They shall take my home desk from my cold dead fingers!
---------> me when they get it!
A recent report covering 9,500 employers and 6,650 employees across 17 global markets found that those who forced workers to come back to office buildings are paying a price, with 42 percent saying they'd subsequently lost more employees than expected. Unlike Salesforce, which is trying to lure workers back to the office with …
The company I work for got bought, there was a lot of staff churn.
The new company said 'Back to the office you lot...'
We said 'Nope'
They said 'Okay..... we shall sell the office and convert you all to WFH contracts'
We've had much less staff churn.
Also, I work with colleagues from all over the UK and all over India, and we work as a team just fine. But we benefit from being able to hire good people, not just good people that can make it to the office.
All nice and good until you yourself have to work with an organisation or a government agency where apparently everybody, down to the internal mail service, "works" most of the time from home.
Add to it the current trend of these agencies not releasing direct e-mail addresses and phone numbers (" just write to info@....."), and it becomes very difficult to get anything done.
WFH makes no difference.
Organisations do not want to provide direct links to people.
They should have a direct link to a job title, and then it's no effort and continuous connection when the person doing the job changes.
However, I do feel your pain when the only interface is a web page that does not allow attachments, or a guess at info@ etc.
People that float this are usually the same people that hope the office herd will camouflage their slacking off.
Government employees should be judged on the work they do, not the size of the line in front of their desk in the office.
I will cite as a great example the Department of Motor Vehicles. A useless bench warmer may take more than 25 min to process a singe person, and everyone else on the floor is taking up slack. There are only so many desks and so many windows, so each laggard or slacker drags the entire site down. We have to queue up 2 hours before opening in the hopes we can only be an hour or two late to work.
Instead let the majority of the people who would have processed those claims work offsite, now there aren't limits on who's desk is where, or which office they are assigned to. More inportantly, they no longer have an excuse to make you march into their office in the first place.
As bonus perks, the staff are exposed to germ warfare from the public. No brake room leftovers that were left long enough to evolve language and petition the UN for special recognition. No missed workdays due to "repetitive stress injuries" caused by prison grade single ply toilet paper.
> WFH makes a difference when there is no metrics as to whether any work gets done
Developer-turned-Team Leader here. I have no metrics on specifically who's doing what work, yet still it all gets done regardless of what kind of chair people are sitting on. My team is distributed across 4 different locations around Europe and I literally have no idea (and neither do I care) whether they're in the office or at home that day, unless I happen to see the background of their camera in a meeting. I trust people to do the stuff that our team has committed to, and they repay the trust. Everyone plays their part and it's quickly apparent when someone isn't pulling their weight.
As an aside, in the past I've had plenty of days in the office where I've done hardly anything and also days working at home where it's way more productive than in the office due to absence of distractions.
I agree that WFH can be a good thing.
What I am (obviously failing at) pointing out, is that WFH is not a one size fits all iterm.
If your job is to develop software where you do not need physical access to systems that only exists as prototypes at the factory workshop: No problem.
However, if your job is to open incoming mail and distributing it to your co-workers.. ..Or of your job is to be a cook in the office cafeteria, then WFH is NOT an option.
Regrettably, I have observed both these situations, usually in large, often govermental organisations where nobody really cares whether work gets done, because they are funded anyway.
Therefore I have tried to point out that WFH must be applied with care. This is not a popular point of view.
"Regrettably, I have observed both these situations, usually in large, often govermental organisations where nobody really cares whether work gets done, because they are funded anyway."
When the same people are back in the office then the same work still doesn't get done. The only thing what onsite presence does is to force people into performative working patterns (i.e., to "look busy").
What you see as a problem of WFH is in reality a problem of incompetent leadership, unable to correctly task its workers and monitor the actual output/value the worker generates.
It's a problem that long predates the shift to WFH, and doesn't just affect public service but most businesses as well.
Forcing people back into the office so everyone can participate in the performative sharade is not a solution, it's little more than a sticking plaster aimed to cover up that "leadership" has no idea how to properly lead and manage a workforce.
This is quite possible.. but if WFH had no effect, then there should be no change between "before WFH" and >"after WFH", and we are observing this effect.
It seems to me that the combination of the stress of the yearlong mortal fear thet Covid was for many, and the multimonth forced "vacation" experienced by many (I hear that people had time to binge-watch netflix and learn to bake sourdough bread) has changed something fundamentally in many.. ..and not for the better.
"This is quite possible.. but if WFH had no effect, then there should be no change between "before WFH" and >"after WFH", and we are observing this effect."
I'm not saying WFH had no effect, but the cause is not that WFH is bad for productivity or people who are working diligently when in office are "slacking off" as you seem to believe. What WHF does is to exhibit a lack of organziational leadership that was there before, but which was hidden behind performative working.
The data is irrefutable, there have been numerous studies of WFH and they all show that productivity gains an additional 2-5% on average vs working in office.
The only group which benefits from workin in office are the under-performers who struggle to do the work they are hired for and who need constant supervision and micromanagement to get them to get anything done. But again, the solution is not to force everyone back into the office, the solution is to put these under-performers on a PIP and if they don't improve, they should be let go.
"learn to bake sourdough bread) has changed something fundamentally in many.. ..and not for the better."
I can't agree with that last part. I make my own bread and it's very cathartic. It also makes the house smell really wonderful. Give me the smell of baked goods any day. Fabreeze makes me want to barf.
