Zoom work, and some are absolute wastes of time if we're not in the classroom. Similarly, I miss the social aspect of communicating with colleagues, and on a professional level the horse trading. At least at my school, us teacher are (were) always looking for a new way to do something, a new pedagogical technique, a new strategy. That's almost completely disappeared. So that's a real minus in my book, and it'll be good to get that back...whenever the hell that is.

On the plus side, plenty: having no commute alone is almost worth all of this. Saving money because I'm at home all the time. Throwing on a nice shirt two minutes before Zoom meetings. Etc.
posted by zardoz at 3:38 AM on July 28, 2021 [9 favorites]


So when I switched jobs in 2019, I moved to a fully remote company, and I just...felt so much better.

I didn't feel like everyone was watching me, I didn't feel like me knitting during a meeting was a sign that I wasn't paying attention (because having something for my hands to do actually helped me focus), I didn't have the commute, I got to control what I could hear, and even if there were noise distractions, they either went away quickly or, in the case of the strange-as-hell conversations my neighbours seem to keep on shouting to each other, they made for great entertainment in the company Discord.

I've done so much work, and I honestly do not know if I can ever go back to an office. And the fact that businesses are now going "Yes, you have to go back"....god, I'm so sorry.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:24 AM on July 28, 2021 [16 favorites]


The people who would rather quit than return to the office . Alison Green on the results of her survey, on Slate.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:25 AM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


Count me as part of the conflicted contingent.

I resisted WFH when we all went home last year from my office and in fact successfully lobbied to be one of the couple of people who would continue to come to the office, but I eventually tried it, liked it, and went home full time. I was good at it. I had a dedicated desk, computer, and chair in a corner of our living room. I took a tip from Mr. Rogers and had a light cardigan I'd put on every day to signify to myself that I was "at work" and draw the distinction between work time and home time.

Gradually as our red state clients went back to their offices (most of which were town halls) we were asked to come back. I stalled through February, spent March on paternity leave, and then I have been back full time since April. It's...fine, although I get less done and spend more time doing it if you count the commute. I've easily taken a 20% efficiency hit as a result although management won't count all the time before 0700 and after 1600 that I spend traveling again.

It's bothering me that (again, red state) this company is going to lack the willpower to require masks or go back home again. I'm pretty sure I caught the original variant of covid at work and I'm pretty sure I'm going to catch delta here in due course. I wear KN95s when I'm not in my office with the door closed but no one who comes in does it so it probably doesn't help much. My immediate supervisor has asked our team to go back to pre-vaccine mask and distance requirements, but the other teams don't and they come by all the time to ask for this or that.

Most of my time is spent sitting at a desk with AutoCAD on one screen and Excel on another. I could do this from home with nothing more than the occasional Teams call or field trip, but instead I'm here rolling the dice every day on whether I'm going to bring disease home to my family, and I'm actually doing the job less effectively at the same time.
posted by The Monster at the End of this Thread at 4:28 AM on July 28, 2021 [9 favorites]


It... depends. In my place, the senior people nearly all live in the suburbs (or way beyond the suburbs) in big houses with plenty of space for a nice WFH setup, but can have long commutes. Our calendars are pretty much wall-to-wall Teams meetings, so it's not important where we are.

The more junior staff usually live around the city centre, often sharing, often in shoebox-sized apartments, but can easily walk or cycle to work. I'd hate to have to work at a kitchen table with a bunch of housemates.
posted by kersplunk at 4:40 AM on July 28, 2021 [16 favorites]


>Nearly all my work is non-collaborative
That's where the junior dev is going to slip up. When work becomes collaborative I need a high-bandwidth setup -- and remote pairing is hard without sharing a desk.

>But the office is also my sole social outlet, and while I'm not actually craving company the way you'd expect after getting on for a year and a half of isolation, I worry that the solitude has been damaging.
You can do activities with office/non-office people near where you live -- swapping the time spent communiting for the time planning social activities sounds like a huge win!
posted by k3ninho at 4:43 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


I am nearing retirement and immunocompromised. I can just keep working from home, thank god, and that's what I'm golng to do. However, I have to wonder about the effect of WFH on people who are earlier in their careers.

If I could go back and talk to my mid-twenties self, I would tell her that doing a good job is not enough, that she's got to pay attention and be better at office politics, that office politics are, in fact, part of the job. Over and over, I've watched people who weren't great at the actual work, who sometimes left others to pick up the slack on their jobs while they invented more interesting tasks, leaving others holding the bag, but who were great at politics advance while I've stayed stuck in the same place. I'm not necessarily saying that this is awful and unfair, but the skills involved in office politics are valued by employers - rightly or wrongly, I'm not sure.

So I have to wonder how WFH is going to work out for people who are just getting started and missing out on things like lunches and water cooler talk and quick conversations - all those little times that seem trivial but can be important if you're ambitious at all. Jobs are so much more than doing the actual work, and that's something I wish I'd figured out earlier.
posted by FencingGal at 4:50 AM on July 28, 2021 [27 favorites]


Like Bartleby I would just prefer not to. I want to work less, and I want to work on my terms. Working from home has allowed both.

I want a 3 day work week, and I want to get paid a living wage, and I want the entire economy to be centered around what makes people happy, not what grows profits. I am sick to death that the capitalistic brain washing has us all convinced that working ourselves to the bone, and growing productivity every year is a good thing. I am also deeply worried that our obsessions with career, and growth, and productivity is going to destroy the planet before I can "retire" and have my 10 year period (if I am lucky) of culturally approved rest and happiness.

Since I am not independently wealthy, and the world hasn't come around to my way of thinking, WFH is a good start. Next up the 4 day work week, which I think is going to be the next big thing.
posted by stilgar at 5:03 AM on July 28, 2021 [53 favorites]


We've been largely remote since Feb 2020, even before local requirements kicked in our risk people told us to work remotely. And I am at a level where I can work with limited supervision myself, basically control my time and most of my priorities, have a nice home working set up etc. so working remotely is great in many ways.

The 1st week of July I found myself back at my client for two days for the first time since last summer. And this client is 50+ miles away and let's just say I was over commuting again by the end of the 1st day. There is also the fact that I always work on multiple projects at the same time so it's not like I can travel there and just focus on that client. I get there for a specific meeting and to catch up with the team but spend the rest of my time in calls for other clients because that's the nature of my work.

But I do recognize that the people below me, who spend a lot of time coaching our trainees had a horrible time of it. Just being in the same space as the team does allow you to pick up on topics much more easily just because you catch part of conversations. These people have literally had to have constant teams meetings from morning til late - 1:1s to brief junior team members, huddles to talk as the whole team, various scheduled and ad hoc meetings with the clients they serve. And then I come along and either use part of the huddle to ask all my questions (which are not always relevant for everybody) or they have to have additional 1:1s with me. And whoever I end up having a 1:1 with may well have to take bits of that conversation back to the wider team. We have really intense phases and that's when this became a monumental struggle.

My employer is making us go back to in person some of the week - either to our office or our client's offices. We'll see how that goes.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:11 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


The fact is, there is no one way to work that is great for everyone. Unfortunately, the folks who like offices cite reasons that are negated if people work from home.

To those people is say: get over it. We folks who work best remote had to put up with this shit for all of history. Now it’s our turn.
posted by MrGuilt at 6:05 AM on July 28, 2021 [18 favorites]


It will be fascinating to see the performance of companies that have moved to 100% remote vs.
hybrid vs. fully in-person.

My prior expectation is that:
- 100% remote will win
(whether due to increased productivity / better employee retention / more mature and capable management and leadership team)

- Full in-person will be #2

- Hybrid will be the worst
(decision-making centralized within in-person folks, standardizing communication tools or processes is done from essentially a blank sheet of paper, continually managing the change process vs. stake-in-the-ground 'this is what we're doing', also I think indicative of management taking half-measures to be 'flexible' vs. having a true vision of how they want their teams to work together)
posted by The Ted at 6:07 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


FencingGal - I have a different take on co-workers who are terrible at their jobs but excellent at office politics - they are the ones who suffer the most in the new WFH environment - not those who are quiet consistent solid performers.
If you spent all your time at the office trying to side-step work only to find yourself in the good graces of some upper level management due to a lucky conversation in the hallway - I would think that the last year+ would expose just how thin the ice is under bad performing workers. If you have been relying on "luck" and "serendipity" or even "Boldness" to help your Peter principal career you're exposing exactly the inequality and inequity that can be so stymieing to a solid career co-worker who just wants to GSD.

The company I work for had us respond to a survey about how we felt going forward. The results even surprised me: 56% want to continue WFH, 36% wanted to go hybrid. Only 8% want to return fully.
And what message do you think management took away from that? Let's set up a hybrid for everyone! because reasons.

We all received the bonus this year because productivity and sales were vastly improved. Go figure. I'm already interviewing for full remote positions.
posted by djseafood at 6:09 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


So, this looks like opinions are going to be divided here.

For what it’s worth, my last full-time job was one I held for a little over a decade. I was in the national office of a company that had locations throughout the country. For the first five years I lived one block away from my workplace and was in the office essentially every day, except for work trips with site visits maybe three or four weeks of the year; the second five years, I was six hours’ drive from the office and I came in once a month for two or three days.

My boss through the first 90% of this time was a very smart guy who was not afraid to consider if there were better ways to do things. (The last 10% was a different boss who was very much not in the same boat). Somewhere about eighteen months into my decade there, I was making a site visit to a facility on the other side of the country (note— the country in question being Canada, it was close to 5000 km from my office). I found out that there was a meeting happening a week later that probably someone from our office should be present for.

I talked to my boss about this and asked if he would be interested to attend the meeting. He said, “Well, you are there already. You have your phone and your laptop — why not just stay there and sit in on the meeting?” He was right: like a lot of jobs, as we have discovered lately, it made little difference where I physically was.

A year or so later I started dating someone who lived some 500 km from where I did. We were long distance for a while but eventually this grated on us, so I talked to my then-boss about the possibility of working remotely, pointing out that I had just spent a month doing so — a provincial director had recently died so I had relocated for a few weeks to help with the transition. He agreed for a trial run to see if it could work on a permanent basis. It was also on a personal level a test to see if my no cohabitant and I could get along being together 24/7.

Gotta say, it worked out fine. The cohabitant and I have now been married for a while, any bumps with the remote work had been smoothed out by my previous experience doing so while on work trips*, and the old company, which saw fit to pitch both my boss and myself, is now more or less defunct. It still exists as a website, but that is about it.

TL; dr — If you have a job where a you can work remotely, I strongly recommend it. Many employers are apparently reluctant to go for it, but this last eighteen months or so has been a Proof of Concept for everybody.

*On my first work trip, I had been inducted into the secrets of Remote Desktop Connection by the IT guy. “You will see on the laptop screen exactly what you see when you are in your office!” He was as good as his word, and I sat in the back office in Banff, AB catching up on a few tasks, exactly as if I had been in my office. The simulation was sufficiently immersive that I printed off a document, turned to pick it up, and suddenly realized that of course it was coming off a printer in my office 3000 km away.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:18 AM on July 28, 2021 [11 favorites]


The original poster mentions bathrooms, which is funny, because it's a thing that I've been thinking about a lot but not talking about, because nice girls don't talk about pooping. But I really like being able to poop in privacy during the day. Honestly, I'm bummed out about losing that.

I think that part of the reason that I prefer working from home has to do with my executive function challenges: I have a lot more mental bandwidth for important things when I'm not trying to remember where my keys are, not forget my lunch, get out the door on time, etc. But part of it is that a lot of workplaces aren't set up for actual human people with normal human needs. At my current job I have an office with a door that closes, but all my previous jobs have been in open-plan offices, and hoo boy do those not work for me and my ADHD. Part of the joy of working from home is having natural light and being able to open a window. I truly love having access to my kitchen and being able to eat lunch at a table rather than my desk. Unless you work at some tech-dude start-up with ping-pong tables (and maybe even then), most workplaces aren't very pleasant places to be. And I don't know whether I'm more productive when I have fresh air, natural light, and the possibility of eating lunch at a table, but I'm definitely happier.

So anyway, I think that one positive outcome of this pandemic work-from-home interlude might be that employers could realize that current office setups aren't good for a lot of workers, including many introverts, neurodiverse people, and what have you. And some of that is inevitable, but some of it might be fixable.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:19 AM on July 28, 2021 [12 favorites]


FencingGal: I have to wonder about the effect of WFH on people who are earlier in their careers.

