back to article Finding remote working a bit of a grind? Microsoft staffers feel your pain

Remote working is the gift that keeps on giving, as Microsoft's workforce reacted glumly to the Windows giant's plan to push back the reopening of its US offices. The company had outlined new guidance earlier this month on how things might look in a post-pandemic world (no more than 50 per cent of the time at home without …

  1. johnnyblaze

    Not all great.

    Companies like MS are obviously seeing some significant cost savings by not having staff in offices. Let's see - heating (and cooling), general power savings, water rates, canteen costs, parking, security, admin staff (receptionists) let alone actual building costs inc rates and insurance. Having staff kept in their own homes, using their own energy, water, food and heating/cooling without ANY compensation made those bean counters sit up and take notice. The mental health issues, inc productivity issues are a small price to pay. Money talks after all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "without ANY compensation"

      They may be no monetary compensation, but, depending on how long the commute is, there can be a significant gain in personal hours and a big reduction in travel costs.

      For example, I know people who will gain three hours a day and not have to spend £3,000 (out of taxed income) on train tickets + more for not having to pay for parking at the station.

      Sure, there will be extra energy costs, but the savings above are about twice my annual enery bills.

      1. James 47

        Re: "without ANY compensation"

        HMRC is allowing people working from home to claim money back for increased heating bills

        1. DavCrav

          Re: "without ANY compensation"

          "HMRC is allowing people working from home to claim money back for increased heating bills"

          Yes, an increase in the tax-free allowance of £6/week, so less than £3/week cash. The removal of commuting costs and time are for me a vastly larger benefit. An order of magnitude better, likely two depending on how you cost your time.

  2. AndrueC Silver badge

    I will retire rather than go back to working in an office.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      I thought I would like working from home, but I've been WFH the past week and a half, and I feel out of touch when I'm away too long. Glad I go back to 50-50 next week!

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        I've never been a people person (I have the social life to prove it) so for me it's actually a relief not to have to deal with people in person. And I don't miss the commute back home which could be annoying and frustrating. I do miss the morning commute though as I left early enough to avoid traffic and I do like driving.

        It would be nice once we're passed this to have an office meet up every other week but I'm very happy working in my spare bedroom. Got an oil heater ready for winter so that I don't have to heat the entire house during the day.

        There's not been many good things to from this damn' virus but my working arrangements are one.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My thoughts exactly.

      I've gone from a seventy mile a day commute working in an open-plan office where I was expected to concentrate on complex problems all day with all the chit-chat and interruptions going on around a zero mile commute and a quiet comfortable home office with good coffee.

      I'm more productive as well as feel more refreshed and can code away during Teams meetings etc.

      I do believe though it's not for everyone...if your home setup is not great or you hate your job or feel isolated then you have my sympathy...but it is a dream come true for a lot of people.

      1. DavCrav

        "I'm more productive as well as feel more refreshed and can code away during Teams meetings etc."

        Being able to get on with real work during meetings has been a massive productivity bonus.

  3. Steve Button Silver badge

    Not an open plan office, PLEASE!

    I don't mind going in a couple of days a week, but 5 days in an open plan office just leaves me no time to concentrate on hard problems. Like today, I've been reading through a NIST Guide for container recommendations, which I could never do in an open plan office. I supposed Noise Cancelling Headphones help. :shrug:

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Not an open plan office, PLEASE!

      Yes, I agree, I think open-plan offices always were noisier compared to cubicles and small group offices and now they will be even noisier as people will like the social interaction and have forgotten the voice level controls...

  4. Elledan

    Open plan offices are worse than cubicle farms

    While working for a company that moved from a single-room-per-team approach to an open plan office for everyone, it was quite noticeable to see the difference. Instead of each team having some walls to put stuff up on, to hold discussions in place and basically everything in that room being relevant to everyone in the team, suddenly every moved to sitting in the open plan office room with headphones on.

    Discussions required people to move into a meeting room, as did people popping off for phone calls, getting a drink or visiting the toilet. Basically unless you happened to be one of those people who can work without missing a beat while a hurricane is bearing down on the place and is in the process of ripping off the roof, you were SOL. The constant chattering, walking, movement, coughing and so on made for a pretty solid drop in productivity and overall happiness.