《my own bread and it's very cathartic. It also makes the house smell really wonderful.》
The wonderful odour I take it, is from the bread, not the catharsis?
《...makes me want to barf.》 All options are on, err..., the table here :)
Not sure the housemaids and the butler would be so delighted with the young master's not toddling off to his sinecure in th City, Whitehall or seat-warming in the House, or whatever the contemporary Bertie Woosters do nowadays :)
"However, if your job is to open incoming mail and distributing it to your co-workers.. ..Or of your job is to be a cook in the office cafeteria, then WFH is NOT an option."
That is a very small cohort of people. Most businesses do not have a cafeteria or a mail room and I very much doubt middle management etc are trying to force people back into the office to save the dinner ladies...it's more likely because 10 year leases are a thing, 10 year contracts are a thing and a lot of businesses have a long time to run on these contracts...a lot of businesses cannot just shut down their offices, they have to leave them empty and keep paying the running costs...also, let's not forget, a very large number of conservative MPs are also commercial landlords as well as pension funds etc. if commercial property starts emptying, then the pensions funds are sitting on crap investments and the MPs don't get their rent.
WFH represents a massive potential threat to the establishment, because it could result in a massive shift in wealth. Wages for minions going up, returns on commercial properties etc plummeting.
As for the dinner ladies etc losing their jobs...if they are fit and healthy, they can retrain...you also have to consider a fairly sizeable chunk of workforce that previously might have struggled that can now access jobs that were previously very tricky...disabled people. Working from home means they don't have to be concerned with how they're going to manage a commute, navigate round a fucking rubbish, hostile corporate cuboid in a trading estate somewhere.
There are far more people that benefit than lose with WFH.
《WFH represents a massive potential threat to the establishment, because it could result in a massive shift in wealth. Wages for minions going up, returns on commercial properties etc plummeting.》
Pretty much sums it up two sentences.
《As for the dinner ladies etc losing their jobs...if they are fit and healthy, they can retrain...》 Could, I suspect retrain as rather effective managers. Could easily put a bit more welly in to wielding the cluestick.
"Everyone plays their part and it's quickly apparent when someone isn't pulling their weight."
If you can make it easy to see that anybody not pulling their weight is going to be noticed by everybody else, good ol' peer pressure gets the job done. I take a certain amount of professional satisfaction for getting work done in good time. My bosses are my customers so if I slack off, no more customers and I'd need to go out and get a 'real' job with managers and needed to schedule days off a month in advance and then having that cancelled at the last minute, etc, barf.
"WFH makes a difference when there is no metrics as to whether any work gets done."
That's the big challenge that managers have to sort out. They need to set achievable goals and measure people on how well they hit those marks. Measuring the heat flow numbers through a chair doesn't mean much. If I'm not keeping up when others are doing similar work and finishing more per unit time and we are all being paid the same, obviously I should expect to have some interactions with my manager that aren't very pleasant if I'm not adding value in other ways. If my output is off due to helping everybody else, maybe I am worth the money and it's the team output as much as individual output that has to be taken as a whole.
There have been plenty of workers in the past and present that work for a large company yet aren't assigned a desk in some office block. Sales and support staff are measured by what they sell or the number of service issues they resolve and both could be anywhere in the country or world most of the time. They could be in a 'remote office' of one or two that serves a particular region. Managers have come up with ways to figure out if they are worth their salaries or not.
When I had a manufacturing company, the firm I bought shipping supplies from had an amazing outside sales person. Don would drop in from time to time for a chat and to see if there was anything his company could provide based on what my business needed. I ordered just about everything I used through that company due to Don's expertise and didn't shop them at all. That was Don's job and it was rare that he could be found at the office. Packing is a very competitive industry so good sales people are key since finding somebody that can make a cardboard box isn't a hard thing to do. To accomplish those sales, they found it was important to have sales staff in the field most of the time.
"They need to set achievable goals and measure people on how well they hit those marks".
That is a problem that is as old as the hills and nobody has effectively solved, because it can't be solved. Measuring people is a shit fight...you can't measure productivity that way because different people work in different ways and provide different skills and expertise to a team. The person in the team that takes the time to help colleagues out by teaching them, or sharing experience etc might produce a lot less widgets by themselves, but their contribution to the general skillbase might result in the team producing 10x more widgets overall. You have to measure productivity based on general output at a team level otherwise your risk unfairly penalising people that are otherwise extremely valuable for different reasons.
Productivity of your workers operates a lot like quantum mechanics...if you observe the productivity, you change it. Most managers fuck this up by trying to measure individuals based on arbitrary KPIs rather than measure the output...and the assumption they make is that if output is low, it must be the worker. Sometimes this is true, but most of the time it's the process not the worker that is at fault. The whole point of a manager is that they understand the process as a whole, not from the point of view of a worker and they should be managing this process, refining it, tuning it, improving it...wasting your days going at the workers does not contribute to improving the process.
If a manager sets a worker a target of producing 20 widgets this month instead of 15...because he wants more widgets...and the upstream of the process doesn't provide the throughput of components to produce 20 widgets...he has set an arbitrary target and done nothing to ensure that 20 widgets can be produced...the worker isn't at fault here if they miss the target...the manager is...because they are responsible for the entire process...right from making sure the right amount of raw materials have been procured, all the way to ensuring the quality of the widgets produced is up to the company standard. If a manager is spending untold amounts of time bollocking workers, measuring KPIs and other such traditional managerial fluff, they are a shit manager.
