back to article US govt can talk about the end of lockdown, but Silicon Valley says 'as long as it takes' – and Twitter says 'WFH forever'

Twitter on Tuesday said employees who are able to work from home can "continue to do so forever," a policy change that suggests the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, and resulting stay-at-home orders, may have a lasting impact on corporate work practices. The message-and-ad-mingling biz made clear that working out of corporate …

  1. HildyJ Silver badge
    Devil

    Negatives?

    The first negative is the inability of managers to micro manage (I may be paraphrasing here).

    How is this a negative?

    1. eldel

      Re: Negatives?

      Rather depends on one's perspective. From the point of view of the worker bee it's an unmitigated positive. From the point of view of the clueless fuckwit who now has to measure output, and hence understand what's supposed to happen it's a total disaster. YMMV :-)

      1. Santa from Exeter

        Re: Negatives?

        And from the point of view of the work shy slackers it's friggin heaven!

  2. Dinanziame

    What I miss most is the ability to talk directly to people. It's not only about social contacts, it's just easier to ask a quick question or discuss a situation for five minutes when you can walk over, rather than send a text, or ask for a VC.

    The second thing I miss most is the coffee machine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Outsourcing next

      If you lose the quick 'adhoc' chat-meetings that fix problems, then outsourcing is next.

      Those VC's may save your job. Keep em frequent.

    2. Raymond Berenger

      While I agree entirely, it seems to me that part of a solution would be much faster initiation of video links, much better messaging systems, and putting the occupational psychologists on the job. Multiple screens, one dedicated to messaging/video, would go some way to address the context switching.

      Like those birds that started out hopping from island to island and then, as the continents shifted, ended up migrating half way across the world, commuting has grown from walking from t'village to t'mill to a vast structure of trains, metros, buses, cars and car parks, now with new added urban scooters. We accept it as natural but it's a completely artificial environment that takes up an awful lot of GDP. If a third of workers don't need to do it, by using a different much more economical artificial environment, that's surely a big plus. And if it leads to decentralisation and the end of huge cities, the increase in resilience against future pandemics is also worth having.

      Concorde failed basically because international STD, fax machines and then the Internet meant that getting from A to B very quickly became far less important. It would be interesting if electric car introduction slowed because of the industry shrinkage due to lowered demand caused by a second revolution in electronic communication.

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Buy another kettle. Add water, milk, coffee...

      Instant coffee machine!

      1. Dr_N Silver badge
        Devil

        You barbarian.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Happy

          LOL! It works though!

    4. Doug_S

      What is it with the VCs?

      One thing I haven't understood with this whole situation is how stuff like Zoom has become normalized. I've done remote work almost exclusively for the past 15 years and have never once been on a video conference call, nor has one been suggested. I'd been taking a break between contracts when this whole thing arose (which I may regret as the economy probably will extend my break longer than I'd like) so I haven't seen this firsthand, but judging by all the memes and such I guess video conferencing has become common.

      I've never seen the problem with audio only calls, and I don't see what I've been missing other than seeing what everyone looks like and what their home office setup looks like from behind. The only thing you miss doing a chat/audio call with someone for a quick problem resolution is the "walk bys" - people who hear what you are talking about and join in. That is something that can be valuable but you still don't get that with video calling so I just don't see the point. Maybe this is a millennial thing and as a Gen Xer I just won't get it?

      1. Steve Aubrey

        Re: What is it with the VCs?

        Some people are trying to recreate the old way of doing things in the "new normal". There are times where vision is important. There re many times, though, where the information is the important part, and that generally doesn't need a webcam.

        I keep thinking about the world's best buggy-whip manufacturer. Yes, there's a need for the product. No, Zoom doesn't fall into that verging-on-obsolete category. But I think we're seeing a lot of hype and people playing with new toys. The novelty will wear off and it will be a tool, just not as high-profile as now.

    5. Sherrie Ludwig

      What I miss most is the ability to talk directly to people. It's not only about social contacts, it's just easier to ask a quick question or discuss a situation for five minutes when you can walk over, rather than send a text, or ask for a VC.

      Yeah, I know it's so last century, but phone calls are still allowed.

  3. xyz

    My girlfriend...

    Has a company (>100 employees) and now having invested in the kit needed, most work from home, have a bonus scheme to keep them chipper and sales are huge (all online). They are going to bin the big office and buy more warehouse space. No one wants to go back to the old way of working. COVID won't be "over" anytime soon, so we may as well embrace this massive social change. Anyway, BJ will keep peddling COVID so everyone forgets the Brexit until it's too late.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: My girlfriend...

      It looks like WFH for me now for as long as I have this job. I've taken delivery of brand new office furniture that my employer had delivered this week, desk, chair, two nice shiny new monitors and other kit, plus I they have ordered me a second broadband service (no date for that installation, could be months).

      I suspect that the next news we will get is the office lease not being renewed, so the cost of that kit being shipped to me is probably a fraction of the cost of keeping those offices.

      Landlords and Business rates are going to get a real kicking. I wonder where that cost will be shifted to.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: My girlfriend...