    Oh, and people got sick a lot more often. Usually in waves, oddly enough.

    Somehow I do not mind working in a home office at all. Not missing the commute, rigid schedule, tedious meetings in poorly ventilated rooms and lack of privacy.

    Maybe we can have after-hour meetups for people where they can get this 'I must absolutely share a physical space with colleagues for 8+ hours a day' thing out of their system?

    1. DBA-ONE

      Re: Open plan offices are worse than cubicle farms

      Well put. I've had to be around a group that is on the phone all day with clients. Each one talking louder because of all the other people talking around them. I don't want to attend your meeting! We've got one guy who wears noise cancelling headphones and roams around talking loudly as if he is all alone. I've noted that the folks who tend to think an open space is a good idea always have the option to close the door to their office. It just doesn't work.

      Of course, it isn't a problem now. I'm one of usually three people who come to the office Monday through Friday. We each pretty much have a floor to ourselves. It was nice at first, but it is now lonely and taking a toll on me. I feel like I've fallen out of touch and isolated. The company really is making an effort to provide good communication, but email and video doesn't replace the in-person contact.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    In order from best to worst

    Offices with doors

    Cubical farms grouped by team with a dedicated meeting room

    Cubical farms grouped by team with shared meeting rooms

    Working at home

    Open office

    Shared remote workspace

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In order from best to worst

      You actually like cube farms?

      You are a middle management sociopath and I claim my five pounds.

    2. Alumoi Silver badge

      Re: In order from best to worst

      Offices with doors and real walls (not glass).

      That's the only productive environment humans can work in.

      Contrary to management, humans are not cows/horses/sheep to be kept in cubicles (stalls) or open offices (corrals).

      Management/HR, on the other hand, should be in glass walled open offices where people can see how hard they work. You can even sell tickets to the zoo and increase the company profits.

    3. Erik4872

      Re: In order from best to worst

      Totally agree, except put a "work/home hybrid option" at the top of the list. Everyone hates cube farms, but have the people complaining about cubicles worked in an open-office plan sitting 3 feet from your neighbor at a cafeteria table? I need my privacy. I had an office with a door in my pre-COVID workplace but even a cubicle is better than being exposed to everyone and being stared at from the management offices like a zoo animal!

    4. DavCrav

      In order from best to worst: corrected

      Offices with doors and solid, opaque walls/Home working with a separate room in the house

      Open office/Home working without a separate room in the house.

      Everything else

  6. Anonymous Coward

    PsyOps BS from MSFT

    Microsoft has always been very aggressive in fighting against remote work. Before COVID they didn't allow it as a matter of company policy.

    I know this from direct personal experience. I've had the same stupid repetitive conversation with MSFT recruiters about this wonderful job that requires relocation to WA over a number of years. Always the same outcome.

    Now here they are, popping up with a tear-jerker Twitter feed about MSFT employees longing for the return to the office. Waaah Waaaah Waaaaaaah. Awwww. We can't get back to that wonderful daily commute until July 2021. Look at that puddle of tears on the floor. I miss my dull grey cubicle.

    Yeah, Right, Microsoft. Cheap PsyOps. Try being more creative for a change.

    1. MatthewSt

      Re: PsyOps BS from MSFT - might just depend on the job you're applying for, as they didn't seem to be against remote work 13 years ago

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: PsyOps BS from MSFT

      Microsoft is halfway through a major rebuild of their Redmond campus. They bulldozed all of the buildings with the single occupant offices and are putting in new with open plan offices. And they got this underway just in time for Covid-19 to hit.

      Not only that, but they convinced the local government leaders to pony up for a commuter rail spur to be built up to the Redmond facility. And a lot of hipster, high rise residences to be built along the route. Just in time for people to opt for a nice place in the country.

      It's not like Microsoft hasn't been in the business of providing products that customers neither needed nor wanted for the last few decades.

