back to article More than half of companies rethinking back-to-office plans amid variant uncertainty and vaccine mandates – survey

Cloud directory and identity management outfit JumpCloud has released a survey that extends a big, fat middle finger to proponents of a rush back to the office: 71 per cent of the UK's small and medium-sized enterprises will keep home-working a thing. Indefinitely. Admittedly, the word "indefinitely" might strike fear into the …

  1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Office half full or office half empty?

    The optimist in me thinks this is a great idea. I see the future as bright, golden uplands of happy workers with truly flexible working and results being more important than office seat-polishing hours.

    The pessimist in me sees a great deal of risk. Companies discover that their workers are as productive working from home as they are in the expensive office, so they start to sell the offices and make home (or wherever, they don't care) working the only option. Then, if location doesn't really matter, they can locate wherever is most convenient for them - cheap property, lax regulation, cheap wages, etc.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Office half full or office half empty?

      The optimist in me thinks this is a great idea. I see the future as bright, golden uplands of happy workers with truly flexible working and results being more important than office seat-polishing hours.

      Theoretically, businesses should be able to quantify the Covid effect by comparing productivity pre and post. Unless the employer's idea of productivity is simply making sure employees are at their desks on time.

      But some employer's are offering 'flexible' working where staff only have to be in the office say, twice a week. That could end up more expensive for staff. If they're say, London based and can commute via Oyster & a PAYG fare, I guess it could work out cheaper. Further afield in season ticket land, there only seems a choice of monthly or annual tickets, and no fairs that seem to fit with flexible working.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Office half full or office half empty?

        The so-called flexi fares on National Rail that were announced are an absolute joke - you only save a few pounds over buying singles. It should be radically different.

        Eg, Chelmsford -> Liverpool Street, carnet of 8 days = £220, 8 daily returns = £250, monthly season ticket = £414

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Office half full or office half empty?

            Erm yes you do - we motorists are very heavily subsidised by the tax payer.

            And rail fares are absurdly high at the best of times, given that the intent should be to encourage shared transport.

            1. TwistedPsycho

              Re: Office half full or office half empty?

              I do wonder how the move of the DfT, in respect for rail service management, will affect the future of this though.

              Rail Freight and the traditional morning peak paid for almost all off-peak passenger transport. This is why schemes like Megatrain, Super Off-Peak unregulated fares, and Seatfrog First Class upgrade auctions became a thing.

              Now that the use case of rail travel is starting to shift from the daily commute to a weekend leisure hybrid, because workers are not going back to the office, will we see more closures during weekdays?

              Also, as all services are now run by the DfT, who assumes all revenue risk, does this mean unregulated bargain basement competitive fares, across common sections of route, will start to fizzle out?

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Office half full or office half empty?

              "And rail fares are absurdly high at the best of times"

              They can be more expensive than the immediate costs of driving, but rush hour driving takes a toll on cars. The added time of driving can be a burden too.

              I've done some really long trips in the US on the train and it's relaxing. So much better than flying. Driving can be fun, but only if you have the time to stop and enjoy the trip. I've added up the train cost taking everything into account and it's a premium, but not that bad. If I were driving, I'd have meal costs, hotel, etc. Schedules are the big problem. In the US, the train routes don't always go everyday and if they do, it's just one train so there is little choice on timing. I'd rather leave in the middle of the night than to arrive at 1am to BF Neptune train station with no services and try to get a taxi to a motel that is open for checking in. (but I'd still have to check out by 10am). Forget a Bnb that wouldn't allow arrivals that late.

              I wanted to go to the Fully Charged Show in Austin, TX leaving from LA , but to take the train I'd have to arrive a day early and leave a day late adding 3 extra nights of hotel and meals if I wanted to be there for the whole event. Many car hire firms won't allow trips that far from where the car is checked out. With tracking, they know and they'll do you big time if you try it. I can only think of one company, Hertz, that allows it if you let them know. If I could have arrived by train the morning of the first day and left the evening of the last day, the train would make all sorts of sense.

          2. ChrisC Silver badge

            Re: Office half full or office half empty?

            As much as I enjoy the freedom and flexibility that being a car owner gives me when it comes to my travel plans, I'm also firmly in the camp that believes we damn well MUST do more to encourage use of public transport, partly because private motoring in its current form isn't sustainable, but also because reducing traffic levels on the roads benefits those who HAVE to drive. In parts of the country where the road network is running close to capacity, it doesn't take much of a change in traffic volumes to make the difference between a journey being a pleasant free flowing drive with a highly predictable ETA, and a journey that's a tedious collection of traffic jams interspersed with the occasional period where you manage to get out of 2nd gear, and where any hope of calculating an ETA went out the window within the first half mile.

            So if it takes more than just bulk-buy discounting of season tickets to accelerate the uptake of public transport use, then given how critical public transport is to the nation I really don't see much of a problem in going further and subsidizing ticket prices. As I said above, the more people you can take off the roads, the better it is for those who need to be there, so by directly reducing the costs of public transport, you'd be indirectly reducing the costs of private motoring by giving drivers smoother, more efficient journeys.

            1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
              Holmes

              Convenience

              Where I live now (and where I was previously) has horrendously inconvenient public transport. At my previous location (east Kent) I was commuting 50 miles and that involved a short car trip to the train station, an hour on the train, wait for the (usually late) bus for a 15 minute trip.

              My total commuting time was about 3.5 hours per day. Now I thoroughly enjoyed the job but eventually the commute got to me (if you want to know why I was working 50 miles from home then investigate the number of well paying positions in the east Kent area; I also had to be on hand for my ageing mother).

              I could do that same commute by car on reasonably clear roads (I started early) in a total of less than 2 hours per day.

              Where I live now, I am about 35 minutes by road from the office (that I go into once every couple of months or so). There is a bus in each direction once every two hours and the first one is not particularly early. It also takes about 2 hours to do the same journey.

              So until public transport outside of the large metropolitan centres becomes far more convenient private vehicle use will continue to be the primary mode of transport.

              On the basic premise of the article, the $LargeCo has converted most of the office space on the site I nominally work at into 'collaboration hubs' (bookable hot desks) for those of us who really only need to physically go to the office occasionally.

              We use Skype and Teams (I know, I know...) but it can be surprisingly effective for ad-hoc conversations, so it can work very well.

              I sympathise with the young graduates who may well be house / flat sharing as I do with parents of young children and for whom working from home can be a royal pain,.