Most importantly of all, you achieve the highest levels of productivity when motivation and morale are high. Arbitrary targets, KPIs etc do nothing for morale or motivation other than drag them down. Because if an employee has reached the 6 month point in their annual KPI window, and they haven't even reached half their target, their motivation is going to plummet which will then drag down their morale. Moreover, if you have an over-performing employee that has noticed they've massively exceeded half their target by this point, they're going to slow down which is even worse...falling 5 widgets behind your 20 widget target is bad, but having someone capable of producing 50 widgets in that time capped at 20 is worse because you've wasted far more potential productivity....set individual targets I hear you cry...well that leads to workers motivation being dented even further...because Mr 50 Widgets is now being paid the same for his target as Mr 15 Widgets...so proportionally increase the pay of Mr 50 Widgets you say...well, that might put Mr 50 Widgets dangerously close to the same pay as his manager...make the managers pay proportional to the output of his team? Sure, then what about his manager? If we pass that cost up the chain, it ultimately results in less dividends to shareholders, the CEO gets a smaller bonus etc etc...share price goes down...and so on.
We get shit managers that produce average results because that is the optimal setup for higher dividends, bigger bonuses for the execs and continued stock growth...furthermore, if the managers trip over their own balls and the shareholders demand a review, they get in $BRANDNAME consultants as an expense write off to scare the people further down the chain into a productivity boost for a year for free, because now they're shitting themselves hoping to not be made redundant...if that doesn't work, you allow a large number of older employees to take early voluntary retirement, paid for by the tax write off brought by the consultants, mention in the media that you "laid off" workers without clarifying the situation, and cause more panic. Round and round and round. Same old same old.
Anyone here that has been promoted to a managerial position, know that there is an extremely high chance that you weren't picked because you were the best person for the role, you were picked because you were optimal.
"but having someone capable of producing 50 widgets in that time capped at 20 is worse because you've wasted far more potential productivity."
If you are talking about Work from Home, the person that can make 50 widgets in the same time as others make 20 is getting rewarded. They are only spending half their day making those widgets and is free to do other things. Is the company being penalized by not being on the receiving end of that increased production? I'd say no. Hopefully, the company has run the analysis and concluded that the cost per widget at a salary level they set is profitable. If they want/need to increase production for the same staffing level, they have to put that work in or maybe invite workers to submit improvement ideas and pay them a bonus if they get implemented. A really smart employee that can do the job twice as fast would be silly to take a one time payment to divulge their secret, but there are those that would so it's worth an ask.
The current trend (especially with large retailers) seems to be to have their only online contact methods as Whatsapp / Facebook Messenger / Twitter. For those of us who refuse to have an account on any of these platforms, that means we can't contact them at all other than by phone (if they have a published phone number, and if they actually answer it).
It should not be necessary to sign up with a third-party data slurper in order to make contact.
There is absolutely no reason to sign up to these platforms with your real details though.
Get a cheapo burner phone (or use an old phone you probably have lying around) and a £1 SIM card from a cornershop and you now have a device for WhatsApp that isn't linked to anything with personally identifiable details.
《Incompetent management is incompetent management will always find a way to screw up.》
Finding something, even a method of screwing up, implies a competence - of a miserable sort I concede - whereas not finding something doesn't require a single particle of competence.
I would perhaps rephrase as:
"Incompetent management is incompetent management [which] will *never find* a way *not to* screw up."
Redolent of Wilde's definition of fox hunting to my mind.
"I work with colleagues from all over the UK and all over India"
The advantage of WFH in the UK:
. talk to India when you get up
* take a leisurely breakfast
. talk to European colleagues
* take a leisurely lunch
. talk to East coast USA and Canada
* take a leisurely evening meal
. talk to West coast USA and Canada
* have a leisurely evening
and sprinkle in a little cleaning or running errands and it's all quite relaxing, and you'll probably do more than your 8 hours without noticing, and very productively.
Certainly better than sitting in an office all hours of the day and night getting annoyed and bored!
>>aka Heisenberg workers!
Surely Schrödinger workers? Both working and not working at the same time until you observe them?
The trouble with Heisenberg workers is that if you know where they are you can't know what they are doing, and if you know what they are doing you can't know where they are....
>>aka Heisenberg workers!
《Surely Schrödinger workers? Both working and not working at the same time until you observe them?
The trouble with Heisenberg workers is that if you know where they are you can't know what they are doing, and if you know what they are doing you can't know where they are....》
Not certain Schrödinger went along with wave functions collapsing or mucking about with cats as most studies omitted the obligatory factor of 9.0.
As a consolation to managers Everett's many worlds interpretation of QM would have your minions slaving away in an uncountable number of possible worlds.
( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Everett_III - no executive summary.)
Superdeterminism would probably mean your workers were predestined never to work any harder anyway. :) Or your being happy with that. :))
Thinking of working/not working as spin makes the Stern-Gerlach experiment is bit of a wheeze and entanglement of those states, mostly in the office supplies closet I would imagine, borders on the prurient.
"work" now often seems to be measured in terms of how many pointless Teams meetings you have attended. Look at the various metrics which Office 360 (or whatever we are on this year now) can provide.
Boring stuff like replacing that failed array drive on a server, or the cracked laptop screen, or setting up some new computers, doesn't appear in the slurpable data and is therefore not "work"...
>Boring stuff like replacing that failed array drive on a server, or the cracked laptop screen, or setting up some new computers, doesn't appear in the slurpable data and is therefore not "work"...
