back to article Does the boss want those 2 hours of your free time back? A study says fighting through crowds to office each day hurts productivity

With some company bosses hellbent on forcing staff to return to the office once the pandemic is over, research has arrived that warns of the productivity pitfalls of expecting minions to re-embrace the daily commute. Whether it be fighting through traffic in a car, risking your life on British roads from the saddle of a bike …

  1. mdava

    Who got the extra time?

    I'd be interested to know where the commuting time has gone to?

    My personal experience is that it is the employer, not the employee that has benefitted from the extra couple of hours that have been made available each day.

    1. DailyLlama

      Re: Who got the extra time?

      I got my extra time - an extra hour in bed every morning, and as soon as 6pm comes around, my laptop goes off and the rest of the day is mine.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Who got the extra time?

        I get up at the same time (don't need an alarm clock, I'm just awake at 05:30), but the lack of a commute allows me to have breakfast with my wife, before I meander down to the cellar to start work at 8.

        That said, I find the 20 minute jaunt down country roads to my office fun...

        And I put down tools at 16:30, as normal, unless there is an emergency. Company mobile phone and laptop get turned off and I go back up to the "real world".

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Who got the extra time?

          before I meander down to the cellar to start work

          So, "Work is where the Beer is"

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Who got the extra time?

          I've been working from home for almost a quarter-century, and I do just the opposite. I work at my job when that's what I'm in the mood to do. I make sure I'm available for a while in the morning when my colleagues in further-east timezones are about, and I'm on my scheduled calls; but if I want to take three or four hours in the middle of the afternoon to work on the house, that's what I do. Then I may work at the job in the evening when I'm not inclined to do physical labor.

          As long as my work gets done, everyone's happy. It's easy for me to track the time I'm actually doing the job to make sure I'm putting in at least 40 hours (I enjoy my work, and often like to do more, particularly of R&D). I've never felt any desire to keep to a strict schedule.

          In theory my colleagues could phone me if they needed me when I'm not around, but in practice that very rarely happens – only a few times a year.

    2. Steve Button

      Re: Who got the extra time?

      Personally I've been going to the gym (home gym when real one closed), sleeping longer and spending more time with the family in those extra couple of hours.

      We always have breakfast together, and I get to work feeling ready for the day... rather than drained and frustrated by the selfish c**t who would not shut up on the train about their problems on a very loud phone call, and felt the need to share it with the whole carriage. Or stuck waiting for "signal failure". Or crammed in for 1 1/2 hours with no seat, because previous train was cancelled.

      So, yeah my "employer"* seriously benefits from all that, as I can focus more easily on the work as I'm not as stressed by all the daily commute and the crap that goes along with it.

      *contractor, so client really.

      Having said that, I'd be quite happy to put up with that commute for 2 days a week, just to get face time with my colleagues. But 5 days a week (or 4)? Really don't want to do that again. Perhaps for project kickoff, etc. but for the rest of the time, no thanks.

    3. waldo kitty
      Boffin

      Re: Who got the extra time?

      in many cases both, employer and employee, have benefited from W@H...

      the employee benefits as noted by other responses... more rest time, more family time, being able to start work less stressed, etc...

      the employer benefits by the employees being more productive and able to work their full shift due to the above...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who got the extra time?

      I would imagine that the commuting time has mostly gone to working.

      However, most of the people visiting the site are IT Professionals, with the remainder being made up with power users etc. In the UK before the pandemic to be in the top 25% of earners in the country you've got to be earning £35k. That is not difficult to do it IT; a quick look at adverts shows that even second line servicedesk jobs are currently being advertised with a starting salary of ~£30k.

      My point with this is simply that most of the people reading this are likely to be financially better off than 75% of the population. We have desks and workstations at home that are usually better than the ones at work. Many other people (especially those poorer than us) don't, and may not even have a dining table to convert to a desk if they live in a small flat or accommodation shared with friends and family. (since even if there is one, if three people want it then somebody is going to lose out)

      In short, if you take somebody out of an office with a powerful PC and duel or treble ~28" monitors, high speed printers and scanners and plop them working from home on their couch or bed with a 14-17" screen on their laptop connected to the office over a dodgy wifi connection connected to a crap internet connection that is being caned by other people then productivity will easily drop by over 20%, and the users know that because they aren't getting as much done as they'd usually do.

      And in a pandemic with a possibility of getting a job paying as much as your current one being statistically indistinguishable from zero an awful lot of people are perfectly willing to put an extra hour in to make up for the loss of productivity from working from home to ensure that their job & employer remains viable.

      Or, in some cases they may say f*** it and come back into the mostly deserted office because 1500 square feet per person space is rather better than the 15 sq/f they have at home and the office provides a better working environment.

      My experiance of working from home was pretty positive; but then again it would be, wouldn't it? I also have a ~15 minute commute if I drive in. It's be about 2 hours via public transport, but that's why nobody with a choice uses public transport in the countryside.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who got the extra time?

        Crap internet connection? My domestic level connection (in a rural small town) via an Enta reseller performs admirably coping with both video conferencing and continual voip use while simultaneously working with customers data files via VPN, the person doing this work reports no issues over the normal call centre facilities apart from the usual voip audio changes. This while a second person is often home also using the connection.

        The monitor in use here is 37” much larger than the work issue one, the fridge is stocked with favourite brand of sparkling water, the workstation is booted up and connected to the VPN usually by 7.45 with emails being dealt with over pre work coffee. Operative is fresh and ready to work and at his desk rather than battling through the congested main junction in town and searching for a parking space in the overflow car park.

