back to article Things you should know about the hard work of home working

Working from home is often seen as the Holy Grail of the IT worker. No more getting up early to get ready for work. No more spending thousands of pounds a year for a season pass only to get squished in a carriage like a sardine. My last office commute was three hours each way. If the option of working from home had been …

  1. TonyJ

    Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

    I agree with all of that but there's one other point I would raise.

    I spent 18 months working from home simply because the team I was a part of were so widely geographically spread that it made no sense to all try to get into the office.

    The banter you get isn't just important for keeping in the loop - it's also important for your own sanity. Sure you can use instant messaging to ask a question but there's nothing that can replace just leaning over and asking a colleague. Or that walk to grab a coffee.

    What gets overlooked - especially if, like me, you have an office in the garden, is that it can get very lonely. You do, genuinely start to get stir-crazy and I would advise anyone considering home working also considers the odd trip into the office.

    That said, if you can get working from home time - grab it.

    1. Matthew Smith

      Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

      Loneliness is true. I spent two years WFH for four days a week, to save an hours commute and as a sop because I hadn't had a pay rise for two years. After a while I would eagerly look forward to Friday and going into the office and seeing everyone again. In the end I quit for a job with a 15 minute commute, just to have someone to talk to during the day again.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

      I've worked at home for many years. For the last 5 or so it has been almost exclusively at home, It's been more than a year since I've been to an office. You do become lonely and lets face it, IT workers don't have the best reputation for social skills at the best of times. I frequently doubt my sanity, and would be interested to know if anyone has done any research on rates of depression amongst home workers the results might prove scary.

      I'm luckier than most, I have built a purpose built office in the garden. I don't need to fight with a boss for a better chair or office furniture and things like screens, which is good, it's really heat efficient so keeping warm isn't a problem and I have air-con which is mostly to keep the computers happy (Fans whine worse that the kids when they're too hot).

      In terms of working hours, well there is a temptation to just work all the time. Before I built the office in the garden then it was so tempting to "just pop into the office to check email" before going to bed... 3 hours later you're still there. This is particularly the case when you work in a truly international environment, just as you've finished answering the West Coast, the Far East starts up.

      There are plus and minuses to productivity, you can avoid interruptions but then you can't interrupt anyone else either. Bouncing ideas off other people isn't so easy, you can be stuck and they might know the answer or frequently just explaining the problem to someone else who understands enough means that you have to think through things enough to solve your own problem, but you need the sounding board. As to office banter well, lets face it a lot is not things you'd want to write down so email and chat just isn't the same.

      I'd go back to an office if I could, I'd even go back to living chunks of my life in airports which always used to get me down.

      1. Probie

        Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

        I worked from home for 3 years 5 days a week, my trips to the office were international flights to either Hong Kong, China or the States. I really do get the whole, removed from your colleagues aspect and also the strict regime you have to hold yourself to. Once you start to slip it is really hard to pull yourself back into a good regime, you have to be very self disciplined, not just in how you work at home, but the fact your home is your home and not an extension of the office, (hours worked, telephone, Internet connectivity etc...) because of what I did for a job I ended up itemizing my power, connectivity and phone and claiming them back, it was nearly £200 per month.

        It's also really hard on the family, remember they generally get a break when you are not there. It really did cost us quite a few sanity points or arguments.

        One thing I have noticed once I moved to London, office job. I know the value of being home with my kids and wife, so I do my hours, not more and not less, I am lucky I get to work from home one day a week I could do two days a week from home, but any more would be detrimental I think.

        1. m0rt

          Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

          I work from home. There are some salient points made here, and here are my observations:

          Lonliness...until recently I was 5 days a week at home. Food shopping became a socialising experience, as opposed to a chore.

          Cats - carboard boxes help to distract them from coming to sit on your keyboard.

          Never miss a parcel.

          You can put the washing in and out.

          Wife can have a tendancy to think 'What have you been doing all day?' when the kitchen has a few dishes.

          However, the longer hours thing is true. Everyone else is in London and when I am there, several days a Month, I do less hours because of office opening than when I am at home.

          Man cave things...surprisingly, after a while you become very good at separating distractions. In fact, I get more done at home in set times because when I am in the office, I get drive by questions and meetings. meetings and more meetings. If you were to work out what distractions occur in the office, you would be surprised to find there are probably just as many, if not more, than home. They are just different. (Unless you have your own office, in which case you can shut the door).

          Lunch times - previous poster made a good point. I have less lunch time at home than work.

          Ultimately, though, I would struggle to work full time in an office now.

          Edit: Oh yes, you would be surprised at just HOW MANY SALESMEN actually call at your door in the day.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

            I've known 3 people who worked from home full time - gradually they became less and less in tune with the mores and expectations of their work places, and came to be perceived as more and more eccentric and out of the corporate norm eventually with inevitable results.

            Some of that was understandable - you have less tolerance for the usual corporate bullshit if its not being reinforced every day. However humans (even IT workers) are very social animals - if you cut your social interactions down by a significant percentage there is bound to be an effect.

            I wouldn't do it.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

                No doubt experiences differ. I've worked from home for 16 years now, and I can't say I've been particularly bothered by any of the issues listed in the article or mentioned thus far in the comments.

                I visit an office perhaps once or twice a year on average, and it's nice; I'd do it more often if any of the teams I worked with were closer. But I don't seem to have any problems getting along without it.

                I get the sense that many of the people describing their WFH experiences either have other people there regularly during the day (and so are interrupted), or live alone (and so get lonely). My wife works but we have time together outside work hours, and I have a daughter and granddaughter nearby whom I see at least a couple of times a week. My wife and I also socialize with some of her work colleagues. So my social life is pretty well-arranged for working at home. Obviously that's not going to be the case for many people.

          2. Magnus_Pym

            Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

            "Edit: Oh yes, you would be surprised at just HOW MANY SALESMEN actually call at your door in the day."

            And how many parcels your neighbours have delivered.

    3. Jim 59

      Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

      I worked from home 2 days out of 5. 5 days would be hard. Even with 2, I found a daily trip to the local cafe was needed to avoid cabin fever.