Aren't those covered by Incidents/Change Requests/etc. so are therefore monitored under SLA and reportable as performance against KPIs? Most helldesk systems for the last 20 years will give you that info within 2 clicks and a shake of the mouse.
That all sound super cool but you have now extended your working day. Maybe you take the breaks and things in between but what I often see is that people are putting in far more hours, end up being available when they should not be (this is what happened at my previous employer).
The big winners are the employers, they are getting more time for the same money. The arguments about saved commute time and so on are completely spurious. That was a one-off benefit when WFH first came out. Commuting time is non-productive time, it is not your employers time, it is yours because people chose to live a distance from where they work. This same change also gave many of us that have converted to WFH a big pay rise as the communing costs disappeared.
Clearly WFH has many benefits however the thing that really winds we up is all the resistance about returning to the office is from those at the higher ends of the pay scales. The jobs they do and the home environment they can work are are a far better fit.
Whether people choose to work WFH or the office should be with the employee. The employer needs to facilitate both but WFH needs to have appropriate equipment and conditions. My employer is very clear that we have "working hours" and you are expected to turn off and not be available outside so them. Those hours are flexible so as an example if someone needs to go out to collect kids 3 to 4 every day, you just mark it in your diary and adjust the start/end times as appropriate. This is a global company with employees scattered across many countries and time zones. They are also very clear that you have to have appropriate space and resources to work from home providing office chair, desk docking station and monitors in addition to the laptop.
The other this with these sorts of surveys is what people say and what they actually will do are usually two separate things.
"That all sound super cool but you have now extended your working day. Maybe you take the breaks and things in between but what I often see is that people are putting in far more hours, end up being available when they should not be (this is what happened at my previous employer)."
Some people will always stay over and some will always work to the clock. WfH could make those in the middle happier. If I've hit a natural stopping point on something and it's still an hour short of 8, I might stop and do something else rather than inventory my desk drawers. On another day I might work 9 to get to that optimum stopping point. Other's might wish to take an hour off when the kids get home from school to get the kiddos pointed at doing their homework, chores and just to be a good parent. A dog owner might find it mind clearing to hook on Rover's lead and go for a brisk walk. I'm self-employed so can do lots of non-work things like commentarding, but I'll also fiddle about in the garden if I need a tall glass of perspective and several ergs solar recharging.
It's not a one-size-fits-all, but splitting 'work' up throughout the day can be a great thing. Substitute in family tasks for those leisurely meals and a housewife can have a fulfilling job AND be able to take care of getting the kids off to school, getting them on their homework when they get back and just being there being a mom rather than abdicating all of that to a nanny. (substitute genders if you abhor classical gender roles being used in examples). The dog can also get walked and doesn't spend its day howling due to loneliness and pissing off the neighbors. Packages can be shipped to the house and not wait on a porch until stolen.
Traffic was so much better when everybody was made to stay at home. That's a huge bonus for me as I do field service work and can much more done if I'm not sitting in tailbacks behind accidents caused by people who's caffeine hasn't fully kicked in or was up all night with an ill child.
Been WFH since mid 2017, since Covid, haven't stepped foot in the office (used to about once every 3 months as it was a 160 mile round trip) since Feb 2020.
Around Jan 2022 they started saying that they wanted everyone in the office... My entire team said no, made it quite clear that we'd quit and that they knew many of us had moved based on WFH contracts. For some of us it would now mean a 250 mile or so round trip... Even went as far as asking what kind of packages they were offering for people to move close enough to commute, or where they would be putting us up Mon-Fri and what kind of expenses package we'd have...
Quietly got dropped and never mentioned again... I think that maybe they realised that most of our contracts specify WFH and if they tried to get rid of us for sticking to our contracts... some of us would be entitled to full pay for the remainder of the contract (mine is Jan 24)
Last I heard from some one in the know... they're not renewing the lease on the building and moving those remaining that do work in the offices to a space about 1/4 the size.
I may find that if my contract is renewed... that it might change to incorporate some office days... if there isn't a reasonable package for travel/accommodation/food/drink in that contract... I think I'll decline. Got enough saved up to last me a couple of years without work at the same income. Mortgage free now and house is almost finished with DIY/Upgrades... I can find something part time locally even if it means earning minimum wage.
At least, unsurprising to me.
I am still waiting for the people who mandate these "returns" to give genuine reasons for them as they want to lose worker efficiency. This mass resignation was foretold by various people here and elsewhere.
Is it traditionally poor management methods or shares in traffic jams?
the game theory of this means it hurts the company more when you leave than it hurts you. You will usually leave for a better position, whatever that means for you. If the only thing on the table was more money there would still be churn, but with other factors like work/life balance, commute(or lack thereof) and promotions all on the table, almost any move will benefit the employee.
Replacing lost employees is the opposite for employers. When somebody quits, it will only benefit the company if they should have already fired them. In which case both the crap employee and the manager probably needed to go for some time. The company has to execute a job search, background checks, on-boarding, IT provisioning, training, etc etc etc. They will be bleeding money every day that key staff are absent. And due to the ongoing inability of the HR industry to accurately asses new hires, they may get stuck with a shambling zombie instead of an agile developer.
Which is why so many will chase you out the door with a come back offer. That is also why we shouldn't take them. For too long people in this industry only get a raise when they leave or threaten to. If the new norm is to tell your employer that their chance to pay you or treat you well enough to keep you is BEFORE you leave, you might not have to take your experience over to their competition. Right now the "pay you just enough to keep you from quitting" rule has worked, because if management overdoes it, they can lure you back with more money. This is mostly a waste of everyone's time, but it stacks the deck in their favor.