        Not everyone is tanking their performance by the 20% you claim, indeed the opinion of others in that particular organisation is they are achieving more, being happy to donate a few extra minutes each day in exchange for losing the 40 or more minutes that many of them spend on commuting.

      2. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Who got the extra time?

        Very well put and covers many of the critical points that the pro-working from home, anti commute zealots refuse to acknowledge.

        I understand that for some working from how has been a big benefit both in time and financially but for many others it is not. A lot is made of the time gained back from not commuting however it is important to realise there are plenty of people for whom the commute was not an issue. This is because it is short, convenient or serves a second purpose, usually exercise. I cycled to work and that commute was also my exercise. In order to maintain my sanity and health I am still doing that "commute" every day. Then we have the issue of the general working day. A culture has developed that nobody is prepared to address when the acceptable available time for meetings has been extended well beyond what we had in the office. Bluntly, many of us are having to put in more hours and are stuffed into a vicious circle that management refuse to do anything about because they are the problem.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Who got the extra time?

          Not having to commute doesn't necessarily mean you can't get that exercise. It just means you don't have to do it in a stressful environment, in traffic fumes.

          Describing people who don't share your point of view as "zealots" is more than a tad polarising as well. Maybe dial that back a bit? Nobody is donning robes and marching with firebrands and pitchforks over the issue.

          Yes, some people may enjoy their commute. I don't actually mind mine, since it is a 15 minute walk through not very busy streets. I recognise, however, that my situation is far from the norm. Most of my colleagues have to commute by bus, train, or cycle, through noisy, polluting and dangerous traffic. I seriously doubt many of them actually enjoy it. The buses here are expensive and overcrowded. The trains moreso, and the station is a good 30 minutes walk from the office. If you wanted to drive your own car in, you'd be looking at a queue for a car park and £20 for the privilege. None of this sounds like fun to me.

          1. ChrisC Silver badge

            Re: Who got the extra time?

            "Describing people who don't share your point of view as "zealots" is more than a tad polarising as well"

            Quite. The pandemic has given many of us what may well be our first real opportunity to experience an extended duration of full-time WFH, as opposed to the occasional WFH days we might have previously been able to get approved by our managers. And whilst it's certainly true that not everyone is enjoying the WFH way of life, it's also true that a hell of a lot of us really ARE finding it a much better way to balance our work and non-work lives, and would very much like it to continue.

            Maybe when I was younger, living alone in a one-bed apartment and just getting started in my career, I'd have been less enthusiastic about a lengthy enforced spell of WFHing, but now I'm older and greyer (at least those bits of me that still have any hair cover remaining), with a wife, kids and cats at home, I'm massively appreciative of the opportunity this past year has presented to me to be able to spend more quality time with them without taking anything away from my ability to still do the work I love.

            So you'll just have to excuse those of us in the pro-WFH camp if we sometimes get a bit over-enthusiastic about how great proper WFH has turned out to be, and how much we'd like to keep on doing it.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Who got the extra time?

            Nobody is donning robes and marching with firebrands and pitchforks over the issue

            Quite the contrary, in fact. Here at Pitchfork Mobs Inc., lockdown has forced us to march virtually, via Zoom. It's not at all the same, let me tell you.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Who got the extra time?

          To be fair, I'm pro working from home and anti commute.

          I'm just realistic about it and know full dammed well that i'm well off and so well insulated from the potential pitfalls; I simply say "not everybody is" and other people just might possibly have a different experience of life. Especially those financially worse off, frankly.

          Of course, it simply means that people can consider changing how they do things slightly. For many large companies it might make more sense to have a smaller office for the lower paid staff to come into.

          Or if you save megabucks on maintaining an office you could simply pay your staff enough to buy a house they could live and work in, but that's probably beyond contemplation.

      3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Who got the extra time?

        I was with you, until you started talking about dual / treble 28" monitors. When I'm at work, I have to make do with the laptop monitor, which, whilst having a decent resolution, is pretty tiny, plus two 24" standard HD monitors. I would guess that if you're getting 28" monitors at work, they're going to be QHD or 4K, and you must be fairly high-up in the IT food chain to justify them. This means, you're likely to have more than enough space to have a decent set-up at home.

        Personally, my monitors at home are better than the ones at work (2 x 24" QHD), and are shared with my own PC. I couldn't fit anything bigger onto my desk anyway, although I suppose I could stick another two on top if I could justify a need for them. I couldn't, and I doubt my work laptop could drive 4 external monitors, and even the somewhat overpowered graphics card in my own PC might struggle to feed 4 high-res displays.

        As for "loss of productivity" from working from home, the studies I have read about have shown an increase in productivity. I've certainly been more productive without the distractions of an office environment (there's always that one guy who likes to make calls at a volume suited to calling sheep home from the next valley, right?). My wife's work (which is not in IT) has seen an increase in efficiency, despite the difficulties imposed by remote working. I guess it depends on what sort of business you are in as to whether being in the office is more productive or not. The cynic in me thinks that maybe those higher-ups who think offices are more productive are the ones who like to arrange a lot of meetings that could have been emails.

        And this doesn't even take the commute into account; both my wife and I work about 15 minutes walking distance from our respective offices, and even that small commute has made a big difference to how we can plan our days, and given us back the time and energy to have a bit of our own lives back in the evenings.

      4. scubaal

        Re: Who got the extra time?

        100%. It totally depends on job + home situation.

