back to article Google extends homeworking until this time next year – as Microsoft finds WFH is terrific... for Microsoft

Google has gone all-in on its work-from-home policy, telling techies they don’t need to return to the office until July 2021 at the earliest. The decision came in an email to employees from CEO Sundar Pichai. "To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we'll be extending our global voluntary work-from-home option through …

  1. logicalextreme


    My productivity is up but I still work precisely the number of hours stated in my contract, and refuse to do anything during silly hours. The differences are that I'm a lot more flexible with when I start (it's no longer consistently half an hour after the latest time I'm allowed to start; no fscking around with buses and sleep problems and my own incompetence) and how long/how many breaks I take, and have also gone from three screens (in the office) down to just my laptop screen (at home).

    It was immediately obvious that despite the reduction in screen space (Windows 10's window manager is so screwed up by now that I had to Alt-Tab this much even with multiple screens, due to various inexplicable behaviours such as opening the newest window into the middle of the already-opened ones) I was actually focusing, which really wasn't happening much in the office.

    I've got more free time, more money, I'm happier, my cat's happier. I'd like to see it become normal to offer this to anybody who wants it, but a lot of people have been saying this for years and we've already seen El Reg's satirical missive from the year 2022.

    It's interesting to see that Silicon Valley workers seem to be having the opposite reaction, though.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Anecdotally

      It depends on what your job is. I've worked almost exclusively remotely for over a decade, as a contractor/consultant, and what my particular job is depends on whether my being remote helps or not. That's my preference, and companies stopped wanting to pay for weekly travel and expenses to get me on site, so I'm fine with it regardless but even though my work (obviously) can be done 100% remotely doesn't mean that's always the best way for it to be done.

      If I'm doing something mostly independently and don't need input from others much or at all then obviously it is a big help. But doing things like gathering requirements from stakeholders I don't know and who aren't really aware of why they should care about the project I'm working on can be challenging. Following up with such people in person makes that sort of thing a lot smoother and easier on both sides.

      1. logicalextreme

        Re: Anecdotally

        Yes, I do think wandering around an office is much handier for requirements gathering. Admittedly at the moment I'm enjoying a job where that isn't part of it for once!

    2. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Anecdotally

      I agree with you. I don't suffer a reduction in screen space though, seeing as I have a 43" 3840x2160 monitor.

      I personally have been really enjoying it. I don't miss commuting at all, and it's nice to be able to catch up on a bit of house work in my break, so I have even more free time after I'm actually done with work.

      Then again, I'm not alone, as I sit next to my wife who's also working from home, so I have company. It'd probably be different with a total lack of face to face contact throughout the day.

      I also live in a house with a garden, which also very much helps. I don't think I could get much done if I lived in a city with constant noise, and I appreciate being able to step outside for a bit and stretch one's legs during the day.

    3. Ogi

      Re: Anecdotally

      I personally love working from home. I have a better setup, higher quality monitors than the bargain basement Dells provided, and a lovely mechanical keyboard that is a pleasure to type on, but would drive my co-workers crazy if I used it in the office.

      I am more productive when I work from home. I have lower costs (so my "take home" pay has gone up on the same salary). I have less wear and tear on my car. I am less distracted by random questions from people just walking up to my desk, and I avoid the office politics. I can concentrate on my work, and yes I do work longer.

      That is because from my perspective, work always started the moment I left the house, and ended the moment I got back (because I can't do anything else while commuting, it is effectively "work time"). By not having to commute, I added at least 2 hours a day to my life, every day, and that is a huge extra chunk of time. Even if some days I work longer than 9-6, I am still overall in benefit of time.

      A few times I got pinged at odd hours (e.g. 10pm on a Friday) or on a Sunday about some work issue, so I did end up having to make it clear that I still have "me time", and that outside of working hours, or on weekends, I will not respond unless we agreed out of hours work/on call beforehand.

      It even helps the environment to not have masses of people shifting themselves to and fro every day of the year just to sit in a different room.

