back to article 50%+ of our office seats are going remote, say majority of surveyed Register readers. Hi security, bye on-prem

We expect more than half of our office seats to go remote in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a slim majority of Register-reading tech pros told us. We surveyed a few hundred IT decision makers last month on their priorities and projects in light of the COVID-19 outbreak disrupting society and business, and here are our …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not here

    So working for a large Defence Contractor we've been told everyone in to work as 'The Director wants to see people working' (despite hitting all delivery milestones over lockdown). Its like working for Brunel.

    I'm in an open-plan office with 50 people. I estimate that my Covid risk has gone up between 1 to 2 orders of magnitude.

    Those of you who who don't have to put up with this, congratulations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not here

      I think there'll be an element of this in a number of organisations of a certain type ... variants of:

      - I can't see people so I bet they aren't working

      - We've paid for this expensive office so we're damn well going to use it

      - I know we sell remote working technology, but that's for our customers not us.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Not here

        "I know we sell remote working technology, but that's for our customers not us."

        So common in IT.

        1. Jason 24

          Re: Not here

          Thankfully the MSP I work for fully ingests its own shit before foisting it on our customer base.

          Maybe we're an outlier?

          It is nice when pitching a product at a customer that I can just say "here is how we do it...", I'm not in sales but that does make the sell very very easy.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Not here

      The Director wants to see people working

      Perhaps this represents the dropping of a penny; if people are working productively from home then it is just possible that the organisation (whatever it may be) doesn't require quite so many managers as was previously thought.

      What? Fewer Managers? Unthinkable!! Get everyone back at their desks!!

    3. Lon24

      Re: Not here

      The bean counter may, for once, be your friend. Given productivity may be maintained or even enhanced by home working then the cost savings of releasing half the real estate is a competitive advantage they wouldn't want gifted to your competitors.

      Maybe not totally unrealistic to think that cutting those costs might release budget for a few more (home) heads. Going to easy to recruit from those being force into town to inhale the recirculated air conditioned air Diamond Princess style.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not here

        Take it one step further. If those 'heads' can work remotely,then they can work remotely from anywhere. Why bother with expensive UK or even European salaries.

        Oops!

    4. Drew Scriver Silver badge

      Re: Not here

      The US company I work for spent tens of millions of dollars on converting from cubicles to an open environment. Now they're converting back (more or less)...

      In the meantime, we've been told to expect to work from home until 2022 (yes - that's twenty-two).

      1. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: Not here

        They’ll be putting partitions back up next and dividing it into .... ye olde offices.

        TBH I can’t see a huge reduction in COVID-19 removal - cubicles v’s open plan with some 4’ high dividers- even perhaps with added Perspex. Esp.. In light of the (in)famous Supermarket aisle Sneeze computer simulation.

    5. rcxb Silver badge

      Re: Not here

      Those companies that fully embrace the remote workforce have long since decided there's no reason their employees need to be in the same country at all... Get some Indians doing the job, instead.

      1. Kaltern

        Re: Not here

        Romanians. They're the flavour of the day.

        I'm being made redundant because the entire IT team is being 'moved' to Romania. In cheap offices. Everyone WAS remote, in the UK and Romania alike, but I suspect due to Brexit, my very large multinational company has decided They pay me a little too much and so I have been dumped into a small redundancy pot (1 year, 11 months and 3 weeks so no monies for me...) and everyone in Romania is getting a payrise.

        And as I am housebound, I HAVE to work remotely. And because I'm not under 23, noone wants to give me any work.

        So while I applaud the move to remote working, I think it's going to end up being VERY remote, at least far away from the UK.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds right to me

    Local Gov - I've been out the office since early March not really expecting to go back ever. At least not full time.

    We're looking to close buildings, especially those that are being leased, to save money. Local Gov has overspent massively to deal with Covid (if you're wondering why, it was your local council that looked after those vulnerable people who were/are sheilding not feckin Boris) and will need to claw back money any way they can since it's unlikely there will be any sort of central gov bail out.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I rather like the current situation

    Not COVID, of course, but freelancing from home. Also there's the fact that I have a 1GB fiber connection and an office to take advantage of it.

    But what I really like is the fact that my customers - with one exception - aren't even dreaming of asking me to come in to their office to work. All (but one) of my customers are contacting me by phone or mail to ask if I can log in and do something for them. Instead of a 45-minute commute on crowded highways, followed by a good 10 to 15 minutes hunting for a parking space, I'm logged in and ready to work inside of ten minutes.