        Office worker, well paid, middle-aged, home-owning nerds = WFH Good

        Zero hours contract, young, old, flat-sharing = WFH not so much

    5. AW-S

      Re: Who got the extra time?

      mdava,

      If only your employer benefitted and you hate them, start commuting again and get revenge.

    6. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Who got the extra time?

      Technically I got the extra. It's a big slice of time, too. It used to take me two hours each way to commute to central London. Flexi-time wouldn't help, as the trains are slower and more infrequent outside rush hour.

      But I'm baffled about what I'm doing with my extra time. True, I sleep a bit later, but not four hours more. The sad fact is that structured time lasts longer.

      But I'll fight tooth and nail against a return to the daily commute.

  2. Steve Button

    You misquoted your own poll

    It's three days at home and two in the office by around double the amount that wanted it the other way around!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: You misquoted your own poll

      For those commuting by train this days in, days at home alternation is going to play havoc with the economics of season tickets.

      1. Steve Button

        Re: You misquoted your own poll

        Yes agreed. They are going to have to offer flexible tickets. Perhaps you buy a block of 10 and use them whenever you travel in, rather than buying an expensive monthly. I can't see demand getting back up to 2019 levels for a very long time, so they should have plenty of capacity.

        OTOH, all the train companies might go bust due to lack of demand.

        1. RobbieM

          Re: You misquoted your own poll

          "OTOH, all the train companies might go bust due to lack of demand."

          Nope, the government changed the franchise set up so it is taking the hit on reduced traffic. The rail companies are coining it in on subsidies etc and being paid by the government to run empty trains. Have read of Private Eye.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: You misquoted your own poll

        Not really - when I was looking at them a season ticket made sense for anything over two days a week.

        I used to get a weekly ticket every other week, and do a `Thursday/Tuesday" on a weekly ticket for less than the two days individually would have been.

        The additional discounts for longer season tickets were mostly eaten up by things like weekends/bank holidays - so didn't make sense (to me, at the time)

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: You misquoted your own poll

        >is going to play havoc with the economics of season tickets.

        I encountered this back in the 1990's.

        For my irregular "regular commute", I worked out the value of weekly, monthly and annual session tickets. With my breakeven points being:

        3 peak returns = 1 weekly session ticket

        9 peak returns = 1 monthly

        92 peak returns = 1 annual

        As it was irregular, but most of the time you knew what you were doing the following month, I didn't bother with the annual ticket, instead used monthly's - I never had a year where I purchased more than 10 monthly tickets and most years included December and January - both of which were prone to delays for which monthly session ticket holders got an automatic refund - there were several years when I effectively travelled for free in those months...

        Naturally, once you had purchased a session ticket, additional journeys that month (including those at weekends) were effectively free...

        The art of knowing all this was to plan and schedule office-based work so that you got the best deal ie. minimised your out-of-pocket travel costs.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "near-weekly suicide attempts by fellow Tube users."

    Sheep on the line was one of British Snail's excuses in my commuting days. Less funny were the couple of occasions of sleepers on the line (wooden or possibly concrete, ties in USian-speak) somewhere around Ruislip.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Why were the sheep trying to sabotage the line ?

      Is there some sort of Harrow liberation front ?

      Are they deploying SOE (Special Ovine Executive) agents to attack the occupying forces ?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Harrow? Out in the Chilterns and beyond there are fields where these grey woolly things live.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's see.

    Sitting at home in quiet office for a day of Webex calls with my geographically split team, starting and ending the day on time, no problems with calls at 0900. Nice view onto garden and I can get out for a walk in the country at lunch time. Lunch with my wife, varied and tasty options.

    or

    Sitting in an office with others around talking etc for a day of Webex calls with my geographically split team, fighting to get in on time and delaying leaving to avoid the car park getting out of the car park. Calls at 0900 not ideal as even if you get to the office on time you now need to get to your allocated, isolated desk (no personal desks now), get laptop plugged in and started, get everything working etc. View of a brick wall. Lunch - canteens shut down or limited options or need to book a place in the queue. May get out for a walk on-site with motorway overhead and other major arteries around as well. All this on top of the actual commute which isn't stress free and does require concentration.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bingo!

      I'll happily hand over my daily 90 mins commute to "the man" in return for sitting in the quiet home office, the pleasant family company and pets, a far better set of lunch options and while not perfect, a better view out my home window than the office that faces onto another office.

      Plus other benefits working at home...

      - Not having to stifle my farts!

      - Watching "Brooklyn 99" during lunch break

      - Drinking decent coffee I chose

      - Working while wearing my Slayer t-shirt and yoga shorts

      - Not having to smell the office health Nazi when they return from their lunch time 15 mile run smelling like stewed BO casserole!

      - No ironing work clothes every weekend

      - Stare out of window for inspiration without looks from co-workers

      - Nipping off for a "bit of the other" at lunchtime with the missus!

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Bingo!

        Nipping off for a "bit of the other" at lunchtime with the missus!

        There must be a lot of frustrated milkmen about

    2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      Agreed, for me not much has changed from office to W@H. For our IT group only about 20% of us are in an office with another IT person. That is our Dallas TX HQ. The rest are spread across the US in regional offices. For me the main advantage is I don't have people coming into my office wanting Service Desk help from me, the Infrastructure Architect, and me telling them to call the Service Desk in Dallas!