        Thinking about it, whilst there might be a little extra on home insurance, I expect there to be a WFH surcharge on Council Tax, which be offset against the cost of commuting. I been counting miles not driven since the start of the lurgy, and it's over 500 for me.

        I hope those government bods don't read this.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: My girlfriend...

          I doubt that the councils will actually be this imaginative. They'll just shove up the tax rates on the remaining businesses to compensate for the lower revenue and increase parking costs again then wonder why the remaining companies all go out of business or WFH too, they've been doing that since forever.

          The thing is though, working at home costs the council nothing. You traveling to work each day means that your doing ten journeys over the roads per week (assuming 5 day working weeks) which creates wear and tear on the transport infrastructure.

  4. RockBurner

    Looks like my place is seriously considering downsizing the (rented) office space on the back of the (relatively) successful (enforced) wfh trials this year.

    Not a moment too soon I say.

  5. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    I wonder what Marissa and IBM will do?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It has been a strange couple of months

    I only realised this morning that while communication with the people I work with is good, and regular, there are faces and voices I've not seen or heard since I was last at the office. The people I don't work with, but who I would chat with in the kitchen. I miss those. I also miss Friday pub lunch; doing that over Zoom is a poor substitute (but one we'll continue to use, for sanity's sake). Yet homeworking has been a success. People are generally more productive and healthier, to the extent we now worry higher ups (i.e. much higher ups, hence anon) might decide that nice (already spacious) office of ours is overkill...

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: It has been a strange couple of months

      Yeah, I greatly prefer a hybrid approach. I strongly prefer to work from home but the job is much easier and I'm far more effective if I have the information and understanding that comes from idle office chatter to a broad range of people that I'm not normally working directly with.

      A simple, "What's happening in your part of the office?" in the coffee queue has led to multi-million pound savings before now, just through coordinating and aligning similar change activities.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It has been a strange couple of months

      I would disagree that people are more productive.

      We had an Office wide (1,300 responses) survey done in which most people, like me, assessed themselves as being at 70%-80% efficiency accross IT, Business, Operations and Science.

      Anon because it's too easy to infer where I work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It has been a strange couple of months

        "I would disagree that people are more productive."

        Depends on how you approach it. Where I work, a lot of us have extensive experience of working at customer sites or out of hotel rooms (or in my case, for the best part of two weeks, by the pool with views of palm trees and the Pacific) so are a lot more aware of the requirements set daily goals, focus and communicate frequently/effectively. We were digital nomads before the term was coined. I imagine many of those who are working from home for the first time will be struggling.

    3. AK565

      Re: It has been a strange couple of months

      1 or 2 days in the office, the rest at home is my preferred compromise. While I miss the opportunity to bounce ideas off coworkers, I'm more efficient with the routine tasks home alone. My r/t commute was three hours and had almost a mile of walking so that might influence my view.

  7. ThatOne Silver badge

    Balkanization

    There is a definite danger that the otherwise coherent business entity slowly falls apart into little isolated work/task groups which are only coordinated and linked through their common management. Which means that the management in question needs to be extremely efficient, able to communicate and understand situations despite limited (in both time and capacity) communication channels, and able to transmit to each work group a global image of what the results should look like, and what their part is bound to be. Unfortunately, considering the Peter principle, people capable of conducting a symphony orchestra only using email and an occasional video chat might be rather rare...

    TL;DR - Common workplace smooths out management shortcomings, as people are able to coordinate their work themselves. WFH depends heavily if not entirely on the management to stay on focus.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Balkanization

      > TL;DR - Common workplace smooths out management shortcomings, as people are able to coordinate their work themselves. WFH depends heavily if not entirely on the management to stay on focus.

      IME there is a lot of truth to this. Unfortunately I'm afraid the corollary hasn't yet shown up, i.e. that bad, unfocused management are let go or otherwise redeployed.

      No great surprise, I suppose. Management are often the next-to-last to go, before HR.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Balkanization

        IME there is a lot of truth to this. Unfortunately I'm afraid the corollary hasn't yet shown up, i.e. that bad, unfocused management are let go or otherwise redeployed.

        The Emperor Napoleon once said that there are no bad regiments, only bad commanding officers. This bit of wisdom has been revised by modern management practices to read that there are no bad managers, only bad employees.

        The employees will be fired, and the manglement responsible for the problems will be promoted. It's how things work these days.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Balkanization

          > there are no bad managers, only bad employees

          It helps that this assessment is made by the managers themselves...

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    It's going to be interesting to see how this evolves

    I am frankly astonished reading in these hallowed pages about all the CEOs and important companies that are declaring remote working now a part of their culture.

    I was expecting companies to shrug it off and, when deconfinement rolled around, initiate a gradual return to everybody at the office again. It now seems that that will not happen for much longer than I expected.

    This is exciting for me because, as a freelance, I am right now working remotely all the time, and it's great. Customers are asking me to do things for them, providing me VPN access and credentials, and not discussing or complaining about not having me toil at one of their (invariably) under-equipped desks in a frakkin' open space office.

    The longer this continues, the better it is for me, so I do hope that this change will become a semi-permanent part of the industry.

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