back to article A memo from the distant future... June 2022: The boss decides working from home isn't the new normal after all

Date: June 1, 2022 To: All staff From: CEO of A Corporation That Said Remote Work Was The New Normal In June 2020 Team, As what we now call the "foothills peak" of the COVID-19 pandemic approached in April 2020, our company quickly built work-from-home infrastructure that made it possible to continue business-as-close-to- …

  1. fnusnu

    Will anyone remember what Yahoo was by 2022?

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Will anyone remember what Yahoo was by 2022?

      They! will! if! you! ask! the question! a little! like! this!

      Possibly also triggering PTSD.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Will anyone remember what Yahoo was by 2022?

        *sigh*, it's:

        They! will! if! you! ask! the! question! a! little! like! this!

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Will anyone remember what Yahoo was by 2022?

          Pedant!

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    New Normal?

    I don't agree necessarily with all the reasons in the article but I definitely think that WFH will not be the norm. There are too many problems with trying to manage such a system and much as I hate the term, team building which is important just won't happen as well between a team who see their. Colleagues as small images on a screen.

    Human/management relationships, either good or bad also need genuine human contact not a remote face on a screen, never mind that many workers and managers will find ways to game remote working systems, resulting ultimately in poorer performance.

    For those and many other reasons I doubt that the C19 related WHF culture will last much beyond the end of this pandemic.

    1. Outski

      Re: New Normal?

      So how is that different from geographically dispersed teams? For example, on my team of 5 (plus two managers), I'm in Blighy, two are in New Jersey and one each in California and Chicago, with the two managers in NJ and Pittsburgh. We still have a pretty good team atmosphere particularly among us three older hands, yet all our communication is via phone, email, IM & VC, so it's not that different for us.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        Exceptions prove the rule.

        Remote working some of the time is fine for some stuff, especially when a team already works well together. But it is far from suitable for everything. I'm freelance and generally work from home but, on big projects, I realise the importance of being with the team as much as possible and I think the researchs tends to back this up.

        1. eionmac

          Re: New Normal?

          Here of course 'prove' is in its original sense of "test" as a proof mark on Gold items which pass assay.

          1. JacobZ
            Headmaster

            Prove the rule (Re: New Normal?)

            Fun fact: it's a common misconception that "prove" in "the exception proves the rule" really means test.

            The original, original meaning comes from lawyers, in particular the Latin phrase "exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis" - the last part meaning "in cases not excepted". When a sign says something like "Parking is allowed between midnight and 5am", this exception "proves" that there is a general rule against parking there; otherwise, why would there be a need to state the exception?

            There, isn't that fun?

            1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

              Re: Prove the rule (New Normal?)

              Not exactly. Fowler gives a number of meanings - for example

              Fowler describes this use as "jocular nonsense". He presents the exchange: 'If there is one virtue I can claim, it is punctuality.' 'Were you in time for breakfast this morning?' 'Well, well, the exception that proves the rule.' In this case, the speakers are aware that the phrase does not correctly apply, but are appealing to it ironically

          2. swm Silver badge

            Re: New Normal?

            A physicist, engineer, and a mathematician examine the statement that all odd numbers are prime.

            Physicist: 3's a prime, 5's a prime, 7's a prime, 9 - experimental error, 11's a prime, 13's a prime - all odd numbers are prime.

            Engineer: 3's a prime, 5's a prime, 7's a prime, 9 - well, 9 is the exception, 11's a prime, 13's a prime - all odd numbers are prime.

            Mathematician: 3's a prime, therefore, by induction, all odd numbers are prime.

            1. Old Used Programmer

              Re: New Normal?

              The version I heard was...

              Mathematician: 3's a prime, 5's a prime, 7's a prime, 9's not a prime. Proposition is false.

              Physicist: 3's a prime, 5's a prime, 7's a prime, 9's not a prime, experimemtal error?, 11's a prime, 13's a prime, 15's not a prime. Proposition is false.

              Engineer: 3's a prime, 5's a prime, 7's a prime, 9's a prime... It's true.

        2. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: New Normal?

          In science collaboration is the norm, you need some analysis you don’t have? you get those guys in on it and they do the analysis part. I have carried on fruitful collaborations with people I have never met and whose voices I have never heard. It was all done by email.

          We all got on the paper (which is good for careers) and collaborations look good when you are audited.

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        Geographically dispersed teams suck balls. (edit: probably after it reaches about 2 dozen people - for really small groups it's fine)

        You have to keep in mind which timezone someone is in, people miss important emails/slacks/IRCs/WTFs, and people end up forming cliques in each area, where the Switzerland group knows what's going on but doesn't realize the England/India/US groups haven't been fully informed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: New Normal?

          In work@home situations, if the US is not fully aware of what other countries are doing it means that the NSA is asleep...

        2. mevets

          Re: New Normal?

          "Geographically dispersed teams suck balls." Depending upon your role, that can be awesome or not.

        3. Tim99 Silver badge

          Re: New Normal?

          Many Geographically dispersed teams suck balls. (edit: probably after it they reaches about 2 dozen people - for really small groups it's fine) FTFY...

          1. AK565

            Re: New Normal?

            I'm actually quite impressed by the "up to two dozen" part. Personally, when I'm in a group larger than 5 that sucks balls I find it rather difficult to keep track of activities, regardless of how beneficial they might be. As an observer I've noted that groups larger than 5 have a tendency to divide into smaller groups. I've formulated a few theories, but it's become clear more data is needed.

      3. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        > how is that different from geographically dispersed teams?

        It heavily depends on what those teams are doing (their profession). Some tasks only require an update every now and then to make sure everyone is still in tune, while other tasks require almost constant interaction lest they lose all efficiency and productivity.

        The critical factor is communication: If your task depends heavily on abstract, codified information (math, code), email might suffice. On the other hand, if group efficiency depends heavily on non-verbal communication, subtext and nuances, no HD video will ever be enough, you'll need the full person-to-person communication all humans have been trained for since childhood. Everything less than that and your team becomes a loose bunch of acquaintances.

        1. Iznik
          Pint

          Re: New Normal?

          > group efficiency depends heavily on non-verbal communication, subtext and nuances

          I (and others) used to get this by going to the pub at lunchtime or after work. Or both. It worked really well, but I accept they were different times. It certainly meant all sorts of problems were addressed in a convivial and non-contfrontational environment though, far more than just dealing with things within an office. I am certain that just being co-located in an office doesn't in itself bring anything magical, and presumably the inefficiencies in communicating remotely have huge economic benefits (not least, closing offices) that are perceived to exceed intangible benefits of non-verbal communication.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: New Normal?