I think it has a curve, and it depends on the job. My kids are old enough to get the vaccine, which is a great comfort. But they're also starting to enter the workforce.

The oldest graduated last year and begins teaching elementary school this fall. *nervous gulp* She'll get good support and advice from her more-experienced peers, working alongside her in the school building, so she's probably OK.

The second one is in college now. This summer he works in a restaurant, which is fine for summer, and they teach him a lot while working elbow-to-elbow. He wants a white collar career, and his internships will help develop those Office Life Skills...unless they're fully remote, in which case he's going to have to try to learn that stuff how? He'd be better off doing a remote internship while sharing my own WFH office!

The third one is in high school. He's a summer intern with the town ambulance service, and they're doing everything to teach him about all the facets of that job. Health care is very hands-on, and they tell him stories and demonstrate a lot of stuff. So if he follows that career, then this has been good. But if he does something else...who knows whether this time will turn out to be useful?

And our youngest is in middle school with no specific interests yet. By the time she graduates, will American work culture have evolved seriously enough that we'll have new habits for indoctrination & education? Or will the kids in her cohort be entirely screwed, because we won't have pivoted fast enough?

Just last night a friend who's an engineer was saying that they assigned a fully-remote new hire to him, and he's trying to figure out how to teach this guy about their company. Luckily he has had one similar job before, but...where do you start?!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:25 AM on July 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


I miss people. I love my cave. I love my cave way too much. Over the past year I went slowly insane without face to face human interaction, and I am off the chart introverted. Going back to work though....so much conflict. I was in yesterday and saw people, hugged people, I saw the Italian grandmother who cuts my hair and hugged her. I miss her so much; she always has such great advice for me during those haircuts. The main street is blocked off in the town where my office is located and people were outside on the street eating, the camera shop where I spend all my money is amazingly still open even though the proprietor is 70 something. A new record store has appeared and took a bunch of my money yesterday. You would think I am ecstatic to be back. I am not.

Our management screams "teamwork" yet my team is spread all over the country, the world even, with only one other person in my local office with me. I am more in tune with the team these days than ever. I hate the commute. I don't like the lunches post Covid. The printers don't work (although I am sure that will resolve). The gym requires an appointment and a mask. My home office is more comfortable. I can take an afternoon nap, walk the dog during the day, control my time, and I am doing more work but with less stress.

Do I miss the pre-Covid routine, lunches, gym etc.? Oh yes, but they are not coming back, not soon, perhaps not ever. If I can keep going into the office just a couple of days a week I will be so very happy. I will never go back to the office five days a week. I will get a people fix in the office those days and now that things have opened up a bit, at least for now, I get to socialize with friends outside of my cave on the other days.
posted by caddis at 6:27 AM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


there is another side to this discussion mentioned in the article - working less. A lot less. This speaks to me deeply. Especially after losing both of my parents while in my 40's.. before "OUR COVID YEAR".

Work isn't fine if I tell myself the truth, I fucking hate it. Always have, every job. My entitlement hereby acknowledged, work sucks and if you can work less and be happy why not? What vestigial remnant of Calvinistic-capitalism remains to enforce "Work is godly" upon all of us. It 's always felt like someone else's soul-draining self-loating put upon me and my future.
posted by djseafood at 6:34 AM on July 28, 2021 [51 favorites]


I like working in the office as I find working from home boring and lonely. I like having lunch and coffee breaks in the breakroom with my co-workers. I like being around other people and talking to them in person. Give me an in-person meeting over a zoom call or email any day. And my office is a 2 km walk from my house, so it is a nice relaxing commute to and from work.

My employer is going to start bringing people who volunteer back into the office this fall, and they wanted to know who wants to go first. I would love to, but most of in my team wants to keep working remote. We just write analysis reports all day with the occasional meeting, so there really being in an office isn't really necessary, and most of them have a long drive in.

So now I have to decide what is worse, sitting in my basement home office by myself or sitting in a cubical on a mostly empty floor of an office building.

My employer has made it clear that the long-term plan is to switch to a hybrid model, with a good chunk of the workforce working remote, and the rest no longer having an assigned cubical or office. We are supposed to move out of our building in the next year or two, and the plan is to move to a much smaller place. They want to move to a first-come-first-serve hot-desk open-plan setup. Bleh. I have no interest in going back to carrying all my crap around in a backpack and looking for a desk like a student in my middle-age after having own office for 20 years.

Despite the fact that I don't really enjoy it, I may end up continuing working from home because it is the least horrible option.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:41 AM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


Coming in physically to the office doesn't improve my ability to do my job, or even communicate with coworkers. It is actually more distracting than WFH, as well as less comfortable, costs me more money personally, and I have more anxiety.

What I do like: the office plaza is a much better place to take walks during breaks. We have an awesome coffee machine. And leaving the office at the end of the workday is an unmistakable transition between work and free time which is sometimes a mood booster. (But that doesn't offset the additional stress of other recent changes to my job.)

I've been advocating for a hybrid scheme. Let people WFH if they want to, at least most of the time. I'd probably choose to come in a couple days a week and not the rest of the week.

What we've got for the moment is vague and contradictory hand-waving about cybersecurity (somehow this is only an issue for local employees, but not a problem for remote employees in other states and continents?) and a quasi-flexible system where I can WFH for a specific reason with advance permission.

With community spread now higher than it was last summer, a new mask mandate in St. Louis, and new guidance from the CDC I was half expecting to see us return to WFH for the moment, but nothing has been said yet.
posted by Foosnark at 6:47 AM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


FencingGal - I have a different take on co-workers who are terrible at their jobs but excellent at office politics - they are the ones who suffer the most in the new WFH environment - not those who are quiet consistent solid performers.

It would be great if this were true - maybe in a 100% WFH situation? My office is letting people work in the office again if they want to, and my guess would be that people who choose to do that are going to have an edge, especially with most of management coming into the office (it helps that they have private offices with doors that close).
posted by FencingGal at 6:50 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


Hybrid will be the worst

100% agreement here.

We had an easy transition to fully remote, productivity remained steady for almost everyone even while we were all stressed out by the global plague -- I have one developer who seems to really need someone watching over his shoulder to get anything done, and it took me a bit of time to figure out how to give him that motivation in a virtual environment, but everyone else was fine -- and all the things people bring up as advantages to being in the office turned out to be trivially replicable in a remote setting.

We have a slack channel for water cooler conversations. We have discord for ambient 'hey can anyone help with such-and-such' interactions. We have instant video meetings for when people want to get more in-depth. We have a regularly scheduled online lunch for people who like getting together for lunch, and people are happy to sit and chat and get some socializing in after a meeting because they on't have to get up and rush to the next one. If you're interested in climbing the corporate ladder it's way easier to chat up your manager's boss on slack than it is to find a few minutes of their time in person. And unlike the office all of those can be muted when you need some focus time.

As a manager it's easier for me to see who's doing fine and who maybe needs some help -- I can scroll through the various channels for each team and pitch in when needed, instead of having to be in five places at once to overhear conversations.

We've just barely started going back to hybrid and it is awful. After months of being able to hear everyone clearly in meetings, it's rough going back to the inaudible low talkers and mumbled side chatter at the other end of the conference room. Ambient conversation is now split between online and in-person, in-office people are five minutes late for every meeting because it takes time to get from one conference room to another, or they're in line for the coffee machine or whatever. I can already tell hybrid is going to be a disaster and I'm going to end up getting pressured to bring everyone in-house to level the playing field again, instead of letting everyone go back home where they can be comfortable and productive.
posted by ook at 6:53 AM on July 28, 2021 [12 favorites]


At the one year mark of my job going work-from-home, I sat down to add up how much time had been added back into my life with the removal of my commute, and the answer was 27 days on the low end. I don't ever want to go back to the office.
posted by EatTheWeek at 6:55 AM on July 28, 2021 [24 favorites]


My daughter is just two-years out of college and works at a multinational financial company. The job pays well and has fantastic benefits. She came home in tears on her first day of work 18 months ago and literally asked out loud, "is this the way it will be for the rest of my life?" We did our best to talk her through the sadness that neither my wife or I are familiar with which is working in a cubicle and playing the "act busy" thing all day long. She managed to adapt over the first 6 months but would have days where she was depressed about going into the office. She's extremely good at her job and has pay raises and promotions to prove it.

When covid hit, her employer resisted work-from-home at first and then when it became clear the country was in the midst of a pandemic switched to remote only. For over a year she's been happy with zero depressive episodes. That is, until the company started discussing return to the office. She's on a fast track to become management and her supervisor could tell she was dreading returning to the office. The new policy is that she will have to show up in the office for at least 5 days a month and can work remotely the other 15 but there's no guarantee that policy will stay in place. She's currently in the third round of interviews to work at a tech startup who has a robust work-from-home policy because she fears more than anything going back to working in an office. And she's someone who has an extremely active social life and enjoys social interaction.

Gen Z has listened to their Gen X parents bitch about how soul sucking cubicle life is and I feel like they're making their stand. Corporate office work is a cruel joke and I see a paradigm shift happening among office workers in the same way we're seeing a shift among retail and service workers refusing to trade their labor for minimum wage that isn't a living wage.
posted by photoslob at 7:00 AM on July 28, 2021 [25 favorites]


I've read a lot of articles over the years that knowledge workers are most productive working around six hours a day -- hours 7 and 8 are treading water, and anything past 8 involves making mistakes you get to fix during the six productive hours the next day. I've observed this over and over again in lawyers (what I know best), where the ones in the office doing billable hours and working 12-hour days are doing bad work because they're exhausted and burnt out. But moving to a 9-to-5 with a lunch break makes them way more productive. (The problem, of course, is that 8 hours billable is less than 12 hours billable, even if those 8 hours are more productive and produce better work, so you/the partners get less money even though the work is better.)

I've had several lawyers comment to me that now that they don't commute (b/c Covid), they get up early and do four hours billable, and then they go for a run or something, and all the morning's hard problems have a chance to settle and percolate, and they come back in the afternoon fresher and with a bunch of problems sorted out. I've been kind-of informally surveying friends in a variety of "thinking" jobs, from marketing to coding to communications to HR, and a majority of people have said they solve their hardest problems while NOT thinking about them -- epiphanies in the shower type of things. And a bunch of restructured their workday a bit while working from home to create a midday break where they DON'T think about work -- they work out, or have lunch with their partner, or spend time with their kids, or start dinner -- and come back to do a couple hours of work later in the day, and frequently find that taking a break and doing other things and letting the problems percolate in their subconscious is how they come up with solutions. Whereas staring at a computer for 8 hours in a cubicle focusing on the problem does ... not much.

And I get why corporations don't like this -- it's a lot harder to judge knowledge workers on their outputs than on how many hours they're at a desk and how many meetings they attend, especially if those outputs are kinda squishy. But that itself is another sign how most corporations don't actually care much about the quality of the work, or even know what they want their employees to be doing with their time, and that they neglect a ton of important work and functions because they're not easily measurable. But it does make it harder to care about playing their bullshit games when it's been illustrated soooooooo clearly during Covid that they're bullshit.

I do think a lot of people would like to be in the office at least part-time, BUT "in office" right now is structured around people doing sometimes-very-long commutes twice a day, staying in the office all day, commuting happening during the hours there are a lot of trains & express trains. (During commuting hours, my commuter train into Chicago runs like 6 times an hour, and runs multiple expresses that can get you downtown in 35 minutes; during non-peak hours, the trains run once an hour and TAKE an hour because they make every stop.) I feel like the companies that are going to be able to make a "hybrid" model work have a workforce that's mostly within 20 minutes of their location -- which is NOT most companies in the US, since the advent of the car -- who can pop in for two hours of meetings midday without it being a massive hardship or time-suck.

(Also hot-desking is a nightmare and a scourge, companies should either treat sometimes-in-the-building workers like they're college kids at a library or adults at a convention, or give people who need them permanent personal workspaces regardless of whether they're there every day or not. Hot desking is like the worst possible combination of those two TOTALLY LEGITIMATE models.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:00 AM on July 28, 2021 [24 favorites]


I started my current job this Spring remotely and my employer has hired too many people in the last year to fit into the offices so there's no way that everyone can go back. It's 15 miles from here (or 20 minutes) so I'm perfectly happy not to have to commute and since it's way out into the 'burbs, there's nothing to eat for lunch out there.
posted by octothorpe at 7:02 AM on July 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


I'm firmly in the 100% WFH camp, but I accept that I am going to have to spend at least part of the time in the office, because (a) I have to interact with neurotypicals and (b) they can't handle doing that remotely very well.