      If you think about it, the whole concept of commuting just so you sit in a different location to the one you live in is really stupid and wasteful. Yes, some jobs require physical presence, and in the days of mechanical factory work, you had to be on the factory floor to do your job. However a good chunk of our industry is now virtual, and commuting was just a hold over from before ("We always did it that way, so that is why we do it now").

      I like to think that with this realisation, there would be a mass switch to remote work for those industries that can (and it also reduces the amount of traffic during the commute for those who do have to go to work, giving them benefits too).

      However it is not looking good. Despite admitting that productivity is up, costs are down, and internal polls showing the majority of the company prefer remote working, my company has started pressuring people to come back to the office, so we can sit in socially distanced perspex cubicles due to Covid.

      I guess senior managers like to be able to walk around "their estate" and survey worker bees in rows doing work, more than they care about the costs and drawbacks of doing so. I guess it is an ego thing, either that or they have to justify the costs of the (empty for months now) office they spent big money on to the board.

      Hence now considering finding a different company that is more open to full teleworking. Is there somewhere specific where I can find companies who only do full remote work? I know from the news of about FB/Twitter for example, but no idea if they are the only ones.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Anecdotally

      "It's interesting to see that Silicon Valley workers seem to be having the opposite reaction, though."

      I suspect it's more to do with the shitty employment rights in the US and people wanting and needing to be seen to be in before the boss, still be there when the boss leaves and seeming to be busy at all times. Actual productivity doesn't normally enter the equation.

      1. alex mcdonald
        Thumb Up

        Re: Anecdotally

        Attendaholics are very common in SV.

      2. logicalextreme

        Re: Anecdotally

        Yep, I was thinking of expounding upon that at the end but the comment was long enough already. Pre-Trump I'd been toying with the idea of moving out there at some point but the whole work culture sounds like it's closer on average to the 1950s than the 2050s.

        In addition to that, the sorts of people that gave those responses, that are hanging around on what's effectively a unified workplace Facebook, are probably fairly into their whole workplace culture. I've worked with good people before that I've wanted to hang with socially after work, and even kept in touch with one or two, but work's very much a necessity to support my personal life and it's delineated as such.

    5. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Anecdotally

      I think your attitude towards shifting from office to home work depends a lot on what your office and home are like. I preferred the office, but that's mostly because the office for me was rather nice. We had separate offices, meaning little sound pollution or barriers to impromptu meetings, and my commute was a relatively short walk which I quite liked unless it was raining particularly heavily. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that people like home working a lot more when their office is in a really expensive place to live, meaning long commutes, or where the office involves a lot of distractions or is in some other way hampering productivity and enjoyment. Similarly, I'd expect working from home to be less popular for those who live with others who are frequently disruptive or for those who have other things to do in the area around their office.

      1. logicalextreme

        Re: Anecdotally

        Yeah, the choice needs to be there. I'm lucky to have a home in a quiet area without resident annoyances, and I'm only twenty or thirty minutes away by bus but it's a bus. And I can actually shop in the local shops now, which wasn't really possible before.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WFH is also good

    preparation for the day you say 'Sod that for a game of soldiers, I'm retiring'.

    Much less of a shock to your system from not having the commute. No Office Politics to contend with.

    I worked from home for most of my last 15 years of employment. It was far easier to do something else entirely when faced with a tricky problem. You'd be amazed at how theraputic a little weeding or potting on can be. you can clear your mind so that finding the solution to that problem can almost leap off the screen at you.

    This blissful life is only as good as your manager allows it to be. If they insist in having 'virtual meetings' three times a day to discuss progress, you end up doing a lot less.

    Lockdown was also a lot easier to handle. Well, it was for me until my old boss retired and the new one is a micromanager. He treats us like Lawyers who have to record everything they do for billing. Every 15 minutes of every day goes into the time report. I've decided that I'm done and I'm going to hand in my notice before froday. Our small department (6 people) are all considering retirement or quitting. IT is not as if we don't have the work but that we can't work for him.

    I'm posting this AC as I have a good idea that our new boss reads this site. If he does then perhaps he'll realise that he is a totall asshole but there again he probably knows that already.