    4. BillG

      Re: Agreed but you forgot loneliness.

      The banter you get isn't just important for keeping in the loop - it's also important for your own sanity.

      I'm a funny, happy guy. I like to joke around and socialize more than the average techie. Then I started running my own business from home. At first it was great, I had a blast but by year five I realized my social skills were atrophying. My GF broke up with me because we couldn't communicate anymore. By year eight I could not carry on a conversation. The loneliness was overwhelming.

      I started looking for an office job, I knew I needed to get myself into an office. I was surprised to find out that many companies have a policy of not hiring those that worked from home for more than five years, the reason being "they have trouble fitting in". I finally found a position, moved into my desk, and immediately started over-reacting to the highly toxic office politics. After getting in trouble a few times I've settled down and I'm back to being the happy, joking, socializing guy I was before.

      If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We have the opposite

    We have enforced working from home, because our office is too small for all the people the company has hired. We are required to work from home two days a week, which means that you still need your season pass.

    I find working from home a chore. You can't go chat to someone about a problem you've got, which makes mentoring people damn hard - the number of times one of my developers has worked from home, and spent all day on a problem that, if he had asked for assistance, would have solved in an hour. People are a lot less willing to phone/voice chat than they are to turn around and say "Hey, have you got a sec?".

    Plus, the kitchen is like Right. There - and there is no-one watching you.

    No aircon in summer, and you get to pay for heating your house all day in winter.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: We have the opposite

      and you get to pay for heating your house all day in winter.

      I was fine for the first year because my access machine was a manky old cast-off from the mid 2000s. It did a pretty good job of warming the study (it's only about 6sqm). Then we had a round of equipment upgrades at the office and my old office machine became by new home machine. The new machine was ten years younger and it did b*gger all to warm my study :-/

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We have the opposite

      Have you never heard of blankets?

      When I were a lad we put extra layers on rather then this new fangled heating. I also personally find I eat less working from home because I make it myself rather than some shop bought ginsters pasty that's full of rubbish.

      Working from home.

      Upside - No commute, can concentrate more.

      Downside - No banter, easily distracted.

      Yes I know they contradict but still true all the same.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge


    There's confusion here. Working FROM home isn't the same as working AT home. eg A maintenance tech going from home to one customer site to another and seldom visiting base might be said to be working from home but not at home.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Terminology

      Sorry, but I see no confusion. A tech going from customer site to customer site is working on site, not from home.

      Working from home is, I believe, generally understood as working from one's own home.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Terminology

        "Working from home is, I believe, generally understood as working from one's own home."

        Agreed. From. Not at. If you don't see the confusion it may be because you're confusing the two words.

        There are a number of scenarios where the worker's normal base is home but little or no work is done there. The field service tech is one example, the travelling salesman is another. There may be a certain amount of paperwork done at home but it's certainly not the same as working there more or less full time which is what the article described. It's also not the same as working daily on a single customer site which you mentioned in another post; been there & done that myself, visiting my employer's office maybe 3 or 4 times in a couple of years.

        The circumstances are different. Working from home isn't likely to cut down travel but increase it. It doesn't mean isolation except, maybe, for a tech servicing unmanned installations but at the same time one isn't dealing with the same people on a daily basis and communication with one's fellow employees is restricted.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          I believe I see your point now, but I still disagree.

          I know a number of self-employed people in various service industries (plumbing, decoration and such). They never say they're working at home. They do mention that their office is at home, but they say that they work on site.

          People who work AT home are most likely people who do work for customers on the Internet, or who can be contacted via the Internet. Translators and such, I would venture. Those people don't work on site, I would think, or rarely. Maybe also people who build or recover furniture. They will leave home to look for new acquisitions, or to bring their wares to various selling points. They won't likely do work on site either.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            I believe I see your point now, but I still disagree.

            As do I. I've never encountered anyone making this (rather tenuous) distinction before this thread. I'd like to see some evidence that it's widely observed.

            JFTR, Google's nGram viewer shows no hits for "work from home" prior to 1980, whereas "work at home" goes back to at least 1940. (Beware of false positives - the Google book search treats "at" in "X at Y" as an operator, even with quotes. Crap software strikes again.)

            Prior to 1940, the phrase "home work" was apparently most common for working at home.

            Regarding "work from home", however, let me offer the example of Edwards & Edwards, Working from Home (1990), which is specifically about working in one's own home. It uses "working from home" to mean both a home-based business that's mostly conducted elsewhere, and one that's done more or less exclusively at home. And computer programming is one of their favorite examples. They use "work at home" frequently, though I can't retrieve enough of the book to tell if they draw a distinction between it and other forms of working from home.

            In any event, the nGram search found a number of print examples where authors use "work from home" to mean "work within the confines of one's own home".

  4. Mr Templedene

    I've worked from home a few times, and I am currently self employed so it's a necessity as an office would push my budget to far.

    I found the biggest problem was friends and family who assume that as I am "home" I can be at their beck and call, I actually had to start turning away unexpected visitors who "just dropped in for a chat"

    1. dogged

      Agreed. Per the article -

      It took several weeks to get my wife to understand that just because I am at home doesn’t mean I can be interrupted at will.

      Mine never understood this and still doesn't, so I now refuse to work from home.

      1. James 51

        With kids this would be even worse. I'd love to work from home but I'd never get anything done until the kids were in bed.

      2. zappahey

        My solution to the problem of domestic interruption was to wear my work access badge when I was working and to remove it when I was taking a break. That way there was a visual cue that saved any potential for domestic discord.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I like working from home

    I have always enjoyed working from home. In my line of expertise, there often isn't anyone to ask any questions to, so even in the office I'm mostly on my own. To me, that means that the time I waste to get to and back from the office would be better spent working in my home office when I can.

    Of course, I can't often enough, because as a consultant, you can't go and tell your customers that it would be nice if they could let you work from home. Plus I always need to talk to people to know what data structures to use or what data format I will be receiving.

    But, in between contracts, a day or two working from home is always welcome.