    If this remote working situation endures, I will be quite satisfied.

    1. Drew Scriver Silver badge

      Re: I rather like the current situation

      I can get a 3 GB connection - if I'm willing to pay the ISP $72,000 to run a cable less than half a mile.

      Until then (or until Starlink gets up and running), I'm stuck with 3 Mbps DSL and a cellular hotspot that usually, but not always, gets 20 Mbps.

      The state of rural internet access is continuing to be a boondockle (sic) in the USA. No real effort being made either at the federal level or the state/local level.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: I rather like the current situation

        The Mountain Fastness is pretty rural - not jake level of rural, but we're sitting on 2.3 acres of agricultural-zoned land, on a private dirt road, with neighbors just in hollerin' distance. We have fiber because the local electric co-op is also an ISP, and over the past several years they've been running fiber on their poles as they do electric maintenance and upgrades. So for much of the county, if you're on the electric grid, you have fiber right at the pole.

        It's about $100 to get the drop to the house put in, and a bit more for the terminal. Then you can either buy your Internet access from the co-op, or from various other local ISPs who contract with the co-op for backhaul.

        It's not perfect. Redundancy isn't great - a couple of years ago a forest fire took out the fiber trunk, and it was a few days before they got service back up. And the tier pricing is definitely high compared to some places with more competition; but the vast majority of households can get by just fine on the bottom or second tier. (We were on the bottom tier at first, but it turned out that QoS wasn't great with two simultaneous video calls plus web traffic plus our phone microcell, so we bumped it up a notch and it's been smooth since.)

        The co-op has an incentive to run projects like this. In particular, they need to get a quorum of members to attend their annual meetings, and anything that makes them interesting to customers helps with that. This sort of thing also builds favor with regulators.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I rather like the current situation

      I moved to working exclusively from home (aside from rare in-person team meetings, which more or less ended some years back) in 1999. Initially that was with a single ISDN Basic Rate channel (never got around to bonding two channels), at 64Kbps.

      And before that, from '92 to '95, I was by myself in a little satellite office, initially with a Telebit Trailblazer dial-up setup, and then a dedicated 56Kbps digital line.

      In 2002 we moved and I got cable with a few MB/s of bandwidth. For the past few years I've had fiber-to-the-home at the Mountain Fastness, with a cap that's something like 64MB/s; I still use the cable setup at the Stately Manor. I've never had a need for more bandwidth.

      To be honest, most of the time I could still get by on the old 56Kbps for work purposes. I'm rarely fetching or committing so many bytes of source changes that it takes any significant time to sync with the repository, and 56Kbps would work just fine for ssh. But for video calls, online research, and software downloads, of course, that extra capacity is necessary. (Plus there are the people who insist on attaching megabytes of screenshots or other cruft to emails...)

  4. AndrueC Silver badge
    Happy

    Been working from home since lock down start and loving it. We already had two team members out of office (one emigrated to Canada, the emigrated to Wales). As far as I know our team is still fully productive. Maybe even more productive (I know I am). I don't think we'll be asked to come back in I will refuse anyway. It makes no sense driving 20 minutes to an office and back each day.

    I doubt they'll kick up a fuss but tough luck if they do. I'm more than close enough to retirement to flat out refuse.

  5. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Loss of human contact

    With people working from home, they have far less human contact. This may not seem a bad thing in the short term - however many people marry others that they meet at work or pubs near to work. For many single people this is going to result in a far smaller pool of people at potential mates.

    Another effect of the loss of human contact is feelings of isolation leading to depression. There is also the inability to escape annoying children/spouse/pets etc. Penny pinching bookkeepers may not count these costs but they will be felt by their workers and over time will result in a loss of productivity and higher staff turnover. People also tend to feel very little loyalty to bosses (and co-workers) that they never see or talk to.

    Many years ago (I think it was in the 1960's) IBM did a study on the most productive office size. They found that 4 man offices were the most productive - large offices tended to have too many disruptions and single offices made it difficult to maintain focus on work. Working from home combines both of these problems - disruptions from others in the house and difficulty in maintaining focus.

    Many companies will end up finding that working from home will cost them far more than their savings in office costs.

    1. ectel

      Re: Loss of human contact

      I get what you are saying, But... I have worked from home for 10+years, not meeting my team face to face, but now we have twice weekly video team meetings, so suddenly i am in the loop a lot more. Technology has changed working methods have changed, if it is done right it can work, it is (to use a over used phrase) "the new normal"

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Loss of human contact

      It's these issues that are slowly beginning to bite.