  5. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "... expecting minions to re-embrace the daily commute"

    The statement "... expecting minions to re-embrace the daily commute" sums up the entire problem. It's a cultural assumption that position in the hierarchy is the fundamental indicator of worthiness of respect. Nobody is a "minion" if they have a useful function to perform in the organisation, and in reality the nearer the front line the more important a person generally is from day to day because they actually provide the service to customers. But the attitude (explicitly illustrated for decades by Dilbert) is firmly engrained - the extent that many managers refer to "managers and employees" as two distinct categories. I once asked a manager who said this "aren't managers employees then?". I didn't last long after that.

    1. Plest Bronze badge

      Re: "... expecting minions to re-embrace the daily commute"

      Given that the CBI considers every employee an idle, office stationary stealing, workshy layout, while all executive bosses are considered the backbone of the workforce and UK economy, it's no wonder they want us all back to work. The top management do nothing so they assume the rest of us don't either, so they want us where they can keep an eye on us, treating highly skilled and motivated adults like hyperactive children in a primary school.

      I believe it was dear Boris who said, "We've all have enough time off due to COVID, time to get back to work.". Thanks Boris you arsehole, but it wasn't a fricking holiday! A lot of us have been putting in on average around an extra 10 hours a week or more on top of a 40 hour week working from home, to ensure projects complete on time to keep our companies afloat while the world goes to hell in a COVID covered handcart!

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: "... expecting minions to re-embrace the daily commute"

        Yes, the whole "if you're not a critical/essential worker, then you've obviously been lounging around on furlough all this time, learning new languages, musical instruments, how to paint etc etc" way of thinking is something that really isn't helpful.

        Once things get back to something approximating normality and we start socialising for real again, I can imagine some of the conversations are going to get a bit frosty when you get some people going "wasn't this past year just amazing, I learned Mandarin, Spanish Guitar and put together an illustrated history of the local area in watercolours, what did you get up to in your time off?" only to be faced with a response along the lines of "Time off, sorry, remind me again what that is?" Only probably somewhat less politely worded.

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: "... expecting minions to re-embrace the daily commute"

          It's the same knee-jerk "all contractors are tax dodging layabouts, coining it in after Y2K"/

      2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

        Re: "... expecting minions to re-embrace the daily commute"

        Having worked for a British Multi-National Corp. for 30 years I've seen this attitude. The going consensus of Management was always, if you not at work your not working. Even though many of us worked nights and weekends on projects that could not be done during business hours. Some of out Ex-Pat British executives brought over an attitude of treating employees terribly. Those who could not adapt that attitude failed here as us Yanks won't put up with that for long.

        If there is one benefit of the pandemic it is that management has seen the light that we are responsible professionals and can work from anywhere/anytime.

        1. not.known@this.address Silver badge

          Re: "... expecting minions to re-embrace the daily commute"

          "Some of out Ex-Pat British executives brought over an attitude of treating employees terribly. "

          We had the same problem - but the other way around; our new American bosses couldn't understand why we had nearly a month's worth of Annual Leave that we could take whenever we wanted (within reason) and wanted to halve it, along with a load of other ideas that seem reasonable when you have "free" "limitless" Internet (at home they had 'unlimited' packages, in the UK the company paid for their internet service) but were not so great on the very limited services available to us minions, or when they were used to paying well under a buck a gallon for fuel at home and got it all on expenses over here, and lots of other such "minor" differences. They wanted to change everything to how it worked in the States with no regard for any effect on the staff.

          It took a lot of work from a couple of valiant and patient Personnel staff to persuade them that maybe what works well State-side might not quite work so well this side of the Atlantic. It also probably led to the entire Personnel department being "onsourced" to an (American) Human Resources company and moved off to other clients shortly after...

  6. tmTM

    Up next

    another study from the institute for the bleeding obvious

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Up next

      As per TFA - it might be obvious but there's still manglements to persuade.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

    I think that 2020 has brilliantly demonstrated that a lot of people can work remotely.

    As a freelance programmer consultant, I have been lucky in that 2020 did not event dent my yearly revenue. I know that there are a lot of people who have suffered. My daughter is a professional seamstress and she is sick of not having a proper work proposal since March 2020. I, on the other hand, have only had one customer demand that I come on-site since January 2020, and I have been lucky enough to get two additional customers during lockdown.

    At this point in time, I have no less than 3 laptops specifically configured to access their particular networks, and my other customers I work with offline, sending them what they need when I'm done.

    Work remotely ? If you're a programmer, it's a cinch - thanks to knowledgable network admins, obviously.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

      "thanks to knowledgable network admins, obviously"

      The forgotten heroes of the pandemic. They rarely get noticed because most of the time, everything "Just Works(tm). When WFH started, there were some hiccups, but again, everything mostly "Just worked(tm)" again. 1st line, and maybe 2nd line support are the visible heroes to the users, and often not seen as heroes, but someone to moan to to when things don't "Just Work(tm)", often because it's the users home WiFi or internet connection, which 1st line now have to "support" as best they can.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

        Exactly!

        While our company did have the plans already banging around, and I do remember a ton of things about group policies and servers and access needed, the ETA was along the lines of "when we get around to it, a.k.a. the heat death of the universe". Things got busy quickly, and two or so weeks later things Just Worked As Expected[TM]. Brillliant job by the gals'n'guys!

        Yeah there are several hickups every now and again. But it is more like "oh, look, it's not working at the moment, let's check in five minutes" rather than "oh, look, it is working for a change", and not too often, to be honest.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

          We had to go back into the office when the corporate sysadmins discovered the trick we were using to work from home on our non-approved Linux machines hooked into the corporate network with an unofficial VPN.