  6. Bc1609

    WFH: Very pleasant but has its risks

    My firm is very flexible and accommodating when it comes to working from home, but I'm loath to take a WfH day unless I have a particular reason (hangover/jet lag, workmen coming round, etc.). The reason for this is that, while it's never been explicitly stated and is probably not a conscious policy, my colleagues who do spend a lot of time WfH are definitely less likely to get interesting projects (which means my experience can be added to the "anecdotal evidence" referenced in the article. Of course, your mileage may vary - if you're a contractor, say, with a specific job to do, then working from home probably carries fewer career risks.

    It's also worth noting that not all IT jobs can be perfectly transferred to remote working. I do a lot of workflow and automation stuff, and find it very useful to be able to go and sit next to whatever poor sod I'm about to make redundant and watch what they're doing instead of having to rely on documentation. And let's not forget about all the people who have any involvement with the hardware side of things.

    To address what I suspect will be a common theme in these comments, in a perfect world it wouldn't really matter if you've shown your face in the office or not, as you'd be judged on the work you produce. However, managers are human, and humans have this tendency to forget about things they can't see.

  7. Martin-R

    I've worked mostly from home for much of the last 12 years, as has my wife (she actually started doing a couple of days a week at home to ease the child care when I was working away all week, and 'forgot' to go back to the office when finished that gig!) We got the kids used to the idea of when they can and can't disturb us (for non-urgent stuff!) very early on, and it's worked very well for both of us. We're both good at going to see seeing colleagues when we need to and Skype etc mean people can get hold of us easily when they need to. The family benefits are huge - we actually see each other for lunch most days, we both see the kids in the morning and after school, we get to parents evening on time and relaxed rather than after the two hour dash home... The only major downside is it's too easy to end up working long hours or checking emails late at night - but I'd still rather be working at home till late than in the office till late then having to travel home

  8. Ryan Clark

    I have been working from home for nearly 10 years now and it suits my lifestyle and having a young family very well. Every time I think about possibly doing something different, the potential change to the working day comes as a large barrier. I have an office in my loft so I am separated from the family when they are home. I do miss being in an office sometimes, but it does make a nice change when I do visit ours.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    dispersed teams

    My boss is on another continent. his boss is on another one. None of the work I do if for UK Customers. Middle Easy, Asia and the USA. One of my team lives in Oz and two more are in the US.

    Working from home beats the M3/M25/M4 commute. Going by train is a 3hr journey each way.

    You have to have the right discipline to do it long term. Skype etc is are essential tools desipte yesterdays debacle.

    As have been mentioned it can get lonely. I have my dog for company. Twice a week we go out for lunch to a local Cafe where other 'home workers' meet and we have a good moan about surorisingly similar things despite working in very different areas.

    Yes I have to pay for the heating & lighting but that is an awful lot less than the season ticket of the pertrol for a 45 mile each way commute that can take 2+ hours to get home especially on a friday.

    I'd rather spend that time out walking the dog than sitting on the M25

    It isn't for everyone. If you must have people around you all the time then don't even try. some people need to feel part of a tribe. If you are one of those then again, don't do it.

    This week, I will have done my hours and alotted tasks by Friday Midday. So it is POETS time and I'm off to our cottage in Pembrokshire with the Missus for the weekend. We won't be back until monday lunchtime.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: dispersed teams

      "Twice a week we go out for lunch to a local Cafe where other 'home workers' meet and we have a good moan about surorisingly similar things despite working in very different areas."

      Sensible idea. Perhaps someone should organise 'watercooler' events for home workers on a structured basis. Also brings in the idea of co-working space that you can rent by the day/chair &c.

  10. Custard Fridge

    Walk around the block and avoid the cheese in the fridge

    I worked from home when the company got too big for the offices, and then stayed at home whilst the company was merged 100 miles north.

    The fridge was a major distraction - as Mayor Boris commented the temptation is always to nibble at the bit of cheese therein.

    Did I feel cut-off? Yes, despite being on the phone over half the day. I ended up going in to the office one day a week to compensate.

    The commute had been an hour each way so I did an hour extra when at home - seemed fair at the time.

    Not commuting also blurs the break between home and work - I had to walk around the block after working at home otherwise I stayed in work mode all evening!

    1. Vic

      Re: Walk around the block and avoid the cheese in the fridge

      Not commuting also blurs the break between home and work - I had to walk around the block after working at home otherwise I stayed in work mode all evening!

      I have work clothes that I wear for work and only for work.

      When I finish my day of work, I change my clothes...


  11. 404

    Just because that disassembled CF-53... still monopolizing a section of dining room table.... means nothing.

    I've been busy.


  12. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Some of it rings true, some of it does not

    As someone who has quite successfully worked exclusively from home for the last 8 years, here are my 2p:

    1. You need a proper office, for work, the family table or any shared room is not an office. If you do not have one, build one (a proper log cabin is ~ 3k so it is not that expensive).

    2. You should treat going to your home office same as going to any office. While work casual is fine, PJ definitely are not.

    3. You need separate proper comms - there are plenty of VOIP providers, getting any number of numbers for home office use is trivial. Cameras for the video conf rig are also not something to save on. Get a proper high end logitech, even if you always crank it down after that. Separate broadband is stupid and usually is not worth the hassle. Get a QoS capable router and split the network with bandwidth allocations (you need that for VOIP anyway). Anything running OpenWRT can do that with ease. Splitting is a must too - your work stuff does not belong on the same network segment with junior. Similarly, once you are done for the day you should be able to move to a part of the network where you cannot access work without going through a few hoops.

    One thing I do not quite agree with the article. It fails to reflect the realities of working for a company outside the UK which is one of the most common work-from-home scenarios. For those you end up taking 2-3 hour team calls while at the dinner table on Friday or more often while at the kitchen table with knife in hand and a pot on the stove. End of the day you are spending 95% of the time listening on those, so you might as well make use of the fact that it is encroaching on your beer hours due to the TZ difference. If something requires you switching your attention to the full you can always go into your home office.

    1. Emmeran

      Re: Some of it rings true, some of it does not

      Very good points but I might add it is best to put the video cam on a separate machine so it isn't always staring you in the face. We did this for our cross country workers and had displays set up in the office, people would walk by and chat with them like they were sitting there. A tiny bit of upfront spend can go a long way.