I'd hate to have to work at a kitchen table with a bunch of housemates.

Remind me of this in a month or two when I start moaning again about people eating breakfast in the office. One thing the pandemic has taught me is that this isn't a work-life balance thing for young millennials - it's because the office is actually a more pleasant place for them to eat breakfast than their own home.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 7:05 AM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


I went back to working in an office in March after two years at home, and surprised myself at how much I had missed the daily interaction with others, so that has been a net positive. The 1-1.5-hour commute back and forth on 128 every day has not been so positive, leaving me exhausted by the time I get home in the evening, even if my workday was not particularly busy. On the busy days, I am simply wiped out. My new employer, a credit union, has a fairly traditional workplace, so in-office was actually a requirement when I was hired, even though the vaccines had not yet become widespread. As a sysadmin, a fair amount of my job can, in fact be done remotely, and my new boss is much more open to the idea of a couple of WFH days per week, so it may end up being a good mix for me personally.
posted by briank at 7:10 AM on July 28, 2021


the office is actually a more pleasant place for them to eat breakfast than their own home.

Until you spend a year next to a breakfast desk eater - who masticates loudly while wearing headphones. Fuck that guy.
posted by djseafood at 7:12 AM on July 28, 2021 [18 favorites]


The other thing I noticed during Covid, that I think has been underappreciated and more journalists should probably write about it, is that with people not going in to the office, and even with socializing circumscribed by the pandemic, not commuting and NOT being at work every day has allowed a lot of people to invest more time and energy in their local communities -- which are, after all, the communities they've chosen to live in.

One of the US's biggest problems (cf Bowling Alone) is how the growth of commutes, all-encompassing workplaces, and to a certain extent TV have basically devoured community and civic life in the United States, so that all the community groups and organizations that connect people and make communities work have withered and died.

With people not physically in offices, but spending more time in home communities, I've seen a lot of people more invested in things like bike lanes and park access. A bunch of small community groups got revitalized during the pandemic -- I had no idea my town had a quilting group, but they took the lead on organizing cloth masks during the early pandemic, and now it has a vibrant and much younger membership, instead of just the handful of old ladies who'd kept it alive for decades. I know so many more of my neighbors since for months the only thing to do was "go for walks," and suddenly my neighbors were all HOME all day and taking midday walks with their dogs instead of leaving before dawn and coming home at dusk. More people have been "attending" town council meetings, since they can "attend" on Zoom while watching their kids or making dinner or jogging on the treadmill. And I think a lot of people would rather be investing their energies (including social energy) in their home communities and not in Multinational Corp's Team Building! Fun, and I hope that as people begin to return to offices, some of that pandemic energy for local communities stays, and I wish journalists would highlight it as part of the national conversation because I think it's valuable and important but we won't get to keep it if we don't name it and point out that we value it!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:16 AM on July 28, 2021 [33 favorites]


I deeply miss the structure that working in the office provided my day, the clear line it drew for me between work and home life. The lack of domestic distractions and the presence of my friendly coworkers made it much easier for me to stay focused and do my best work, as well.

This is similar to my personal love/hate with working from home. I miss the clear separation between work and home, and I miss the casual and frequent interactions with coworkers (both positive and frustrating). But working from home brings even more flexibility and can sometimes be easier to focus (without anyone stopping by my office to chat). It's way easier for work to spill earlier and later working from home where there is zero separation.

I would happily never again have to deal with packing a lunch. At this point in my life I feel like I have eaten every variation of sandwiches and leftovers there can possibly be. If I have to return to an office, I hope there is a good food truck nearby, because the thought of packing lunches would make me want to quit.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:27 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


photoslob: Gen Z has listened to their Gen X parents bitch about how soul sucking cubicle life is and I feel like they're making their stand.

One of my kids isn't sure what they want to do for a living, outside of one criterion: "I don't want a job like Dad's" -- i.e., IT work -- indoors, sitting at a desk, all day every day, staring at a screen.

They don't care about the benefits, all the time off, the important business I work in -- just "not being chained to a screen for the rest of my life."

And they're not wrong....
posted by wenestvedt at 7:29 AM on July 28, 2021 [16 favorites]


When the complaining about working remotely started last year I found it bewildering, but then I realized that I've always been very online and many of the people struggling have not. I've met most of my friends online (even my real life friends I've had for over 20 years). I've been chatting online since 1995. I've been freelancing for clients across the country since 2001. And I've been playing games online since 2005 - When you play games for hours with groups of 20 to 40 people, especially in an organizational role, you get really good at collaborating, delegating and communicating virtually. Who'd have thought that being an MMO nerd would pay off in 2021?

My colleagues, especially those over 40, are still struggling to adapt to WFH. Some still refuse to collaborate via type chat, are reluctant to join one-on-one Zoom calls to discuss projects, and will not speak in larger meetings. My bosses are slowly learning the technology, but in the beginning they were frustrated and even after a year and a half of this they still don't understand what's possible.

In a virtual space those water cooler conversations can happen, they just need the right environment for it, and of course people have to be comfortable doing it, which many are not. I don't think we have optimal tools for working remotely yet. They can do what's expected of them, but don't encourage casual socialization and collaboration.

So after all this rambling, I guess my points are: communicating effectively in a remote environment is a skill. It is completely possible to "run into" people online, to mentor someone online, and to collaborate closely online; we just need the right tools. Like, if I can work on digital art projects in real time with other artists across the continent, virtual pair programming is certainly possible. I do agree there is something special about communicating and creating with people face to face, and that some people will never be comfortable working virtually. And also employers seem to have done their best to make offices as uncomfortable and noisy and inconvenient as possible, not to mention the housing crisis + neglected infrastructure and public transportation has made it even more difficult to find a home close to where you work and have extended commute times. We have a lot to figure out.
posted by Stoof at 7:34 AM on July 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


It is harder, but not impossible, to both hire and train remotely. I did that with three new people in the last year.

But: day to day people management is harder. I can't see someone getting a million phone calls from a demanding client, or see the fatigue on their face, or be available when they want to drop by my office to vent about a problem I didn't even know about.

Visibility is important to my career too, and I am less visible when I am remote.
posted by emjaybee at 7:41 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


I’ve been working for home for 20 years. The person in the linked piece hasn’t had much actual job experience.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:45 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


So I'm the only one with a loud spouse who checks on me more often than my boss and needs me every 5 minutes when working from home? And whose kids are also there remote schooling (a total waste), and have endless numbers of technical issues with their tiny chromebooks? And all want to go to lunch every 30 minutes between 11am-2pm? And then to the park? And then when remote working from the in-laws, they all spend all day shouting?

Working from home is ok, I've done it occasionally for the past 10 years. But all day every day for my entire career? No thanks.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:49 AM on July 28, 2021 [27 favorites]


My company is fortunate in that what we do is very doable remotely, and we've been out of the office since March 2020. Despite everything, 2020 ended up being one of our best years ever, and we're currently on track to outperform that this year. So, all in all, some very solid evidence we are perfectly capable doing our jobs - and doing our jobs well - completely remotely. There was a company survey to see what people wanted, and the majority were for remote or a hyrbid model.

So, of course, we're now in the middle of the Execs talking about bringing everyone back in full time in the fall. They have no rationale other than that it's what they want. We actually don't even physically have room to bring everyone back (we were tight before the pandemic, and we've hired a lot of people since). But still... gotta have those butts in seats. It's so frustrating because it's against what everyone wants, it's against what the data shows, and it's all down to they are a bunch of guys who just like being in the office (most of them continued going in during the lockdown anyway, just because).

I was actually in the office for a few days last week for the first time in forever, and while it was kind of exciting the first two days, by day three I was back to "oh yeah, this sucks". The hours saved no commuting, the money saved not eating out or hitting up Starbucks, the ability to see my daughter for more than that 2.5 hour window between getting home and her going to bed - all that outweighs any benefits of "hallway chats" to me.

I certainly won't judge people who like being in the office, but forcing everyone else to submit to your whims is not a business strategy, it's narcissism.
posted by Zargon X at 7:51 AM on July 28, 2021 [18 favorites]


So I'm the only one with a loud spouse who checks on me more often than my boss and needs me every 5 minutes when working from home?

And that was rhetorical question because I can hear what's going on in the background of everyone else's zoom/teams/webex calls when they forget to mute, so I already know I am not.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:53 AM on July 28, 2021 [10 favorites]


And whose kids are also there remote schooling (a total waste), and have endless numbers of technical issues with their tiny chromebooks?

The linked piece was clearly from someone who is not having to juggle childcare and/or school-from-home, and that is a missing perspective there. In my office, the people with young kids and who had some form of care support (eg, stay at home partner, local parents who could come over every day, etc) were all back in the office very early in the pandemic, just to find quiet places to work. But the parents where they were single parenting or where both parents worked were in much harder situations throughout.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:58 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


I'm with I_Love_Bananas.. I work in higher ed, we offer a distance model (online only) and we are moving toward a near-virtual work model.. the pandemic simply accelerated the planning. A lot happens on site that is simply unplanned. Between all the moving parts (from Student Financial Aid, to Enrolment Services, to Academic Advising, to Library Services, etc) there's a way we figured out WFH pretty quickly because we had to. But this comes with a cost, and I think that cost becomes more clear over time. Collegiality is a thing, and so far I'm not seeing it reproduced wholly in the virtual space. I really think blended is the way to go in my case. And for the stronger opinions expressed here: be mindful that your circumstances may not resemble another person's circumstances. For the love of gods we don't need more stridently absolutist views do we?
posted by elkevelvet at 7:58 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


I've read a lot of articles over the years that knowledge workers are most productive working around six hours a day -- hours 7 and 8 are treading water, and anything past 8 involves making mistakes you get to fix during the six productive hours the next day. I've observed this over and over again in lawyers (what I know best), where the ones in the office doing billable hours and working 12-hour days are doing bad work because they're exhausted and burnt out.

This is so real. Software development requires intense focus, and when that was my primary job I honestly felt like I'd managed a full day's work when I was able to put in a good five hours. When I was primarily a manager and not a coder, I could do more hours of "work" but the work itself didn't require the same effort. In fact depending on the conference call I could get a lot of other work done while still being billable on the phone call, because I could unmute to answer a question and then go back to other things.
posted by fedward at 8:06 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


So I'm the only one with a loud spouse who checks on me more often than my boss and needs me every 5 minutes when working from home?

My wife and I often go all day at home without seeing each other.
posted by octothorpe at 8:06 AM on July 28, 2021 [9 favorites]


To me hearing someone wanting a break from their kids/wife/partner is a super flimsy premise to force me back to the office while we are still in the midst of a global pandemic.

Different strokes for different folks but my wife and I made a conscious decision to be child free. People coming into work sick, often suffering from what ever bug is going around in childcare, is exactly why I think this is a super myopic view of returning to work.

I like that neither my wife (who is immunocompromised) or I have been sick for over a year.
posted by djseafood at 8:10 AM on July 28, 2021 [21 favorites]


My colleagues, especially those over 40, are still struggling to adapt to WFH. Some still refuse to collaborate via type chat, are reluctant to join one-on-one Zoom calls to discuss projects, and will not speak in larger meetings.

In my experience it is the under-30 crowd that has serious trouble with video calls, phone calls, and speaking up at virtual meetings. The younger crowd only wants to communicate by text or email while us olds have no problem with talking on zoom or by phone. Us old farts are also usually the only ones who turn the cameras on in larger virtual meetings.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:11 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


In a virtual space those water cooler conversations can happen, they just need the right environment for it, and of course people have to be comfortable doing it, which many are not.

One company I worked for had intentionally isolated the team I worked on, which maintained a legacy system, from the much larger team it had working on the system that was supposed to replace the legacy system. We weren't even allowed to offer assistance to the other team as they repeated mistakes that had been made on the legacy system over the preceding years. And then at some point they decided to "launch" the new system (which wasn't ready) and "integrate" the different teams, so they rolled out a company-wide Slack instance to try to get us all communicating. My team already had remote members and already used Slack, but the larger team at the other office didn't take to it very readily. There was a #watercooler channel, but the only people who actually tried to have conversations on it were on the legacy team. I posted a lot of links to give people things to think about or laugh at, and usually just got crickets except from the guys who were already on my team.