    1. Arctic fox

      Re: WFH is also good

      Sorry to hear that your new manager is that type. I am very fortunate in that my line-boss is very hands off. He's not lazy, he just does not belong to the harassment school of management. He knows perfectly well that I do my job and he appreciates very much the fact that I do not feel the need to contact him several times a day just to show him that I am doing something. Hope your new boss learns to calm down at some stage :).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WFH is also good

      In my first few years of being a line manager, I struggled to "let go" of pieces of work, keep my fingers out of the cookie jar and allow my staff to just get on with it. Now, a decade down the line, I'm more relaxed about handing work over to someone else. (I suspect part of it is also that I'm better at how I hand work over to others)

      Some people, however, never manage to make that leap of faith and insist on micromanaging every task their subordinates undertake. The problem is that by doing that the overall efficiency of the team decreases.

      In the nicest possible way, your job as a manager is to get the most amount of work out of the staff you have (and that includes yourself!). You don't do this by bullying them, making them work 80 hour weeks or micromanaging them. You do this by giving the right task to the right person and give that person the right tools to do the job. You also give them your support & backing and when the job is done, step back and direct the praise onto them.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: WFH is also good

      "you can clear your mind so that finding the solution to that problem can almost leap off the screen at you."

      I eventually came to the conclusion that it's the screen that's the problem; innumerable problems were solved within 15 minutes on the journey home. Occasionally the solution would occur to me just whilst walking across the car park. I worked out that if you're actually sitting looking at a screen what's on the screen takes up most of your mental resources. Take away the screen and your mind still has the whole of the complex problem lodged in it for a while and you're able to look at it in a more general way as a background task.

      1. GrumpenKraut
        Thumb Up

        Re: WFH is also good

        That, a thousand times. Along these lines, I find that the more structured of my programs are those planned with paper and pencil only.

      2. hmv

        Re: WFH is also good

        I always found that walking across the office and explaining the problem to somebody else was a good way of realising what the problem was; now I'm WfH, I'm explaining the problem to the Cthulhu plushy which seems to work just as well. And I'm not disturbing anyone.

        I would say it makes me seem odd, but people think I'm odd anyway, so no real downside.

        1. Charlie van Becelaere

          Re: WFH is also good

          So long as Cthulhu doesn't talk back or make useful suggestions, you're probably fine.

          As my Dad has said to me many times, "I know the voices in my head aren't real, but sometimes they have such good ideas."

        2. The Indomitable Gall

          Re: WFH is also good

          Disturbing no-one? The mere thought that there exists a plushy form of the source of all human misery disturbs me, for one!

      3. Rich 11

        Re: WFH is also good

        This is why I used to disappear from the office three or four times a day when things were hectic, to take a ten-minute walk around the block, look at the trees, listen to the birds, etc. Usually something useful would have popped into my mind by the time I got back to my desk, or at the very least I'd be less likely to tell the next [redacted] who popped his head around the door to redact away off.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: WFH is also good

          I wonder if that applies the "slackers" who keep popping out for smoke breaks too? Maybe they are actually the most productive people in the office and should be applauded rather then whinged about because they take "extra breaks". More productive and shorter lived. Win Win for humanity :-)

          EDIT: Aaaaaand, I should scrolled just that little bit more before posting :-)

        2. The Indomitable Gall

          Re: WFH is also good

          I always felt stared at and disapproved of when I took an afternoon constitutional out of the office to try to get my head back in the game. But I did it anyway, as I knew it was helping, whatever the other drones thought of it.

      4. logicalextreme

        Re: WFH is also good

        Aye. The majority of the brainwaves I've had in my career have been outside smoking a cigarette. I had to continue going outside and walking around on a similar schedule after quitting so that I could continue to harness that benefit (and also still get the exercise of running up and down the stairs).

  3. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    ... welcome to the machine

    E. M. Forster's Machine? I actually read it while in lockdown. s/Machine/Technology/g and it becomes eerily prescient. Self-isolation, zoom, webinars, and avoiding human contact - all envisaged in 1909... Recommended.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ... welcome to the machine

      Have an upvote for the recommendation - I'm on a bit of a 'dystopian SF' kick at the moment, and that looks like it'll fit the bill rather nicely.