              For me, it is perfect as I have an office (when we moved in, it was immediately designated as such for my private client work).

              The company has made it clear that if we can effectively do our jobs from home then that is what we should do. They provide office equipment (and even a MiFi that they pay for as my landline 'broadband' is so crappy) and do regular questionnaires on how we are getting on.

              Anyone who thinks that people are going to go back to the 'polish the seat because we are watching the clock' (the worst clock watchers are micro-managers) in droves are sadly mistaken.

              1. Azamino

                Re: Convenience

                Fully understand your painful experience with public transport when living in the middle of nowhere and with little choice about it. Yours is a good example of why a minority of people need to drive regularly. Thankfully, 85% or so of the great British public live in urban / suburban areas and should have a choice between where they live / work and how they travel between the two.

                More working from home remains my preference, even though it does not apply to me as i need to be in the shop where all the kit is. Luckily I can afford to live close enough to work to cycle in most days and, on occasion, bus in and walk home via a few hostelries on a Friday.

                1. romanempire
                  FAIL

                  Re: Convenience

                  "Thankfully, 85% or so of the great British public live in urban / suburban areas and should have a choice between where they live / work and how they travel between the two."

                  Sorry I gotta disagree with your rose-tinted view of public transport.

                  I live 9 miles from where I work. Public transport would cost me about 3 to 4 hours a day and be a deeply unpleasant experience in the winter. Great for work/life balance! Not. And knowing the area, I'd suggest its not unusual. So I drive, mostly. I'd like to cycle but as I've got older I've become very wary of the number of maniacs on 4 wheels.

                  When I lived and worked in London I didn't own a car and that was workable. But having lived and worked in several cities over the decades, I can say that id very much the exception.

                  P

                  1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: Convenience

                    Public transport in urban areas is invariably geared towards moving people in and out of the centre. If that's not what you want to do, you're pretty much forced to bus into the centre from the edge you live at then change to another bus back out to the edge you need. In a way, it's a bit of a Catch-22 situation. The bus routes are designed for the majority and have too much investment inertia to change quickly, so people won't use them unless they change to go where the passengers want to be.

                    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                      Re: Convenience

                      H.G. Wells, over a hundred years ago, put it quite concisely: Public transport is a way of getting from where you aren't to where you don't want to be" (or similar), and the problem hasn't gone away. Trains, in particular, go from very approximately where you live/work to somewhere else very approximately where you live/work. Only if you are very lucky can you practically walk from home > station > work and back. You are also limited in the times you can travel. An integrated public transport system that coordinates buses and trains would help, but the problem then adds another layer of potential failure. Whilst trains and, to a lesser extent, buses are quite pleasant if you don't have to be anywhere at a particular time, the system (at least in the UK outside London) is insufficiently robust or convenient to tempt me out of my car for most journeys.

                      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                        Re: Convenience

                        "Only if you are very lucky can you practically walk from home > station > work and back"

                        Where I am the train station is in a dodgy neighborhood so leaving my car overnight isn't something I will do. This means that only day trips are viable which is very limiting if I want to visit my mum and spend more than a couple of hours before I have to get the return train. There also isn't any secure storage for a bicycle or E-Bike or Segway/scooter. I know some people that would love to stash a bike at a station so they can use it to get to work and back. That should be easy to accommodate, but no transit authority is thinking along those lines. The first and last mile problems still remain. Busses are fraught with peril. Their schedules often don't dovetail with the train schedules. If they are late, you miss your train. As they often stop every couple of blocks, they can take ages to get very short distances.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Office half full or office half empty?

              Do more to encourage usage of public transport? I can see you were never on a train before the pandemic. Most peak trains into cities were absolutely rammed and less fun than sitting in your own space in traffic jams. It's working from home that will free up the roads and save the planet.

              1. ChrisC Silver badge

                Re: Office half full or office half empty?

                " I can see you were never on a train before the pandemic."

                You need to see an optician urgently, there seems to be something seriously wrong with your vision...

                Some peak trains are rammed, yes, which is part of the problem, but also part of the "do more to encourage" aspect. If the trains are rammed, and if there's capacity to run more trains and/or run longer trains, then let's fund that as a way to positively encourage more use. If there's no capacity, let's start planning to add more, if not on that line specifically then on other lines which might be able to take some of the load but which currently aren't utilised to their full extent for one reason or another (lack of services, lack of connecting bus/tram links, lack of park&ride facilities etc. etc.). Or we could look beyond trains and add more capacity elsewhere with commuter-focussed bus/coach services.

                Don't think for a second that when I talk about encouraging more use of PT, I'm just thinking about ways to get more people onto the existing services - thought that's clearly one part of it (especially in areas where services ARE under-utilised) - because I'm also thinking about ways in which we could invest in PT to make it a more attractive proposition, and one of those aspects is dealing with overcrowding where it exists and where there is something that could be done.

                As an example of this - consider the significant improvements that have been made (and continue to be made) along the Great Western main line through the Thames Valley into London, as the 90's era diesel units used on the local services have been replaced by a mixture of GWR and TfL electric units providing additional capacity and smoother/quieter rides, and as the stations they serve have been upgraded. When I first moved down here in the late 90's, I wouldn't have dreamed of using the trains to commute because of how busy they were, whereas in the year or two prior to lockdown mk.1 I found myself using them more and more simply because the service had improved to the point where it did feel like a viable alternative to driving, and unless something has gone badly wrong over the last year and a half whilst I've been WFH, then there's every likelihood that once I start having to head back into the office, I'll be considering the train as a genuine option over jumping in my car.

                So encourage people by cutting fares, yes. But also encourage people by investing in the services themselves - new trains, upgraded stations, better provision of connecting bus/tram services at either end of the journey etc. Make the public transport offering so compelling and so accessible, that anyone who says "nope, still gonna drive, you'll never get me on a train/bus/tram" is either at that point in the minority of people who still genuinely don't have their travel needs met by PT, or they're just so stuck in their ways that nothing short of banning them from driving would get them out of their car (and possibly not even then...).

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Office half full or office half empty?

                  I sort of agree about public transport but we need to be realistic about trains. Figures for England 2017 below.

                  Train journeys were 2% of all modes; 8% of distance travelled. 64% started or ended in London and 56% of journeys were for commuting. They carried 9% of freight.

                  Trains are for people who want to go to London, principally for work.