Since Slack alone wasn't enough to integrate the teams, management decided that what we all needed was a face to face meeting and some team building. The team building the new system wasn't in the HQ office, but it was bigger than the legacy team, so the company flew us to the other office. Every single person I met at the other office said to me, "oh, you're the guy on Slack." I TRIED, PEOPLE.
posted by fedward at 8:22 AM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


My office is letting people work in the office again if they want to, and my guess would be that people who choose to do that are going to have an edge, especially with most of management coming into the office

I'll be honest—that's why I'm going back into my office, at least part time. When it comes time for bonuses/raises/promotions, given two otherwise-equal candidates, one who is full-time remote and is just a name on a roster and a Slack icon, and the other who is an actual human being that the executives know and see in the elevator and eat lunch with? I think it's the latter person that's going to get ahead. It's just human nature to give preference to people you know.

Plus there's the benefit of being in "the room where it happens"—all those discussions that happen in conference rooms before the Zoom call gets turned on, and after it gets turned off... those are opportunities for the person in the room to snag the cool project/assignment, or signal what they're interested in, or whatever. It's hard to quantify that benefit, but it's definitely there.

It'd be nice, I suppose, if offices were perfect meritocracies where your work products alone got you ahead, but that's just not my experience of how white-collar jobs work above a certain level.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:27 AM on July 28, 2021 [9 favorites]


I have to say, as someone who just spent a year in a ~800sqft apartment, the lack of discussion about what circumstances suit working from home is depressing.

I don't have a home office, I don't have air conditioning, I don't have a printer, and I don't even have a very nice chair, honestly. And it's not like my compensation changed to allow me to really go out and buy those things. I already had a nice commute via transit, so it's not like I had a car to get rid of.

I'm not paid well enough to work from home, to be honest - it's just not a feasible transition without some sort of corporate support, and I've been very grateful (just this past week!) to be back in my office, instead of my ~27° apartment all day.
posted by sagc at 8:30 AM on July 28, 2021 [22 favorites]


Again, it depends where you are.

When our office opens again I'll have:
- Guaranteed internet
- Free heating
- Free lunch (well, 'free' lunch)
- Free healthy snacks
- Fancy adjustable desks
- Ergonomics consultant
- Ability to hear cross-talk and get a better idea of what's happening in general
- Better ability to supervise and train people
- More interaction with people on other teams, which means we'll work better together if we're on the same project in future
- Laptop and a bunch of meeting rooms I can go to whenever I don't want distractions

Right now I have:
- Laptop
posted by kersplunk at 8:33 AM on July 28, 2021 [10 favorites]


Our company would buy me a chair or desk if I asked. They gave me the laptop, monitor, keyboard and external camera for my home office. They do not subsidize internet access though.
posted by octothorpe at 8:37 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


I'm sympathetic towards people who don't have space at home where they can comfortably work and maintain some sort of separation between work and life. I'm not sympathetic towards the terrible sorts of bosses who can't maintain enough object permanence to think about the contributions of employees they can't actually see. Blind bias towards the office hurts everyone. Flexible work arrangements are mutually beneficial, but they do require managers to step up and learn how to manage teams they can't see all the time.

It'd be nice to receive a home office allowance, but I think a lot of companies haven't yet figured out how to make that work. My wife gets a small allowance, but the way it's paid out means we're going to be floating the cost of a second desk chair since we're both home all the time now. (I had to replace the cylinder in the chair I bought fifteen years ago, but otherwise it was a hell of an investment and I'm sitting in it right now). And we're paying for more hours of air conditioning than we used to, so that's less fun. But our home internet is honestly better than a couple offices I've worked in (because I've done that for a living and we have professional gear), but I will have to admit it's not as good as the office internet at the two different Tier 1 internet companies I worked for. You can't really get better network than working at a major network node.
posted by fedward at 8:53 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


Ability to hear cross-talk

It is neither an ability nor a choice.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 8:53 AM on July 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


I was once in a position where I worked a late shift, was not really seen much by management overall or most of the staff, and thus kind of undervalued and not fully a part of the social circle. But there were a lot of other problems with that company besides.

In my current job, we've had remote employees and managers for years, so it's not like going to a hybrid system would ruin things.
posted by Foosnark at 8:57 AM on July 28, 2021


I already had a nice commute via transit

I don't know why I just checked your profile to verify that you didn't work in London. I think next time I'm at the zoo I'll probably find myself checking the giraffe to verify that it has a long neck.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 9:02 AM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


Us old farts are also usually the only ones who turn the cameras on in larger virtual meetings.

This just goes to show how much variability there is, and I wonder if some of it is just camera fatigue that may vary by role and/or personal life? I've noticed if someone is calling in via phone to a meeting, 9/10 it's faculty, and usually they're the older ones with admin roles in addition to teaching/research, so they hit a point where they cannot stand to be near a screen, but can engage in a phone call. The flow is a little trickier that way, but we all manage.

With post-docs and students (20s- early 30s), we can do a lot via email and then hop on to a call at minimal notice (usually) to get things worked out.

I'm fairly lucky. I absolutely must be on campus sometimes, but my boss isn't making it happen more often than it needs to. And she's willing to reconfigure things to minimize even that. But since I can usually control when things need to happen and I can hop on a bus after a generally pleasant walk, I'm actually happy to be more hybrid for myself. And the fact that we can have some people be pretty much just from home makes on-site even better for my purposes right now.

I personally am looking forward to having more people around when we can (we're risk averse, so still limiting on-site stuff to what can't be done remotely) and when they want to be here, but I don't think we're ever having time in the office mandated just because.

My husband works from home exclusively now. And he thinks out loud. Some days I like to have a bit of a break from my stuff and have him think at me. But some days that just can't happen, and having a quiet on campus office to go to is nice.
posted by ghost phoneme at 9:03 AM on July 28, 2021


It is neither an ability nor a choice.

I can go to a meeting room whenever I want to concentrate and people know not to disturb me. Not everyone can do this - it's a combination of company culture and individual clout. It works for me - maybe it's a local maximum.
posted by kersplunk at 9:15 AM on July 28, 2021


In the conflicted camp myself for predictable reasons - hate the commute, but also very sick of working in a smallish flat with no capacity to havea home office type setup in it. Also starting to feel that people are getting increasingly short with each other in a way that's - if not exacerbated by being all online - certainly not eased in the way face to face time can help. Ehh.

Mainly just awed how this powerful conflict of various interests had lain dormant, now released by lockdown, straight into snippy arguments whenever it comes up online. This is going to be the declawing cats of our generation.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:15 AM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


I have to say, as someone who just spent a year in a ~800sqft apartment, the lack of discussion about what circumstances suit working from home is depressing.

As someone in a ~515 sq ft apartment...same. Also, not to get too heavily into details, but some of the security requirements to do basic things are extremely cumbersome and require yet more space. My employer is not paying me to compensate for renting out my very limited living space, all utilities included (a/c bill is 50-100% higher now). We got a small tech stipend, enough to cover a decent headset, and...that's it. Still better than many, I know! Again, many people here are coming from a position of houses with decent space and enough comp that it doesn't represent that much of a hit to suddenly deduct the cost of providing your own office.

My way of working "hybrid" in the past was to try to push my schedule as late in the day as possible (I'm a night owl anyway), so that when the noise settled down I could get more work done. But as much as I'm an introvert, as much as I'm shy, I cannot deny the usefulness of casual or spontaneous consultation with colleagues who happen to be nearby. And, for those of you who think a Slack channel or whatever is enough, (a) some of us don't even get to have that remotely for security reasons and (b) if you're a new employee with even a modicum of social awareness, you're going to have to work to guess what the informal expectations around that are. And I'm saying this as someone who's conducted a lot of her social life over various chat mechanisms. (Also, if you have a modicum of damn common sense, you'd know that there are conversations you might have with coworkers out loud that you wouldn't commit to writing.) I think many of you whose work does involve a certain degree of collaboration are in for unpleasant surprises when you next switch jobs and have to start over.

I will say--for me, the basis of comparison is an office with a door that closes and no officemate. (Sensible places still give lawyers that.) For those people working at places that are proud to recreate a middle school lunchroom environment, the advantages are less stark.
posted by praemunire at 9:20 AM on July 28, 2021 [10 favorites]


I have to say, as someone who just spent a year in a ~800sqft apartment, the lack of discussion about what circumstances suit working from home is depressing.

I've been working remote for about 7 years in a tiny 300sqft apartment and you couldn't pay me to go back to an office. The entire topic is a huge YMMV.
posted by simmering octagon at 9:22 AM on July 28, 2021 [17 favorites]


Yes, definitely YMMV, and within an individual's career that may vary. We lived in basically a basement at the start of the pandemic. It was a wonderful place that we loved when we just slept there and hung out on weekends. But being trapped there 24/7 and needing two working spaces...it just didn't work. If we still lived there Is be in the office any time I could.

But that's with this job. All of my other jobs I'd probably have picked awkward dungeon WFH over going in unless absolutely necessary (which would have been far more often than I'd have liked).
posted by ghost phoneme at 9:29 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


I can go to a meeting room whenever I want to concentrate and people know not to disturb me. Not everyone can do this - it's a combination of company culture and individual clout. It works for me - maybe it's a local maximum.

Mileage will definitely vary on this one. I often wore my full size headphones without any music playing just to mute outside chatter and provide a "do not disturb" visual cue to people who'd walk up. And I've worked for two different companies where multiple people would call into the same conference calls, from their desks, on speakerphone, so if you weren't on that call there was nowhere to go to escape it. Thanks to digital phone systems, they'd all be slightly out of sync with each other too, so the experience wasn't just a very loud call, it was a stuttering cacophony. That was miserable. At least at one of those two companies I only had that experience when I traveled to another office, as nobody at my own (smaller) office was on those calls. In office I was the de facto receptionist, though, since I had the closest desk to the front door. Luckily we didn't get that many walk-ins.

I know lots of people like them, but offices are terrible and that's not even considering the people who microwave fish or burn popcorn.
posted by fedward at 9:38 AM on July 28, 2021 [7 favorites]


I started a new job in May, I'm 52 and trans. My co-workers and I have a Meet meeting every morning at 8:45, and as we got more used to each other it stopped being just about work and we make some jokes and chat, and it's fun.

At 5:00 PM, we have a company-wide Meet meeting, which is 14 people and is very chill as well. The biggest issue that came up was the day I came out to the company as trans, and everyone has been awesome about it.

I've been to the office once, and that was just to go over, get my stuff the Friday before I started, and come home. I'll be honest: the idea I can roll out of bed at 8, hit the bathroom, take my meds and pour a bowl of cereal to be ready for work is awesome, and then at 5:15 or so the laptop goes into sleep mode and I go make dinner for my wife and myself (we've been eating a lot of chicken with madras lentils, which I punch up a little), and unwind.

The trip to the office requires me to go outside in an area that is very unsafe for someone with an atypical gender presentation, getting on a bus, getting on a subway, going to Penn Station, going outbound to LI, then when I get to my station waiting for a once-hourly jitney bus that stops by work 45 minutes before my start time. If I leave at 5:30 I get to work at 8:15. (I don't drive.). Then about the same amount of time going back home. It's also in an industrial/light office area without much in the manner of amenities like places to buy lunch in walking distance, places to go for coffee, sidewalks...

I am not looking forwards to going into the office, except for the extra reading time on the train, but I would prefer to have the time with my wife, and the sleep.
posted by mephron at 9:44 AM on July 28, 2021 [20 favorites]


We're partially distributed and remote-first. There's an office; you can go in if you want, or not. I went into the office one time a couple weeks ago. Got to hug a friend. Have lunch with some fun colleagues. It's a well-ventilated space, not crowded, and everyone coming in is required to be vaccinated. It was delightful.

The biggest reason it was delightful is that I didn't have to be there.