      1. ibmalone

        Re: ... welcome to the machine

        In a way we're all on a bit of a dystopian SF kick at the moment.

        1. The Indomitable Gall

          Re: ... welcome to the machine

          Yeah, a dystopian sci-fi kick in the teeth.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ... welcome to the machine

      Also have an upvote from me, an incredibly prescient short story.

    3. UriGagarin

      Re: ... welcome to the machine

      Hawkwind has an Album based on that novella. Couple of good tracks too.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm currently living on my own (I'm not self isolating) and the working from home is becoming quite depressing. Working, eat & resting in the same room is very monotonous. Then you spend hours a day staring at the screen in Zoom/Teams meetings which soon become very tiring.

    I'm not a sociable person but the lack of variety in the day does start to take its toll.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      re: lack of variety

      You have identified the problem. now you need to do something about it.

      What about a pet. Dogs love being taken for a walk. Cats just think of themselves and crap everywhere.

      What about growing some veggies/herbs? Even a windowsill can provide a lot of variety.

      Go out for a walk each and every day.

      Staring at the screen is mentally exhausting so limit your screen time. Stretch every hour. Question the people calling the meeting. Is it really needed? If you don't contribute to them then they are a waste of time.

      Have something else to do in your life and expecially something non IT related. I've rebuilt a 1963 Triumph T120 this lockdown. Just an hour or so each day was more than enough to take my mind off work.

      I got it on the road last week. Fantastic. I have a 1954 Vincent Black Shadow waiting for a top end overhaul. Thankfully, I have a well insulated garage/workshop in which to while away the hours.

      1. S4qFBxkFFg

        Re: re: lack of variety

        "Cats just think of themselves and crap everywhere."

        That is untrue; we have two cats, and I must refute: they just think of themselves and vomit everywhere.

        (In all seriousness, one of them is genuinely attached to his human flatmates, not just at feeding time; the other has her moments, but often conforms to the stereotype well.)

      2. Rich 11

        Re: re: lack of variety

        I have a 1954 Vincent Black Shadow

        You jammy, jammy bastard...

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: Vincent Black Shadow

          Lucky? Not really. Just very fortunate.

          I inherited it from my Father. He bought it new with a sidecar. That's in the shed at the bottom of the garden. Restoring that is next years project.

          1. Rich 11

            Re: Vincent Black Shadow

            I trust you will takes his ashes* for a well-earned spin once the sidecar is ready.

            *And if he's not ash, well, there there may still be options if you're willing to put in the spadework...

    2. hmv

      One of the most important things I did at the start of this was to make a resolution to "walk to work" in the morning - every day without fail I'd at the very least walk around the block before starting work.

    3. Aladdin Sane

      Are you sure you're not me? I've come to the conclusion that I'm no longer working from home, I'm living at work. The lack of separation is tortuous.

  5. A K Stiles

    Words and meaning

    Google's words are more encouraging than MS's, though they're obviously in different contexts (employee comms vs. performance reporting).

    At least my current employer seems to be honestly caring about how staff are coping; priority one - make sure you and yours are okay; priority two - work hours that suit your situation, but do not work extra hours just to "get it done".

    Now, if I can just persuade them to reduce the number of Teams meetings that get scheduled...

    1. getHandle

      Re: Words and meaning

      I think we last heard from senior management in May... Not a problem but not very reassuring for more junior members of staff. All they get is me interrupting them a couple of times a week!

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    There used to be stories about Googlers sleeping in camper vans in the car park and using the office facilities for everything else. I wonder how they cope with having no other homes to go to.

    1. Rich 11

      I expect they're now competing with the racoons for good crapping spots.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      AIUI, physically working at Google is still an option, so the trailer trash can carry on as "normal".

      Although speaking of weird lifestyles, I wonder if all those doomsday preppers are holed up in their bunkers for the duration and how many have realised they were not as prepared as they thought they were?