      Was a bit humorous to tell someone "Ask so-n-so and have them walk over and just casually do so with someone 3000 miles away.

  13. BlartVersenwaldIII

    Oblig. Mitchell and Webb

    I work from home maybe once a week or two, I find it good for doing tasks where I don't want to be continually interrupted (although the cat has other ideas) and it's a good compromise when you're ill but well enough to work but don't want to infect everyone else (people turning up with colds get sent home with knuckles rapped). Even for the 40% of my job that needs fairly intensive jumping from one person to another it's fine; we're a fairly distributed set of offices so working well via phone/IM/email/formal documentation/shouting blue murder is a well-honed and well-rewarded skill.

    However as much as everyone hates dragging themselves into an office (and I have it better than most), I think that without the social interaction I'd have gone crazy by now.

  14. chivo243 Silver badge

    I wish..

    I could work from home even just a few days a month. A few years ago, I was injured, and couldn't walk much and was allowed to work from home for a few days. I got a lot accomplished in those days. Even a difficult nut to crack was an easy job without the constant phone calls and people wandering in and "chatting". I even pitched a rotating schedule that one team member gets one day per week to work from home. I was pretty sure I pitched in English, but the looks I got made me think otherwise...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: I wish..

      Some environments seem to be run on a 'bums on seat from 9-5' basis, rather than quality and quantity of work produced.

      I get to wfh because it's 2 hours each way and the employer knows that they get more work out of me if I am at home (I don't mind being more flexible for late calls etc. when needed - it's all give and take).

      I often go in to the office one day a week - it's like a day off! People know this so they never push for me to come in more often.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many companies also forget their legal requirements

    A dining table is not just unsuitable because of family life.

    11 Regulation 1(2)(d) defines the employees who are covered as users

    Regulations 2 to 7 apply to protect users, whether they are employed to work:

    (a) at their own employer’s workstation;

    (b) at a workstation at home; or

    (c) at another employer’s workstation.

    There are also rules around chairs (must be movable) and other furniture,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Many companies also forget their legal requirements

      Spot on. I have to do an audit of my home office space every year just to satisfy the Hinder & Stop brigade. I know what I have meets the regulations but I have to spend time every year proving it for some Jobsworth somewhere. I did try putting 'the same as last year' but that got rejected pronto.

      At first they tried to get me on 'cables are a trip hazard'.

      Then I showed them a photo of the cable tray under the desk.

      Next it was Monitor height. I have to show piccies of them with a tape measure extended just because they said so.

      Then ....

      Barstewards the lot of them.

      anon just in case they might read this forum and the audit is due next week.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Many companies also forget their legal requirements

        Good grief... and there was I hoping to employ 25 next year and a further 120 the year after.

        Sod that. If H+S worked at a sensible set of regulations, I'd still do it. However I think that's all but killed my particular plans, especially as I don't drive, so as boss / finance director / HR person and now H+S 'fixer' it looks like a foot slammed on the break. Sod 'em, if it has turnover of and HMRC wants a big chunk, I may as well do the lot from somewhere sunny overseas !

  16. kmac499

    Body Presence, Dedicated Home Office

    It's common for Home Office workers to feel that if they do not answer the phone immediately they will be presumed to be shirking elsewhere. Which is ridiculous because Office based personnel go awol just as much. What I would also suggest is some form of SLA for your contact time defining an acceptable set of core hours when you are readily accessible and agreed response times to missed calls and replies to emails.

    I'm lucky in that we were able to split the garage to give me a dedicated 3m*2m 'office'. Fully loaded with all the essentials of wired network connections for the PCs and the Cisco Phones, printers and space for books and work in progress paperwork.

    The only change I would make is to have a wireless handset on the works phone, then you don't feel tied to the desk during office hours for customer calls

  17. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I would also recommend ensuring that some form of IM is available and working. Staff should be encouraged to use it to chat even if in the same geographical location. That way it becomes familiar and a standard form of communication. It can end up as an alternative to 'the water cooler' so helps open up the informal chats that teleworkers often miss.

    At one place I worked we'd sometimes have 'open mic' days where everyone participated via headset (even those in the same physical location). Typically we did that when the entire team was brainstorming or in the early phase of a project when ideas were being batted around. That doesn't work so well when people have specific tasks to work on because it becomes an interruption.

    I agree about the risk of working extra hours but it's nice to be able to extend the overall hours while taking chunks out for domestic duties. That's usually how I did it - start at 7am, finish at 6pm but bursts of work interspersed with breaks to do house work or mow the lawn. When in the office I worked 8am to 4:30pm.

    My current arrangement is 'work from home if you need to' and that's good enough for me. The only downside there is that you have to remember to test your home set up a couple of days before you actually need it because the infrequent use can mean you don't realise that something is broken :-/

  18. Quip

    Working from home is not just for avoiding a long journey to work. I work from home in a central London flat because both my customers and colleagues are scattered around the globe. It gets very lonely, I tend to start my morning by going out for breakfast at a café just for the buzz of conversation.

    And, yes, a dining table is not a desk,

  19. Oliver 7

    The culture is definitely changing. My place of work suffered from 'presenteeism' in the past, if you did anything weird like part-time, compressed hours or working from home you were regarded as being 'at it'. Formal wear, including ties, was mandatory.

    These days the dress policy is business casual and we're literally being pushed out of the door by the property division as they rationalise offices. Some offices have a staff to desk ratio of 1.7! IT save money too through the use of thin clients rather than PCs and virtualised infrastructure. Effectively they're externalising the cost of providing us with desks and PCs, but it works both ways as we can save on our commutes and subsistence costs like coffees and lunches and get that commuting time back in our lives. It has to be balanced with some time in the office though, as has been mentioned. To be honest I think employers look at the bottom line too much and don't appreciate the less tangible loss of team cohesion and availability upon productivity. Instant messaging and collaboration tools don't make up for proper face to face communication.