            > I am certain that just being co-located in an office doesn't in itself bring anything magical

            Agree, the magic is in the free-flowing unlimited human interaction, as opposed to a narrow-channel time-constrained communication through a computer*. Now where exactly that free human interaction takes place is irrelevant, it can be the office, the pub or whatever else.

            .

            * Video meetings are in no way similar to real meetings. First of all, often in work meetings several persons talk (or at least comment) simultaneously. Do this in a video meeting and nobody understands a word. Then, in a real meeting you can look around at people's faces and get immediate answers you wouldn't be able to see on a bunch stamp-sized pictures on a laptop screen. And so on.

            (You might have guessed by now, but I don't really like video meetings)

            1. Noodle

              Re: New Normal?

              "the magic is in the free-flowing unlimited human interaction"

              Maybe it's just the offices I've worked in over the years but that's not a description of an office environment that I recognise. Even in the most modern open plan offices, anyone doing anything technical spent most of their time focused on their own screen and relatively little time "interacting" apart from scheduled meetings and the occasional chat around the coffee machine, and everyone was fine with that. In fact the most regular complaint I heard was people wanted a more secluded environment so they could focus better.

              1. P. Lee Silver badge

                Re: New Normal?

                Being able to overhear what other people are working on can be very productive and beneficial.

                WFH can work well even "lower down" the ladder if people are fed work and performance metrics are measurable and appropriate - helpdesk for example. Cutting office-space costs might be a way to onshore some of these jobs. You do need to still buy your staff proper office chairs unless you want workplace H&S claims.

                Managing remote teams well is difficult due to the lack of nonverbal clues.

                Biden inauguration massacre. By those who would never accept the election results #notmypresident

                A3 printing? How many people do that? Also, for what you save on commute costs, printing costs are negligible.

                Cheers for the tax breaks... we're going to close 25% of our offices... which of you local governments want to be the ones who lose our business?

                Big Tech behaving badly is not a WFH result. "Cloud" allows us to bundle licenses in order to wipe out any competition which may nibble at one of our products.

                Pension funds - also they are massive share holders. Lower rent = more profit = more dividends.

                High land prices benefit bankers as it pushes up mortgages, but that's about all.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: New Normal?

                "Even in the most modern open plan offices"

                How can a technology that has been obsolete for over half a century be 'modern'? Open plan offices have consistently been shown to lower productivity and morale, and promote stress, shallow engagement with work, and poor mental health.

                Why open offices are bad for us

                Open-Plan Work Spaces Lower Productivity And Employee Morale

                2020 ps: forgot to mention higher levels of infection!

                1. mr_souter_Working

                  Re: New Normal?

                  I hate open plan offices

                  That is one thing I think may change for the better after Covid-19 - we may see fewer open plan offices with staff rammed in like sardines.

                  We will either be going back to smaller offices. Or, at the very least, we might have more space around our desks.

                2. AK565

                  Re: New Normal?

                  Thank you. I've never been able to figure out how an office plan that maximizes distractions is supposed to improve productivity.

                  1. ThatOne Silver badge

                    Re: New Normal?

                    > how an office plan [...] is supposed to improve productivity

                    It isn't, it is supposed to reduce real estate cost, by reducing the office surface you need to host a given number of employees.

                3. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: New Normal?

                  > Open plan offices have consistently been shown to lower productivity and morale, and promote stress, shallow engagement with work, and poor mental health.

                  All true and yet even today some companies are *still* inflicting it on people. Over the last few years the place paying me has adopted a new furniture plan with half-height or no-height cube walls and smaller cube footprints. In one building they've also "merged" floors to leave a floor empty (reduce occupancy costs), and got rid of another which was built with hardwall offices.

                  Think how useful individual hardwall offices would be these days.

                  The HR types responsible for these bad moves said it was for better "collaboration" and "team building" and similar bollocks. Because uprooting people and moving them around like tetris blocks increases productivity, apparently.

                  Now the HR types are saying office spaces will have to be re-redesigned for social distancing and employee safety. Back to how they were before, presumably, though almost certainly worse somehow, if history is any guide.

            2. swm Silver badge

              Re: New Normal?

              Then there are the managers who object to side conversations: "Let's have only one meeting here."

      4. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        You are hardly typical of the majority of workers.

        1. Blank Reg

          Re: New Normal?

          sure it's not typical, but it's not uncommon. I haven't had a manager in the same country as me for over 2 decades, and I've worked from home for most of that time.

      5. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        So how is that different from geographically dispersed teams? For example, on my team of 5 (plus two managers), I'm in Blighy, two are in New Jersey and one each in California and Chicago, with the two managers in NJ and Pittsburgh.

        Yup - I've been thinking about the idea of the globalised startup (via github for instance) for a while, and fully expect that the pandemic will accelerate the pace at which this becomes seen as normal.

        If you need to meet up a couple of times a year then just throw a dart at a world map and meet there. It might make bored board meetings fun.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: New Normal?

      "team building"

      Ah, yes, those and other "motivational" events. I found them thoroughly demotivating, culminating in an episode that lead to enforced early retirement escape into freelance. I also found myself remembering those jobs a decade or more earlier where I ended up in circumstances that needed an armed escort and wondered what sort of screaming fit those team building wonk conducting the course would have had if they'd had to do that without going on a team building event with their new colleagues.

      It's worth standing back and reflecting if an entire operating system - not just a kernel but all the additional layers up to and including applications - can be built by globally dispersed teams with just the leading lights getting together at annual conferences.

      On a smaller scale I worked for a body shop that had staff scattered in ones and twos, maybe threes, in locations across London but arranged an after ours get-together once a month by putting a suitable sum behind the bar in a central London pub.

      It's not sustainable concentrating employment into cities so large that the employees end up scattered across a few thousand square miles of countryside and it's certainly not sane to tell those employees that they should be walking or cycling to work.

      It's time businesses and the government woke up to the fact that big businesses have so many employees that they end up living in idely dispersed areas and looking to other solutions than the big Head Office.

      Look to a number of smaller offices dispersed closer to where people live and let them commute into their closest one. That could well end up with a "team" spread between multiple offices but with individual members working next to members of other "teams"; it might even turn out better for cohesiveness of the business as a while.