      Aside from the anti-social few who shun all human contact, those few who are content to just sit at home with their loved one(s), the vast majority of humans need human contact and interactivity.

      We have very much evolved to be social animals. At one point in time I thought that I could change career to be a hermit, since covid-19 I have proved that this is very much not the right career choice for me.

      While productivity is up in some ways, in many others it is very much down - the longer term things such as cross team communication, informal communication, relationship building... all slowly dropping away. OK for a short time, but the impact slowly builds. Even meetings where relationships are built, side ideas are discussed, just don't happen - a video call is usually little more than a glorified presentation with none of the interaction between attendees either on side, during breaks, or anything else happening at all.

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Re: Loss of human contact

        I would make the argument that many of the younger generation may consider chatting online or video or whatever to count as interpersonal interaction. They've grown up talking to their friends this way, and it's normal for them.

        There are most certainly folks that online interaction does NOT work for, of course--but I suspect those folks are also missing the fact that there's other viewpoints on the situation.

        1. Cliffwilliams44

          Re: Loss of human contact

          They don't interact when they are in person. They text each other across a table!

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Loss of human contact

          It's almost as if people are not all identical, and generalizations about them are suspect.

          I've been working from home for over twenty years. I've worked remotely from my teams for most of my career - about 5/6th of it.

          I get plenty of human interaction: In person from family, neighbors, shopkeepers, doctors, strangers I pass on the street; by phone, text, and email from family and friends; many times a day from my co-workers by various means. I have daily calls with members of two of my teams, and weekly calls with others, and ad hoc calls with all sorts of folks. I get quite a bit of work email, which I genuinely enjoy.1

          I used to have face-to-face meetings with some of my teams once a year or so, and I did like that, even if (indeed, partly because) it involved international travel. But do I need it? No, I do not.

          I'm sure there are many people who work best in a group setting. That may be true of most people. But people are adaptable, and I have yet to see any reliable evidence that a broad shift to working from home will have the dire consequences some are predicting.

          1I realize this is unusual, but I'm a compulsive reader. Two of my degrees are in writing.

      2. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: Loss of human contact

        On the other hand, recent decades have seen society degenerate further an further into siloed "tribes" that rarely mix. When we spend all our time with people "like us", we let ourselves get narrow-minded.

        Socialising by geography (a.k.a. "Talking to the neighbours") means exposing yourself to more ways of thinking.

    3. mmccul
      Coat

      Re: Loss of human contact

      Interestingly, I worked on a fully remote team for many years, ending just under a decade ago. Never met any of my peers face to face I worked with for a full fifteen years. Most of the teams in the division (several hundred people) were similar, no more than a couple people per roughly ten person team in the same city, and significant percentages of people working full time remote from home.

      The key difference was the recognition among the team that the workplace was not our personal life. I had a more active social life then than I've had ever since. I think those that desire more social interaction will find ways to do so.

      As to loyalty? I believe that loyalty comes from how you are treated. When I've had a good manager who treated me well, I've felt more loyal. When I was treated as a replaceable machine cog, I didn't feel overly loyal to the company.

      I cannot speak conclusively to your statements on productivity, but even the connectivity of twenty years ago is a radically different situation than the 1960s office. I question if those results are still relevant to the physical office today, or if they instead suggest that smaller focused subteams may be more productive today.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Loss of human contact

        I would echo some of this. I've worked partly at home for most of my 15yr career with an MSP, and certainly used plenty of remote teams - offshore, different countries, different timezones. Whilst it's strange to have absolutely no f2f meetings or interactions, it's still not really stopped us getting quite a lot done.

        OK when I started - even VPN over broadband was 'new' (the official solution was dialup) - but all of that's quickly changed.

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Loss of human contact

      There are some problems with working from home particularly when you have never done it before for and extended period. First is to establish clear work/personal time boundaries. The second is get exercise and human contact besides family at home. For a business, it might consider company picnics, lunches or similar activities for employees to maintain personal contact. Also, consider one the problems for many now is the fact the kids are not at school but at home even if they are studying.