  20. IsJustabloke
    Thumb Up

    "facilitate a culture that pollinates ideas through informal meetings and conversations around the office."

    people saying shit like this is *why* I like to work from home!

    I'm lucky enough to have the best of both worlds, I can WFH on an ad-hoc basis. generally once or twice a week at most. If I am WFH and I'm needed in the office I'm only 25 minutes away so everyone wins!

    I agree with all the points raised about the self discipline required. The fact that you need a dedicated space and that it can be easy t get distracted.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As much as working from home would be fine for me a lot of the points have been shown that I agree with. For me the most important would be having a dedicated office I could lock when stopping work. Simple as that... lock I no longer exist at work after that. Without that working at home is just a no go. As I have always been a loner it wouldn't be much of a prob for the social interaction - IRC, IM, email are my prefered comms choices anyway - I generally hate phone calls or even voip.

    But yeah I could see having probs with people unable to have a sounding board to talk things through or even get my input on stuff or me theirs.

    I kinda can get work from home for a day or two each year without much probs or if I go to a customer that's near me(aka walking distance) I'll just work the rest of the day from home but those are rare - and also don't have an office space so it's more like I'll work and respond to emails and stuff but at the same time watch stuff, cook etc...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good article. Now can you post an article on how to "pretend" to work from home....

    Maybe include how to automate e-mail sending so that you are perceived to be working... even installing a lync chat bot so you can "pretend" to be online while you watch breaking you say, it's perception that's important!

    1. Oliver 7

      Re: Good article. Now can you post an article on how to "pretend" to work from home....

      lol, essential:

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: Good article. Now can you post an article on how to "pretend" to work from home....

        "lol, essential:"

        100% agree :)

  23. Amorous Cowherder

    I wish I had the discipline to work from home, I do it once in a blue moon when I need to but I'm just too easily distracted by everything at home...mainly the contents of fridge! Ha ha!

  24. Beornfrith

    I read this article with interest. I am disabled and have never been able to work as an adult. Now 30, I am in a situation where my wife can barely bring home enough money to, when combined with my disability benefit, pay the rent and other bills. She applies for better paying jobs continually but despite being very well educated and with a wealth of experience she is constantly looked passed; she fears it's because she's a foreign national. I've told her I don't think that but quietly I am having my doubts.

    My disability often leaves me mentally and physically exhausted but there are hours here and there when I would like to think I could work from home somehow.

    The problem is that government restrictions on the benefit mean I cannot earn a penny. That means I then have to either stay in limbo indefinitely or know that somehow I can segue in to a position in which I can earn at least £115 a week to replace the money I would lose by coming off the benefit...

    The situation for people like me who don't fit in to a neat pigeon hole is very difficult. I have honestly cried when I have seen how hard my wife works for a pittance, knowing that I can't wave a magic wand and make things better.

    Rhetorically or otherwise; I don't suppose anyone has any ideas?

    1. TitterYeNot

      "Rhetorically or otherwise; I don't suppose anyone has any ideas?"

      I'm afraid I've no idea how easy it is to get training while being on disability benefit, but getting into IT as a techie is probably one of the better ways of getting a job where you can work from home, as physical proximity to the infrastructure you look after isn't required for a lot of jobs these days (with obvious exceptions like hardware support.)

      The application servers I coax, cajole or batter into submission for a living are in various data centres all over the country - I haven't had a job where I could just pop downstairs to the server room for about 8 years now. And a lot of the more day-to-day stuff is done by colleagues even further away in India. As such, it makes no difference to my ability to do my job whether I'm at home or in the office, so I work from home 3 days a week, and to be honest, with remote communication tools like Lync / Skype etc. for virtual meetings, I could work from home 5 days a week and still do my job just as well if I had to.

      Just an idea. Good luck anyway.

      1. Beornfrith

        Thanks for the interesting reply, Titter. It's a daunting and difficult subject. Earlier this year I sent a letter explaining my condition, situation and abilities to a games developer. They had a customer support role open; as I am the 'go-to guy' for all of my neighbours', family and friends' computer issues and as I have a great deal of patience I thought this might be something I could try to manage.

        Sadly, they weren't receptive to the idea.

        Thank you for taking the time to answer. Articles and comments like these at least give me a bit of hope that there might be some way of making 'it' work at some point.

        1. elDog

          There are also several web sites that specialize in IT gigs

          Usually they are short-term and the competition is fierce. But if there is some field that you are interested in (gaming?) and you have the time/energy to learn the skillset to tackle one of the advertised tasks, it might be a good way of getting a toe in the door. Since you aren't particularly interested in earning much income until you can earn a lot, this might be a good avenue for building a portfolio.

          If you're not a programmer; web site design, search-engine-optimization, user-experience recommendations all come to mind.

          Also there are some wonderful online and free courseware available on every subject under the sun. If you have a field that you've long been interested in, try out Coursera or KhanAcadamy. Sometimes just being participatory in the classes leads to contacts and is stimulating.

          Good luck!

          1. Beornfrith

            Re: There are also several web sites that specialize in IT gigs

            Thanks for the feedback, all.

            Matched betting is not something I had heard of. I have done a bit of reading about it and it seems to be a "Do it once" sort of thing, as it relies on new-customer offers from betting firms. I am not sure how that could be converted in to a monthly source of income and if I did it as a once-off I would be earning money against the terms of my disability benefit. It was an interesting read, though.

            Odesk/Elance are now known as Upwork. I had already found them and done some research but the problem there is that the freelance nature of the work combined with my lack of demonstrable skills would make me a very un-enticing candidate when other people would be able to offer a far more detailed and useful background. I could undercut but then the natural tendency would surely be for prospective employers to be wary. It is an interesting concept, though, and one I remain receptive towards.

            ElDog: I hadn't heard of Coursera or KhanAcademy and I will look in to them. One of the biggest problems I have encountered in my years of ill health is an inability to learn in a formally-structured way.