Flip the script on them, and they will have to pay you what they think will keep you from quitting before you quit. That doesn't mean you can't still quit, or put the screws to them for more money, but may wind up not having to leave an otherwise good company because a bad fashion trend in HR circles means you won't get ongoing raises without waving offer letters from other companies under their noses.
Broad indications are that this movement has produced both a broad economic boost and has lifted real wages across the economy for first time in ages.
If it's working why should we stop?
The cost can be much higher than that. I left my old job last year. An ex-colleague called me recently and told me about a mistake they had made, which was something I would have normally flagged up and resolved before it became a bigger issue. Now the customer is hitting them with a $120k bill for lost revenue!
By having other job opportunities.
Some facts that some companies should better wake up to on the double, lest they find themselves going out of business, for a lack of skilled labor:
a) We are right at the beginning of the biggest retirement wave in mankinds history
b) There is no generation with nearly as high birth rates on the horizon
c) That skilled labor cannot be replaced by immigration, nor can it be outsourced
d) The robots won't save companies from that. If anything, in the new era of automation we need even more skilled labor.
e) People are not willing to work themselves into an early grave any more, because after politics and corporations effectively slashing salaries and benefits for over 30 years, while letting management bonuses and shareholder dividends skyrocket, people simply woke up to the fact that companies no longer see them as partners but resources. And no, a fruit bowl and 2 free coffees a day don't make up for people no longer being able to afford a home.
In short, the labor market is a sellers market right now, and will only become more so for the forseeable future. Companies either acknowledge the fact that supply and demand also work when they don't profit from it, or companies will find out the hard way that "too big to fail" is a very relative term.
"a) We are right at the beginning of the biggest retirement wave in mankinds history"
For me, I've found that ageism is alive and well with few companies willing to hire somebody with lots of experience (to be polite). Coupled with loads of people that will be at retirement age (I'm under that, BTW), there won't be anybody to keep the fresh-outs from burning the buildings to the ground.
There also won't be anybody that can patiently explain why the idea from the recent college grad didn't work out the last couple of times the company spent loads of money trying to do it. Successful products/projects get documented. Failed projects rarely do. Not that people would search the archives for things that have been tried before any more than getting to understand why the circuit board is on Rev H.
"c) That skilled labor cannot be replaced by immigration, nor can it be outsourced"
For first world countries, the sort of skills that are needed aren't even taught as theory in other countries, which is where most immigrants are coming from.
"d) The robots won't save companies from that. If anything, in the new era of automation we need even more skilled labor."
The problem with 'robots' is that simple ones can only replace the lowest tier workers that are paid the least. Of course, how you define "robot" will make a big difference. A giant one arm automated machine that can throw about a 20kW spot welder IS a robot. I'd also argue that it's much more efficient at doing the sort of work it's good for than something trying to mimic a human. Where's the value in an AI operated ditch digger right now? Sticking a human in the cab gives it much more flexibility and the human can go off and do other things when digging has been accomplished for the moment. Yes, the human needs food and comfort breaks, but that can be a good trade.
There is a very manual (or Manuel task depending on where you are) that would replace very low paid workers and that's in agriculture. Machines to harvest crops are getting very good. They can operate almost continuously and it can be cost efficient to run them over a field several times to pick only ripe foods rather than waiting for the majority of the crop to be ready and only making one pass. Time can be factor and it can take significant yield gains to make using human pickers cost effective enough to have them pick a field more than once. The major costs being saved are in supervision, transportation and sanitation.
Among the "genuine" reasons will be the accountants' "utilization" figures. We've got x square metres of office space and if we have less than y employees using them then the employees per square meter goes below z and the overheads go up. Of course, the overheads don't go up, but you can't tell accountants nowt.
As the numbers of employees go down (and thereby office cost is less), the overheads per employee went UP. (eg, still need a cleaner to clean the same number of toilets at the end of the day, just less staff to distribute the cost). What did Senior Management decide, well, we were an expensive office, because the overheads per employee were so high. Closed the office.
Never mind that we had saved several million Zorkmids in redundancies. (Which then cost in the long run as the knowledge left the company). It was like watching the cute teenager walk in to the dark house on a rainy night. You know the ending, you know the movie is terrible, but keep eating the popcorn anyway.
Indeed - it doesn't matter if those are "percentages of all the employees are happy..." or are supposed to be "of the companies surveyed, this percentage said their employees were..." it doesn't sound like many employees were "excited" to be in the office.
 don't you just love stats reporting? Precise numbers, waffly descriptions.
 who is excited to get into the office? Is it Taco Tuesday? Actually, that *does* fit the figure quoted (with 7% left over for those who - are nipping into the supply cupboard with Brenda from Accounts?)
It would be clearer and more accurate to say:
* 69% of employees were not happy to be in the office
* 70% of employees were not motivated to be in the office
* 73% of employees were not excited to be in the office
Quite frankly almost nobody is actually excited to be in an office, and happiness is similarly a transient thing. What you want is motivation and the ability to do a decent job without looking for something better elsewhere. A lot of the time, people can work much better from home than from an office and these figures are merely reflecting this; that and the fact that a lack of a commute saves the employee money, time and the stress of actually commuting.
"(with 7% left over for those who - are nipping into the supply cupboard with Brenda from Accounts?)"