      Government's role in this would be recognising that a considerable part of the country's environmental problems stem from a decades long planning policy that separates work places from living places. This mess has been planned - not deliberately but nevertheless planned. They need to look at how they plan to get out of it.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        > reflecting if an entire operating system - not just a kernel but all the additional layers up to and including applications - can be built by globally dispersed teams

        AFAIK it did work for Linux, didn't it?

        1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

          Re: New Normal?

          I think that was the point being made :)

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        Team building is not necessarily an event, those are usually not worth the money they cost in terms of having a better team at the end, though just having a break from work may be beneficial.

        Team building is more often not the result of any pro active effort but a result of normal human bonding in the workplace often helped by good leadership and equally as often hindered by poor leadership.

        In my opinion any manager who feels the need to do a team building course with his/her staff, has no real idea what a team is or how to lead it.

        Perhaps leadership courses for manglers would be money better spent?

        1. teknopaul Silver badge

          Re: New Normal?

          "Perhaps leadership courses for manglers would be money better spent?"

          No. No. No. Defo spend the money on booze for the troops.

    3. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: New Normal?

      I expect it will settle out into more of an easing on the requirement to be in office, but with some mandatory in-office time. Like 3 days work-from-home, and 2 in-office, or vice-versa.

      Beer icon, as we will no longer be able to drink while working..

    4. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: New Normal?

      I don't agree necessarily with all the reasons in the article but I definitely think that WFH will not be the norm.

      My biggest WFH problem is my younger staff - several of them are struggling phenomenally with the challenge from a mental health perspective. I don't know who will crack first - the departments biggest extrovert who suddenly has no real audience, or the wokest member of the team who seems to be in perpetual meltdown. Oddly none of my older team members are showing signs of cracking, though they may simply be better at concealing it, as one of my old giffer mates is struggling too.

      The flip side will come when we do go back. People like me are doing fine - I adapted very quickly to lockdown, but I expect to adapt much more slowly to being back around people.... and I can't bear the thought of paying £500 a month to stand on the train again.....

      Team building will just be done on "in office" days. I can't see us going back to 5/5 in the office - I'm thinking 3/5 will be the new office normal when the dust settles, though it won't be my call.

      Commercial real-estate is toast. There's no way back for the large office buildings at Canary Wharf for example, not for quite a long time. People won't want to be in the office every work day now that companies and staff have realised they don't need to.

      Its far more likely that any downsides for employees will come in the form of postcode weightings for salaries (leading to gaming the system via mailbox addresses), and rampant job relocation to cheaper areas - both domestically and offshore. How that gets managed is very much going to require creative legislation from the government because if the City moves the finance jobs and so taxes abroad, the UK can't afford the NHS, which doesn't bear thinking about.

      1. hoola Bronze badge

        Re: New Normal?

        Home working suits some more than others but in the rush to push the benefits it is easy to overlook the pitfalls.

        It can be very isolating and this has been exacerbated by the current situation as so much social contact has been stopped.

        If you are working from home you have to have appropriate facilities. Most people who are working from home do so because they are computer based. If you have a proper office, desk and IT equipment then then transition from a practical/technical sense is easy. DSE and other guidelines have been pretty much abandoned to try and ensure the companies can still be productive. This cannot be an excuse to allow poor working conditions in the long term simply because an employee is working from home. It is very easy for a company to see home working as a cost saving but then overlook everything that exists in an office to make that work acceptable.

        The same regulations apply, office or home-office.

        If you are now working from home that changes the use of your property. How does insurance, utilities etc all work? You can argue that most will already have an Internet connection anyway so that cost is irrelevant. Just substituting commuting costs for utility costs is only a benefit if your commuting costs (and time) are substantial.

        What impact does it have on the other people in the household? Try having a call when there are kids doing stuff in the background. Do you keep telling them to be quiet every time there is a call. Is the space where you are working from also used by others?

        Finally having spent all day in the home-office, things one might have done in the evening that involved the computer are now a chore.

        The final thing that I find is that having spent all my work hours in the room with the computers.

        I can see the benefits, but it is not a magic solution for everything and the overall advantages can easily be very heavily weighted to either empolyee or employer.

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: New Normal?

          If you are working from home you have to have appropriate facilities.

          I wish - I'd dearly love a home office but we don't have space in this house.

          Just substituting commuting costs for utility costs is only a benefit if your commuting costs (and time) are substantial.

          I pay very nearly £500 a month for the train. Leaving the heating as high as is bearable and every light burning 24/7 will only use a fraction of that. So for me its a very substantial saving - its eliminated what was my 3rd biggest expense. (Taxes, mortgage, commuting, food....)

          Try having a call when there are kids doing stuff in the background. Do you keep telling them to be quiet every time there is a call.

          No, they just appear in the video call every now and again (mine and other folks). We find it less disruptive to acknowledge they're there - most are just happy to see other real live people at the minute. Occasionally one comes on the call for a chat to the attendees, and its waaaay quicker to say hi and ask about their day than wait for a parent to discipline them and handle the ensuing meltdown.

          Finally having spent all day in the home-office, things one might have done in the evening that involved the computer are now a chore.

          It stopped being my hobby when it started being my job. I mean, I love coding, and I do some of it at home after hours too, but working 12 hour days (finance) means I understand only too well your desire not to see another computer when home.

          I can see the benefits, but it is not a magic solution for everything and the overall advantages can easily be very heavily weighted to either empolyee or employer.

          I find that there are advantages and drawbacks for both - balancing competing interests is always a fine art. My main concern is the health and well being of my team - the bank is older than any of us and will be around long after we've gone.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: New Normal?

      Who was it that decided team relationships and moral improve when you send them to do some god-awful day out of activities, where the noisy bossy people get to reaffirm their status and the quiet more-considered types get to remember how crap they feel?

      Is there any evidence that these things help? Personally I find them depressing, disruptive and walk away from them wanting to kill myself.

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        No, I don’t feel like killing myself at those team building events - not myself, no...

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        Is there any evidence that these things help? Personally I find them depressing, disruptive and walk away from them wanting to kill myself.

        Oh, I see. You may have been doing them wrong.

        See, the "noisy bossy people" like to win, so I spend the whole day screwing up in ways I find entertaining but they find unhelpful as it costs our team points. Watching them stewing all day and trying not to lose their shit as I screw up the seemingly most trivial task in the most unimaginable way..... well, that just brings a smile to my face.