          Since the official VPN uses RSA keys which are only approved on corporate laptops which are only issued to approved salespeople who are the only ones approved to be working outside the office.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

            Time to get out whilst there's a company to get out from if that's their grasp of what's happening around them.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

              No, it becomes a game - we are a startup that got acquired by a global megacorp on the other side of the world. Beating their corporate policies and sabotaging their initiatives is what keeps us sane.

              We do have a translation board listing 'corporate speak = English' translation

              We also have very very good coffee and excellent games room and amazing home theatre.

      2. Simon Beckett

        Re: "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

        Plus one from me. the biggest impact we've seen as a support company is that our working day has stretched, people are frequently leaving messages at 7am, and slightly less frequently but more annoyingly ringing me at 7pm to say no one is answering the helpdesk phone and they're having problems connecting to their WiFi. "I've been trying all day and it hasn't worked yet". We're lucky there's more than one of us, God knows how the one man bands are coping.

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

          Best we can do there is to try and push back. One of my functions is web dev, and during the first lockdown we had an HR manager that had a bad habit of sending work messages to my personal phone number on Saturday mornings asking for "urgent updates" to the website (i.e. she'd forgotten to ask for a new job vacancy to be put up on Friday).

          She was politely told the first time that all work-related tasks should be sent through work channels and that I would get to them on Monday. The rest of her messages were ignored (because apparently it's not polite to tell a work colleague to f^£# off if they make unreasonable requests).

          I appreciate that some people have less power to push back than others.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "Maybe a handful of people can work remotely"

          >... the biggest impact we've seen as a support company is that our working day has stretched, ... We're lucky there's more than one of us, God knows how the one man bands are coping.

          From what I've seen the companies that thought and have for many years got by on having cheap/mates support have been discovering that one man support companies just can't handle the extended hours support they are now needing to support the more flexible working arrangements of their employees.

          My advice to any one man band doing support is to get networking and build up a group of 5~6 associates so that between you, you can provide extended support and make sure your clients are aware of this.

  8. andrewmm

    Covid 19 and hot desks

    A company I work for ,

    is just implementing hot desk system, ( as ever late to the party )

    the question every one is asking, is how are they going to CV19 clean each desk so its safe for a different person ?

    1. Glen 1

      Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

      "...how are they going to CV19 clean..."

      "they" will provide a tub of alcohol wipes and leave you to it. Hand sanny if you're lucky.

      1. Rob Daglish

        Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

        One of our major clients pays for floor walkers. During the pandemic, I’ve pointed out in vain that it’s much quicker and easier for whoever is saddled with the task that week to remote on, fix what ever the issue is and move on than what the customer wants us to do, which is turn up at site, fight with reduced capacity buses from car park to perimeter fence, change to 16 seat minibus that’s allowed to carry 3, get to office, wipe down desk, keyboard and mouse, find out what jobs have been logged, go to end users desk, have them wipe out of mouse, keyboard and desk, move 2m away (even though we’re both wearing masks and I have to wear gloves before touching anyone’s PC...), wipe in, check machine, fix, wipe out, trade places, get user to wipe back in... and that’s provided you don’t need them to put any passwords in, and nobody tries to “just a minute” you on your way there and back. Yes, I know we could do it remotely from in the office too, but that’s not what the client wants... then wonders why we aren’t as productive when we’re in the office as we are remotely!

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

      I've seen references to cleaning companies using some kind of mist on desks, but I've no idea how effective it is. And many offices are distinctly relaxed about hygiene.

      In the last place where I worked on-site, the mice all had tails. The keyboards were so old that the captions had worn off some of the keys, and so filthy that you could tell what your predecessor had for lunch five years ago by turning them upside down. It's said that an average keyboard harbours more germs than a lavatory seat; I reckon these had more than Porton Down.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

        "And many offices are distinctly relaxed about hygiene."

        And then there's the places which have appointed a "COVID monitor" who likely gets paid extra to invent and implement all the new procedures. As things are looking better and all the processes are in place, said Covid monitor doesn't really have much to do now to justify the extra pay and responsibility. S/He is now creating new procedures and rules to justify the extra pay and making life harder in a situation where the risks are decreasing.

      2. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

        The "hot desk" solution for us was:

        Plug your laptop into the dock & then bring your own peripherals, basically everything except the monitors. Due to some more insanity you then have to connect to the WiFi and use the VPN.

        Each space was provided with two tiny alcohol wipe sachets to clean everything with afterwards.

        Strangely, very few make use of the facility.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

          "Each space was provided with two tiny alcohol wipe sachets to clean everything with afterwards."

          Really? A roll of cheap kitchen towels and an anti-bacterial/viral spray gun costs pennies from the local "cheap" shops like Aldi or Lidl and should last a week or three quite easily. If they really are only providing a couple of alcohol wipes per desk, that might be a dereliction of their "Duty of Care" to their employees.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

      > is how are they going to CV19 clean each desk so its safe for a different person ?

      BOFH solution = flamethrower. Why do you think it's called 'hot' desking ?

      1. Aus Tech

        Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

        "BOFH solution = flamethrower."

        Seems a bit on the extreme side, even though being effective. Not to mention being damn expensive.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

          Huh there's always one problem guy.

          Incinerating the hot desks between users is a bit extreme.

          It's illegal to electrify the doorknobs.

          That low window ledge with outward opener needs a limiter and a safety barrier.

          Be a team player and get on the solutions side! Equipment replacement is someone else's problem.

          Besides, if this helps destroy the idea of hot-desking once and for all, I'm all for it.

        2. hplasm
          Flame

          Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

          "Not to mention being damn expensive."