                  The biggest rail investments in the past 20 years have all put in better train services to London in for people who already have a train service to London (HS1, Crossrail, HS2) but want to get to London 10 minutes quicker.

                  But the real problem is capacity. They carry a very small fraction of people and freight. If we upped train journeys to, say 10% of all modes, then unless they were all outside the large conurbations then there isn't the capacity on city lines. You can't just add more trains on these lines: longer trains mean longer station stops, slower acceleration and braking, greater distance between trains and at peak hours there isn't the space in the timetable to fit additional trains. Additional stations between current stations don't help for the same reasons. The UK's load guage is too small for double deckers. Next Gen. signalling might give a bit of extra capacity in peak hours, but not if trains carried, say, ten times the current percentage (i.e. 20%).

                  However, the real problem is the point you make at the end of your post: people love their cars and getting them out will be a challenge I think isn't worth taking on. Once they are all electric, autonomous and cooperative then they'll really be trains on the roads - just don't tell their owners.

                  1. Insert sadsack pun here

                    Re: Office half full or office half empty?

                    "The biggest rail investments in the past 20 years have all put in better train services to London in for people who already have a train service to London (HS1, Crossrail, HS2) but want to get to London 10 minutes quicker...But the real problem is capacity."

                    Aww, Jeez, not this shit again! HS2 is not about getting to London 10 minutes earlier: it's about separating high speed through trains from stopping trains between Birmingham and London. That increases capacity because you can have more stopping services once you don't have to block off sections of track for the through trains.

                    Equally, Crossrail is not about getting to London 10 minutes earlier - it's about taking pressure off Central London stations by obviating the need to change 2-3 times in Central London if you want to cross from East to West (or vice versa).

              2. Libertarian Voice

                Re: Office half full or office half empty?

                Offering up a sacrifice of cars to save the planet is going to make no more difference than offering up a goat to please some sort of deity. Co2 cannot possibly drive climate as; if you extracted every last bit of it from a bottle of ordinary air the mean global warming potential of what remained would go up (remove the lowest value from any range and the mean goes up; and co2 has the lowest GWP of any greenhouse gas).

                1. Nick Porter

                  One sub postmaster's story

                  Wow you're right! Why haven't all the dumb atmospheric physicists thought of that?

                  Is it like if you have a bottle with water and oil in it, and then you take the oil out, the bottle actually get HEAVIER, because water is denser than oil? Something is denser anyway...

            3. Dimmer

              Re: Office half full or office half empty?

              New app idea. Share your weekly ticket with someone else when you are not using it. Buy the full week, share cost

              1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                Re: Share your weekly ticket with someone else

                Careful. Paper tickets generally aren't transferable, whereas Oyster cards are. Check the small print.

                https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/how-to-pay-and-where-to-buy-tickets-and-oyster/pay-as-you-go/oyster-pay-as-you-go

                "If you only have pay as you go credit on your Oyster card, you can lend it to someone else. Two people can't use the same contactless or Oyster card for a journey.

                If you have a Travelcard, Bus & Tram Pass or discount added to your Oyster card, you can't lend it to someone else."

                Their Revenue squad are not to be messed with! I have anecdotes :-)

            4. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

              Re: Office half full or office half empty?

              Public transport is a place where we end up in closed proximity to strangers in a closed space.

              Did not Covid teach us anything?

            5. Libertarian Voice

              Re: Office half full or office half empty?

              Your public transport dream is over and has been so for more than 20 years. In 1997 John Prescott said that if he had not increased the number of people using public transport in 5 years then he will have failed; suffice it to say he failed.

              Governments have consistently tried to beat driver out of their cars by frustrating driving to the point that it drives people to distraction and yet even at these levels of frustration driving is still preferable to public transport.

              There is more than one reason why pubic transport is a bad idea, but the main one is that it simply doesn't take you from A to B at a time that is convenient for you.

              The oxymoron for public transport is that were it ever to become successful then it would be a victim of its own success as the vehicles would have to stop more and it would take longer to alight.

              Cue autonomous vehicles stage left: Driverless cars will remove all those bitter twisted fines and rules and the necessity for driving licenses and maybe even insurance. People who cannot afford one of their own will be able to hail one at will and it will take them from door to door. Without the need for driving licences there will be nobody that cannot use on and it will be absolutely liberating for the disabled, but lets face up to facts, who would use the bus or tram at that point? Public transport is a dead horse and it is time to stop flogging it.

        2. William Towle
          Meh

          Re: Office half full or office half empty?

          > The so-called flexi fares on National Rail that were announced are an absolute joke - you only save a few pounds over buying singles. It should be radically different.

          Under the old commute-daily regime you didn't save that much with short-duration season tickets anyway?

          Previously over the course of a month there was flexibility to have some holiday or a day of illness/emergency-at-home (and it was better still over a year, of course) without losing money. As a useful bonus, I also got rides to/from the pub in the rain for effectively-free out of the ticket arrangement I had.

          AFAICT under a "two journeys per week" season ticket, I can save some money if my employer wants two office visits per week but I only really get the earlier flexibility back if I go through the refund process (where applicable) from time to time or if my employer wants more at-desk time from me than that.

          (...Not that I want to be dragging the "laptop" I've been given to and fro at all, but that's another argument)

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Office half full or office half empty?

            It sounds like it needs one train company to come up with the idea of a "season" ticket that is valid for, say 100 journeys to be used as and when the purchaser chooses, possibly restricted in a similar way to current season tickets in terms of time of day/day of week they can be used. There's probably a range of options and prices they can go with from "anywhere, anytime" to specific route, weekdays commuter times only.

            Or maybe you could buy "Rail Miles" and use them in various ways. Maybe make that a scheme similar to Air Miles so people can "earn" them in the same way :-) I'm sure other people can come up with other even more creative ways of paying for flexible rail travel. Convincing dyed in the wool traditionalist rail operators to take the "risk" of changing and being first might be the hard part.

            1. TimMaher Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Rail miles

              Yup.

              Just check out Belgian public transport. Especially the coastal trams.

              Mine’s a Duvel triple hop.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Rail miles

                Blonde Leffe. Because I can't get anything else in the fridge.

                Note to self: must buy a bigger fridge.

            2. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Office half full or office half empty?

              At the point where rail journeys are billed purely by the mile, then we can be on a winner there, just buy miles - but you wouldn't need to, since it would be the same cost to just show up.

              I can see maybe a discount for buying thousands of miles up front, but if the cost is sensible then it shouldn't matter

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Office half full or office half empty?