This is the model that suits me best and works for the widest range of preferences, I think. Often, I don't want to be in the office. Sometimes, I don't want to be at home.
posted by the_blizz at 9:59 AM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


As an immunocompromised person, I'm really resentful at the idea that I should put my life at risk mostly because extroverts, networkers, and people who don't like their partners don't want to work from home during a pandemic. It's also been really nice to not get regular-sick since this began, because my colleagues (for some reason) wouldn't just stay home when they had a cold pre-pandemic. Our culture really punishes you for staying at home when sick, and I know a lot of people who would just go into work and sneeze all over everyone and spread their germs all over the office. And not having to come up with excuses for skipping group events, or being mildly mocked by my colleagues when I won't eat communal meals with them (because eating in a group often causes me to catch a cold) has been very nice. I'm good at my job, but I'm even better at it when I'm not getting sick all the damn time.

How dare they try to push us to go back during a pandemic, and how dare they act like it's a preference? I would prefer to not be immune compromised, but this is my body. I would also prefer that we are not in a pandemic, but I don't have the luxury of ignoring it the way a lot of my colleagues seem to. In the United States, we are at the beginning of a fourth wave, and it just strikes me as massively irresponsible that everyone I know is being pushed to go back into the office right now. All for the golden gods of capitalism and control. Living here is continually heartbreaking.
posted by twelve cent archie at 10:04 AM on July 28, 2021 [47 favorites]


I'm curious to see how much, if any, pressure this puts on organizations to make their offices someplace people actually want to be.

Despite my employer being in many ways very, atypically decent and supportive for the US, I've spent the last 10 years working in a windowless room that's freezing in the summer and often feels airless in winter, under loud fluorescent lights that are either on or off.

The building is next to a highway in a light industrial neighborhood, with the only amenities a 1/4 mile walk away, requiring that you cross a dangerous multi-lane road where pedestrians are at best an afterthought, and often treated w/hostility. With the exception of a few flowering trees and an occasional wildlife encounter, the entire area around it is ugly and depressing.

Even having to manage my two kids' online schooling while working this past year, all cooped up together in our apartment, isn't enough to make me want to go back.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:09 AM on July 28, 2021 [9 favorites]


I've lately been allowed to optionally work from my office. (Which is great, I'm very lucky to have this employer). I'm in IT and it's by nature one crisis after another, but in the office I fell a lot less stressed out by the crazy requests and deadlines.

There were certainly things I liked about WFH, like the 10-foot commute, but the environment of being "at worK' vs in my place of safety, and knowing "this is where the bad things happen" really eases my mind.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:21 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


Fortunately I retired a few months back so it's a moot point for me, but if I was still in my first career and had to be working from home all this time, they would've fired my lazy ass a year ago. Too many distractions at home -- allowing Internet access on-the-job was bad enough, but the kind of work I was doing (finding errors in code) -- just can't get into it unless I'm part of a team. Work?! We'd all prefer anything but that, if the boss isn't around, we'd all just 'shoot the shit' talking the whole day -- and I know there's lots of jobs that are similar. Nothing gets accomplished without a strong driver at the wheel, making sure all four wheels are turning (or at a minimum, looking busy).
posted by Rash at 11:02 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


I left office work for work from home more than 15 years ago. I quit consulting to become a full-time freelance writer because my primary client was bought by a big company that told me I'd have to start coming into the office once more. I will never work in an office again in my entire life. Ever.
posted by jordantwodelta at 11:03 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


Being able to shit in my own bathroom outweighs any and all issues that may arise from working from home.
posted by AugustWest at 11:18 AM on July 28, 2021 [15 favorites]


BTW, responding to Fencing Gal's comment, a book for you: Neanderthals At Work by Albert J. Bernstein, from 1992. He writes about the three types of workers: Believers, Rebels and Game-Players. The hard-working Believers have dreams of advancement which are constantly thwarted by the Game-Players, who learn the unwritten rules and are the ones who get promoted. Rebels needn't bother with the rules because they either have a patron; or like Dilbert's Wally, who knows how to update the legacy COBOL payroll code, they have indispensable skills and/or arcane knowledge which makes them untouchable.
posted by Rash at 11:22 AM on July 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


The comments about the bathrooms are what keep coming back to me. There's something about the American custom of pooping in the same room with thin dividers that just seems to drive home how demeaning work life can be -- and how demeaning it's supposed to be, given our puritanical (Calvinist? I don't know the right word) roots. You are supposed to hate your body for the most part, your fingers should be typing, your mouth should be saying "sure, find I can get that done and how about sports?", and if you have to poop you should smell everyone else's poops. Oh, and if you need to eat, there's a line, because bodies are horrible and their needs are horrible, and we can only afford one microwave per floor.

I am a person who doesn't do well with unstructured time, and my mental health has deteriorated alarmingly in the past year and a half. I am one of those people who probably thrives with the structure of a commute and an assigned desk to work at. Yet the pandemic has made glaringly obvious to me what is just so freaking punishing about office culture and architecture. We can't even shit in privacy.
posted by treepour at 11:30 AM on July 28, 2021 [17 favorites]


Reading through many of these topics over the past year, it's illuminating to see how much of the pro-office/anti-commute discussion is influenced by other broken parts of US society.

People have long commutes because broken housing policies (especially in California) mean that cities build huge offices and barely any housing, and people are forced between paying absurd amounts for inferior housing or living far, far away.

People are anxious about quitting their job and finding better ones that meet their needs because the US has a weak safety net and ties medical insurance to employment.

The original reddit poster and many of the commenters quit their job, found a better one and got better compensated, which is like a win-win on a high level. People should be able to have greater freedom choosing their employment and housing, but there are all kinds of barriers to make it harder.
posted by meowzilla at 11:32 AM on July 28, 2021 [10 favorites]


Five minutes ago I put myself on the volunteer list to go back to the office part-time when the re-opening starts in September. I guess I'll see how that goes then.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:43 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


This thread pushed me over the edge to deciding to volunteer to go back, so, thanks I guess?
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:46 AM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


Yep, I won't be going back. Ever. It's not just a matter of preferring WFH--there is no fucking way I'm risking my health by working indoors with a population that is 50% unvaccinated.

I'm currently in a protracted negotiation with them over WFH but in the meantime I have discovered that I have enough saved for retirement that I can afford to quit now so am bargaining from a position of strength. I think I'm not alone. The market has been very good in the last few years and many people are in a better position than they expected to be. The early retirement numbers to date are already reflecting this and I think the more marginal cases like me (ordinarily I would continue working for a few more years) will continue the trend if they try to force us back.

I will say that since almost everyone else went back, I feel even more cut off from the flow of information, but nothing can compare to the freedom to kiss my dog on the head and have my cup of tea out on the deck. And honestly, not knowing everything that's going on is mostly just an emotional problem in that I don't feel like I'm part of the in crowd anymore. It doesn't actually affect my ability to do my job.
posted by HotToddy at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


There's something about the American custom of pooping in the same room with thin dividers

Even worse is in the mens room, urinating next to your manager, so close that you can almost touch shoulders. And that thin divider is only a little higher than your elbows.
posted by Rash at 12:03 PM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


Reading through many of these topics over the past year, it's illuminating to see how much of the pro-office/anti-commute discussion is influenced by other broken parts of US society.

Fascinating point about these experiences being very US-centric. Does anyone have any insight about thoughts of workers in other countries? How do non-US workers feel about working from home vs going into the office. Are you on a similar projectory?
posted by hydra77 at 12:10 PM on July 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


After a lifetime of fat shaming and lecturing about "but we're WORRIED about your HEALTH", it is hilarious that obese people are now going to their workplaces saying "Okay, so the CDC still says we're a higher risk group" and workplaces collectively going "lol yeah that's not a real risk factor for accommodations though, you're fine."
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:19 PM on July 28, 2021 [16 favorites]


I miss my co-workers a lot. And I miss the Aeron chair at my office desk. Other than that, I would love to keep working from home. But my employer is gradually bringing us all back to the office, because despite how well things have gone for the company during the pandemic, they need our butts in chairs.

Then on top of everything else, the company has decided (or decided a couple of years ago, but just told us this week) that they are leasing satellite offices to reduce our commutes, which will split up some teams, physically, so team meetings will still have to be remote. I'm very happy about bringing a daily 2.5+ hours commute down to a daily 10-15 minute commute, and downtown has become a hell of homeless people and shuttered storefronts...but we could have done really well working from home, at least part of the time.
posted by lhauser at 12:24 PM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


I'm a little skeptical of those who say that having a physical space produces a better office culture than remote work always. Because online communities and collaboration have been continuously growing and developing in at least the last 30 years of the internet. The tools are there. The expertise are there. It's doable.

On an organization level (not an individual level, as previous commenters have brought up legit issues with space limitations, etc.), this is more about which version of the office they're familiar with and which they've invested in more. Having to build an online office culture from zero is harder than rebuilding a physical space office culture that you've already done before.
posted by FJT at 12:26 PM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


Fascinating point about these experiences being very US-centric. Does anyone have any insight about thoughts of workers in other countries? How do non-US workers feel about working from home vs going into the office. Are you on a similar projectory?

I actually don't know about the feelings of our non-US workers, but I've heard that very few of our staff in India have broadband at home (or didn't at the start of the pandemic) and were tethering their phones to do their work. This seems like a nightmare to me, so maybe returning to the office is a good thing for them.
posted by lhauser at 12:28 PM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


lhauser, try working in the new, local office for six months. Then "suddenly" have a "great insight" that they could save the costs of the satellite offices by not renewing the leases and just letting everyone WFH.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:29 PM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


I want to go back to working in an office maybe once a week. I get the benefits of seeing folk occasionally, I truly do. But it sucks, y'all.

Comfy chairs? They can buy one for your home, or you can buy one yourself. Hell, steal the one from work and replace it with a chair from home. If your home office is "work," your chair is still at work.

Coffee breaks with friends? You can make friends locally (if you don't have them already) and see them once the pandemic is no longer a thing. Missing social interaction is a pandemic thing, not a WFH thing.

We've experienced WFH at its very worst over the past 2 years; all of the downsides and tension of it being temporary. Give folks a full year of WFH in a truly post-pandemic environment and poll them again.
posted by explosion at 12:44 PM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


I'm in Europe.
I am enjoying being back at the office. We're all vaxxed thanks to my employer. I get one WFH day which is about the amount I enjoy having.
I missed my coworkers. I missed the cross talk. I do have more creative ideas when they're around. I'm in a creative industry; flying solo doesn't work so well. I missed physical people.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:59 PM on July 28, 2021 [7 favorites]


I wonder how much of the pressure to return to the office is due to the very existence of the office? My former employer (I retired in January) was happy to embrace work-from-home since it meant that the enterprise could delay a long-planned office expansion. More work from home = fewer people who need desks = less cost for office space.

Now consider organizations for which office space is a sunk cost. They still have to pay to maintain it, and keep up the rent or lease if they don't own it out right, but they aren't fully utilizing it. That must make some bean counters' butts itch.
posted by SPrintF at 1:02 PM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


I work in higher ed., and part of our teaching comes from having student workers in our departments. Y'all, they need immediate, in-person teaching -- and a lot of it. One of my colleagues has assembled a lengthy booklet of the feedback he has had to provide over the years, which he gives to new student workers to save time and embarrassment.

While working events, some of them take out their phones and ignore the questions of visitors. Some of them just don't show up when they don't feel like it, leaving their colleagues short-handed and the end users SOL. Heck, some of them need to be told *to take showers regularly*.

This feedback needs to be immediate and gentle and positive. The power differentials here -- adult/young person, staff/student, manager/worker, professional/n00b -- are many and layered. A quiet word delivered in the hallway or while getting a coffee is far more effective than the same words coming through a laptop webcam.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:03 PM on July 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


Also, I don't know if this is OT or not, but I think being employed in the US sounds horrifying. Part of the reason I enjoy being physically at work is because it has limits. I get reasonable vacation per year and I get to go home at 5.30 pm, and if I accrue regular overtime my bosses start looking at how to redistribute the work. My work has...boundaries.

I'm not trying to brag or something, I just want to point out that maybe one of the reasons tons of people in the US say they loathe the idea of returning to their offices once the pandemic is over is because work there does sound objectively horrible?
posted by Omnomnom at 1:08 PM on July 28, 2021 [20 favorites]


I'm not trying to brag or something, I just want to point out that maybe one of the reasons tons of people in the US say they loathe the idea of returning to their offices once the pandemic is over is because work there does sound objectively horrible?