      1. Aladdin Sane

        Those are mostly the same folk who cite defence against a tyrannical government as reason for owning guns...

  7. Reg Reader 1

    Move at away from your work computer

    I've been loving working from home, which is new to my employer and pandemic caused. Something our employer did was send each of us home with our work desktop and monitors. This way in the morning I log into that and at the end of the day log out and walk the ~20 feet to my laptop for personal use.

    I mention this because above commenters have mentioned never getting away from their work. You need to get away from your work. Once in a while you can put a big drive on and put in extra time but people burnout when that becomes a way of life.

  8. Laura Kerr

    Meetings, bloody meetings

    "Now, if I can just persuade them to reduce the number of Teams meetings that get scheduled..."

    Aye. That's the big bugbear. When lockdown came, we went from office-based to full remote working literally overnight. The number of 'stand-ups', 'catch-ups', 'workshops' and whatnots transmogrified from a minor irritation to a major problem within a couple of weeks. When the manglement did a survey about how well we were all adapting, many of us pointed out that we could do some work or talk about doing some work, but not both at the same time. Meeting discipline was very poor, too. I think it was because a lot of folk weren't used to remote working. It didn't bother me, as I've done it on and off for the best part of twenty years.

    To give the manglement full credit, they clamped down on it, and meetings are now back down to sensible levels. One slightly odd side-effect has been that we've got to know people better than when we were all traipsing into London each day and sitting at adjacent desks. All in all, I much prefer it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I cannot imagine the horrors of a youngster who has just moved to London, lives in a crappy freezing house share with no lounge, and knowing no-one, having to spend the whole of their life in their bedroom.

    1. Joe Montana

      Well for the price of a crappy freezing house share in london, you could get a reasonable apartment or even a full house somewhere else in the country. If you're working from home you have the opportunity to move out of london and go somewhere cheaper.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Yep, something I mentioned here back when lockdown was still in it's first weeks. There'll be a LOT more working from home and many people will suddenly realise they no longer need to live in the city or within easy commute of the city. People will start to move further away to the suburbs or countryside (so long as they can get decent broadband) or even other parts of the country. Maybe we'll start to see cities turning into those futuristic idealised places we see in the "nicer" SF like Star Trek where people live and work in less crowded, clean cities with little traffic as many office blocks become redundant and get repurposed as apartments with shops and gyms etc on the lower floors, maybe some hotdesking rooms where you can go to work.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        And there you have the problem. If you know you will always be working from home, you would probably enjoy doing exactly that. If you knew you would be coming back in six months, you could try to liberate yourself from your agreement to rent and find somewhere nicer to be for those six months. If your workplace might bring people back, but nobody knows when or whether, then you don't have as much freedom. And the worst possible outcome: your workplace might bring people back and hasn't committed to a specific time by which you have to return. Google has done a good thing here just by giving a date well into the future. People can actually make some decisions based on this without fearing that they'll have to cancel plans at short notice.

  10. Joe Montana

    Self Control

    You need self control, but flexibility is a good thing...

    The 4 hours extra of working a week, can be offset by the reduced time wasted commuting. I've worked in jobs where commuting wasted 10 hours a week, so spending 4 of those working and 6 of them relaxing is a win for both sides, and helps justify the idea to the company.

    In terms of working weekends and evenings we should take a flexible approach...

    I'm happy to work some evenings and weekends if i have nothing better to do (which is frequently lately, as many of the places i could go to are closed) providing i get something in return - either the ability to take off an equivalent number of hours at times i would otherwise be working, or get paid for the extra time.

    I've been working from home for quite some time, and will frequently take a few hours off during a weekday if work is quiet, and then work an equivalent number of hours in an evening or weekend. I complete timesheets for the hours i worked, and aim to balance them out so that i stick to my contracted hours per week on average.

    Work often isn't 9-5 anyway, dealing with people in different timezones, encountering delays or having to wait for things etc. If i was in an office i might be sat twiddling my thumbs while i wait for something, if i'm at home i can clock off and go do something else for a couple of hours and then resume work later.

