back to article Dell: 60% of our people won't be going back into an office regularly after COVID-19

In and amongst Dell Technologies workplace existentialism and talk of "human transformation" in a pandemic, chief operating officer Jeff Clarke last night claimed the majority of his 165,000-strong workforce will not return to the office again on a regular basis. During a Q2 earnings conference call, the exec said the business …

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      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        > All of the work-from-homers who want an actual OFFICE to go to could actually RENT an office room,

        Sounds like a business model

        What could WE call this place to WORK ?

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Stop Press NEUKlearer News

          What could WE call this place to WORK ? ..... Yet Another Anonymous coward

          There's a helluva lot of work gets done here on El Reg, Yet Another Anonymous coward. :-) That makes their metadatabase servers a core source for investigation and appropriation.

          And they are, not surprisingly, extremely valuable too for all core source access is certainly priceless.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      The opportunities for rapid outsourcing......just think......

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "So in the long run i think its better for some shops and cafes to go to the wall"

      A better idea would be to let them go to smaller towns, villages, suburbs etc. were the people are now working.

  1. G R Goslin

    We seem to have lost the point of commerce

    The whole idea of commerce, was, in the old days, to take something of low, or zero value, and by effort, produce something of a higher value, to sell fro a profit. Take farming. The farmer works at the fields to produce wheat, which has a higher value than the inedible weeds that grew on the fields before. harvesting the wheat, he engages a carter to carry it to the miller. The carter is a cost, since the wheat is unchanged before and after transportation. The miller grinds the wheat to produce flour, again a value added exercise. The flour is carried to the baker, another cost. The baker by diligent effort changes the flour to bread, which can satisfy the appetite. Office work is a cost. The victorian industrialists were careful to minimise costs by mainly employing artisans. As one shipbuider once said, "Give me twenty more shipwrights, and I could build more ships to sell for profit. if I engaged twenty more accountants, not a single extra plank would be laid". We, with our office mentallity, have come to the point where we are figureatively taking in each others washing, and saying that we are making a profit. I give my washing to my neighbour to wash, and her gives me his. I charge him, he charges me, and we both make a profit. It does not work.

    Just a point. How many WFH people does it take to produce a Dell PC from scratch? Not from the component parts, but from the raw materials that go to producing the finished goods

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: We seem to have lost the point of commerce

      "How many WFH people does it take to produce a Dell PC from scratch?"

      It would depend on the number of "lights out" and heavily automated factories (etc.) there are in that process. It's coming, yeah.

    2. Julz Silver badge

      Re: We seem to have lost the point of commerce

      Raw Data => Processing => Collated Data

      Arranging bits, bytes and nibbles (whatever happened to nibbles?) can also adds value, for some meaning of value.

  2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    "We have an opportunity now to do something about climate change by travelling less and WFH more."

    It's not just climate change. WFH with kids around your feet is a challenge, but so is being tied to your desk all day when those kids are kicked out of school mid-afternoon, and so is spending an hour or more each day travelling. The last six months have allowed some people to discover that there is a completely different way to play work/life balance and with appropriate technology can be a far better balance.

    On the other hand...

    If your job involves large or expensive equipment, or involves actually being in a particular place to engage with the people there, then WFH isn't an option and you've probably spent the last six months in a state of inner fury at all the journalists writing yet another bloody article about WFH.

    Also, most of us who have spent the last 6 months at home already *have* decent working relationships with the colleagues we meet on Teams or Zoom. It would be interesting to know if someone starting a new job from home feels the same way. ("I've been here 6 months and haven't met anyone yet.")

    Also, personality types aside, some jobs are naturally solitary because they require a lot of concentration but other jobs are typically done in very chatty offices. I wonder if the latter are best done "from home" with an 8-hour long video conference call running to enable the same environment.

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      I have thought it's probably weird for new starters. Even remote jobs before tended to be prefaced with some one-to-one interviews. On the other hand, it'd be interesting to see what effect not meeting anybody has on prejudice and discrimination (though probably a bit difficult to measure).

  3. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Tomorrows world

    We'll be walking down the street and see someone typing on their laptop, writing code for a company app, with a cup in front of them and a note saying "Working from homeless, please give me money for my data connection".

  4. Astrohead

    Have you thought of the end game?

    As per the title - Have you thought of the end game?