            If you ask me to build or upgrade a computer, I can do that no bother. If you present me with a dead computer I will probably be able to fix it - or at the very least diagnose the problem. If you ask me to explain the fundamentals of photography or do photography work for you I could. I produced a small book for friends and family that explained, in simple terms, the workings of a digital camera and gave step-by-step instructions for a couple of exercises to demonstrate the effect of altering focal lengths and apertures. If you asked me to explain Anglo Saxon history or the Old English language, I could. I read a brief eulogy in Old English at my grandmother's funeral and have written an introductory pamphlet about the language and its names that will be used by the historical society I am a member of at various events later this year.

            All of these things are self-taught but they have had to be. My memory is 'damaged' and does not work in a conventional way. I constantly have to work around it and it is difficult to do so. People have sometimes asked me whether I have considered undertaking formal studies while I have been ill and the answer is yes. In fact, the answer is not only yes but "I have tried before" and my memory beats me back overwhelmingly. It is very difficult to explain: I am intelligent, capable and a quick learner but the learning needs to be visual or hands-on/interactive or my brain simply does not recall it in a reliable way.

            I do have an interest in gaming and have laid out several ideas for games. I have tried to learn how to build 'stuff' within a couple of engines and have had some limited success but I have not been able to sit down and work with someone, which brings me straight back to memory problems.

            Sorry, I don't know how this turned in to such a long ramble. I'll end here.

            Thank you again.

            1. Dan 10

              Re: There are also several web sites that specialize in IT gigs

              Hey Beornfrith, thanks for sharing your story and being open. Although IT is generally conducive to working from home, one of the problems is getting your foot in the door first. So for example, I've never been able to work from home for the first few weeks of any new role, at least. This is partly to get the new recruit up to speed with the role, partly so others get to know you so you can all communicate when not face to face, and partly so the manager trusts the new guy, I suppose.

              Maybe it would help if you offered the first x weeks of work for free? Hopefully, this wouldn't impact on your benefits, while allowing an employer to get comfortable with the idea of you working remotely, since from their perspective, they would have little to lose from giving you a trial?

              Or, how about this. Learn something like dotnetnuke, develop a couple of sites (you'd need one for yourself anyway), then try finding work on 99designs or fiverr or whatever. Admittedly this could affect your benefits if you earned money one week but not the next.

              As much as the following sounds a bit iffy, you could try playing the system:

              1. Set up a limited company with your wife as sole director.

              2. Said company then touts for work on (for example) 99designs, as above.

              3. A job comes in, which is fulfilled by an unpaid volunteer (guess who?!)

              4. Money is paid to the limited company. Paying that out to your wife would incur tax, but that's ok, because at least you've earned money to be taxed on in the first place, rather than losing benefits and having nothing at all in it's place.

              5. You might reach a point where there is sufficient money in the company to take on an employee (again, guess who?!) at which point you drop the benefits and take a salary.

              And all this time, your wife isn't doing much for the company, so no extra work for her. You get to use your brain, extra money comes into the house, and if it doesn't work, you've still got the benefits to fall back on.

              Good luck!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Matched Betting

      You've almost certainly seen it mentioned elsewhere on the web and perhaps thought, "Scam!" You could certainly argue it is not a real job, but you could do worse than trying your hand at matched betting whereby you extract the value of promotional free bets. There are both free and paid for communties offering the tools, advice and support you might need.

      To get started you need a debit card with acees to £40-100 and critically the strength of will not to succumb to the temptation of actual gambling. A few hours a day should easily get you £1000 a month although some claim to be earning well over double that doing it full time.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ideas: have a look at odesk or elance.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. fruitoftheloon



      Sorry to hear about your situation, ours is similar.

      obviously I do not know which benefit you are on...

      I am on esa benefit, if you contact the dwp and fill out the relevant form you can work up to 16 hours a week for about £100 weekly.

      I have started doing 1/2 day a week, it is not much but is helping my sanity, confidence and improving the food budget.

      I wish you well.



      1. Beornfrith

        Re: @beornfirth

        Hi Jay; is it possible to send a PM or email to another user via El Reg? I have been a reader for over ten years but have very little experience with the comment system! I'd just like to as you something privately, that's all.

        1. fruitoftheloon
          Thumb Up

          "Beornfirth: Re: @beornfirth


          I will drop a note to an el reg staffer and see what happens...



        2. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: @beornfirth

          Emails sent to you both...

          1. fruitoftheloon

            @gaz: Re: @beornfirth


            Cheers bud!

            Have one on me...



  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's about family

    Some people go to the office to escape the family. I've worked most of the last 20 years at home and wouldn't have it any other way. I work to support my life, not the other way around. Being around my wife and kids more of the day is the single biggest benefit to working at home.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to dream of WFM, until I worked from home for 3 months at my previous job due to injury which limited my mobility... the day I went back in, I was never happier to be in an office. I really couldn't do it full time, I'd go stir crazy. A different story if you're doing onsite work, as I have done that WFH previously and it's fine because you're seeing and working with people daily.

  27. Valerion

    I did it for 2 years

    Quite enjoyed it. Converted the spare room into an office that had a door I could shut to keep the family out, so I wasn't disturbed. VPN connection to the office on a separate LAN to the main home network. Even had a proper company VOIP phone with an extension number and a DDI. Skype chats kept me in contact with everyone I worked with (who were spread over 3 other offices in the UK plus India).

    Lost a load of weight because I could spend some time at lunch actually cooking stuff that was healty rather than raiding Asda. Did get a bit lonely, but I would visit the offices for a couple of days once or month or so (Staying overnight). The overlooked for promotion bit is a good point, because I was the obvious choice for one, but someone else got it - someone who worked in the office. And I agreed with the decision because managing a team is easier if you are actually with them.

    These days I'm in a different job and sometimes work from home (I no longer have the proper office setup thoiugh). I'm at home today actually. So far I've eaten half a packet of chocolate hobnobs so my old healthy habits seem to have gone.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spot on

    Having tried it for about 7 years, I can say this article is spot on. It had to stop as I was far more stressed working from home and I even willingly swapped it for a new job that involved a 1.5 hour drive each way. That obviously wasn't much fun either but I have thankfully moved much closer now.