          If you do it right, you only have to do it once!

    4. the Jim bloke Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

      The fundamental philosophy behind hot-desking is that the desk is what's important, and the users are interchangeable and disposable....

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Covid 19 and hot desks

        >The fundamental philosophy behind hot-desking is that the desk is what's important

        But what is a chair or keyboard without its idiot ?

  9. wolfetone Silver badge
    Trollface

    "risking your life on British roads from the saddle of a bike"

    Cyclists? On the road?

    I didn't know we renamed the pavement?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Get a mountain bike and ride over the top those shiny metal humps installed in the no-parking/bus/cycle lane.

    2. idiot taxpayer here again

      @wolfetone,

      Sorry but you are slightly wrong.

      The pavement was renamed "cycle lane" many years ago.

    3. My-Handle Silver badge

      Downvoted, because I've had long arguments with people in the office who believe this kind of thing.

      Then realised I'd missed the troll icon.

      Does anyone know how to remove a downvote without converting it to an upvote?

      1. SuperGeek

        Tap the downvote icon again it should go back to 0 IIRC

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Hmm, doesn't appear to work over here (Win10, Chrome). Notification appears telling me that my vote will be recorded, totals and highlights stay the same.

  10. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

    An inspired workplace does not depend on people in close proximity

    The solution, in my opinion is :

    Give people interesting problems to solve

    Respect work/life balance

    Provide transferable skills training (i.e. technical skills that are useful in other jobs, not company values sessions)

    Pay employees well

    In other words, train your employees in such a way as to equip them to look for another job, but treat them well enough so they stay.

    What's that Mr. Fluffle? Companies want to employ on the cheap and tie employees to them? You don't say.

    I'm not loving the pandemic, but I am enjoying working from home. An hour and a half extra lie in every day, starting later than before, ending later meaning I have time to catch up with tasks and people at the end of the day when they're more available. That still means that when I'm closing my laptop, I'd probably only just be getting on a train home if commuting.

  11. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    As I've posted already...

    ...my job is on the road, visiting sights all over the place every day and the only significant change was the wonderfully quiet, almost empty roads. Recently, things have got back to almost pre-pandemic "normal". Rush hour is back. School run is back. Queues in all the usual places are back. For now, at least, the main trunk routes are still a little quieter outside of rush hour times and rush hour itself seems to start a little later and end sooner.

    In that one respect, I'm already missing lockdown :-)

    (With respect, of course, to those who suffered bereavements, illness and/or loss of earnings)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hate my job. I'm over a year in to it. Started when the pandemic hit. Scrabbling to get laptops out, dealing with a coworker who gets away with murder and has probably spent the last year gaming most of the time instead of working. Me, who is more senior, where has the commute time gone? Sat doing overtime with a boss who doesn't know when to stop working.

    I don't know where I went wrong in my career but I've had it up to my neck. Had to work through the entire pandemic in the office for a few days a week every week. I'm burnt out. I've had enough. I'd rather just stay in bed in the morning and not face the work. I realise that makes me sound depressed, I more than likely am. I've turned down more IT jobs with more money because they were with bigger soulless companies that probably gave less of a shit than the place I'm at now.

    Im good at what I do. Completely underpaid and undervalued because IT people generally are. Some people can bluff IT and support, some people are actually good at it and get walked all over regardless. I'm one of the latter.

    1. TimMaher Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      “I hate my job”

      Time to go contracting IMHO.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: “I hate my job”

        I wish I could take that risk. I will remain a wage slave whilst I have no savings and a family I need to feed. I imagine there's a lot of people in my situation.

        1. EH

          Re: “I hate my job”

          You only need 1 month's earnings saved, to allow for the delay in payment of first invoice. After that, if you're good enough, you're sorted. You won't regret it.

          That said, I'm a permie again, after 20 years freelancing.

    2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      "Sat doing overtime with a boss who doesn't know when to stop working."

      This you need to address as soon as possible. The work day is over, it can wait until tomorrow! Are you a salaried employee? Make references to getting switched to hourly! If your in the US and are not a manager and not being paid over $60K ( maybe higher, some jobs make a lot more and still are required to be hourly) then by law you are entitled to overtime. Let him know you are going to file the extra time on your time sheet and file it with Payroll/HR, Do it by email and if he replies with the threat to terminate you print and keep a copy.

      I've been down this road with managers and when you confront them with this they for the most party back down. If your in a large company most managers do not want to get involved with HR. HR know the laws in your country and they know what the fines are for wage theft. (not to mention the law suits this can result in) Yes, that is what it is. If you are not a legal overtime exempt employee and you work overtime and don't get paid for it, that is wage theft.

      If it is a small company then maybe find another job. They are out there. It sometimes takes time to find that right job. Don't give up, you may need to bounce around to a few employers to find it. If your good at what you do you will find it.

    3. SuperGeek

      Welcome to the world.....

  13. Jonathon Green
    Stop

    What office?

    My employer hit a break point in the lease for our main development office a little while ago..

    And guess what?

    They didn’t renew. And (while they are at some point, probably) going to be getting us a much smaller facility configured mostly as collaborative space so that we can get together and point at whiteboards, look over each other’s shoulders, and thrash stuff out collectively as and when appropriate/necessary, they aren’t going to be replacing it.

    I doubt that this is a unique scenario...

    1. Mog_X

      Re: What office?

      Same for my company - we had one main office and two smaller satellite sites in London, plus two large offices in a Midlands town separated by about two miles.