        My boss isn't so stupid that he doesn't know what I'm doing, so he just puts me on a team with people he wants bringing down a peg or two. Everyone's a winner.... except for my team, of course.

        1. My-Handle

          Re: New Normal?

          I tend to adopt a subtly different approach.

          Like you, I feel the call of Loki and the desire to let chaos reign. In my case, I usually take a moment to consider whatever task or game that has been set for the team, then declare a method to solve it quickly, meeting most requirements, and in a way totally outside the spirit of the task. It's way more fun to watch whoever came up with such a daft game squirm, and watch your team delight in the knowledge that they beat the system and can now bunk off for a smoke, chat or drink for half an hour while everyone else faffs around doing it the "right" way.

          The last time this happened was at a work Christmas do. Some bossy so-and-so came up with a team building task, to pass a grapefruit / orange along a line of people using "anything but your hands". The other team started trying to use their chins, the crook of their elbows, teeth etc to pass the grapefruit along. My team (once I'd communicated my idea along the line), used glasses, napkins, and finally a fork jammed into the thing to pass it along the line. Didn't use our hands :) Needless to say, our team won. Miss Bossy wasn't happy, but my manager was rather chuffed at us "thinking outside the box". My manager was also on my team :D

      3. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: New Normal?

        I've been on some excelent ones. In Finland they start with a shot of something toxic as you get on the bus. Games, relax, chat, booze and an opportunity to get naked.

        Across the company the rule is get together, apply food and booze.

        A team that has broken bread is significantly more productive. IMHO

        1. AK565

          Re: New Normal?

          You said the key word, "naked". I haven't worn anything below the waist since lockdown began, save footwear and gentleman's bits & bobs, leather or Stainless Steel. I've no desire to wear pants for a three hour round trip just to appease managers who admit they know nothing of my job.

          I imagine at some point the naturist groups I belong to will resume in-person meetings. In the spirit of compromise I'll come into the office the usual T/Th those groups meet.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    More Middle Manager insecurity

    Working from home means that many middle managers are doing very little. Their main occupation before CV-19 was:-

    1) Going to Meeting after Meeting

    2) Micromanaging their team. Making sure that they were not reading El Reg or andy NSFW sites while at work.

    With less meetings or zoom/skype/teams/whatever calls and not being able to check if their people are posting here they are feeling rather redundant.

    Getting the proles back into the office means that their job is safe for a few more days.

    There are alternatives. Will companies be willing to adopt any of them?

    1. Franco Silver badge

      Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

      I have seen a rash of posts in LinkedIn over the last week or so from people complaining about micro-management even whilst WFH. Not being online in Teams/Skype/Zoom etc at the normal start time or not taking lunch/breaks at the usual time being some of the favourites.

      I have also observed that the only requests I have seen for video calls rather than just audio on Teams etc are from more senior people, both in terms of rank and age.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

        Not being online in Teams/Skype/Zoom etc at the normal start time

        Therein lies a big part of the problem. Middle Managers/PHB's wanting to transfer the Office to your Home and they want to be there with you, looking over your shoulder making sure that you aren't slacking/jerking off on company time.

        They simply don't trust their teams to do the work to the agreed quality, timescales and spec.

        Time to change the boss. Make sure that the words 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss' don't come true or you really will be 'fooled Again'.

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

          Middle Managers/PHB's wanting to transfer the Office to your Home and they want to be there with you, looking over your shoulder making sure that you aren't slacking/jerking off on company time.

          I hope that isn't what my teams do, and if it is I certainly don't want to "be there with them". If I can't trust you to do the job when I'm not looking then I can't trust you to do the job. Fortunately, if you treat people as people, they rarely betray your trust. Those that do move on soon enough anyway.

          They simply don't trust their teams to do the work to the agreed quality, timescales and spec.

          My biggest problem is encouraging my team to take breaks and not to work excessive hours. It doesn't work in anything but the short term, and I would like to work with my crew for the longer term if possible. They're fantastic people, very productive, and we have a great working environment.

          Micromanaging isn't managing, which is why any half decent manager will want to arrange skip level meetings, 360s, anonymous feedback etc. I respect and value my team, I don't fear them or what they may say to my boss, so all I've ever had back is a little constructive feedback and a steady as she goes message. I didn't set out to be a manager, it just sort of happened, so I want to stay good as a dev, but also be good as a manager - feedback helps me do that. Remember, very few people come to work with the intention of doing a crap job, even some of the PHBs.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

        Sadly my camera has failed to function since I collected my new laptop, could be a system fault, could be an incorrect BIOS setting, could be a bit of tape or could be all of the above and any other blocker I could put in. By now everyone knows my camera doesn't work and amazingly it makes absolutely no difference in meetings if they can see me picking my nose or not while listening to some Manager waffle on about blah blah blah

        1. sandman

          Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

          Personally I don't want to shame my managers with my book collection behind me. All the Gary Larson cartoon books, every Asterix book, Sandman, etc. They just couldn't compete. ;-)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

          "A bit of tape !" That's what I would do for the missus (works for customer service) if they insist on giving her a laptop (she already has her work computer at home), one of the Lenovo mini computers that can mount on the back of a monitor. I used to work for the same company (until they walked my ass out the door) and had rescued the mounting frame form the dumpster that another tech threw out, and mounted it on the desk in the guest bedroom.. Totally sweet setup (I'm a bit anal about having things set up and functional without cables running willy-nilly all over the place). Or, I would go into the BIOS and disable it, or better yet, crack that sucker open and rip the camera out of the bezel and claim that the laptop was defective.

          :-)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

        Even companies that have been doing this remote thing for a while can have a culture of "you're not green on Skype, you're clearly not working" ...

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

          Even companies that have been doing this remote thing for a while can have a culture of "you're not green on Skype, you're clearly not working" ...

          Oh there's way better metrics than that - github has tonnes of good stuff with pretty graphs, then there's the system logs, the story tracking tool, all sort of things. I've never looked at them though.

          You might well be not working right now - you could have an appointment at the GP, or needed to go to ASDA, or you could just have gone for a walk. A courtesy message to the team that you're out for a bit is nice as it saves anyone wasting time waiting for you. Take breaks. I trust you. The work will get done. I honestly believe the work will get done.

      4. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

        I have also observed that the only requests I have seen for video calls rather than just audio on Teams etc are from more senior people, both in terms of rank and age.

        I'm old, and fairly senior, and with a face made for radio. I'm completely happy not to have the cameras on, but some of my lot prefer it, so mine is often on.