                "At the point where rail journeys are billed purely by the mile, then we can be on a winner there, just buy miles"

                I'm not sure that works well for the rail companies. Some routes are extremely well traveled and others aren't. It's not just a distance calculation for them. The logistics might get complicated if they factor in the route, the time of day, day of week, etc etc. Companies may also want people in just before a bank holiday or at the start of the month for an all hands meeting. If enough do that, it really makes calculations messy.

        3. RegGuy1 Silver badge

          Re: Office half full or office half empty?

          This evening Look North West with Roger Johnson[1] had a piece about how Northern Rail are trying to encourage commuters back to the office. Levels are at 60% they said. Thank you COVID. Job well done. The business models of the past will have to change. That is life; as many others have said the changes that were happening anyway have just been accelerated.

          I have shares in Stagecoach. I expect those will take a hit. But we have to just accept that the world has changed (well the UK has, the muppets voted for brexit) and this is the new normal. The TV piece did make me smile, however. Imagine you are an executive in one of these companies -- transport or office companies (my British Land shares will probably take a hit too) -- you are going to have to pull your finger out and do some work, rather than thinking about how you can spend your inflated salaries.

          Well done COVID. Giving the complacent a bloody nose, and the workers a way to get a pay rise by not having to give some of your earnings to the travel company.

          Ain't life fun? :-)

          [1] Er, no thanks.

          1. hoola Silver badge

            Re: Office half full or office half empty?

            I was with you until "The muppets voted for Brexit".

            Yes the UK has changed but for most people it is Covid that is driving change. In terms of working from home it mostly benefits people who are well above the mean take home pay. They are the ones with expensive commutes, office based jobs and larger houses to have offices to work in so simply moving the working environment home is a non-event and gives an instance pay rise.

            There are many who simply don't have that option because either their job does not permit it or even if it does, they do not have the luxury of a nice office to work from. It is the latter I really fell for as there is a huge risk that they end up pushed into a situation that is not sustainable in time for the legislation to keep up.

            Brexit has and will continue to continue to cause issues but this constant abuse of people who voted for Brexit is also part of the problem. By the same token insufficient people voted to remain. It is my view that the referendum brought out a group of voters who were passionately anti-Europe. Set against that are those who were happy with the status quo but were not passionate so did not vote.

            We then had the companies sending letter to their employees telling them to vote "Remain". Now in the usual way the British proletariat behave that most likely pushed them into the opposite course of action.

            There was also an arrogance that people could not believe that a leave win was possible.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Office half full or office half empty?

              "There was also an arrogance that people could not believe that a leave win was possible."

              And legally it wasn't.

        4. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Office half full or office half empty?

          That monthly session ticket looks overpriced - should be 11~12 daily returns, so circa £375.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: Office? Session?

            Confused reading you comment.

            At first sight it looked like you could have been talking about either public transport or Office licensing.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Office half full or office half empty?

        At Jellied Eel re: long commutes.

        If you live so far out in the country that you can't get a (decent/cheap/regular/any) bus service then why not buy yourself a donkey to ride into work? You can name it after your boss/manager & thus get a happy little feeling when you think about making them do some work for a change. Bonus points for getting one that looks like that person so the mental connection is even stronger. *Grin*

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Office half full or office half empty?

          You can name it after your boss/manager

          Your boss [insert name], the donkey[ass]

      3. iron Silver badge

        Re: Office half full or office half empty?

        I guarantee my commute (and anybody else's) on the Glasgow Underground is cheaper than your Oyster fare. It is not just London where public transport actually works.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Office half full or office half empty?

        "That could end up more expensive for staff."

        That could end up happening to me (hence Anon Coward). Business got sold onto another business during lockdown and this would result in a both significantly longer (distance) and slightly shorter (time wise) commute. However, twice per week would actually cost slightly more than my pre lockdown weekly (local ticket). This is the North West.

        For someone living a fair distance outside of London, who would previously have wept as they paid for their annual season ticket to central London, I imagine two commutes per week could be pretty eye watering.

        1. DrewWyatt

          Re: Office half full or office half empty?

          Yes, same for me. Before lockdown I took a job where the office was within a mile of my house, as that gave me more time with my family. During lockdown my job moved 50 miles up the M1, and I'm not looking forwards to doing that commute every day.

      5. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Office half full or office half empty?

        "there only seems a choice of monthly or annual tickets"

        Maybe those people and the businesses can petition to have reduced fares when they are bought in bulk and good for a certain time period. You buy 10 trips and have so many weeks/months/year to use them up. Could be 25 minimum with better deals the more you buy. To manage congestion, there could be restrictions so you can only use the prepaid trips no more then 3x in one week.

        Amtrak in the US has passes for a certain number of segments with restrictions. I had a friend that was working in San Diego and would come home to Los Angeles on the weekends via a train pass. So much nicer than battling traffic on a Friday afternoon. The last time I was in California, the traffic was even worse which makes the cost of the train less of a factor.

    2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Office half full or office half empty?

      I think it's telling that this is a survey of SMEs. There are horrible tax and other implications to employing people resident outside the UK. No biggie for large companies which can use outsourcing companies if they don't already have employees around the world, but much less of an option for smaller companies.

      Even my own beloved employer, with 10,000 or so full-time staff, is adamant that all employees must live in the UK or Ireland. We had a fair number of staff in the EU but replaced them all with UK=based people, because the effort required to meet regulation in other countries was enormous.

      1. Mog_X

        Re: Office half full or office half empty?

        Our company has well over 100,000 employees, with probably about 10k office based.

        Frequently during lockdown people have asked if they can work abroad and that's always been (quite rightly) rejected due to tax reasons as you said, but also because of GDPR and other regulations.

        We've ended the leases on two of our offices (one in London, the other in the Midlands) and have fully rejigged our ways of working, with the expectation that we would only go into an office once or twice a week at most.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      Be careful what you wish for

      Then, if location doesn't really matter, they can locate wherever is most convenient for them - cheap property, lax regulation, cheap wages, etc.

      This. I know, I know. A lot of people will claim "you can't find people with my skills anywhere else" or whatever, but just wait. If you can do your job 10 miles from the office via the internet never needing to show up in person, so can someone else in the part of your country with the lowest cost of living. And unless your company has some reason why it can't send work overseas (i.e. you work for the government or something) then people in cheaper countries can do the work too.