"The options are not mutually exclusive, so there could be 69% left over rather than 7%"
In that case Brenda from Accounts must be keeping herself very busy!
"excited" shows that it is an America labor market survey
They are always "excited" about something or the other
For a British survey, the answer to any question would have been an upraised brow, and perhaps a "quite"
""...three in four (75 percent) of their respondents, said they had "increased their real estate portfolio" in the last two years.""
Ok. Does that mean they all bought even more downtown office space or did they shed their CRE portfolio in exchange for single family homes to let located in idyllic country settings? Preferably homes with plenty of room for a separate home office and not too far from a good, but smaller, office building.
《without bums on seats》
In en_US "bum" would in en_UK/AU/NZ translate to loafer, lounger, piker or dodger which suggests hiring more management to occupy the vacant space. Ironically also translates to tramp in en_UK which on the left side of the Atlantic possibly brings us back to the enthusiastic employee from accounts :)
I would be curious to see if this survey was performed while schools were shut down, parents had to manage their kids and zoom classes at the same time, and everyone was living in fear of dying of a dangerous virus. Take those out of the equation and survey people post-pandemic where fear is less and schools are open, and then let's see whether productivity declines or improves.
One instance given was that supposed efficiencies were due to the fact that the WFH employees were working longer to get the work done. The true comparison should have been between the WFH extended hours vs the total employee WFO time of office hours plus commuting time.
The rule of thumb I notice is that people "give" between a third and half of what would be their commuting time to their job. Win-win all round. More work done, more free time, less petrol, fewer traffic jams and happier house pets who sometimes get on Teams meetings!
I "work" in the office 1 day in month. "work", because I can't get anything done while in the office. Nobody does. People just stand around and chat, waste half an hour every 2 hours on a coffee break etc. Luckily nobody expects us to work from the office, so it's basically just a place to hang around. Real work gets done at home.
A guy working for me, let's call him John, used to come in to the office on time - get his head down, put a full day's work and go home on time. No wandering about, no chatting by the coffee machine, no taking the long way round to the print-room to walk past HR. He just worked solidly, head down, all day, hit his targets and the PMs and customers loved him.
We had a redundancy round coming. My boss called me in to talk about people. His view of John was that he had to go cos he showed no commitment because he started on time and finished on time and never put in any extra hours.
"I "work" in the office 1 day in month. "work", because I can't get anything done while in the office. Nobody does. People just stand around and chat, waste half an hour every 2 hours on a coffee break etc. Luckily nobody expects us to work from the office, so it's basically just a place to hang around. Real work gets done at home.
That sounds like an enforced company social. Maybe that's a good idea for people that are in the same area. The money the company has saved by not needing to supply hot and cold running caffeine and AC could be allocated to a nice catered lunch. It might be good to have it over two days at a conference hotel so there can be drinking in the evening and for those involved with Brenda, they'll be something better than the supply cupboard to escape to.
I read The Economist article. We need to examine and question productivity by reviewing data. The Economist article presented data that shows lower productivity, but also presents another angle: not all jobs are similar enough to be lumped together. For example, the studies showed call center performance declined when working from home. That is a static job, follow a script, much like an assembly line. There is still much to be learned in this - where work should be done - category. Personally, I prefer working from my home office. There is a missing "water cooler" networking but at what cost? How often do water cooler speculations occur? I schedule F2F when needed to create, problem-solve, and align. But, even then, a poorly articulated and run gathering is just a time waster.
All of that does little to convince me as they don't state in detail how they are measuring efficiency and what things they are doing to make those increases. It may all be a big lie too as they don't/can't manage people working remotely and big office floors filled with cube rats looks more impressive when management is showing VIP's around the place.
Big companies can often treat their employees as cogs so they won't care as much if the optimization they do in pursuit of better efficiency/more profit ruins lives, breaks up families and kicks cute puppies. I've seen plenty of companies that have no clue what their costs are to replace people that quit vs. implementing policies for better work/life balance that will go a long way to retaining people and attracting top talent.
I'm presuming happy, motivated, and excited (total of 88%) aren't out of 100% but instead are probably the same third of people who want to be in the office, leaving a huge 70% who don't want to be.
Working from home is one of the best things work ever did. They get more out of me, better coverage (start later, finish later). Just had a report from someone else in the company who has caring requirements where WFH has enabled them to provide far more than would be possible if mandated attendance was a thing.
You can't push initiatives such as good work/life balance, prioritising mental health, encouraging exercise - and then force changes that actively work against that.
At least in my case my team are globally distributed. There are rare occasions where in person has an advantage, but modern technology has excellent interaction tools.
"At least in my case my team are globally distributed. There are rare occasions where in person has an advantage, but modern technology has excellent interaction tools."
A group of people that do similar work as me, all self-employed, are looking at coming up with a way for us to get together in-person as many of us travel to some extent and others are willing to take a short trip to connect with industry colleagues and swap stories. Conferences can be fine, but there isn't really a trade association to set that sort of thing up and trying to get a large enough group to take those days off all at the same time would be a daunting task. It's the one on one conversations where I get the most benefit at trade shows and conferences so having little meetups on an ad hoc basis works for me.
I genuinely don't mind being in the office, it's just the complete waste of time and effort of sitting in traffic for an hour before and after work that bothers me.
When I WFH, I don't have to get up until 8:45, and when I finish at 6, I am already at home, and ready to cook a proper dinner. At lunchtime I can get on my exercise bike and knock out a quick 10km, have a shower and a sandwich and get back to work within the hour.