        There are cultural sensitivities involved though, for instance some of my team wear headscarves to the office, but not always when at home. Mandating camera use requires that they and any female relatives that may stray into shot also wear a headscarf all day.... and its been a bit hot lately. Which is one of the main reasons I don't mandate them - mandating stuff is a dick move, the other is for the introverts who may find it uncomfortable (I know how they feel as I'm an introvert pretending to be an extrovert for the sake of his career and sadly yes that does work).

    2. You aint sin me, roit
      Pirate

      Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

      It's the endless cycle of managers having "important" meetings with other managers - and human resources - self-perpetuating "work". Might keep them busy and make them look important but has no effect on the workers.

      Now they are all too aware that we can't see them looking busy...

      Once that bubble is burst you ask what they are actually good for - and the answer is "not much".

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

      Middle managers are there to act as a brake so that things can't run out of control.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

        Middle managers are there to act as a brake so that things can't run out of control.

        FTFY

      2. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

        Middle managers are there to act as a brake so that things can't run out of control.

        Control by whom?

        Answer determines whether I up- or downvote this post.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

      In addition to realising they don't need big head offices businesses might also realise they don't need all those middle managers. Need to slim down the business for the New Normal? Keep the ones who do the work, get rid of the unproductive middle.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

        And projects will automagically come in, on time and to budget.

        I think not.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: More Middle Manager insecurity

          No, but there's a fair chance that more projects will come in closer to time and nearer the budget.

  4. ciaran

    Yes the juniors are being dumped-on again

    I entirely agree with the proposition that the seniors in a company can find space in their homes to work from home comfortably.

    When I was a junior I lived in a small apartment in Paris that was badly insulated, and I had a good lunch subsidised by the company.

    So today if I was going to buy or rent I'd need an extra space for a real desk. 1 room appartments the world over will become unsellable.

    There will be many unforseen impacts.

    Personally I'm gaining weight, not loosing it. I used to cycle to work and eat tiny lunches...

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: Yes the juniors are being dumped-on again

      I'm saving money and losing weight because I'm not spending it on travel, coffee and a huge lunch any more. I eat less and more frequently when I'm at home.

      WFH is perfect for an antisocial hermit like me.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        Re: Yes the juniors are being dumped-on again

        I am saving money for similar reasons; as for burning the calories I am lucky enough to be married to a PE coach and she keeps me moving.

    2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: Yes the juniors are being dumped-on again

      We created company cycling and running strava clubs and the competition is fierce.. therefore I am losing weight!

      Oh, and spending quite a bit on bike parts, I am on my third COVID bike chain..

    3. J27 Bronze badge

      Re: Yes the juniors are being dumped-on again

      I'm with you. I, have a desk, Herman-Miller office chair, 2 4K monitors and a desktop more powerful than the one in the office. Our juniors mostly have much worse setups. Generally a laptop of dubious quality on a table or coffee table. I feel bad about it, but I'm sure they're more anxious to get back to the office than I am. Not to mention then people who have kids, that's a whole other problem.

  5. Paul Herber Silver badge

    activated by Wi-Fi

    activated by 5G, surely.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
      Devil

      Re: activated by Wi-Fi

      But only if your core network is provided by the company that can not be named

    2. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: activated by Wi-Fi

      activated by 5G, surely.

      No! 5G causes COVID-19, as any fule nose.

  6. alex mcdonald
    Pint

    Parody pastiche of the highest order

    Bravo. I fully expect to see sizeable chunks of this in your leaked memo articles in 2022.

  7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I think

    this piece must have been written by a resentful and bitter BOFH, forced to prowl the empty and decaying offices while maintaining the IT infrastructure that makes working from home possible.

    With no victims to relive the tensions of each day full of "my cam has stopped working" emails, he resorts into hacking the conference streams with video of the lusers activities during the previous evening and then watching the resulting bunfight..... but this brings no where near the satifaction of the open window above the carpark or the none appearance of the lift at the open lift doors.

    Soon the effects of being the only person in the building begin their dreadful toll with our BOFH starting to build traps for unwary janitors, with the result the seemingly empty building starts getting a dire repution, only to be hurried past at a run, with salvation being the at the nearest pub.

    But even that is infected with stories of the hagged and pasty faced spectre that appears at 3pm on a friday demanding drinks......

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: I think

      I do sense satire. In fact I don't think the writer is from the year 2022 at all.

  8. eionmac

    india?

    In my cousin's day as a banker some time ago. "working from home" meant a repatriation to UK from India to allow "breeding time" with wife, about every 3 years one got a 12 month 'at home". His last home period was in 1960s (12 years or so after partition) when he left to settle in Australia, with his very pretty local acquired wife.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: india?

      Hang on, are you saying your cousin had a wife stranded at home in the UK, with only very rare conjugal visits to keep the relationship going (for either of them), and then (perhaps not unsurprisingly) he found a new partner in India, seeing as he was, after all, living there for most of the time?

      Probably the best for the cousin (I doubt that any long distance relationship could really survive such long periods of separation), but at the same time I can only hope that things ended well for the stranded original wife as well: perhaps, I hope, she had someone to attend to her garden regularly, in the absence of "the man of the house"?

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: india?

        That's not what "gardening leave" means! (that, instead of gardening, you leave)

  9. Fazal Majid

    Company culture matters

    I suspect WFH can simply not be grafted onto a company culture not initially designed around it, unlike Automattic (makers of Wordpress), who sold their expensive San Francisco office a couple of years ago because no one was using it.

  10. naive

    It could work out if love comes from two sides

    Having worked from home for 3 months, I noticed that it might be worth to accept a little pay cut when allowed to WFH, since it saves considerable amounts of money.

    No gas bills, less car wear implying potential maintenance costs, things can be combined more easily.

    WFH maybe different for other people, but as a society we would benefit if we stopped spending significant amounts of time just to commute to work.

    Giving employees the legal right to WFH, in case the profession allows it, would be an intelligent way to reduce CO2 emissions.

    And if this generation is not able to shed the idea. " if you are not there, you don't work", I am sure the next one will.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: It could work out if love comes from two sides

      > WFH maybe different for other people

      Well, there are professions which can't WFH (like medical professions, construction workers, cooks, bus/truck/taxi drivers, store employees, etc.). The only professions really able to work from home are those doing abstract things using computers, which might be a huge majority here at El Reg, but actually are a vanishingly small part in the world as a whole. Some other professions can function at reduced efficiency in a WFH environment (schools come to mind), but a majority of professions require you leave your home.