      The satellites and one of the Midlands sites have not had their leases renewed, plus we are only expected to go into an office for the '3 Cs' (Collaboration, Coaching or Celebration) , which is likely to be one day a week at most.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong with giving people a choice ?

    We're having all sort of embarrassing discussions on how many days we must work in the office versus WFH yet nobody dares to answer this question. Tired of working from your basement or on a kitchen counter ? Fine, you may come in the office. Sick and tired of commuting ? It's OK, WFH as long as you want.

    I did my best to explain this where I work with no success. Since in hybrid mode about a half of the team will be at home, we will still be using Teams/Webex/Zoom/Slack etc. to communicate so there will be no difference between WFHome and WFOffice. Now speaking of the idea of hot desk and open spaces. Open spaces when everybody around you is wearing headsets will make it feel like you're in a giant call center. Is this the new work environment they want us to experience ?

  15. JimC

    No company ever forced its staff to do 90 minute commutes...

    I've never taken a job that was more than about 15/20 minutes from home. When moving house one of the first considerations has always been one ride public transport and reasonable distance to work. You don't have to go that far back in time for the majority of the workforce to live within walking distance of their workplace. The big commute is something we've done to ourselves. For excellent and well founded reasons no doubt, but still fundamentally self inflicted.

    When you consider the waste of energy, time and everything else that long distance commuting represents, maybe its something that has to change?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: No company ever forced its staff to do 90 minute commutes...

      I don't know where you work but a great proportion of jobs are in cities so large that they require a few thousand square miles of commuter belt to house the workers. Property within 15/20 miles of work is likely to be hideously expensive and it's only practical to supply a small percentage of that space with single ride public transport so that property in that percentage is also likely to be hideously expensive..

      Yes, "we" as a society have done this to ourselves. "We" as a collection of individuals haven't. It's been an article of planning policy for all my working life and earlier to separate workplaces and homes. It was done in the name of getting rid of slums surrounding factories. No thought was given as to how the gap between the two was to be bridged; hand-waving assisted public transport was probably envisaged.

      It was stupid. It is stupid. Will you ever get the planners to admit it was stupid? Not until the whole lot collapses in a heap. Hopefully the present situation might give it the push it needs but if the "come back to the office" movement succeeds we're going to have to wait for an even bigger failure.

      1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: No company ever forced its staff to do 90 minute commutes...

        just a gentle reminder that work is not the only consideration when choosing a place to live.

        Family is usually a bigger factor - I have friends (believe it or not) who sold up their lovely large house they had done a lot of work on over years, in order to gain access to a school they thought would be better for their children.

        Multiple people in a household will require multiple solutions, and these requirements change over time.

        Over the last decade or two there was the rise of 'inner city living' with lots of residential apartments being constructed in or next to the CBD... none of these were designed with WFH in mind, and obviously dont cater to it very well.

        At least lockdowns and WFH have pointed out the intrinsic failings of the 'tiny house movement'.

        1. Potty Professor

          Re: No company ever forced its staff to do 90 minute commutes...

          When we were first married, we bought a lovely little country cottage, in a village that was only four miles from town. The commute was pleasant and very short, as we both worked for the same company. Fast forward five years, and our three year old needs a school. There are no schools in our village, and the next nearest village with a school is five miles away up a busy B road with no footpath. Solution was to sell idyllic cottage and move to semi detached in town, with easy access to both work (for me) and school (for SWMBO and kiddie). Actually turned out for the best, because cottage wouldn't have been big enough when subsequent sprogs arrived, so we'd have had to move anyway.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: No company ever forced its staff to do 90 minute commutes...

      "The big commute is something we've done to ourselves. For excellent and well founded reasons no doubt, but still fundamentally self inflicted."

      No, it wasn't. I say this as someone who has a short commute, but still. The big commute is a result of companies putting the offices in a place where people can't live nearby. The companies have their reasons, that they want to have lots of possible workers and clients in close proximity. The people who live far away have their reasons, usually that they can't afford to live closer. If you don't have in-demand skills that make your wages relatively high, then you will have to choose a place to live where you can afford it. That's unlikely to be in the big city.

      Meanwhile, the company is the one making most of these decisions. It's not exactly their fault, because they also have to do that in order to work well. If a company requires a hundred workers with a certain skill to come to the office, they're unlikely to put that office in a small town where they would have trouble finding those hundred or replacing someone who leaves. Still, they're choosing the predictable expense of expensive real estate rather than the unpredictable one of having trouble finding workers, meaning the workers have to choose the long commute. Rarely is it the employee's choice.

    3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

      Re: No company ever forced its staff to do 90 minute commutes...

      That's precisely why WFH should remain!

      For a commute 15/20 minutes either limits living near the centre of a city (expensive, may be noisy) or severely restricts the number of jobs on offer.

      I prefer to live near the countryside, which I realise is a tradeoff. When I moved I was actually closer to work, but then work moved to the nearest large city changing a half an hour car journey into a minimum of an hour train journey. That takes into account deliberately buying a house within walking distance of a train station, based on the probability that either I'd change job or work would move.

    4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: No company ever forced its staff to do 90 minute commutes...

      Bob's ingenious plan...

      The government said new planning law enables unused commercial buildings to be changed into homes.

      It is hoped this could encourage more people to live near local high streets and come to the area for work and leisure, “helping cement our high streets and town centres in their rightful place at the heart of communities”

      https://www.standard.co.uk/business/property/high-street-changes-planning-b927375.html

      let's wait and see how the dust settles.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: No company ever forced its staff to do 90 minute commutes...