  6. ectel

    The rest of the world has joined me

    I work part time. Before lock down I worked 1 day on site, 2 from home. Now I am 3 days from home. I work for a hospital

    Now the rest of the team I work in are also working at home we have team meetings on Video that allow me to attend (they happen on my normal off site days)

    Working across Hospitals is easier as Video calls stop us having to travel 15 miles between sites. In my team there is no real desire to go back to the office (apart from maybe the air-con in hot weather), The clinical team I support don't want me in the building (at risk patients) again everything now happens my phone,email of video.

    Because I have worked from home for 10 years or more, I have on office room, so i can end the day and shut the door.

    I think my working from home experience has improved since everyone joined me in it.

  7. Dwarf Silver badge

    Major benefits

    There are many other benefits

    1. Significant reduction in the need to travel by car and train, so less pollution; quieter roads; quieter trains and therefore less packed trains; quicker travel for those that need to be in an physical location and a far more pleasant experience for everyone.

    2. Improved quality of life for everyone - as the daily trudge to and from a building has been removed and we can spend more time with our families

    3. DR improvements for many companies given that people are already dispersed

    4. Improved protection against future pandemics. Although I wonder what the negative impact on health might be as general if people are not interacting as much, could the common cold get worse over time ??

    I hope that more employers embrace the once-in-a lifetime re-assessment of how we all live our daily lives.

    1. hoola Bronze badge

      Re: Major benefits

      2. Improved quality of life for everyone - as the daily trudge to and from a building has been removed and we can spend more time with our families

      Err, that maybe for you but not for all the people in who work in the shops surrounding your office. The same for those who are employed on the transport networks and anything else related to where your office was. That includes the investments in the building that are usually held by the big pension providers.

      Working from home does have benefits however it is generally only available to professions people who are already well above the median pay points. The knock-on for many is that they will end up with no work (albeit they may have a zero hour contract).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Major benefits

        "but not for all the people in who work in the shops surrounding your office"

        It will be an improvement for people who work in shops near the homes people are now working from.

        1. hoola Bronze badge

          Re: Major benefits

          Correct except that I suspect those working at home will not be going out to buy their lunch and coffees daily in the same way. Even if they are you need the shops to be local, walking distance. People are unlikely to drive to get a coffee and sandwich. Most people who did go into work in an office had these outlets close to hand. In turn they can operate because of the high footfall.

          As for other sectors like transport, there is simply going to be insufficient customers so there will be further job cuts.

          Which brings us full circle

          Homeworking is beneficial for many but do not under estimate the wider impact and cost to society.

          Also remember that expensive office buildings usually feature in pension investments. These are already struggling due to a long period of low interest rates and a collapse in commercial property will have some very unintended and unwelcome consequences.

          Some of us that are currently working from home and see it as an advantage may also end up jobless if a deeper recession starts to bite.

          1. NeilPost Bronze badge

            Re: Major benefits

            So they’ll be increasing their spend in local shops and supermarkets and maybe cafes.

            No expensive panini in Costa, but some ham, cheese and panini’ s in Tesco ... and perhaps some Nespresso compatible pods or a nice lunch roll from your local cafe.

            People still eat.

            The disposable income people are still prepared to spend will go somewhere.

            1. The Indomitable Gall

              Re: Major benefits

              " The disposable income people are still prepared to spend will go somewhere. "

              China, as we buy more cheap tat on eBay and Amazon Marketplace.

              The trend over time has always been to reduce the amount of our outgoings spent on labour costs. Sandwich shops were one of the last few labour-intensive drains on our wallets.

  8. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Facepalm

    NHS

    My other half works in a clerical role for the NHS. Most of her team are now back in the office, just those few who are shielding remain at home.

    During the lockdown, everyone was working remotely at one stage, then they found they needed 1 person in the office, so that person worked alone in the office.

    But the manager can't cope with not seeing the staff, so has insisted on getting everyone back. Thankfully the office is not crowded, but it seems daft to have everyone commuting when they've proven that working from home is at least equally efficient. (Difficult to quantify as the hospital has been quieter due to cancelling as many procedures as they could, so case load went down)

    Me, I'm working from home about 80% of the time at the moment - just some hardware jobs need to be hands-on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NHS

      "But the manager can't cope with not seeing the staff, so has insisted on getting everyone back"

      Given that I thought initial research indicated that wave of Covid that spread through hospitals was not due to "frontline staff" but by porters and admin staff who moved much more around the hospitals and were the main vectors to spread infections then this sort of manager is almost beyond understanding.(N.b. only people I know directly who had Covid, one was a family where the son was a hospital porter and the other was a non-Covid patient already in hospital recovering from a massive heart attack when Covid arrived)

    2. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: NHS

      So a daily Zoom/Ring Central/Google Meet standup call in the morning and close-out call in the afternoon daily. Video on mandatory. We do it at my work and it’s working very well.