      My point is this is a very localized problem, only affecting our small subset of professions. Most workers can't reasonably WFH.

      1. Nifty Bronze badge

        Re: It could work out if love comes from two sides

        Localised in time too maybe. There was a time when the majority of work was done very near home - pre mechanisation farming. Or the Bavarian cuckoo clock industry- farmers in Winter. Even today art and craft work is often done in a workshop at home. Mass commuting began with big central offices and corporate bureaucracy. Conveniently, mass public transport and mass car production followed.

        What appears in history as a result of technological and social change - mass commuting - can disappear equally quickly.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: It could work out if love comes from two sides

          I think commuting started with industrialisation, the workers commuted by foot to the dark, satanic mills. As did a few paper pushers.

        2. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: It could work out if love comes from two sides

          > There was a time when the majority of work was done very near home

          Mostly by necessity, since you could only go so far by foot and horses were very expensive.

          Anyway, you seem to forget that while some tasks are indeed location independent, others require moving to a specific place: Construction work has to be done somewhere, not necessarily anywhere near your home, and surgeons operating on their kitchen table usually end behind bars...

          Some professions need to commute, because they either need to use non-local resources, or work on non-local tasks.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: It could work out if love comes from two sides

        The small subset of professions are very largely those commuting excessive distances to work in large city centre offices. Reduce their commuting and there's a big pay-off for the environment.

        Let's also distinguish between working from home as opposed to working at home. For instance owner/operator taxi drivers obviously don't work at home but they may well work from home.

        In this context I've previously mentioned my daughter; working in clinical trials she worked from home, sometimes at home but also spending a lot of time visiting the hospitals where the trials were being conducted. The office was only visited every few weeks. It was a hundred or more miles away but the hospitals were relatively local.

    2. Is It Me

      Re: It could work out if love comes from two sides

      One thing to consider, is the costs of working from home will vary with the seasons for most people.

      In the UK in winter the heating bills will go up considerably, my heating comes on for a little bit in the morning for house to be comfortable to wash and dress then goes off until shortly before I would get home from work.

      If I am working from home come winter the heating will be on all day.

      With similar issues for places that need cooling to be comfortable in summer.

  11. logicalextreme Bronze badge

    Serendipitous

    I was just now trying to find statistics on how many people could feasibly work from home in the UK (not had much success).

    You have to wonder how much harder some countries have been hit by the pandemic as a result of unnecessary office work. That would be a bastard to try and estimate, but it can't have not played a part.

    Unfortunately I can see counterarguments running along the lines of less offices = less need for shops, cafés, lunch places, pubs = worse for "the economy", spewed from the same mouths that waffle on about "creating jobs" as if creating more work for the sake of it is a good thing.

    EDIT: yep, counterargument present and correct in the letter.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Serendipitous

      > as if creating more work for the sake of it is a good thing

      It is - That's how a nation makes money! If 1 working citizen earns you $1, then 50 million working citizens are worth a $50 million...

      1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

        Re: Serendipitous

        Okay then, replace "work" with "money" and…nope, I don't think that's worth creating just for the sake of it either.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Serendipitous

          > Okay then, replace "work" with "money" and…nope, I don't think that's worth creating just for the sake of it either.

          Money not worth creating, even for the sake of itself??????

          Oh my, I see where your misgivings about the way the world works might originate...

          1. Androgynous Cow Herd

            Re: Serendipitous

            In 2020, most "Money" is fiat and is actually more a shared belief system than a reflection of value or quality.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Serendipitous

      If you're willing to take American analysis of their situation, check out this podcast from the University of Chicago. They analyze how much of the economy can work from home, what that part is, and how it varies geographically within the U.S.

      In terms of a decision on what is good, it's very tricky to calculate. A GDP approach which counts basically how much money is spent is widely regarded as insufficient, even by the people who came up with GDP all those decades ago. However, since it's easy to calculate, it has become the de facto measurement to watch. Some countries, including New Zealand and Bhutan, have created government departments to come up with a way of evaluating other things that aren't as easily calculated and then calculate them to create a value for the country's activity, but it's not done by very many countries and each one is virtually guaranteed to do it in a different and incompatible way. Simply driving consumption is clearly a shallow and partially ineffective method of improving people's lives. Not valuing jobs, on the other hand, will also be ineffective.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Serendipitous

      less offices = less need for shops, cafés, lunch places, pubs = worse for "the economy"

      People will still eat, they'll just buy stuff in different places. It might re-open shuttered shops on housing estates or provide a market for sandwich vans.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Executive double-speak

    Had an all-hands call this week. Question about WFH came up. The executive said our metrics indicate people are being more productive than before. To avoid over-working the employees, they are expediting the return to the office.

    If the employee is okay with it (not everyone is), and the company gets more productivity, and the company can save office space....what it the problem??? Oh, right. The problem is management 'managing' by counting butts in chairs, not by looking at productivity. They are worried if there is too much WFH that their expensive MBC* degree will not be needed.

    The fact of the matter is... When commute time is factored in, the employee is actually putting LESS of their personal time in to work. That gives a bit more to the employer, and everyone comes out ahead.

    * Masters of Butt Counting

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Executive double-speak

      Oh... we must work at the same place...or everywhere's the same...

    2. AK565

      Re: Executive double-speak

      Working from home literally adds 4 hours to my day EVERY workday. 3 hour commute plus 1 hour of extra sleep as I don't have to do as much to 'get ready' in the morning. I also save about $400 per month in commuting and lunch expenses.

  13. cornetman Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    That was a good read: well thought out and insightful as well as laugh out loud funny in places. :)

    I'm one of the few people in our company that *hated* working from home and still do. Too many distractions at home (including the rather annoying cat) which is a problem for me because I am easily distracted. Partly because the schools are out, the vast majority of our dev team are working from home and they prefer that in the main. That means the office is quiet and practically empty: perfect for me.

    We had moved to the dreaded open plan organisation some years ago. I do certainly miss my little cube, with a space to put up my big white board with which I used to do most of my thinking.

    I wonder sometimes if manglement really understand what developer need to get work done. They seem to try to thwart us at every opportunity.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      > if manglement really understand what developer need to get work done

      Well, developers are people who can, out of nowhere, create programs able to do anything (there is a delay for miracles). They create those programs out of thin air, so all they need is a computer and the vague and incomplete spec sheet out of which they're supposed to guess your exact wishes and preferences...