    So we all Work From Home. And it seems to work OK.

    Then the Bean Counters figure out that *where* the Home bit of WFH *is* doesn't really matter.

    It could be in Tunbridge Wells. It could also be in Bucharest. Or Mumbai. Or Shanghai.

    Once you have established that your staff can work from home - it doesn't really matter where that home is.

    I'm not entirely sure that Word War III didn't just happen - and nobody noticed.

    And we lost.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have you thought of the end game?

      Yes indeed. My global company gives salaries that vary considerably depending on which country you work in; or even where in the country you live. Working in New York gets you a much higher salary than working in most US states. Except that everybody is currently working from home, and we are explicitly allowed to work from anywhere in the country. Salaries haven't changed — for now. But I wonder how long the CFO will countenance paying some people double just because they worked here or there pre-Covid.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: salaries that vary considerably depending on which country you work in;

        It's because the cost of living isn't the same everywhere.

        Are we pretending to be stupid for a reason?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: salaries that vary considerably depending on which country you work in;

          The reason cost of living isn't the same everywhere is because the notion of cramming thousands on office jobs into the same small area raises the cost of living for all those who work there. Commuting costs and the cost of housing because everyone wants to live as close as possible to cut down commuting time are the main drivers. Take out that distorting factor and cost of living can even out.

        2. Dinanziame Silver badge
          Alert

          Re: salaries that vary considerably depending on which country you work in;

          It's because the cost of living isn't the same everywhere.

          Yes, but up to now the place where you lived was tied with where you worked. Working at a certain office forced you to live nearby. When everybody is working from home anyway, it means you're telling your company "I like to live in New York, and so you should pay me more than this guy who prefers to live in Austin".

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Have you thought of the end game?

      I'm not entirely sure that Word War III didn't just happen - and nobody noticed.

      And we lost. ..... Astrohead

      Oh please, you cannot be serious. The old fields of play are being routed and in real danger of being razed to the ground if they persist to insist on past ways for future paths.

  5. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    So the next logical step is...

    No office working. No one commutes to the city to work (oh, well, 50%+ reduction - same difference). Ditto for entertainment, social life, etc. - there is a big difference between making a special trip and remaining where you already are. No one wants to live in a city where no one wants to come to in the first place. Shops, restaurants, theaters, museums, concert halls die. Many more people lose jobs. (Aside: do office workers realize how many people even a smallish restaurant employs?) Younger people don't socialize anymore (no, Insta or TikTok is not a substitute, they are actually hungry to meet their peers in person) - and neither do older people with established families - not outside their immediate "bubbles", anyway. What would a big city with council estates in place of offices full of people - people who go out for lunch, plan to go to an exhibition or a theater performance or go for drinks or to a date after hours - offer tourists? A suburb with a local and an event horizon of a couple of blocks won't have the same power of attraction. So, much less travel then? And a feedback loop adversely affecting transportation infrastructure?

    Sorry, but it sounds like a recipe for social degradation to me. IMHO there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions, for meeting new people, for cultural and social experiences outside of one's quotidian routine, etc. And all those things are interlinked and I don't believe for a second that some of those links may be severed without affecting others. Just a few months in this direction has already led the world a long distance down this path, and frankly, it looks horrifying.

    I suspect that Dell et al. - some people there, anyway - see their workforce as output-producing units and not - cough - people. I also hate working from home - I do have a home office and it's occasionally useful to block interrupts to give a "push" towards some specific goal, but there is no substitute to the energy of face-to-face interactions with your peers (some of whom are actually quite smart and nice, believe it or not, at least if you are reasonably lucky, hmphh) that shaped up that goal in the first place.

    A lights-out factory producing Dell PCs will work. Dreaming up and designing a new new thing if everyone works by remote? Sorry, but I have my doubts. And assembling Dell PCs is not my life's ambition. Nor will I discount going to a concert, to a performance, to a museum, or to a nice meal with an old friend or with someone new or both, in a lively city on a different continent if opportunity presents itself.

    This "new normal" looks quite abnormal for humanity, if I may be so ambitious in expressing myself.

    1. david bates

      Re: So the next logical step is...

      > This "new normal" looks quite abnormal for humanity, if I may be so ambitious in expressing myself.