I can't do any of that in the office, and I can't not take the lunch hour to leave early, so I sit and read a book, as it's a lot safer than wandering the mean streets of Uxbridge.
When I WFH ...
out of curiosity: while you're working from home, does your wife also work from home, and do your kids also learn from home, and all of you with their own room and desk ?
Because what I've seen is that the home office budget has exploded for everyone : heating, extra tables, screens, seats, better Internet connection ... for the company that's benefical of course, but in effect you get a pay-cut because you are paying for the overhead
This assumption it the thing that really winds me up and was one of the reasons I moved.
Yes, for most people there are savings however for another group there are no savings. If you walked or cycled to work and then got converted to WFH you are no better off and in many ways are worse off.
My previous company decided after Covid when we started WFH that if your were not needed on campus then you would work from home, The published policy for this was that everyone would be better off. I previously cycled to work so was not better off. All the management involved in this policy had long commutes......
I am still WFH, I made the choice, my new employer actively supports both home & office.
My employer either pays fully, or chips in to the cost of office kit and an internet connection. It's a shame that's not the default for all companies. They were paying those costs anyway, makes no difference on the location. The only thing they don't help with are heating and electic bills. I can quite happily live with that.
Mentioned in a previous comment on a previous article.
Company I work for used this as the opportune time to downsize their offices round the world where possible, 90% drop in space in european head office and moved to a managed office space elsewhere with some available hotdesking where needed.
So they've seen a way in saving a lot of costs - certainly in the UK but I would think elsewhere as well.
Suits me fine! (though I know for others home working does not suit them for a variety of reasons)
"Company I work for used this as the opportune time to downsize their offices round the world where possible"
Seems like they have a bit of foresight, or basically some common sense. It's astounding that, as per the article, a lot of companies invested in commercial real estate at the tail-end of the pandemic because it was cheap..... There's a reason it was selling cheap, dumbass, it's because no-one wants it any more!! This isn't like a blip in residential property prices where you know it will bounce back because people have to live somewhere. People, it turns out, don't *have* to work in an office to do office work.
Commercial real estate will still have a lot of relevance for warehousing, storage, server hosting, catering, retail. Office space???? Might as well turn it into flats and hotels, leaving a floor or 2 for 'public' hotdesking.
There's some value in commercial meeting-room facilities, for an occasional "get together with whiteboards" to plan the broad strokes of something major for the next "long period".
But no business unit needs to do that often, and whiteboarding never handles the details. Those come when reality intrudes.
Even before covid, our most successful products were developed remotely, emailing prototypes back and forth.
One thing that gets conveniently overlooked in these discussions is the time that commuters are donating to employers without charge. My worst case used to be at best an hour & a half each way, door to door, High Wycombe to central London. 15 hours a week, equivalent to about 2 full days per week of my
time life unpaid for several years.
Having spent time working without commuting staff now perceive that the cost of it, not just in fares but in time, has fallen on them but benefited their employers and that it really wasn't needed.
If, in fact, employers were to pay commuting staff for the time spent commuting then efficiency of working in the office would be seen to be much lower. The challenge for employers now is to work out how to achieve whatever benefits they see to working under one roof without excessive commuting; perhaps dispersing offices to suburban hubs.
Having spent time working without commuting staff now perceive that the cost of it, not just in fares but in time, has fallen on them but benefited their employers and that it really wasn't needed.
Yup. I also wonder if there's a correlation between companies that have introduced other modern manglement practices, and reluctance to return to the cells. So spend a hour or more jammed into train and tube. Then arrive at the office and prepare for the battle to find a hotdesk that isn't already taken. Then find a chair that has been taken, and adjust it from it's previous midget/NBA player setting. Or worse, it may be one of those modern standing-room only offices with standing desks. Because some f'kwit with the ear of manglement thought those were cool, or space efficient.
I can't think why employees may be reluctant to move from their home offices back to those hellholes. If I don't have a desk, you don't need me in the office. Especially when my office has 3x30" monitors, a coffee machine and an ashtray, and you're offering me a laptop.
"and you're offering me a laptop."
These policies are being brought in by the types of people who don't use anything more than a laptop and phone. They have never been able to comprehend how other people work.
Long ago our corporate overlords decided to merge 3 smaller business units into one freshly refurbished shiny new 'centre of excellence'. Each desk was given a single 4 way power strip and a massive two network ports!! One of which went to your phone and if you wanted you could get a 100Mb connection from the back of the phone.
In very short order corporate IT got very pissy as nearly every desk sprouted a 5 or 8 port gigabit switch, which was against IT policy as everything had to be directly connected to the core network. And 'ealth-n-safety really had a sense of humour failure as every single outlet on the main socket strip had a 4 way plugged into it. Not to mention wires strung between desks for extra connectivity.
"Long ago our corporate overlords decided to merge 3 smaller business units into one freshly refurbished shiny new 'centre of excellence'. Each desk was given a single 4 way power strip and a massive two network ports!! One of which went to your phone and if you wanted you could get a 100Mb connection from the back of the phone."
Sounds like they brought in an efficiency consultant to lay out the office.