  14. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Real life

    There are good reasons why most people far prefer to socialise with friends in person rather than simply opening a beer at home and chatting with their mates via video call. Even when there is no overt interaction, most also prefer to go to (e.g.) a cinema with a friend or friends rather than alone. People often find that they are happier carrying out DIY or housework etc. if there is someone present to talk to, even if that person is not assisting with the work. There are similar reasons why working at the office in the physical presence of collegues makes for a better & more productive work environment than working alone at home.

    1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

      Re: Real life

      * for some people. I think the option should be available to anybody that wants to do it, and before the outbreak it wasn't generally available to people that needed to do it.

    2. Christopher Lane
      Thumb Down

      Re: Real life

      ...yes, but at home, I can choose to mix with the cat, the wife, my mate or whoever else...In the office I 'have' to mix with - urgh - "Team Members"...

  15. mevets

    Socialize? With nerds?

    Six months after you left your last job, how often and how many of your former 'family' do you keep contact with? Real contact, not imaginary mates on some virtual playground.

    The social aspect of work is a myth, or better more akin to Stockholm Syndrome than actual camaraderie.

    Remote working is a nightmare to institutional sub-organizations like HR, IT (or is it IS, I can't keep track), and facilities. They are all mainly redundant; or greatly diminished, in these models; thus they type articles like this. When inventory specialists rise to the 3-letter-club; first thing they do is quash remote work (see IBM, Yahoo!). It doesn't help to do this, but it does ensure useless departments are maintained.

    Remote employees aren't really employees; they are more like freelance individual contributors. That isn't a bad thing, unless your business model is based on indentured workers, but requires a different organization than the Peter Pan school of Management can produce.

    Like the article states, lots of companies will back away from this commitment, since the entire decision making infrastructure are still trying to re-introduce the whip & stopwatch into the work environment. The ones that recognize that they can internally be a reflection of the supply chain they belong to externally will enjoy eating the losers lunch. Remotely.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Socialize? With nerds?

      "The social aspect of work is a myth, or better more akin to Stockholm Syndrome than actual camaraderie."

      I beg to differ in two ways. First, one can make friends at work. I am an introvert, and I don't see people all the time. I don't expect that, when I leave my current job, I will be friends with everyone I know. However, there are two people I'll probably stay in contact with because we've talked for long periods, have similar interests, live in the same area, and are similar in age. I have met people at previous jobs that I stay in contact with as well. As a proportion of the people I know well from those jobs, it's very small, but those are two or three people that I can talk to from time to time and make life slightly more fun.

      However, my main point of disagreement is with your limit on what "social" means. It can mean making long-lasting friendships, but usually, it doesn't. What it means for me is the productivity of a community of likeminded people and organic conversations. Consider two examples, which happen to be the people who work closest to me in the office:

      There's one guy who works on my team. He writes a program and I write a set of libraries that are used by that program. I don't write that program, and my libraries are available for use by other programs, but the primary user is his group. For that reason, we often coordinate features in my libraries based on what he is going to use them for and I test new functionality at times by using his program. If I have a question about how to work it, I can walk over to him and ask. Similarly, he can ask me about details of the libraries or report possible bugs in a few seconds. Now, we can still do that, but we don't. Our company uses Teams, and we do have a consistent chat going on. Still, it's a slower process. I have a question for him, and go to our chat. His status is set to "do not disturb". I don't know if he really means that, if he forgot to turn it off, or if he turned it on by accident. Do I send him a message now or wait? In the office, I can decide this by walking over and see if he looks busy. On chat, it's hard. Similarly, if one of us sends a message but the other one doesn't see it for a while, we can spend time waiting for a response that will be delayed. In a conversation, one of us can inform the other that we're busy or we don't know, and they can go find the answer in documentation without waiting for a response that won't be helpful.

      Now, consider the person who works on the other side of me. We don't work on the same team. We don't even work on similar things. We joined the company around the same time though, so we've talked from time to time. Every once in a while, one of us will stop by the other and see how the weekend was. In the month before we started WFH, she was trying to find an efficient way of performing a specific type of calculation, which I helped her do. I was trying to set up a complicated build system, and she helped me with that. While our conversations are primarily not work-related, that's two lots of productivity that we got by being near to each other and talking. Now that we're at home, we may send a "How are things going" type message from time to time (actually not that often; I should do that now), but we're certainly not asking each other about work issues because we don't work on the same team.

      In neither of these cases will I be likely to have a lasting out-of-work friendship with these people. Occasional conversation with them can be pleasant, and it can make our work more productive. That's what social discussion in the workplace can be. If you've never experienced it, fair enough. If you prefer WFH in all cases, I'm happy for you to do it. In fact, I wasn't all that sad about the change of scenery at the beginning, though it's gotten boring. But just because you haven't seen it, that doesn't make it a myth.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Socialize? With nerds?

      > Six months after you left your last job, how often and how many of your former 'family' do you keep contact with?

      Half of my current friends are people I met at work (some of them 20+ years ago). So yes, there can be social interaction at work (fortunately, since a vast majority of people spends most of their life there).

      That been said, I agree most colleagues are just acquaintances, people you haven't chosen, and with whom your only tie is sharing a common professional goal. Still, humans are (mostly) social animals, and do better in groups, even temporary ones.

    3. Stork Silver badge

      Re: Socialize? With nerds?

      Even if your work colleagues are not close friends, there is still a place for aquaintances. As moderately extrovert, I certainly feel better if I have had small pleasant chitchats than if I have not.

      I also think it is easier to bounce ideas off others informally if you meet face to face.

  16. John Deeb

    "designed documents to be seen on A3 pape

    "designed documents to be seen on A3 paper"

    The article must be satire right?

    Nice to bring in the Yahoo example and in part IBM. Two large behemoths famous for losing focus and struggling to create some new coherent an d profitable focus. Herding people into offices and commutes are equivalent to "working noises" and do not replace engagement, mission and reward. It will not drive any tech company yet provide the appearance of one! After the hype of massive collaboration the pendulum with swing towards a focus on autonomous work: manage your own, deliver your own goals. It will be done not just from home but many flexible locations and forms of scheduling will arise. There's a bit too much of a meeting culture where 80% is meant to replace a lack of social bonding or even meaning in the life of attendees. Lets not kid ourselves.