It varies widely - I'm a state government employee w/solid pay + benefits, paid sick leave, usually take 2-3 weeks of paid vacation a year, and have a reasonably predictable 9-5:30ish schedule w/occasional weekend days (I work for an office open Sat/Sun). My main objections to returning to the office are A) the commute; B) the cruddy physical environment I outlined above. The job itself I generally feel pretty fortunate to have.

But there are many, many people in much worse circumstances, and the protections / basic safety net are, of course, not good.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:17 PM on July 28, 2021 [2 favorites]


I was WFH for the first three months, and have been back in the office for more than a year.

I much prefer being in the office. My job is such that the work/life balance is super-critical to maintain, otherwise this job will eat you alive. Being at home, that balance was right out the window, with the only differentiation between the two spheres being the time on the clock.

There are other things too -- the tools I need to do my job are here in the office. While WFH was *possible*, it wasn't nearly as efficient a process for me.

But the important piece for me was the separation between my home life and my work life. WFH was no good for my mental health at all.

YMMV.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:25 PM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


1. We need to go 4 days a week work, same pay. My personal productivity would be fine, I suspect most people's would.
2. We need to make wfh flexible; all the time for some, partial for others, come in every day if you really want to
3. We need childcare subsidies so wfh is actually doable, and tax breaks for buying equipment and so on.
4. We need national broadband
posted by emjaybee at 1:41 PM on July 28, 2021 [20 favorites]


I've worked for 2 different universities, and during that time I had my desk in 6 different physical offices. For the first 4 months in the first of those, I had a window. Then for a while we had windows that were about 2 feet tall at the top of a 15-foot tall room of cubicles, those windows looking out onto the floor of a hallway that itself had real windows on the other side. Then we were moved to a complete basement location, and I haven't anything approaching a window since then. I live in the North, where, for about 5 months of the year, during the work week I go to work before the sun comes up and return home after it has gone down.

For the last year, I've had windows and sun, a cat who periodically comes up to tell me he loves me, and all of the chatter about personal lives was over Teams so I could work at the same time I made small responses of interest. Now I'm back on campus in walls that look like bleak putty and air conditioning that makes me have to have a space heater on all day so I'm not shaking from the cold.

Yes, I live in the US. And yes, I am looking for a new WFH position now.
posted by past unusual at 1:47 PM on July 28, 2021 [7 favorites]


We need universal healthcare.

There's some folks who really only can work part time. There's some jobs that really only need to be done part-time. But employers (the ones that aren't incentivized to give nobody healthcare) are looking to have a minimum of employees, all full-time, because giving a part-time employee full healthcare is more expensive.

Healthcare needs to be removed from the equation.
posted by explosion at 1:47 PM on July 28, 2021 [26 favorites]


HEALTH CARE -
the elephant in the room that binds so many in the US to jobs they hate. If we truly cared about how we regulate businesses we would de-couple health care from a job as a "benefit" By giving employers the healthcare boogeyman we give them unfair leverage over employee hiring negotiations and anyone who requires healthcare. That's everyone, whether you are over/under 30, you have children, single, divorced, EVERYONE should have healthcare and it should be free or a very minimum per year (like $500 per person total) and it SHOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH EMPLOYMENT.

edit: Jinx explosion
posted by djseafood at 1:51 PM on July 28, 2021 [15 favorites]


I wonder how much of the pressure to return to the office is due to the very existence of the office?

It's sunk cost fallacy plus narcissism/vanity. I don't think there's anything more to it (not has there ever really been about American business culture as far as I can tell)
posted by treepour at 1:54 PM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


It's clear there is a tremendous variation in motivating factors for preferences around this. For me, the last year and a half has been seamless. A few years back, despite having a 15 minute drive to the office, I started working from home "off the books" for health reasons. At that time, the pendulum of executive management opinion had swung towards butts in seats, as it does on long time scales, so it was hard to be approved as a permanently remote employee. My boss was on the opposite side of the country, I had only one co-worker in my time zone, and the office -- the high-rise main campus of a unicorn-class first generation software company -- was lonely, isolating, and obnoxious to be in.

When I had started at the company ten years ago, I had an office with a door, as did all others. Claiming loudly "collaboration," but in reality because of seating density on a campus that couldn't physically expand for several more years, all individual contributor offices were torn out and replaced with open plan seating. Offices were reserved for management. It was loud, hard to focus, and I was susceptible to a constant barrage of focus-sapping interruption from folks dropping by to ask for favors or have me solve their problems out of band.

My own team and those I worked with were already distributed across several time zones, so even in the office every meeting was a video meeting. My employer being a global company gave us a several year head start on having the infrastructure, tooling, and culture to support geographically diverse collaboration. I used it daily when I was in the office, and leaned into it just as much when I was WFH.

The first year or so of this I just sat on the couch in my bedroom and did my job. I didn't dedicate a separate space to it, but it was a tremendous relief to finally be able to get shit done. By pretty much every metric I care about I was thriving doing my work this way. I took a risk and bought a home two and a half hours away, a home that wasn't a crumbling rental in an otherwise unaffordable town in the South Bay which is a region I disliked to begin with. My WFH situation, illicit that it might have been, continued unabated.

When the pandemic hit and the company went 100% WFH globally nothing changed for me, but it disrupted many lives including those of people I worked alongside daily. As a group, we adjusted our behaviors and expectations to be a little more human-centered than they already were (which was, overall, coming from a pretty good place). Cats walked on screen. People had to get up and deal with kids. Folks had to adjust their schedules and availability to meet family obligations. Everyone covered for one another, making allowances and filling in the gaps for each other. It was fucking glorious. We all tried to get through this thing together, to make it work.

As someone mid-late career and a senior member of staff, I had it easy. Get up, make a cup of coffee, walk downstairs to my office, and start figuring out my day. I had been at this for a while, had established the boundaries I needed at home, I could afford and had the space for it, I had a really great internet connection and a stellar home network. I can enjoy my beautiful and not at all on fire wine country home and get stuff done. Some people struggled with space, or with interruptions, or with terrible connectivity. What had been totally seamless to me was not at all seamless for others, and my main contribution towards alleviating that was trying to foster a culture of tolerance and acceptance that shit happens, sometimes it's messy or not according to plan or difficult to juggle, and it's nobody's fault.

I have co-workers in India in particular who have nowhere in their homes to work. Many are early-career, live in small spaces, and have inadequate internet access. Some had to go sit in their car to take calls or write code, because nowhere else was quiet enough to hear the discussion or focus on tasks. I have another co-worker -- a mid-career person in the US -- who lives on a farm in a "connected" part of the sticks and he shows up on video sitting on his beautiful deck with the countryside in the background. The divergence in experiences is enormous.

I would never work in an office again. Over my career the best thing I can say about it is that I made some early career friends 25 years ago that I still keep in touch with. The second best thing I can say about it is that I gained 60 pounds eating delicious downtown SF lunches. Cubicles were dehumanizing. Commutes varied between unpleasant and agonizing. Office politics were a tremendous drag on my well-being in some workplaces, and a bit of a distraction at even the most pleasant. Trying to pack my availability, productivity, and focus into contiguous 9-hour blocks took a toll on my mental health and personal relationships that I am spending years recovering from.

My employer announced a hybrid reentry with some opportunities to apply for permanent WFH status. My paperwork went in immediately. My boss is barking up the executive tree to help move things along.
posted by majick at 1:58 PM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


Comfy chairs? They can buy one for your home, or you can buy one yourself.

Comments like this frustrate me a lot, because they reflect a really disheartening total failure to grasp the economic situation of the majority of American workers, probably even workers whose job is theoretically amenable to WFH. "They" won't do it; "they" are happy to push every possible cost off onto workers. "You" can buy your own nice work furniture, if "you" can afford it. I have what most people would consider the most entry-level decent office chair, and it cost a couple hundred bucks. That's a lot of money for a lot of people. A long-term shift to WFH will hurt a lot of people financially.
posted by praemunire at 2:37 PM on July 28, 2021 [12 favorites]


Yeah, I definitely can't buy a several-hundred-dollar chair (or steal one from work?!)

It's this assumption by people who can easily absorb the costs of the transition glibly ignoring that there are costs - and that the people least likely to be able to pay them are also the ones with the least power to push back - that gets to me.

And this is just for supplies - it really, really fails to address the fact that it's not great to spend 8 hours a day working in the same spot I already spend at minimum ~8 hours sleeping.

I feel like there are people who are excited that they finally have a use for their home office, and I get that - but the assumption that working from home is some sort of heaven where you've got a room to yourself, some birds outside your window, and a nice calm street without sirens every few minutes... that's not how I've been experiencing it, for sure. It's not like I had space going spare in my apartment to start with, you know?
posted by sagc at 2:53 PM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]


I've been back in the office since last August. Yes August 2020. And I much prefer the office to working at home. I do not like working remotely. The apartment is too hot, I have to deal with roommates and street noise. It's way too easy to get distracted and my performance goes down. In the office I'm surrounded with work and with people who are working together and apart. I like the face to face communication. I really dislike Zoom. My mind wanders, my eyes hurt and it's easy to zone out. I don't do that in person.

I'll take an office over home when it comes to work.
Home is for relaxing and not working - except maybe on my own stuff on my own time.

But, hey, I'm in my 50's and have been in an office since I was 30. It's my preferred work space.
posted by Rashomon at 2:56 PM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


She came home in tears on her first day of work 18 months ago and literally asked out loud, "is this the way it will be for the rest of my life?" We did our best to talk her through the sadness that neither my wife or I are familiar with which is working in a cubicle and playing the "act busy" thing all day long.

I dunno, honestly it seemed fine to me? It's a lot better than being forced to work retail on your feet and being abused all day for very little money. I'm well aware that office life, while vaguely kinda sucky, sure as hell beats a lot of other lines of work.

Also hot-desking is a nightmare and a scourge

Yeah, we're going to have to do that going back (until they change their minds and make us go back full time, anyway). Mostly this is because they are only going to allow 1 person in each office space for reasons of cooties and it's a lot of money to have to maintain two different computers and monitors for every person, which I can understand.

We need universal healthcare.

I'm more likely to have a live unicorn show up at my door than to get universal health care. If I had descendants, my great-grandchildren probably could never have universal health care.

Neanderthals At Work by Albert J. Bernstein, from 1992. He writes about the three types of workers: Believers, Rebels and Game-Players.

What about the Losers such as myself who have no hopes of advancing ever? :P (So I don't really care on that topic. Being seen and heard is a disadvantage to me, actually.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:08 PM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


Oh, I forgot what I was originally going to say! From the original link:

and now I HAVE to/MUST pretend to pay attention to something that has no relation to what I work with because well, I got no more flexibility on my surrounding environment.

Yeah, this right here (also see most recent ADHD thread) is why I don't want to have to go back to the office. That and being allowed to sleep. But I'm gonna have to suck it up. I'm not exactly in a field that allows for remote work unless forced at covid, and I'm extremely fortunate that they're even considering only making us go 2 days a week, even if I don't think that will actually happen past the start of cold and flu season.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:10 PM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


A long-term shift to WFH will hurt a lot of people financially.

But won't a lot of other people benefit financially? What if you've been paying to commute, or for after-school care because you can't get home in time to pick the kids up, or for the expense of work clothes, or just the unquantifiable time sink of aforementioned commute?

My home office set up is a dining room table, and I just don't have a dining room table. My work chair is far more comfortable, and I don't want to invest the dollars necessary to replicate it. I do not have a standing desk at home. For me the trade-off is still worth it. Not everybody has the same experience or priorities.
posted by Anonymous at 3:11 PM on July 28, 2021


But won't a lot of other people benefit financially? What if you've been paying to commute, or for after-school care because you can't get home in time to pick the kids up, or for the expense of work clothes, or just the unquantifiable time sink of aforementioned commute?

OK, I'm just going to link this article about how this already ends up working for a lot of people. I feel this is fairly basic information about how the current economy ends up functioning for/exploiting a lot of (not all) people in this position, and I admit I get a little snappish re-explaining it.
posted by praemunire at 4:11 PM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


Loving WFH and expect to be largely work for home for the rest of my career really at this point - none of my clients seem super keen on going back to paying expenses for consultants to travel to them. But time will tell.