      I'm sure a lot of people thought exporting call centers to India with people who have thick accents that are harder to understand (especially for Americans) would never fly. Or all the programming and other tech work that's been exported. Even some accounting and lower level legal work is done offshore now. This pandemic is just demonstrating to companies who never seriously thought about offshoring that they could consider it, because they've found people can do their jobs without coming into the office.

      Even if YOUR job can't be done by someone located elsewhere for whatever reason, if many other people's jobs can be offshored it'll drive down wages where you live and unless zero of those displaced people are able to do what you do, your company might find it advantageous to find a way to cut you loose and replace you with one of those displaced people who will work for a lot less than you currently make.

      So be careful what you wish for.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Be careful what you wish for

        It may not be easy for all companies to offshore people, you start taking on tax liabilities etc from running foreign offices, yes you can hire companies aboard that do the work - like call centres and tech support companies do now. But the average member of office staff or admin may be more work than its worth for many smaller companies.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Be careful what you wish for

          I agree, for a smaller business it doesn't make sense to go overseas, and for a really small business even leaving the state (in the US) or country (in the EU) isn't worth the hassle.

          But big companies employ a lot of people, and it doesn't make many jobs leaving to increase unemployment in the area which will drive down wages for all jobs that those newly unemployed people have the skill to do.

    4. rcxb1

      Re: Office half full or office half empty?

      <blockquote>Then, if location doesn't really matter, they can locate wherever is most convenient for them - cheap property, lax regulation, cheap wages, etc.</blockquote>

      Yes, but if lots of companies allow remote working there's a bigger pool of jobs and it is easier to jump from one abusive employer to another less-abusive one.

      The real test is going to be if those companies decide they don't need really need employees in the same country...

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: Office half full or office half empty?

        There needs to be an import duty on labour, otherwise there will literally be no jobs aside from selling each other foreign-made gewgaws or cutting each others hair. The economy only eorks if the money goes round and round.

    5. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Office half full or office half empty?

      "Then, if location doesn't really matter, they can locate wherever is most convenient for them - cheap property, lax regulation, cheap wages, etc"

      I'm not sure about this. Companies that are big enough / don't need the people locally have already relocated as much work as possible offshore. Most companies don't have the capacity to do that - having an overseas office requires overheads in legal, compliance etc departments. So the 'lax regulation' part won't coem into it particularly.

      With regards to cheap property and wages, I expect that client-facing companies will still want prime physical premises and will require client-facing staff to turn up there (and therefore will continue to pay prime wages). For staff that can work remotely, it is likely that a company might be more willing to get a new hire working remotely from somewhere really remote if it will save them some money. However for the staff involved, their own housing and commute costs will be much less so they still could be better off financially even with lower basic pay (not to mention improvements of work-life balance).

      The optimist in me sees a more decentralised world where most people don't have to live close to work and are therefore much more free and flexible, and where many more kids are growing up in places where they can see a few trees and play outside, instead of a concrete jungle.

  2. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Simples...

    When I first started out as a software developer - some 20+ years ago! - everything seemed to be this horrible, demand-driven waterfall model: either a client would want a feature which someone in management would promise by a ridiculous delivery date or management would come up with an idea and a required delivery date, then spend three quarters of the time before said date "thinking about it" before handing over a spec. Either way, it ended up with devs in their little silos, expected to jump and pivot on a moments notice and deliver something based on a woolly spec within an utterly ridiculous timeframe. Not for nothing did the "developers - turning coffee and pizza into code since 1990" t-shirt design exist.

    Then things changed... suddenly, collaboration became a thing - developers and QAs started being being brought into the design and planning phases. We could push back against ideas that wouldn't work with the systems we had written, timescales became more realistic and specs, thanks to earlier discussion, were made clearer.

    In short, we began communicating. And this spilled over into other aspects of development: I've lost track of how many solutions or good ideas have come out of conversations that started simply because two people were at the water cooler or coffee machine at the same time...

    And then COVID hit. More importantly - lockdown hit. And suddenly, we're back in our silos, with pretty much all communication timetabled through calendar software. And once again, teams have started to become more "collections of individuals", with little more than an obligatory start-of-day conversation and a couple of weekly planning meetings in contact with each other. No banter. No "good morning"s. No "how was your weekend" or any such chit-chat that can take the pressure off.

    Businesses used to sell themselves to potential candidates as "startup feel" or "friendly office culture". Okay, so in a number of roles, I've found that that's turned out to be bull, but there have also been places I've worked that did have that friendly culture... how do you promote a culture when your employees/teammates don't actually see each other for more than ten minutes per day?

    Don't get me wrong - working from home is a boon, and very useful when you know you have a delivery coming, or the kids are finishing school early. But without that collaborative, communicative environment, I can see a future where software development slides back into the dark days of "make this thing for this client by the end of next week".

    Yes, I know this is going to get downvoted to hell. Just don't come crying when you're back to crap specs, insane deadlines and no push-back - because switching jobs isn't going to fix the problem any more.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Simples...

      Businesses used to sell themselves to potential candidates as "startup feel" or "friendly office culture". Okay, so in a number of roles, I've found that that's turned out to be bull, but there have also been places I've worked that did have that friendly culture... how do you promote a culture when your employees/teammates don't actually see each other for more than ten minutes per day?

      The so called "culture" is a catch-all phrase for all sorts of manipulation techniques corporations use to keep workers in to extract as much value as possible with paying as little as they can get away with.

      "Teammates" are not a replacement for a family or friends, but when workers think that they are then they are more likely to do more than they are paid to and they are less likely to leave, even if they are treated badly - just like people keep toxic family relationships.

      This is not healthy and hopefully more people will see through that as we have more and more people who are not even capable of making friends and maintain relationships outside of work. The corporations want to capture all aspects of your life to keep you locked in a livestock shed they call the office.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Simples...

        >>"Teammates" are not a replacement for a family or friends

        They're not and that isn't the point. It isn't an either/or principle as you suggest.

        Both relationships need to exist and be built.

        If you are not OK with family relationships being built solely over slack and xoom, then the same problem applies to work relationships.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Simples...

      We're doing 1 day in out of 5, but that 1 day is always Tuesday in order to have that inter-team communication / chat (and allow us to use an office 1/4 the size we would normally need).

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Simples...

      You make an interesting point. It's true that videoconferencing is shit, but for those who have a home office in a nice setting, it's a price worth paying to avoid traffic jams and spending 1+ hour on the road every day.