  17. osakajin Bronze badge

    Pay me for my utility usage or I will arrive each day at the office and if you dont provide a work space then i will return home and enjoy the day off.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      When working in the office do you get your commuting costs paid?

      1. osakajin Bronze badge

        I cycle. My petrol costs for a bike are 10 a month. A colleage walks to work. So yeah I am worse off.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I agree with a lot of the points in this article. Lots of tax incentives for companies to house people in buildings. In the tech world having you live at the office seems to be a big incentive with Apple & Googles campuses. The collaboration and peer pressure to keep working is huge. There are also nefarious reasons for employees wanting to go to work:

    - Can goof off more with meetings and watercooler talk

    - Can have affairs

    - Can get free meals and steal office supplies

    This is a blip in the road and we will return back to our car and train commutes soon.

  19. Joe Gurman

    It would be so easy to pick apart so many of these points....

    ....but I'll touch on just a few: the real estate b.s. Most major pension plans (and there aren't that many, except in the public sector, any more in the US) invest in a broad selection of investment types, of which real estate is only one. Having learned the lesson of a lack of diversity in the 2007 - 2011 recession, the pension funds are as likely to hold major chunks of blue-chip investments such as Apple (scoff all you want, wireheads, it's been solid gold for the last 20 years) in addition to real estate, bonds, and so on and so forth. In particular, the most prominent of the corporate entities to say, "Yeah, up to 50% of you could be working remotely long-term" is Google, which is single-handedly responsible for the destruction of affordable housing in some cities (e.g. San Francisco) and one of several that did so in Silicon Valley. Nothing the large tech firms could do or produce would provide more human benefit than spreading their employee base over the entire country, so the inflated costs of office and residential space could start relaxing to something affordable in Bay Area communities and elsewhere the outfits have large presences.

    A second one (sorry): the silly buggers business about people not working well electronically. I'm willing ti believe that some people to better person-to-person and some better remotely (many of us geeks, for instance). It's _the managers'_ to monitor how those interactions are doing and advise, plan, and seek help for those who ar enot doing well in one environment or the other — or workout ways to split the employees' time between them, rather than letting employees flounder.

    And aside from the fact that working from home _can_ be (not in all cases, for all people) family-friendly, the corporation might just reap the benefits of employee loyalty for working with e.g. new parents (who want it) to maximize their time around the new arrival (or even older kids). Nah, don't consider human resources, you fools, just be a "manager" and sit in the C-suite — at your peril.

    And the "only wealthier, older employees have dedicated home workspaces" business is often a canard, but when it isn't, rent space in coworking facilities remote from the corporate offices but close to employees' homes (where they might even be able to walk or biker to work).

    Finally, the one example I know of where telework vs. "Everybody where I can see them" has been studied quantitatively is the US Patent Office, which found that its examiners were something like 10% more efficient working from home — so much so that they didn't (*gasp*) need to put in 40 hours a week to get their quota plus 10% done. Of course many work environments will require more collaboration than patent examiners do — but that point is to manage for success, not blind uniformity.

    [Disclaimer: I worked for a US government outfit that offered multiple telework options, each employee needing a plan agreed to with their supervisor. Since I worked best without interruption (from coworkers wanting to chat, managers wanting.... who knows what, but nothing productive, and random phone calls), working from a desk in my bedroom (otherwise unoccupied during work hours), I worked up to 50% time from home and was both happier and more productive. YMMV.]

    1. wjake

      Re: It would be so easy to pick apart so many of these points....

      The one item that many people cite as a possible Work Near Home solution are these "co-working facilities". Given the immediate cause of teleworking this year, isn't a "co-working facility" just a space to spread viruses to 3-4 different offices, instead of just your own?

      Disclaimer: I have teleworked for about 8 weeks of the current mess, and am back in the office because there are some things that can't be done remotely.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It would be so easy to pick apart so many of these points....

      Completely with you until you got to the USPO as a good example. Of course if it led to them refusing more rubbish patents....

    3. AK565

      Re: It would be so easy to pick apart so many of these points....

      Points for the use of "wirehead".

      Several times when I worked in a corporate environment I came in to work during severe snowstorms. The place was a ghost town. The phone hardly rang bec most those who'd be calling were home. Afterward my bosses would ask me how I got so much done. I always gave the same answer, "I wasn't interrupted." The answer usually left them befuddled.

  20. Stork Silver badge

    Don't discount the value of leaving your workplace.

    My wife and I run a tourism rental and live in the property too. It is very hard to switch off and relax, you can always see what you should be doing.

    During the spring we had a month where we did not touch work email during the weekend - we would have gone bonkers otherwise. I think there is a reason most societies through history spent time on religious activities.

  21. Retro Man
    Meh

    We all got sent home end of March with all the gear we would need to work from home.

    Our IT department really steeped up to the mark and it went really well.

    Technical support productivity actually went up, new terminals commisioned, customers didn't know the difference and we didn't tell them. The carbon footprint went down as about 110 of us didn't need to commute any more. Management were overjoyed, what a success this was.

    Didn't last long. Managemnt couldn't stride around the office looking at their vast empire, couldn't check on who was talking to who, couldn't feel "In Charge". Big office with only Logistics people in, hmmmm we need to remedy this. Everyone in back in . . . . Even though 90% of us are more productive at home and are probably more connected than we are at the office, we are now required to go back in.

    I'd like to think this is due to the Upper Management being old fashioned and stuck in the 1980's, but I'm not so sure. I've a feeling it's a control thing . . . . . .

    1. AK565

      I'm going with it being a control thing.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone at El Reg let Simon know...

    Can someone at El Reg let Simon Sharwood know that Verity Stob's hacked his web login?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So who has worked from home the longest continually?

    2001 to date, 19 years.

    Anyone beat that?

  24. DrXym Silver badge

    "Working from home is a privilege not a right"

    Most companies say this and it is one of the first things they rescind when they want to make life shit for their workforce.

    IBM and Yahoo both did it and for the same reasons - to make working there suck so badly that people quit which is much cheaper than making them redundant. Of course the flipside is that only the upwardly mobile people quit and all the deadwood and oldtimers cling on tenaciously so the whole operation goes down the tubes.

    1. AK565

      Re: "Working from home is a privilege not a right"

      Exactly, and the most upwardly mobile tend to be the first out the door. And then management is mystified as to why quality and quantity of work completed drops. I'd like to say "pretends to be mystified", but all too often the puzzlement appeared genuine.

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