    1. hmv

      Re: Self Control

      Flexibility is good, but if you're still getting used to WfH then sticking to the office hours isn't a bad way of adjusting. At the very least it'll make the tendency to deal with just one more email at midnight a little less likely.

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: Self Control

      " The 4 hours extra of working a week, can be offset by the reduced time wasted commuting. I've worked in jobs where commuting wasted 10 hours a week, so spending 4 of those working and 6 of them relaxing is a win for both sides, and helps justify the idea to the company. "

      Your company hasn't paid you for that time, and hasn't "gifted" you that time -- that's your time, and you shouldn't be giving it away for free. If you need to put in the extra time to buy yourself the ability to work from home, that's a bit shitty, but go ahead. But to rationalise doing more work for no active recompense from your employer... that's being complicit in your own exploitation.

      Unshackle the proletariat, and fight for a better tomorrow, comrades!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet schools will be forced open

    Republicans won't hold their convention, Google will go remote working till next year, and yet Betsy DeVos will force schools open on pain of cutting their funding, and Republicans won't allow mail-in ballots in lots of US States, forcing in-person voting.

    Daily US peak is 2x the daily peak of wave 1, so there will be 2x the death toll, so an extra ~280,000 dead at least. 400,000+ dead minimum.

    The cases per day is still rising and Republicans are blocking face mask laws and stay at home orders, so the peak will be far higher and so will the death toll.

    See Fox "covid19 is fake leftist plot" News? Now they're doing "Portland protest is fake leftist plot", to distract from all the dead they helped create with their politicization of a deadly virus.

    Fox News needs to pay for what they've done. An apology won't cut it this time. Too many dead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Walmart for President, Google for VP

      Might as well make Walmart President, companies and people are following Walmart's lead on mask not Trump's. They're defacto in charge now anyway.

      With Google as VP, leading 'stay-at-home' orders, and ignoring Republican Governors Abbot, DeSantis and Kemp and their attempts to block stay-at-home orders.

      You know you're screwed when the party in power is trying to kill large numbers of Americans and corporations are the ones pushing back against it!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      HHS rigging the data

      Republican led states suddenly have falling Corona virus case numbers, starting from the day HHS took over tabulating the numbers rather than CDC. It looks like clear cut fiddling of the tabulation numbers according to Astrophysicist Jeff Hester:

      Brian Kemp, Republican Georgia governor, ran his own election, he was in charge of tabulating the election result. Kemp announced Kemp had won. When the result was challenged, the court ordered he hand over the computers for forensic examination, but the computers were wiped *after* the court order to hand them over was issued. 'Ooops' he said, 'it was scheduled'.

      It seems obvious that if Republicans will fake Coronavirus counts, they'll fake vote counts. And for the HHS numbers to be consistent, the Republican states involved have to be cooperating.

      Hiding body bags is far harder than hiding a changed vote tally. You can wipe a computer, you cannot disappear a body.

      So there will be a lot of fail points if you pick away at that game they're playing. A lot of people involved, a scheme that will easily collapse under investigation. And it should be investigated before the election, because Republicans have no bottom now. They will do anything to hold power. Any quid-pro-quo, any crime, no limits.

  12. find users who cut cat tail


    > the lack of distracting colleagues

    Even though colleagues can be sometimes distracting, most people here – including me – prefer to work at work because there is much less distraction there than at home. The only thing the pandemic did was to accentuate the difference.

  13. steviebuk Silver badge

    I'm enjoying it

    Missed the 2nd screen so grabbed one from work. Get up later, don't have to walk 20mins into work but always available to pop into office if needed. This has got to be better on a lot of peoples mental health due to not having to commute.

    It annoys me that the last place I was at, I said all along "Why are you having your monthly meetings at each others site? We're IT, we can surely teleconference". No, I was told, this is the way we do it. I suspect a few were claiming more on the travel than they were actually doing so making a bit of money from it. Now there is no choice but to teleconference and shows I, and others that said it, were right all along.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I'm enjoying it

      "shows I, and others that said it, were right all along."

      Not that anyone will admit it. They never do.

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