      Personally, I basically work alone. As a freelance, my customers are now sending me mails asking for a given functionality. I respond with the date at which I can connect and work on it. When connected, I signal my presence to the person who called on me, we chat for a few minutes, and then I get to work. If I need additional information, I know who to contact. I find it quite efficient.

      Of course, I have the privilege of a fiber line, a home office with largely enough desk space, and a view on my front lawn. For someone in a small apartment on a DSL line on the 4th floor, working on the dining room table, things may be viewed very differently.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Simples...

        "For someone in a small apartment on a DSL line on the 4th floor, working on the dining room table, things may be viewed very differently."

        On the other hand, for some, they live like that because it's all they can afford in a city or the near suburbs. Maybe when/if employers decide WFH is a long term thing, more people can move out to nicer places (until the housing costs start to rise astronomically in those places while cities become cheap places to live. Hah, we can but dream!)

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Simples...

          >On the other hand...

          Well, you may find you have missed the boat...

          The rental market has gone mad and friends wanting to move out of London are finding they aren't getting quoted significantly lower rents, plus they are finding they are having to stump up 6 months rent upfront.

          Personally, if you can afford it, buy. Round me, the towns aren't (in the main) pretty, but they are nicer than many London suburbs, plus it is only an hour into the smog, so perfectly commutable. Although saing that, I see the neighbours have just sold for 25% more than their pre-CoVid valuation...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Simples...

            It seems to depend on where you want to move to. Only an hour out of London, I'd expect it to be exactly as you describe. Likewise, anywhere that is a tourist magnet. The leafy suburbs around the more industrial towns aren't as bad yet though are heading that way too. If you can work from home 5 days per week and only visit an office on rare and special occasions, you have a much wider area to choose from. Anyone doing WFH but still must visit the office 1 or 2 days every week can't really move too far away otherwise they are just combing the time spent on 5 days of reasonable commute into 2 days of very long commute.

            For some people though, they are frightened of moving out of the city because they don't want to miss out on "city life", whatever that means. Moving to a village in the back of beyond where everyone know everyone and you're still classed as a newcomer if there's less than 4 generations of ancestors who lived there might not be the best solution. Neither is moving to a village and then complaining to the local council about the "noisy" church bells that have been ringing out for 100;s of years, or the smell of the local pig farm that was there 10 generations before you arrived :-)

        2. hoola Silver badge

          Re: Simples...

          Housing costs already are rising astronomically, all that is left is the modern inner city equivalent of Victorian slums because everything else is unaffordable.

    4. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: Simples...

      In general I have to agree, I do love working from home through!

      Although for me, in my personal experience in recent years, the water cooler/coffee machine conversations have been more social, rather than anything really project or work related.

      No idea if this is the same for other people, but where I've worked over the last few years, we have many offices, in many cities, towns and in different countries. Most teams were originally fixed to a location, either due to technology, or clients, i.e. .NET devs in one office, 1st line support people in another office, specific client teams in another etc.

      But that's changed now, at least where I am, as an example, the project I'm on at the moment. Most people are in the UK, but they are spread around different locations, from the North East England, to the Midlands, to Scotland, the South etc. Most teams are no longer location dependent (we have a few left, but not many). So I could be on a call with a test team manager and the testers they manage, and most of them will be based out of different office locations, even if they are part of the same team, and this seems to be across the board, architects, PMs, developers etc, all just spread around now.

      So even if we were all back in the office, it would be very unlikely for me to meet someone at the water cooler/coffee machine, that was working for the same account, or even working with the same type of tech.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Simples...

        the water cooler/coffee machine conversations have been more social, rather than anything really project or work related.

        These moments are the remnants of times where people had limited access to information, so naturally they exchanged the news, gossip etc. Now with the internet, you can have a direct access to any news and also get quality insight from any angle you want. So many conversations now end up being "Did you hear X? - Yeah, I did. - Oh cool. - And did you see Y? - Yes, I did.". Sometimes it will be "Have you heard of Z? - No I haven't." and so likely your work mate will try to describe it best to his or her ability, but you could just Google that and have more accurate description. Then any personal commentary about events is a minefield as you have to make sure that you don't offend anyone and that your team mate will not misrepresent it to the HR. So usually you read stuff on your way to work and then just repeat what you read instead of saying your own thoughts, because what's in the press has gone through editorial process and is safe to repeat in public and you always can reference it when questioned.

        So given that conversations about current or past events are pretty much pointless, that leave you with personal stuff to talk about. Where did you work before? How is your family doing? Did you do anything during the weekend? The question is why would you want to share personal information like that with people you barely know? Anything you say is a potential liability and by giving out personal information you are exposing yourself, your vulnerabilities and your co-workers may use it as a leverage to extract more value from you.

        So this practically leaves conversations to be about the current tasks at hand and company projects in general. Given that a watercooler moment is your little time to take a rest, why would you spoil it with work matters?

    5. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Simples...

      You definitely get an upvote from me!

      I'm currently working at the best job I've ever had. The hours are flexible, the boss is always on my side and I work from home.

      After being made redundant 4 times in my life it was obvious that life was giving me a specific message to do something about avoiding getting into a situation where that could ever happen again. Yep, self-employed is the way to go! Now I'm trying to retire (officially receiving state pension since earlier this year) and still the work comes in!

    6. iron Silver badge

      Re: Simples...

      > No banter. No "good morning"s. No "how was your weekend"

      It is great not to have to hear about some sports match in which I have no interest or the latest stupid thing someone's teenage child did. It is especially great not to hear about my colleagues' husband's vasectomies (a regular topic at one former employer). It is also wonderful not to have to listen to Virgin FM or any other shitty radio station all day long.

      If I want banter I'll call one of my mates who actually know me and not the persona I wear for work.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: colleagues' husband's vasectomies

        He had more than one vasectomy?

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: colleagues' husband's vasectomies

          It was a snip, and he could never turn down a bargain, so he had another one!

    7. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Simples...

      “ expected to jump and pivot on a moments”

      This is a typical Agile you are describing :)

    8. RobLang

      How we did it

      We're a small company and we had that friendly office thing going on. We solved the missing banter by:

      1. Being less strict about content of standup

      2. Twice a week for a whole morning we have open mic (was using Discord, moved to Slack huddles) where anyone can drop in.

      3. We play games twice a week as a team (Among Us is favourite) and then the whole company plays together (JackBox, Scribbl.io) after a weekly meeting.