- I'm more productive and it just suits me better
- The 30-40 roundtrip plane trips I took a year probably added up to ~20 tons of CO2 (based on a quick online carbon calculator estimate - may be off). I haven't been on a plane since Feb 2020 and am totally ok with that
- I've driven *zero* miles for work this year - instead of the 10-15k I might otherwise - another 3-5 tons of c02
- I've seen my kids everyday for the last 14 months or so
- I've been better at household chores and have a better work life balance, and my spouse appreciates that
- A couple of times a week I can see Elk and Moose out of my home office window....I mean what's not to like about that....
- Long zoom calls from the home office recliner (i.e. the bed)
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:16 PM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


Working from home is great (for most, it seems - I don't like it), but remember that the flexibility it affords is yet another externalisation of operating costs for your employer. And as your home becomes your workplace, their hands will reach into it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:43 PM on July 28, 2021 [7 favorites]


"You" can buy your own nice work furniture, if "you" can afford it.

There's a lot of savings if your employer isn't actively looking to fuck you over. A train pass in Boston cost over $80/month. If I set aside the money I'd been spending every month on commuting and put it directly into my home office, I'd have the nicest chair imaginable. Plus I haven't had to buy lunch (I'm sometimes lazy, sue me), or get new work clothes recently. I'm a middle-tier government worker.

Yes, every person's situation (home, work, financial) is going to be different, but it gets really old being told that WFH has been good only for the well-off. We can both acknowledge that some folks simply don't have the ability to WFH and point out that it's actively beneficial for some folks.

It's really weird that people assume that if you're poor or broke that you don't know how to budget. Back when I was working hard on paying off credit card debt, the current WFH situation would have been a godsend.
posted by explosion at 4:44 PM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]


OK, I'm just going to link this article about how this already ends up working for a lot of people.

This article is about a horrible situation and the abuses of capitalism but I am not sure what it has to do with your argument about WFH.
posted by Anonymous at 4:49 PM on July 28, 2021


I just worked it out, although I didn't account for paid holidays where I didn't have to commute. Not having to commute 30 minutes each way to work for 388 workdays (which it will be by September 7, the supposed date we'll transition to hybrid mode) amounts to 16 entire days that I got to do something else instead of sitting in my car.
posted by emelenjr at 5:13 PM on July 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


We did work from home from March 2020 until May, when our boss (small government-funded legal organization) had us all come back, and I wasn't happy about it.

But over the last couple of months, I've had to acknowledge that there really are some unavoidable drawbacks to WFH for the type of work we do. However--it only takes a couple days a month for us to capture like 90% or more of that togetherness benefit, and it's pretty much completely gone after we get beyond one week a month. It seems like such a huge cost for us all to pay for a real but limited benefit.

Anyway, boss sent us home today, we're now officially "office optional" because of Delta-related worries (I live in one of the least vaccinated areas in the U.S.). The way he phrased things, I imagine they won't try to bring us back for at least a few months, and probably not until well after the new year. I'm honestly psyched, it means more time with my wife and kids, getting to spend down time on productive things like prepping lunch and dinner, rather than screwing around on the computer. So here goes WFH chapter 2 for me, hope it's better than chapter 1!
posted by skewed at 6:01 PM on July 28, 2021


Count me as never wanting to go back, WFH has been a godsend. Before COVID my employer wouldn't even consider it. They still are terrible in some respects (don't get me started on how much money I've spent out-of-pocket for a desk, laptop, chair, etc) but as a severe introvert who just doesn't function well in a cube farm it's been a game changer. No more pointless chatter!

The 30-40 roundtrip plane trips I took a year probably added up to ~20 tons of CO2 (based on a quick online carbon calculator estimate - may be off). I haven't been on a plane since Feb 2020 and am totally ok with that

This is another change I'm hoping will stick. So much business travel is wasteful/pointless and needs to go. I saw one co-worker fly all the way from the US East Coast to South Africa for a few hours of internal meetings, simply because his boss thought Webex was too complicated and networking could only be done in-person. I was once almost strong-armed into a similarly long flight to teach a 2-hour training session because "virtual isn't the same". Ugh.
posted by photo guy at 6:10 PM on July 28, 2021 [8 favorites]


I used to commute in an odd mix that included about 30 min walking and 30 min on the bus. The walk was nice sometimes, but I don't at all miss the mental load of making sure I had the right boots/umbrella/coat/scarf for the weather in the morning, plus juggling my lunch containers on the bus, etc. I can still go for a walk without needing to plan everything I need at 7am! And I've had zero weird dudes bother me on the bus!
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:51 PM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


It's interesting being so out of sync with the rest of the (english speaking) world. We were in lockdown for April/May last year, but most people were back to some sort of "new normal" by the end of the year. Some were in at work 1-2 days per week, others fully back in the office, others still fully remote. The cities with less shitty commutes and shorter lockdowns seemed to bounce back to fully back in the office faster.

And now we're back in lockdown, and cases are still rising. My job makes no sense as a WFH gig - I work in a lab. And even the computer stuff we do is so, so hard to do remotely, as it's all collaborative. We're wasting so much time going round in circles trying to make decisions and edit documents, we're bad at this stuff at the best of times, and this is not the best of times. I miss (so much) being able to go and stand in people's office doors, quickly find out the thing I need to know, and then have a chat about what's going on and find out all sorts of other useful things. (I can go chat to one of my housemates, but they don't understand half the nouns I use, and I understand their jobs only slightly more.) Those of us in my workgroup who can do (unbelievably boring) computer work are busy, but we've got a bunch of hands on workers on WFH, and they have almost nothing to do. Providing them with things to do, and then having to review it all, and making sure that they are OK because they're doing new things that they aren't used to and aren't good at takes longer than doing it myself would.

Also, it's freezing here and I'm too stingy to pay to heat my room to a comfortable level. And I hate having my desk in my bedroom.

That being said, I do not miss the commute. Fuck driving. Covid traffic is fantastic (not that I can go more than 10km from my house).
posted by kjs4 at 6:57 PM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]


Working from home is great (for most, it seems - I don't like it), but remember that the flexibility it affords is yet another externalisation of operating costs for your employer.

If my workplace allows me to work from home permanently, I will think of it as taking a pay cut for a quality of life improvement, which is a sort of tradeoff lots of people make in the working world.

And as your home becomes your workplace, their hands will reach into it.


My employer pulled that kind of shit in the pre-COVID days when we weren't allowed to work from home. If I can't opt out of that kind of stuff by working at the office, why not choose the option that works best for me?
posted by creepygirl at 7:01 PM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]


"So I'm the only one with a loud spouse who checks on me more often than my boss and needs me every 5 minutes when working from home? And whose kids are also there remote schooling (a total waste), and have endless numbers of technical issues with their tiny chromebooks? And all want to go to lunch every 30 minutes between 11am-2pm? And then to the park? And then when remote working from the in-laws, they all spend all day shouting?"

No, it's a legit nightmare. Like, I KNOW how a lot of my friends with kids did it? But I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY DID IT. One of my children has a disability, so starting from when he was about a year old, my husband and I worked opposite schedules, because my kid had so many therapy appointments during the regular day -- I either had to quit working for pay, or shift my working to nights and weekends. (My husband is the larger earner by a lot.) So our pre-existing work schedules actually worked great for Covid! My husband got up early and fed the kids breakfast, and then went into our basement to work. I rolled out of bed right when Zoom School started, and kept three kids on their Zooms for 6 hours a day. Then my husband would finish and emerge from the basement and start cooking dinner and I would sign on to work (at MeFi) and work for 8 hours. (And my husband would amuse them, take them to the park, and do bedtime.) And honestly, I have always loved second shift and night work, but spending 6 hours supervising Zoom school and then signing online to work for 8 hours was EXHAUSTING.

And I have a bunch of friends who were single moms and also doing Zoom school, or who had two parents who worked demanding 9-to-5s while doing Zoom school, and I can hardly imagine how that worked. I'm so exhausted on their behalfs. I'M exhausted, and I didn't have to juggle work and school -- my husband and I traded off!

But yeah, two of my SILs had to quit work during the pandemic b/c their kids needed attention, their husbands earned more, and their employers were laying people off who didn't appear in the office every day.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:20 PM on July 28, 2021 [14 favorites]


Being able to shit in my own bathroom outweighs any and all issues that may arise from working from home.

Plus at home you usually don't have to wait in quiet desperation until said toilet has been vacated before being able to use it yourself
posted by gtrwolf at 11:19 PM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]


No, it's a legit nightmare. Like, I KNOW how a lot of my friends with kids did it? But I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THEY DID IT.

Companies seem to be approaching this as a one-size-fits-all (with a single policy for the office), but in reality the conversations about WFH for people with kids and people without kids are very different. If schools and other services like afterschool programs were operating normally, that would help level that playing field; hopefully this year is not a repeat of last year on that front.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:21 AM on July 29, 2021 [2 favorites]


OK, I'm just going to link this article about how this already ends up working for a lot of people. I feel this is fairly basic information about how the current economy ends up functioning for/exploiting a lot of (not all) people in this position, and I admit I get a little snappish re-explaining it.

Is the argument that somehow these jobs wouldn't be nightmarish and abusive if they were just in offices? Because as someone who's worked in a call center I would like to strongly counter that argument with: they were.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:35 AM on July 29, 2021 [12 favorites]


I hate to say it but COVID opened up a wealth of job opportunities for me. Starting in March of this year I'd get eight or nine emails a day from recruiters looking to fill "fully remote" roles. I'd have five interviews a week with three different companies all over North America.

I landed a sweet job with an awesome team for a respectable amount of money whose office is on the opposite coast. I have to work from home and I love it.
posted by bendy at 1:19 AM on July 30, 2021 [3 favorites]


I'm always interested to hear about the informal hallway meetings that are apparently so important to other jobs. I'd estimate that I had useful, unplanned interactions about once per year. For me everything else was just chit-chat and pleasantries. I like chit-chat and pleasantries but you couldn't get me to dress up and spend 8+ hours in an office for an average of 15 minutes of chit-chat per day. Well, I've had 2 jobs where I liked my coworkers enough that I'd probably go into the office 2 or 3 times per week just to be around them, but that's a small minority of my past jobs.

To those people is say: get over it. We folks who work best remote had to put up with this shit for all of history. Now it’s our turn.

On one hand this feels uncharitable, on the other hand: this, so much this. I've lived in an extraverts' world since the day I was born, now the extroverts can't give us this one concession? Admittedly it's a big concession but still.

working less. A lot less. This speaks to me deeply... Work isn't fine if I tell myself the truth, I fucking hate it. Always have, every job. My entitlement hereby acknowledged, work sucks and if you can work less and be happy why not? What vestigial remnant of Calvinistic-capitalism remains to enforce "Work is godly" upon all of us. It 's always felt like someone else's soul-draining self-loating put upon me and my future.

Hell yes. There are vanishingly few jobs that are spiritually rewarding, and many of them pay poverty wages. And since some people find their jobs rewarding, our bosses act as if it's a personal failing if everyone doesn’t find their job rewarding — as if the problem were the employees and not the jobs that the bosses designed. And I note that people who get into spiritually rewarding jobs aren't in a rush to leave them and let the rest of us have them. Not that they should share, I'm pointing out that it's really not a personal failing if you don't like your job.

I can go to a meeting room whenever I want to concentrate and people know not to disturb me

For some of us that's 7.5 hours or more out of an 8 hour day. I've never worked at a place where you could reserve a room for 7.5 hours without someone judging you. I don't think your example is especially egregious or anything but I find that a lot of the "solutions" offered by the people who are okay going back to the office don't actually exist for most of us.
posted by Tehhund at 6:35 AM on July 30, 2021 [9 favorites]


So I didn't open my laptop until 9:20 this morning and was annoyed with myself that I was so late but then thinking that when I worked in an office, I might walk in the door at 9 but was seldom productive until 9:20 at best. I'd fart around chatting with co-workers, making coffee, getting a yogurt from the fridge before actually sitting down at my cube and opening my laptop.

I feel like I probably put in more time working now even though I tend to keep the same 9 - 5:30 hours that I always did in the office.
posted by octothorpe at 6:55 AM on July 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


As of this week, our return to office date has gone from theoretical to concrete. I deeply fucking resent the hours of the weekend ahead I'm about to lose to job hunt labor, but my bones told me that we're not going back when I saw the date I'm expected to.
posted by EatTheWeek at 1:17 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


I'm always interested to hear about the informal hallway meetings that are apparently so important to other jobs.