    In one particularly notable incident, where I was working from the other side of the country, I made my monthly visit to the office, only to discover by accident that the boss had promoted the relatively new guy to CTO and hadn't told me for 3 months. Suddenly the arguments I'd been having with the guy beforehand made a lot more sense. The other staff were shocked that I hadn't been told.

    Unfortunately my close colleague has just moved to the back of beyond. I really hope it works out but I feel it may be a challenge for both of us.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Working at Home

    Our office has too many people for the number of desks, all of which have to be booked in advance. The managements wheeze to solve this was we all have to take on or more days WFH, so the chosen ones (what happened to all of us?) got laptops for that purpose and that purpose alone (all the desks have PCs), my days Monday. And yes the dining room table is the office, there being nowhere and no cash for an Home Office. Its not ideal but it does mean I am in for Monday deliveries. Of course productivity is lowered as the laptops and connections (at the office end) are pure carp and when you are home alone no one can hear you scream.

  30. Zot


    The biggest issue is always finding something else to do, instead of work.

    Like reading 'the register'... ;) - the Internet is only your partial friend, it can also break your job completely.

    I go for an hour's walk everyday, which has saved me from sciatica problems, and is great for blowing the stagnant feelings away, and it freshens my thinking, not to mention keeping me healthier than the beached slob-whale I could be.

    As far as loneliness goes - man up you pussies!

    Embrace the quiet. Or use the radio (SomaFM is good to work with)

    And if you can't stand your own company then you need psychiatric help, ya looney. :D

  31. yoganmahew

    Oops I

    did it again! It's the sound of the underground. Can't live, if livin' is without you...

    Oh, sorry, am I not on mute?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Oops I

      Ha ha! I once told an international meeting that the train was about to arrive at Warwick Parkway. Luckily they thought it was funny and no-one queried whether I'd had permission to have left the office at that time :D

  32. Jay 2

    I'm a sys admin. At the moment I can ask nicely to WFH if needs be, like I have to wait in for a delivery or some such. I can use VMWare Horizons, Citrix or VPN to connect to VM/PC at work, and I have a VoIP phone with headset that I can log in to. I've got a fairly comfortable chair and something that may pass for a desk. On some days people from other departments don't even realise I'm not in the office. The biggest down side to me is that the expectation that I can cover 0630-1700 as I'm not commuting when my normal work hours are 0800-1600.

    Last year I was WFH for about 3 months after I broke a few bones and was housebound. For half of that I ended up doing quite a few hours as moving was a bit of a chore (arm in sling and crutches!). The flip side was at least it gave me something to do, otherwise I really would have gone stir crazy!

    Overall I'm happy I can WFH when required and I have a suitable environment to do so. Though overall I still prefer being in the office more often than not.

    1. Andy A Bronze badge

      Some things about WFH are great

      Had a spell WFH around 20 years ago, on a programming project.

      I actually enjoyed working late evenings. Got a lot done when everything around me went quiet. The telly was rubbish anyway.

      The downside was that family could not get it through their skulls that I was not continuously on holiday.

      "No, I can't spend a week helping dad with that DIY project. I have a deadline to meet" would be countered with THAT look intended to make me feel terrible guilt.

      The other problem was coffee consumption. When the pot is empty, you just fill it again. When I set out to deliver the finished code to the customer 200 miles away, I realised my hands were shaking. I had to stop and grab a can of cola to calm down the DTs. Frightening.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: Some things about WFH are great

        " I had to stop and grab a can of cola to calm down the DTs"

        Yes, even more caffeine plus a load of sugar should help! ;-)

      2. Vic

        Re: Some things about WFH are great

        The other problem was coffee consumption. When the pot is empty, you just fill it again.

        This is the main reason I drink tea at work...


  33. druck Silver badge

    WFH but not Home

    Once you have the ability to work from home with all the secure access rights, it can be tempting to work away from home too, which may be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

    When my wife had to severe hyperemesis, I WFH'd but the H was the Hospital rather than Home. That way I was able to spend time with her, and get some work done too. It would have cost a fortune connecting the laptop through 4G, but luckily the hospital had free Wifi, unfortunately it was web access only and wouldn't even allow email through. So using 4G I connected to by home router and redirected the HTTPS port to SSH on my Raspberry Pi, I was then able to connect back to the WiFi and create a SSH tunnel through to home, and back out to work. The speed wasn't fantastic, but was fast enough for a few RDP sessions.

  34. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Bit of Both

    I mostly work in the office, but if there's a significant programming job to do the boss is quite happy for me to spend a few days at home. Everyone benefits. I get the chance to really concentrate without interruptions. They get a faster result (and I make a point of not working extra hours) and the other minions are pleased to see me when I get back, not because I'm a fantastic socialiser but because they absolutely hate having to do precision soldering!

    I also do have proper lunch breaks - there are some very nice country pubs within easy reach :)

  35. Soap Distant

    Traffic Time

    I get to work from home depending on what kind of project I have and where any sites are geographically that I need to visit. It does up your hours some, but I'd rather work for two extra hours per day than sit burning petrol and going nowhere.

    That said, I think it's critical for most professions to actually have regular contact/banter/whatever for all the reason stated above.


  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've worked at home 100% for one year, and boredom is definitely something you need to deal with. The good thing is that I work in IT sales, so there's always customer visits and partner visits to give you that social thing.

    Now I work from home 1 day per week but I think that 2-3 days at home is a good happy medium for me.

    Some points I always found helpful:

    1. Set a lunch hour.

    2. Set a time for a 20 minute walk outside, otherwise you'll never see the sun until weekend.

    3. Drop by partners or customer to get in some social time.

    4. If you have boring things to do, then go to the office. Otherwise home is too distracting.

  37. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Bothering people

    The good thing about the office is when you want to ask something, you can tell if they're busy and concentrating on something, and not bother them, and come back a little later.

    My problem is when I'm working on a new project, and thus have to ask a lot of questions, I imagine IMing them and having them go "OK WTF does he want **NOW**?" when they hear the bingly bingly.

    My other problem is logging off work for the day, going "oh I need to fix that little buglet in my android app, I'll do that now" and then noticing the clock says 3am.