      4. Slack for everything, lots of gifs and I mean a lot. From CEO to newbie.

      There's no pressure to return to the office (I might as my house is too small and I'm only walking distance) but we might on those occasions where we're bashing out a new design or we are celebrating with an afternoon in the pub.

      As for returning to waterfall - I won't let them. I learnt how to say no a long time ago.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Once in a lifetime

    It's funny that during so many meetings, the management, when asked what is the value in having people back to office, still keeps tiptoeing and is unable to give a straight sensible answer, and yet they continue to push.

    Yes, having a nice but empty office must hurt, but shouldn't they be familiar at the very least with the sunk cost fallacy?

    The sky didn't fall, workers are more productive and happier, and don't have to commute and pollute. Most importantly they have more time for themselves and their family and friends.

    Look at those offices, they cost fortune. Companies should think about redirecting that money to their employees rather than billionaire landlords. Their gravy train should end.

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: Once in a lifetime

      Where I'm at. questionnaires are sent out every year, basically asking if your happy at work. e.g. Do you have the right equipment, can you work reasonably undisturbed, is your location noisy, the right temperature etc, do you have access to water, are you having breaks etc etc.

      The company also uses metrics, such as MyAnalytics from MS, plus monitors things like customer/client satisfaction (did we deliver what was wanted, on time, on budget etc).

      The basic result was that the vast majority of people were happier working from home, with only a few exceptions and all the metrics showed productivity had gone up, and customer satisfaction had also increased by quite a margin.

      The company basically responded to that by asking if people would like to work from home more often, or even full time. The answer from the majority was yes!

      They've now rolled out an official, but optional, work from home first option. Some offices have been shrunk, others converted to regional hot desk hubs (although still mostly closed atm) others closed down completely. They've also provided equipment to anyone at home if wanted, such as desks, chairs, external monitor etc.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        And I believe that that is going to be an integral part of the future work environment.

        Less people commuting and polluting, more chat and online presence, less imposing office buildings that don't cost an arm and a leg to maintain.

        Yes, it's certainly a willy-waving advantage to receive customers in a 40-story high rise chock full of employees, but you're paying 40 stories when you could do with 5. And you can still have that high-tech conference room with the plush leather chairs and the insultingly large widescreen TV.

        The bottom line always wins.

        And employees will not always have to pay the high city prices, instead fanning out into the far suburbs with a nicer environment and a bigger house for the same price.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At my organization (A fairly large place with tens of thousands of staff) they are looking at curtailing building projects and encouraging more flexible working where staff come in to an office (note, not "their" office but "an" office) a couple of times a week with the rest spent working from home.

    Many of the staff I've spoken to have supported this. A lot of people miss the real-life interaction with their colleagues so welcome being able to see people in real-time but don't want the five-day-a-week commute. There are a few grey-bears who are clinging to the idea that in X weeks time everything will be back to normal (i.e. Pre March 2020) But I think they are the minority.

    1. Def Silver badge

      A recent survey done where I work claimed 70%+ of people miss being at the office and can't wait to get back. I presume the other 20-something% are the developers who actually get stuff done.

      Once upon a time we were apparently a very strict must-be-at-the-office kind of company. I started working here five months before Covid hit and (within our team, at least) we were working from home two days a week. Post pandemic though, we have transitioned to a flexible working environment kind of company where they seem to be a lot more flexible on how and where we are physically located. I am planning on being at the office as little as possible moving forward and post dog (she's 11 now), I will be spending winters abroad.

      1. MisterHappy
        Trollface

        Monday - Friday

        Get into work, take off coat and log in, while the PC is logging in moan about the traffic, then open emails. Get up from the desk and go have a chat about your/your colleague's kid, go off and make a coffee, come back and complain about the state of the kitchen, chat to the colleague who has been away for a few days.

        Sometime around 10 - 10.30, actual work will be started.

        Later on, have lunch and repeat the morning routine with slight variation when you get back from lunch.

        These are the people who miss the office.

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: Monday - Friday

          "These are the people who miss the office"

          Maybe, but there are others.

          For me there are, broadly, two kinds of work. There's the fun bit, the "real" work, the work that you set out doing at 8am, suddenly start to feel a bit peckish and realize it's 4pm and time has flown. It doesn't matter where I am when I'm doing this sort of work - it absorbs me and my time and it gets done no matter what.

          Then there's the less interesting work - documentation, reviews, approvals, progress updates, etc. It's important, but it's not fun. When I'm at home and I've got this sort of work to do then I become massively productive: the kitchen floor gets mopped, the windows get cleaned, the shower curtain gets washed, the stringy bits get untangled from the vacuum cleaner head and, if the work is enough of a drudge, I might even do some dusting. I really need to be in work, at my desk when the dull work needs doing.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Monday - Friday

            I really need to be in work, at my desk when the dull work needs doing.

            So you need to drag yourself through the city in a polluting metal can to sit in an expensive office and have a sense that someone is watching you just so you can do boring work? That seems like an overkill for something that you could probably work out over a few sessions with a therapist.

          2. hplasm
            Meh

            Re: Monday - Friday

            "...I really need to be in work, at my desk when the dull work needs doing."

            Then the kitchen floor goes unmopped, the windows don't get cleaned, the shower curtain doesn't get washed, the stringy bits don't get untangled from the vacuum cleaner head and, on top of all that, the dusting - all will be waiting for you, when you could be relaxing at the weekend.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still, it also sounds like there is every chance that many of us will be able to occupy the kitchen table for a good while longer

    Unfortunately for me i'm now back in the office full time. No discussion, no consultation just a thinly veiled threat much like get in the office or else.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Sounds like a good time to start working on updating that CV!

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Don't worry it won't last, once the schools and universities are back, instances of CoViD will rise again; with staff constantly being off the management will begin to rethink their logic...

  6. Binraider Silver badge

    Overcrowded offices and car parks, inadequate facilities to go round many employees. Expensive rent, expensive and long commutes.

    Do any of us really want that? Unless you're in the business of extracting money from RTB costs?

    No, we don't. And that's why my employer has made hybrid working the absolute default - irrespective of COVID. Unless you work in the field, 99% of what you do is over email or a spreadsheet anyway.

    The only thing we really lose out on is the staff interaction; especially for new joiners; and I freely admit that is a serious blocker to training / not getting the buzz of what is happening.

    The office is now essentially a conferencing facility to allow for those types of interactions, and teams can choose when they want to go in.