    3. Erik4872

      Re: PsyOps BS from MSFT

      I live about 60 miles from NYC, and just accepted an offer for an NYC job with the promise that it's WFH until COVID is done, but NOT a 5-day week after that either. COVID gave me the opportunity to get a more interesting job than the local one I currently have. It's easily a 3-hour daily commute because trains here are slow. I did it when I had no kids, but now that I'm a family guy, no way. Flexibility is critical to me and I'm certainly capable of producing good work without being in the office. Other NYC employers I talked with basically said full time in-office after COVID is non-negotiable, so I can see where this is heading. Commerical real estate, restaurants, auto makers, Mens Wearhouse/Brooks Brothers, etc. must be secretly lobbying the executive class and whispering in their ear that their workers are wasting time and not doing anything at home.

      Workers in Seattle, SF and SV must all have similar brain-rotting commutes. Who in their right mind is brainwashed into wanting to go back to that? Here in metro NY, the traffic is only marginally better with a good chunk of people still working at home. Is this Agile collaboration fantasy such a strong force that people would voluntarily sit in Seattle traffic for 2 hours each way? Or was the workplace perk arrangement so heavily built around living at the office that working anywhere else is "boring?"

  7. Nifty Silver badge

    Unintended consequences

    Coming soon: Flabby immune system syndrome.

  8. Emmeran

    Ahh this is beautiful....

    The ones bragging about disruption and change not whining desperately that things have been disrupted and changed.

    Those who happily insulted older workers for not being quick to change now find that they themselves don't like change.

    This is the new reality folks please try to learn to deal with it and keep your whining to yourself...

  9. Erik4872

    I can see both sides

    I really enjoy working from home, but I hate being forced to. Communication where I work wasn't great pre-pandemic, and now it's even harder. The last thing I want to go is go back to an open office and sit at a cafeteria table in the middle of an Agile collaboration preschool. But, to make WFH work you really need to have an unobtrusive way to get in contact with your colleagues. Back when I had a nice office with a door at work, I could easily get up and ask my colleagues what I needed to ask. Now it's a meeting request or Yet Another Teams Call.

    Unfortunately I think we're too far down the management consultant rabbit hole to prevent open office plans from taking over all work locations. Microsoft was famous for having individual offices, similar to the arrangement university faculty have. IMO that shows trust that you've hired smart people and that they'll do the required reaching-out to collaborate on whatever it is they need. I know a couple of people at Microsoft who have said that all locations are now switching to the "team room" thing where they stuff you at tables so you can be distracted all day long.

    I can see constant distractions being useful for junior developers who are being whipped along by Azure DevOps or Jira or whatever to crank out features features features, and they need help from colleagues constantly. However, once you get more senior and start having to look into longer-term directions for a product, this breaks down. Reading a 100 page highly technical document or learning a difficult concept takes focus and concentration and can't be done in 5-minute chunks interrupted by "Hey Bob, quick question".

  10. Captain Obvious

    And the MS people go

    WAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Who in their right mind would ever want to go to work? If you REALLY want to talk to people, there is a device with 10 numbers, an ear piece, and a speaker that works great! You can even have water cooler talk that way if you desire!

    The advantages to society and work are huge! I have been promoting WFH for over 20 years. Why?

    For the employee

    1) Save on work clothes

    2) Save on Cost of Food

    3) Save on transportation costs

    4) Flexibility to run Errands

    5) Save on auto insurance

    6) Reduction in pollution

    7) Less traffic

    8) Will not spread germs

    9) More productive

    10) Less demand for oil

    For the employer

    1) Lower Overhead costs - heating/cooling/insurance/gas/electric/telephone/etc

    2) Can sell or lease excess space OR turn it into housing

    3) Higher Employee Productivity

    4) Can brag they are a good GREEN company

    5) Usually get extra time from employees as they no longer have very long commutes

    6) Most people WFH have almost no sick days

    7) Potential for lower salaries for new hires if they are not living in some AWFUL expensive city

    Honestly, if I were in charge, I would make it MANDATORY that all BACK OFFICE employees would work from home. I really do not understand the "mental illness" people get from not working in the office. Get wireless - you can work from ANYWHERE so if you feel alone, you could take your laptop to anywhere like a bar/golf course/beach/lake/coffee shop/whatever is your fancy.

    Let the downvotes commence!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, choices choices: back to the cube farm or use Teams all day?


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