    And yes, I find a standard lunch break to be absolutely essential. It lets your system go "ok, this is not working" so when you get back in you can get to a "yes, I am working now, let's get stuff done" mental state.

  38. Enigman

    Oh, you WFH? We can offshore it then

    One of the perils of working from home is eventually a bean counter gets it in their head to offshore the work entirely. "Why should we pay someone here who is working remotely when we can pay someone much less overseas to work remotely?" The company I work for has been doing just that - anyone who was working from home was more likely to have their job offshored. They are moving jobs overseas anyway but it was more likely if you aren't seen in the office regularly (even though more often than not my manager rarely came to our site.)

    Some of my colleagues work from home 2-3 days a week. I work from home only on the weeks that I am oncall (2 hour commute each way) - statistically I'd get a lot of calls during the drive to or from work so it makes sense to WFH when oncall.

    With the cuts to staff came a cut to the office space we have (our new exciting 'Agile workspace' - if all the different teams had all their people come in on the same day there literally would no longer be enough desks for us all.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    THREE HOURS each way commute?

    Why in the hell would you ever take that job, unless it was the ONLY job you could get?

  40. John Tserkezis

    I had a cubicle at work that at one stage I called home. Does that count?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you WFH, consider keeping a time log/to do list to track your time and activities. It has the effect of a boss being present, so you spend your time well, it keeps you honest to yourself about what you're doing, no guilt, provides feedback on accomplishment, helps you not work too much, and provides an audit trail that no one will ever ask for but that you know you can produce at any time. Also submit weekly status reports whether they are required or not, can just be an email.

  42. Super Fast Jellyfish

    Working Remotely

    I work one day a week from home because I can and agree with the distractions (looking at you El Reg!)

    However when I am working in an office, my manager is 150 miles away and my team are offshore so it can be lonely in a different way. Luckily I get on well with the people around me but I know that my career is stuck at my current level as I'm not in the head office - unless I move to a different department based here.

  43. DocJames

    Exciting projects

    There's more to being "overlooked" than just not being there. You're not present when they're discussed. You don't mention the problem that the exciting project is the answer to because you're not there. You're not the one who is sought out to provide a "quick answer" which turns into a multiyear project and a career.

    I agree with the issues around going crazy and developing eccentric (work) habits. Essential to interact intermittently with others (for almost all persons - there are occasional hermits).

  44. AdamAdam

    Even at one day a week it was taxing

    I used to work in shifts at my last place of work, so once a week when I had to be in at 6 I took a day of home-office in order not to have to get up at 5am...

    I was definitely one of those that end up working more than they would at the office. Especially since I felt that if I did not reply to a communicator message within 10 seconds people would think I'm sleeping or something. I guess it is a mentality issue.

    That job required a lot of interaction of the type : "can I do this to that?" - "yeah, go ahead" or "wait, I'll look on your screen to see what you mean" which is done so much easier when done physically on the same location.

    Taking breaks together was also something I could miss, although of course it was easier to prepare something at home.

  45. Flywheel Silver badge

    You forgot the little extras

    .. the main one (for me at least) is that you invariably get a faster network than your office-based colleagues, but you get to pay for it yourself. You also find out how frickin' slow Openreach can be at installing lines and ADSL. I used a MiFi dongle for a couple of weeks while I was waiting for mine to be installed and it was usable, but slow.

    Then we moved house again and was offered a 40Mbps fibre link, which we had installed. Great! The only problem now was that the BT wall box had its own power supply, so I had to get a small UPS for that in case the power went off. Add that to the *other* UPS I bought just to ensure that the router and switch I also needed stay up in the event of a power problem and you get the picture..

    Remote (hardware) support? Nightmare! My original desktop PC packed up when the integrated soundcard died, and I had a 600-mile round trip to pick up the replacement laptop. No, they couldn't ship it - I had to pick it up myself.

    But in spite of all this I just *love* working remotely. The view from my windows is great, and I can chat to my colleagues at any time using Lync.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WFH Hint

    For those all phone worldwide meetings, where people are multitasking (when it's not a vid conf)-- mention the person's name before asking an unexpected question (relative to the normal flow of presentation). This way they are paying attention and don't have to stammer and ask for the question to be repeated (making them look like numpties) and wasting everyone's time repeating the question.

    Though I did know one bloke who would be snoring in a meeting, if you asked him a question his eyes would pop open and he would actually answer the question cogently. Fell asleep at his desk one too many times though, gives a bad impression to passerby.

  47. omgitsautom


    I've done many years of primarily WFH mixed with years of office work. My biggest problem originally with WFH was no manager present to "motivate" me, keep me honest, provide acknowledgment or notice that I was contributing. I compensated by using a few tools (along with many of the tips found in this discussion)

    - activity log: what I was doing in 15 minute increments

    - to do list, with perpetual archive; constant record of accomplishment

    - email status report every Friday (or the last day of work for the week; sometimes this was required, other times I did them voluntarily)

    This is more work than most people want to do however, it reduces the stress of worrying about performance, and makes it much easier to stop working after putting in 8 hours.

  48. Conundrum1885

    Re. disability

    This is exactly what is wrong with the system.

    People in the same situation who are forever stuck on benefits because the Government killed Remploy and other businesses like it over a minor issue.

    I am sickened by how people look down on those legitimately claiming with no idea just how much hardship it causes (case in point, know one guy who got blacklisted for "not turning up" to an appointment when in fact he turned up on time and was sent away because of some trivial administrative issue and as a result of doing nothing wrong nearly lost his flat and had to fill out a 6 page form and attend another 3 meetings just to get things back to normal again.) not to mention the restrictions on travel and in some cases Internet usage monitoring that would make George Orwell spin in his grave.

    It should not be acceptable for *any* agency to spy on people's personal Internet usage for any reason other than enforcement of anti terrorism law, this includes for example blatant misuse of RIPA to check which catchment area a child is in for the purposes of selecting schools and social manipulation by forcing people to use a particular search engine and browser (seriously!) on their home PC and/or mobile device as a condition of employment.

    1. fruitoftheloon

      @Conundrum1885: Re: Re. disability


      err what are you on about matey?



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