      Except that until fairly recently it was ENTIRELY normal for humanity. 200 years ago many people didn't travel more than a few miles outside their village. Even a hundred years ago most people wouldn't be popping to their local city.

      For a lot of us the only reason we go into cities is to work, and then we get out as soon as we can. The internet has, thank God, reduced the need to go in to shop. The cities can go hang - I can see this new life invigorating towns that have for the last 100 years been drained into the local big city.

    2. hmv

      Re: So the next logical step is...

      Except it's not an all or nothing thing. Cities may very well see some shrinkage, but there are still plenty of reasons for living and working in cities - access to museums, concert venues, theatres, a good selection of restaurants, and a good selection of pubs. And central work-places will still exist - there /are/ jobs that can't be done from home, and other jobs where getting into the workplace occasionally would be beneficial.

      And smaller towns may well see a bit of resurgence - people who want cheaper property within walking distance of the country, but want a bit of a taste of the city too.

      Whilst face-to-face meetings may be the "gold standard" of interaction, video conferencing is the "silver standard" and is likely to improve as we get more used to it and vendors add more features. Always on video conferences? Why not?

      I think it's easy to overlook that now isn't the new normal - it's still pandemic territory not mass working from home territory. Undoubtedly there will be lots of disruption and that one person who will end up with the right predictions will be right by accident.

      1. Keven E
        Pint

        Re: So the next logical step is...

        "...plenty of reasons ... a good selection of pubs."

        Finally the truth!

        "Always on video conferences? Why not?"

        -See Above-

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: So the next logical step is...

        face-to-face meetings may be the "gold standard" of interaction

        My recollection of face-to-face meetings to start projects would be to look around, spot the two or three people you'll end up working with to deliver the project (i.e. those you've worked with successfully before), those who will get in the way, those will sit there doing neither and wondering about the new faces. The ones you'll work with you can work with by any means of communication. The oxygen-consuming obstructions will operate mostly through other meetings. The inert ones will get their time wasted by the previous group assuming they do stuff when they're not in meetings. The unknowns are only of value if they turn out to belong in the first group.

        Gold standard? You can keep it.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: So the next logical step is...

      "Many more people lose jobs. (Aside: do office workers realize how many people even a smallish restaurant employs?)"

      I live in the country. I don't need to go into a city to help give employment to workers in smallish restaurants. I was about to say I can't remember the last time I went into a city other than to ask awkward questions at a Building Soc AGM - then I remembered. Summer of 2018 we took the grandkids to the Titanic exhibition in Belfast; even that's not really in the city centre. Before that? Must be years.

  6. 0laf Silver badge
    Flame

    Kneejerk property sales....go

    Property news this month is that tiny city centre accomodation is bieng sold and pople are moving back to more rural less metrocentric locations. It seems a lot of people think WFH is here to stay (I agree) and they want to sell their tiny London flats and live somewhere with an extra room to use as an office. Also if you home is where you will spend a lot more of your time then your home environment becoms a lot more important.

    But I think people are going to find that little towns and villages aren't going to be ready. They've been hollowed out by AirBNB and the larger population moving to the cities for work. I'm not sure how this is going to end. Maybe nicely with many well populated thriving towns doing doing good lunch trade and resurgence of the village shop. Or maybe badly with many former city folk screaming about the lack of a Pret and gigabit broadband in their 50 house Hamlet, before being burned in a large wicker scupture by irritated locals.

  7. IanTP
    Coat

    House Insurance

    So working from home, how would this affect your house insurance, would you need to have extra cover because you are now taking part in business? Just a thought.

    Mines the one with Insurance for Dummies in the pocket.

    1. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: House Insurance

      Might actually lower your risk since your house is occupied more of the time.

  8. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Work is a punishment. It is explicitly written in the Bible.

  9. devTrail

    Remember Marissa Meier

    The new normal won't last forever, it will last until companies decide they have to get rid of some workers in a discrete manner. Then suddenly they'll change the WFH rules forcing such changes in people lives that a lot of them will simply quit, obviously most of them will be those with a family, older and with higher salaries.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Remember Marissa Meier

      She ran a really successful business or something didn't she? I remember now. It was something.

      1. Dinanziame Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Remember Marissa Meier

        If by "really successful business" you mean "sitting on a bunch of exploding Alibaba stock while the company gradually shuts down", then yes, yes she did.

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