One reoccurring example from my working life: making appropriate sports-fan comments to the big boss, the morning after The Game.
posted by Rash at 2:08 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


It seems weird to me that a lot of the down sides of wfh people are describing can be solved if it is addressed as a more permanent arrangement.
If you know you will be doing a chunk of work at home, that becomes a factor when next you move home.
It opens up housing choices impossible with a daily commute, and it allows for a range of improvements. I understand many low paid workers can’t afford glitzy office gear, but those workers will also feel the benefit of commuting costs savings the most.
If you can drop a second car from a household, for example, that is a huge cost saving. And even more long term is the idea that young kids are a down side of wfh. They grow real fast, and when they are back at school they will be missed.

A bunch of the wfh downsides people list are because it has been a temporary and unexpected situation, and lots will go away if made more permanent.

In my house, a long commute four days a week became a once or twice commute.
I will never return to 5 days in the office, and 3 or 4 would be a stretch.
posted by bystander at 7:04 AM on July 31, 2021 [2 favorites]


Right, so, easy peasy - simply move house! Which is famously easy, unstressful and cost free, and people should obviously want to do it. And they should just simply get a larger place so they can convert some of it into an office, and they can just sell their second car, which they definitely have, especially if they were in smaller places in the city, and they definitely won't actually need more if they move further out, and then just... deal with the kids until they leave, or something?

Yep, cannot see what the fuss is about.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2021 [2 favorites]


Oddly, moving every 1 to 2 years has been pretty standard for people I know who are paycheck to paycheck (or slightly above).

Finding a place within reasonable commuting distance, especially for two workers, makes buying harder in a lot of ways. Shorter commutes for many people mean higher rents. If you don't work near each other shorter commute may not be possible, so more commuting costs for at least one if not both you come into play. That's less money that you can pretend to save up for a down payment. And that's if you feel like you can commit to living in the same area for a while. If you're in a job where you don't feel like you have security, you may find buying too risky even if you could save up. And almost every place I've rented had "discounted" rates for your first year that goes away when it comes to time to resign.

So moving may not be easy peasy, but has been a regular fact of life for a lot of people. If you're remote permanently, now you get a bit more flexibility about where to make that move.

Granted, you have to trust that "permanent" won't randomly change at some point. But that's a whole different can of worms.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:33 AM on July 31, 2021 [2 favorites]


Every proponent of WFH: "The increased flexibility allows people to better tailor their lives and adjust things as necessary."

Every opponent of WFH: "Literally everyone doing it rigidly the old way is more appealing to me than literally everyone doing it rigidly the new way."

If work-from-home doesn't appeal to you, great! No one's proposing that people be banned from commuting and working in the office. We're just desperately hoping that people won't force their preference for that onto everyone else.
posted by explosion at 11:34 AM on July 31, 2021 [5 favorites]


They've opened up the buildings where I work (with all the usual distancing/sanitizing/etc. precautions), and yesterday I went into the office for the first time in almost a year and a half.

I loved it. I'd actually really missed my office and all the space, my big monitor, my window with all the trees outside, and so on. Bonus: I was the only person on the entire floor all day, so the entire work day was an 80s music party.

I'm pretty sure I won't go back to five days a week in the office, but I'm very much leaning towards three or so.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2021 [1 favorite]


I read today that my employer, while making us all return to office, is also saying you shouldn't come in if you have any symptoms, even if vaccinated. If every person with a cough or sore throat or other very generic symptoms stayed home - and were not allowed to work from home since they're canning that - they will simply never be fully staffed ever again. How are they even pretending that is going to work?
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:58 PM on July 31, 2021 [2 favorites]


The company I work for just sent out updated office covid policies. Other than that they still aren't requiring vaccines and pretty clearly won't unless they were mandated to do so, the policies seem good in light of all the concern about new variants and so on. Everyone is encouraged to work remotely to the extent possible and there are reasonably strong masks-in-the-office requirements, which basically just continues things as they have been since early 2020.

The company gave up a sizeable percentage of office floor space during the pandemic, so at this point I don't think they have any realistic plan of having everyone returning to the office. This is the going to be the "new normal" for at least a few years.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:34 AM on August 1, 2021


For 90% of desk jockey professions, no one can seriously argue that there is a necessity for everyone to head to the office at the same time. The office vs. home debate is essentially a matter of preference. This may be why the WFH camp is miffed. There is so little to gain.

The argument I keep hearing - that certain intangibles of office work can’t be replaced - rings a bit hollow. If this is so essential, we would have seen more damage from its absence. The fact is, the hallway meetings, presence, fit, team building, etc., these are forces of exclusion more than anything else.

There are also some significant environmental externalities associated with office life including the commutes and that sweet sweet aircon. Although the carbon impact may be minimal, there isn’t much lower hanging fruit than not asking people to travel unnecessarily to work, especially if they don’t want to be there.

The common narrative is that COVID was/is a problem to be solved on the way back to “normal”. The more likely situation is that it is a new permanent reality to be adapted to. The push for a return to office is probably driven to some extent by people’s desire to return to a normal that no longer exists.

Maybe the Delta variant is nature telling humanity that we haven’t fully learned the lessons of COVID.
posted by clark at 5:05 PM on August 1, 2021 [3 favorites]


^^^I missed my coworkers. I missed the cross talk. I do have more creative ideas when they're around. I'm in a creative industry; flying solo doesn't work so well. I missed physical people.

I'm in a (somewhat) creative industry, too, but the kind of cross talk that I miss and that actually enhanced my workplace experience occurred only in the last hour or so of my day, among those Monarchs of Snark, the devastatingly acerbic night newspaper copy desk.

Unfortunately, the cross talk that dominated my workday in an open-plan office is the kind that I described earlier this summer. Its absence has made working from home an enjoyable experience is
posted by virago at 9:07 PM on August 1, 2021 [1 favorite]


If work-from-home doesn't appeal to you, great! No one's proposing that people be banned from commuting and working in the office. We're just desperately hoping that people won't force their preference for that onto everyone else.
A lot of comments from people who prefer to WFH seem to be implying that there is nothing or next to nothing of value about working from the office, and I think that's making some of us who prefer to work in an office a bit defensive. Before the pandemic started, I was working on a team where the norm was for everyone to WFH one day a week at their convenience. We collaborated closely with a partner team in another city, so video conferencing was already typical, and when quarantine started I would say the transition was about as easy as it could be. So my personal preference is for the company to adopt an "everyone works from home as much or as little as they want" policy (that's 3 or 4 days in the office for me), and then we keep the current norm that all meetings are online meetings by default. If the cost of this policy is that not everybody gets a dedicated desk in the office, I'm personally fine with it. Unfortunately I think my company will eventually settle on something a bit more rigid.

I used to have a bus-and-walking commute that took about 45 minutes, and overall I kind of liked it. It provided transition time between home and work and I read books sometimes. I don't think I've read a novel since the pandemic started.
posted by jomato at 8:50 AM on August 2, 2021 [1 favorite]


I certainly wouldn't mind if the pandemic put an end to open plan or "bullpen" offices. Yech. I've yet to find anyone who thinks they're a great idea, or really have many upsides at all (besides the ability to shoot Nerf darts at members of other product teams).

What I'd like to see are companies trying to make their offices more compelling—basically, make them preferable to working from home.

And really, that shouldn't be that high a bar, especially for people at or near the beginning of their careers. It has to be a pretty crummy office for someone to prefer working from a studio apartment, setting aside space that they could presumably use for other stuff (like, you know, a dining table).

Give people offices with doors, shared between no more than two or three others (the maximum that it's easy to compromise on things like AC temperature and music/no-music), let people move or trade spaces periodically to self-optimize the groupings, provide separate places to eat/converse (like a kitchen or break room), and I bet you'd see people choose to come in more regularly.

That so many people choose to work from home is sort of an indictment of how crappy the average office really is, as place to exist for eight hours a day. But there's no reason it has to be that bad, especially if you're only providing office space for the people who want it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:47 AM on August 2, 2021 [3 favorites]


A lot of comments from people who prefer to WFH seem to be implying that there is nothing or next to nothing of value about working from the office, and I think that's making some of us who prefer to work in an office a bit defensive.

I think one big part of this disconnect is that people are often having different experiences during the same interactions. One person's "I can just walk over to their desk and ask them" can be another person's "every time you interrupt me I lose focus on what I was doing and I have trouble getting it back." And sometimes it's two people having a spontaneous meeting next to a third person's desk. That's great for two of them and terrible for the third.

And sure, collective experiences can be valuable, but the problem with offices in general, and open offices specifically, is that they prioritize a work style that the pandemic has shown doesn't actually increase profits in any proportion to how strongly some people feel that work style is necessary. I agree that people who enjoy working regularly in offices should have the freedom to work that way once it's safe. A lot of the pushback now is coming from people who have had a long-desired chance to thrive without the hassles, interruptions, and distractions of offices, though, and it's less about saying "nobody should have offices again" and more "we've shown we can work effectively this way; bosses shouldn't make us change it because they can't."

And I will keep pounding the drum that if someone favors only the people they see in the office and marginalizes or denies opportunities to remote workers, that person is a bad boss. If you've got trade secrets you need to keep under physical access control, or you have a lab where people actually have to touch stuff to do their jobs, that's one thing. But that's not a lot of what seems to be happening, and that's why so many alarms are going off.
posted by fedward at 10:12 AM on August 2, 2021 [6 favorites]


"I certainly wouldn't mind if the pandemic put an end to open plan or "bullpen" offices. Yech. I've yet to find anyone who thinks they're a great idea, or really have many upsides at all"

I LOVED working in a bullpen as a reporter/editor; being able to bounce things immediately off other journalists, being able to demand of the room at large, "What's the word I'm looking for here?", being able to quickly fact-check something. We did have little closet-size spaces with closing doors where people could go work in silence and/or make sensitive phone calls, but most editorial-side employees vastly preferred working in the bullpen if they could. (The business/ads side employees haaaaaaaaaaated being in the bullpen and avoided it at all costs unless they were done for the day and looking to gossip.)

I have LOATHED working in a bullpen in any other setting or industry. I'm sure there must be other jobs like reporting that benefit from an open, collaborative office, but I cannot actually think of any.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:13 AM on August 2, 2021


Sliding this link in just before the thread closes: The State Of Remote Work In 2021: A Survey Of The American Workforce
Our survey revealed that although offices began to open and workers were encouraged to return, just 32% of American workers actually prefer working from the office, while the majority (68%) would much rather work remotely.

Additionally, our survey uncovered the fact that some people really, really dislike the office. Forty-five percent of workers surveyed by GoodHire have such an aversion to being at their office that they would either quit their job or start a remote job search immediately upon being required to return to full-time office work.

Even more telling, one-quarter of the workers surveyed said they would definitely quit their job before even considering a return to the office.
I'm pretty sure there's some self-selection bias in the people who chose to respond to this online survey, so apply however much salt you think is necessary.
posted by fedward at 7:46 AM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


I could be wrong, but from the wording it sounds like they're grouping different kinds of work-from-home arrangements (i.e., both hybrid and full-time WFH) together. That would be consistent with this article that I happened to see yesterday:
nearly three-quarters of around 5,000 employees McKinsey queried globally would like to work from home for two or more days per week, and more than half want at least three days of remote work (Exhibit 2). But their message is a bit convoluted. Many employees also report that working from home through the stress of the pandemic has driven fatigue, difficulty in disconnecting from work, deterioration of their social networks, and weakening of their sense of belonging.
A graph in this article shows that the percentage of people who prefer full-time remote has only gone up from 8 to 11 (although it looks like these results were first reported in April 2001, so it's possible that opinions have shifted over the last few months.)

Also, this poll result from the GoodHire post is funny: "60% of Americans would move to a new city just for the opportunity to work remotely in any capacity". Huh?
posted by jomato at 11:38 AM on August 26, 2021


Yeah, that's kind of weird. I wonder if the survey question was worded something like, "Would you move to a new city if you had the ability to work remotely?"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:10 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


Well, if you're working part-time remote the need to be near the office is obvious--you can't travel across the country if you need to be there twice a week. And a number of companies that advertise themselves as full-time remote still want the employee to come in once every month or two, so having them nearby is easier then trying to coordinate travel and accommodations.
posted by Anonymous at 4:59 AM on August 27, 2021


Oh, you're right, I was still thinking about full-time remote when I read that. It does make sense that people would move for a more flexible job that allowed some remote work.
posted by jomato at 8:57 AM on August 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


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