        That's only half of it. The other half would be stopping the brownfield sites nonsense. A brownfield site is where there used to be jobs. Convert those to housing and there are (a) less places where jobs could be created and (b) more people looking for jobs. Do that and the area's commuting problems get worse.

        Can HMG make things worse than that? They surely can. In an old rural industrial area like mine there are a lot of older houses. They're part of the character that planners want to keep. We have one or possibly both sides of the road lined with parked cars because there's no off-street parking, no off-street anything except the house & back yard or maybe 6 feet of empty space in front of a basement or six feet of path and flowerbed. So by mandating EVs as the only available vehicles where are the replacements for the current parked vehicles going to be charged? If it becomes impractical to own a car any longer and no local employment WFH is going to be the only option other to create an underclass of people who can't find any work they can get to. Does the new, shiny neighbourhood plan make provision for dealing with this? Of course it doesn't. It's a plan for the last few decades rather then the next few.

  16. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    What an outdated view

    "He said he believe that remote working does not allow teams to collaborate or businesses to engender a "great culture and an inspired workforce.""

    What an outdated view. I suppose next they'll want me to fax some documents over, then look them up on my Rolodex and call up on my landline. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there's cases where a team really gels in a way where they wouldn't when they're all remote, but I think in most cases this is managers that didn't bother to adopt to using Slack and Zoom wanting everyone sitting around at a meeting table (or, wanting to be able to tell people to stay at the office and put in some overtime.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What an outdated view

      It's usually higher up PHBs (Pointy Haired Bosses if you don't know the reference), not lower level managers and mid-level directors...

      I have said on more than one occasion, and somewhat cynically that the higher up PHBs like to walk out and see all the serfs toiling away for them.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: What an outdated view

      "remote working does not allow teams to collaborate"

      Of course it doesn't. You'd never be able to create something like an operating system kernel or all the rest of the S/W than makes an OS or package it for distribution working that way.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    flawed premise

    Not sure if it's sad or funny to suggest that scientific evidence showing that the commute recurs productivity by affecting a worker's "flow" will carry any weight with management that implemented open office plans, hotdesking, etc.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can understand managers wanting someone to manage

    As otherwise their bosses might wonder why they have managers at all.

    With COVID, people working from home and still having to pay for empty workplaces then there can only have been a lot of peoole wondering if they had not been wasting massive amounts of money for years paying for things that are not actually essential to doing business.

    IMHO in the UK having managers creates a continuing "need" for yet more managers until profits become a problem and they sack off some middle managers and productive staff and then repeat the cycle.

    That the company owners could instead actually manage the productive workers themselves is rarely maintained due, I suggest, to the idea in the UK that sucess in business is measured by how little you actually have to work for a living.

    If companies have managed to run for over a year without managers actually standing over their worker's shoulders then perhaps it is time for a good look at company structure especially when you realise that if they had directed the workers from home themselves they could have save a chunk on wages for people who only contribute second hand to profits.

    Whilst working from home also has it's down sides, employees not having to travel to work each day comes with a wealth of potential financial benefits for both the employer and employee as a result of working from home.

    So yes I can understand managers being concerned that companies might reassess their value in terms of profits and hence sustainability of business because it is not just their wages but all the additional costs, management and HR that come from requiring employees on site when they could be working from home.

  19. HildyJ Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Be careful what you wish for

    Management values productivity but they climbed the ladder in the era of Management by Walking Around so it might be a hard sell.

    OTOH, the revere the bottom line and office space is expensive so they might be convinced.

    BUT, software companies are rebranding surveillance software as productivity software to let your boss make sure you're working solely on your TPS Reports from the minute you login to the minute you logout.

  20. Annihilator Silver badge

    I suspect the rush back to the office will start when the hot weather starts, and people realise that working in an air-conditioned office is actually much more pleasant than the desk in the spare room.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The rush back to the office for AC?

      AC as an boon for workers ,Seriously? having AC just dumps the heat outside creating yet more environmental heat in the process, if you live in a city then add up all the heat from traffic, its smog, AC and the premium on space and cost of living not forgetting the stress all this creates compared with working from home with or without clothes, seriously why would anyone go back to cities given a choice?

  21. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Travelling is stressful, its called the rush hour ( though its now or was much longer than an hour), for a reason. Everyone is in a rush, and stressed

  22. ImpureScience

    Not Going Back Any Time Soon

    I work in a major hospital in NYC, and they're taking the plague very seriously. Despite my administrative drill thrall's natural distrust of remote work (before the plague we didn't have a telecommuting policy...by design) my IT group has been working from home as much as possible for the last year. Since I'm doing development and admin, and not doing any hands-on tech work, I can do everything from home. And I have to say I've been waiting for this for 30 years.

    Before the plague, I was in a crowded office, with others talking full voice a few feet from me, several phone lines ringing at once all through the day, no privacy, and a one-hour bus ride on either end of the day. I now have the proverbial 2 extra hours a day for myself, I save quite a bit on transportation and meals at work, and most importantly, the environment allows me to concentrate properly. I am quite a bit more productive than I was when I had to go to the office every day. We have heard from On High that things will remain like this for the foreseeable future - it's possible they're figuring out that remote work is a Good Thing.

  23. SuperGeek

    BOFH!BOFH!BOFH!

    "Now a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Psychology may be riding to the rescue of travel-shy people everywhere. Sure, it states the bleeding obvious, but it might provide an opportunity to blind your dullard boss with science."

    I sense another BOFH episode on the merits of home working.....

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