      Sounds more like the above tales of remote productivity is maintained despite the inability to practice Defence of the Managerial Arts in person.... and someone is feeling ‘redundant’ and their arse is hanging in the wind.

  9. IGotOut Silver badge

    Can't I just stay...

    on furlough? Kind of like being paid to do sod all?

    The rest if you that can work, please carry on. I'm off for a stroll later.

    On a more serious note, I work on high end car engines and even the rich have stopped buying their super and hyper cars. Our clients are not expecting an upturn until next year at the earliest. 20% of our company has already taken voluntary redundancy. If it wasn't for our motorsport division, we may of folded by now, which would have a knock on effect in thousands of other jobs.

    UK engineering is utterly knackered at the moment, come October, expect redundancies to ramp up across the UK.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't I just stay...

      If that business is the one that buys the kit of whomever is sponsoring the side of the car that season, then there were other issues long before covid came along ;-)

      Anon... as I got out too...

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Can't I just stay...

      UK engineering is utterly knackered at the moment, come October, expect redundancies to ramp up across the UK.

      Tell me about it... :( 18% of the UK's workforce work in engineering. This has almost certainly already changed, along with the number in the UK's workforce, but will almost certainly change considerably more in the coming months.

    3. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: Can't I just stay...

      I was glad to be unfurloughed (away 1 Apr - 30 Jun). Many other colleagues still off with uncertain future or tossed redundant already.

      That stated attitude - serious or not - stokes simplistic perceptions/views that people are off with their feet up on a jolly furloliday on 80% of wages paid for by Rishi Sunak.

      In reality it’s **capped at £2,500 before deductions and any normal benefits are excluded** which becomes £1,500 to £2,000 so my ‘in the bank’ monthly was chopped by well over £1,000. No employee pension contributions either (which for some in later life will lead to shortfalls).

      Thankfully going to work for Tesco as a temp key worker and payment holidays saved us burning financially until recalled from 1st July.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seriously?

    "...with North America (NA) leading the charge, which may be linked to the US government's handling of the pandemic."

    Wow. The hate is strong with this one.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Seriously?

      Please itemise what's to love about US gov's handling about the pandemic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Seriously?

        Its pissing everyone off, except me. I think its absolutely hilarious.

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Seriously?

        The American handling of the pandemic has been very useful, there have been some excellent examples of what not to do to keep it under control - most working people in America feel like canaries - as a canary I'd much rather work from home than go to work in the coal mine every day.

    2. Drew Scriver Silver badge

      Re: Seriously?

      Looks like El Reg couldn't resist the dig at the US. Granted, the federal administration hasn't provide very strong and clear leadership, but that's not a whole lot different from what I'm seeing in some European countries. Of course, those leaders don't use Twitter so it's not as bad as it is here.

      However, El Reg is showing its ignorance here:

      "Just over one in two respondents, or 54 per cent, said at least half of their seats are going remote, with North America (NA) leading the charge, which may be linked to the US government's handling of the pandemic."

      Each US state is pretty much independent and the federal government (including the president) is quite limited in what it can mandate.

      So permit me to fix it for El Reg:

      "Just over one in two respondents, or 54 per cent, said at least half of their seats are going remote, with North America (NA) leading the charge, which may be linked to the US governments' handling of the pandemic."

  11. PrabMan

    Private Eye Update "The Class System" for working from home.

    Private Eye, in a recent edition, did an update of "The Class System" from the Frost Report see https://twitter.com/johncleese/status/1254130854462455813?lang=en) for original version.

    New Version goes...

    I am working class, I cannot work from home...

    I am Middle Class, I can work from home...

    I am Upper Class, other people work at my home...

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. The Indomitable Gall

    What's up with that graph?

    Your chart of the percentages is kind of screwy. You have under 25% next to 75-100%, at the opposite end to 25%-50%, making it impossible to read as intended.

  14. HKmk23

    Evolution

    Many years ago I read that eventually those who are unemployed will be the new normal and we needed to be re-educated to look down on the few employed.

    AI and our current pandemic has accelerated this.

    Those who are productive and inventive and cannot stay idle,will happily work remotely or in fact anywhere, those who need to work in herd environments will need to be re-educated to believe that counting the growth speed of daisies is a valuable contribution to society.

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