    By the way, cutting out all those Diesel emissions from old trains, or oil burning audi company cars lumbering up and down the M6 isn't a bad thing either.

    Employees have seen better, and if employers want to continue to act like dinosaurs with rigid 9-5, fixed desks and operating locations they are missing a trick. I'd encourage anyone working for a dinosaur to come look for something better. There's a lot of us that have a rather more evolved and relaxed attitude...

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      The only thing we really lose out on is the staff interaction

      It may be a loss to some...

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "The office is now essentially a conferencing facility to allow for those types of interactions, and teams can choose when they want to go in."

      A team meeting once a week in person with a lunch after can be a good way for new hires and transfers to get to know everybody and establish relationships. Higherups can join the meetings to supervise and also have private asides as needed. What might happen is upper management gets posh offices with meeting rooms for those under them to assemble every so often while doing much of their work at home.

      My last 'real' job doing hardware would have been easier done at home. My lab was better equipped and I knew all of my tools well. The downside to working at home with that company was their utter lack of good communications. Most of the time I'd hear something being discussed that affected was I was working on but it had never been brought to my attention. If I wasn't there, I'd wind up finishing designs and PCB layouts only to find that something major had been changed.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the office….

    The company I work for have now insisted we return to the office for more than half a week unless you can’t do your job from home. My local office is 15 miles on the motorway or we’ll over 2 hours each way on buses.

    If I go to a customers site the public transport option is a couple of hours by bus or hit and miss on the train for about an hour.

    Where do I live? On the outskirts of a major north west city and only minutes from the motorway and train network.

    Being in the office is pointless for me as I can do my job pretty much anywhere I have an internet connection however if I don’t tick that box I will face disciplinary action……what is the point???

    Anonymous as I know colleagues read this site daily….

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: In the office….

      Keeping Diesel / Petrol producers in business...

  8. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    PHB

    Many PHBs cannot stand not having their serfs underfoot in the office to harass, demean, or otherwise show their pettiness. Many jobs can be done with minimal onsite interaction. Note I work for company that has staff that must come into the office (actually lab) to work. But many of us rarely need to go anywhere the doors.

    1. batfink Silver badge

      Re: PHB

      A friend works for one of the major newspapers. He said that after the first lockdown, the bosses came into the expensive empty offices, looked around, and started to worry that it would be noticed that their minions could do their jobs perfectly well without the gods overseeing their every move. This in turn made the gods realise that if they weren't seen to add value the company might be able to save their large salaries.

      Cue edict that everyone must return to the office.

      TBF, newsrooms are one example where having everyone together can actually be an advantage. It's easier to shout at each other.

  9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "The northeastern states are most likely to be taking steps for vaccination (at 82 per cent) while the figure drops to 56.1 per cent in southern states."

    That seems to match quite closely with vaccination/refusal rates from what I've seen of USA news

    "The split in the UK is stark. 72.8 per cent of companies in Greater London are taking steps to mandate vaccinations while less than half – 44.9 per cent – in the rest of the UK are doing the same."

    I wonder if that's related to the diversity rates in London and the perception of employers? Vaccine take-up is very high in the UK, with some variations by cities or areas, but no where near the levels of variations seen in the USA. In my local area, vaccination rates are at 83% of adults 1st dose and 74% of adults with a 2nd dose. The national totals are now 88% 1st and 77% 2nd doses. Sadly, people are reducing their precautions and case rates, hospitalisation and deaths are all rising again. The numbers or people wearing masks in the motorway services is noticeably dropping, as are the number of people having a piss or a shit and not washing their hands, or worse, just wetting them, smearing the germs around their hands, then putting them under the hot air driers and blasting them out all over the rest is. Dirty bastards!!

    Meanwhile, my employer, an IT company, is expecting everyone back in the office. There are nice words spoken about those who would rather not come in due to COVID concerns and can arrange with their manager to continue WFH. But it's clear they want everyone back ASAP. Luckily, my job is on the road and I rarely go into the office anyway :-)

  10. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Companies can do whatever they want, employees can do the same

    Renegotiate your contract or leave.

    This country is full of morons, so know your worth, fellow It bods

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      The vast majority of people are not in a position to renegotiate their contract and changing jobs isn't always that easy. Very few people are indispensable, most can be easily replaced. Try renegotiating a contract under those condition and most employers will tell to either shut up or fuck off.

  11. snow20191102

    How do I get my lathe to the upstairs bedroom please?

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "How do I get my lathe to the upstairs bedroom please?"

      The same way you'd eat an elephant.

  12. Spanners Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    I understand that in the USA...

    I heard of companies that wanted to cut peoples wages who chose to work from home, despite

    If you have less people in the office, you use less power.

    If you have less people in the office, you can save money by having a smaller (cheaper) office

    People who work from home have (unsurprisingly) been found to be more productive.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: I understand that in the USA...

      "I heard of companies that wanted to cut peoples wages who chose to work from home"

      Some companies pay a premium to compensate people for the company's poor choice in location. ie; San Fransico, LA, NY, London, Paris, etc. They have no choice but to pay more or employees would have no way to afford living in those cities. It used to be, decades ago, that companies needed to have their employees in one building so they could communicate. These days, a VOIP phone can be plugged in anywhere in the world and it's just another extension line. Also, people aren't leaving their desk to visit HR to request a day off or over the advertising department to consult on some ad copy. It's all email, IM or phone calls. Employees and departments can be anywhere even if the C-Level execs really want to have their offices in someplace horrible to live such as the Silicon Valley.

      If you've slashed your housing expense by 2/3 and don't have to be very careful about not stepping in something on your way to the office, a 10% reduction in salary might be an excellent trade. It also means eating lunch at home, making your own coffee vs that £4/cup stuff you used to get and not having to acquire a business wardrobe for every day of the week. No high vis vest, steel toe boots and hardhat either because there's some renovation being done somewhere on the premises. (most health and safety regs are complete bollocks). Just getting to work can be a big expense. The details will be important. If they want to gut your pay due to you finding a cheap place to live, throw it back on them. Some companies have wanted to see rent receipts and start basing new salary arrangements based on the employees cost of living. I'd just run at that point.

  13. happyuk

    I your company can survive for almost 2 years without anyone going to the office, then why would you ever return? just save money by not renting an office. let people stay home. if you're so concerned about the environment then there you go, way less cars on the road. it's better for everyone.

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