Back when I was building rockets, we had the funds to upgrade our office computers. We sat down and figured out what each of us needed and I don't think any two computers were the same. JP needed to do Finite Element sims, Alex was designing the propulsion systems and in charge of maintaining the model of overall structure, Rich was doing guidance, navigation and control and I was in charge of the avionics and ground control hardware and shared structure oversight with Alex. A one-size-fits-all decision would have been a disaster. We would have all wound up boxes that weren't up to scratch or a bunch of us would have something wildly overkill for what we were doing. I designed and upgraded the office network with input from everybody so there wouldn't be any bottlenecks there. TL:DR, computers and networking were decided by the people that were to use them. Worked great, was expandable and there was even documentation. Took about 2 hours to create the BOM and get stuff ordered.
It's a win for employers if people spend the time they would otherwise have spent commuting working instead. The employee loses the time either way. You need good self-discipline to stick to contracted hours when working from home.
"You need good self-discipline to stick to contracted hours when working from home."
I see that as part of the problem. Are hours being contracted or work/results? For a receptionist/secretary/file clerk, it can be an hours thing. For sales, design, marketing and data input, it's a matter of a certain amount of work getting done over a certain time period, but not how many hours it takes to do it. It's up to management to find ways to define measurable results that can be monitored. If you work from home and aren't getting the work done by the end of the day/week/month, that's a problem but if you know that you need to have certain things done by a certain time, there isn't the same self-discipline needed. You know what's expected and if you don't get it done, you're sacked.
There are some people that need a supervisor standing over them (metaphorically) all of the time for them to hunker down and get work done. They aren't good WFH candidates and should realize that they need a more structured environment. I learn better in a formal classroom setting and I know that. While I'm always trying to learn things, if I must learn something, I'll see if there is a course I can take at the local college. If I have an analog interface board that needs to be designed and built, I can work from home and often wind up so deep into it that I don't notice the dragon ate the sun and I'm a bit peckish. I'll balance that with calling it quits a bit early on Friday.
One thing that gets conveniently overlooked in these discussions is ...
another one is that once a company lets people work from home, why should they pay a European salary when they can pay an Indononesian salary for the same work ? Or, put otherwise, how do you prove your work is better than that of an Indian software engineer ? What is your added value ?
"another one is that once a company lets people work from home, why should they pay a European salary when they can pay an Indononesian salary for the same work ?"
Is it the same work? It's rare that you can find superior work for a super low price anywhere. If you do, it often won't last long and you are again looking for somebody to do the work only this time with an unrealistically low salary expectation. The same thing happens when a company loses somebody with a unique combination of skills. When they go looking for a drop-in replacement, they not only are unlikely to find one, if they do the person wants a much higher salary. HR won't understand that the person they lost was rather unusual and they should have approved the rise in pay as they will now need to hire two people to cover the lost skills. This happens a lot with older workers that have been with a company for a long time and have been cross-trained for several different roles. It's also seen with people that have changed careers a few times.
"High Wycombe to central London. 15 hours a week, equivalent to about 2 full days per week of my time life unpaid for several years."
Companies can still have offices, but there's no need to have sales and accounting in the same building all in a downtown office high rise. If we find that the art department does want to work together in a small office, it can be anywhere so why not someplace nicer than downtown London? A small light-industrial building with a large open space and some small offices to conduct calls and meetings might be optimum. I expect that something like that could be had cheaper in Bucks over the same amount of space in the Wharf District. The people there might still work from home from time to time or even most of the time with company IT support staff traveling much of the time to keep each unit operating.
When I started working at my first IT job, we used dial up to dial in and access systems remote. 56k was painful, expensive, more people used landlines to speak to people and fax, in my view this wouldn't have worked for many applications or services.
Also why do you have a thing about baby goats (I can't stand people calling children "kids" so trololol)?
Yup, who needs progress, we should be happy with what we're given and not bother our tiny minds with the possibility that there might be a better way of doing things, such lofty thoughts are best left to our lords and masters who are able to deal with such concepts and make the best decisions on our behalf.
/s, as if it needed to be made clear that the above is absolutely NOT my real opinion on the matter...
As someone who doesn't particularly like having to spend any more time than is *absolutely* necessary with anyone outside my small circle of close friends and family (and occasionally not even them), and who very much thrives when left alone to get on with stuff, the enforced WFH periods of 2020-1 were absolute heaven for me - yes, I worked longer sustained hours than I've ever worked before in my career, but it rarely felt like I was doing that, because I was in familiar/comfortable surroundings whilst doing so, and I was able to timeslice the day between work and non-work stuff far more effectively than is ever possible when your home and work environments are anything more than a few minutes travelling time apart from one another, so in terms of how I was able to make best use of the available hours in the day (or night - another advantage of full time WFH was not needing to get a good enough nights sleep to avoid falling asleep at the wheel during the commute the following day, as well as then being able to take catnaps during the day if needed).
I know, to some people this total blurring of home and work life might sound like absolute hell, but to me it was like someone had given me the keys to the promised land - for me, it was an environment in which I could not only thrive, but genuinely do some of the best work I've ever done in my career to date - something my manager seemed to also agree with, given the outcome of my salary reviews those years...
And when I then also realised just how much of my family life I'd been missing out on through being stuck in an office all day, never getting to experience the simple pleasures like being able to ask the kids how their day at school had been the second *they* walk through the front door, as opposed to only being able to do it once *I'd* got home however many hours later, or being able to take my lunch break sat out on the patio listening to bird song with one of the cats curled up on the seat beside me, or being able to pause my working day to have an evening meal with the wife and kids when *they* felt like eating, rather than either having to eat alone or force them all to wait for me to get home, that made me absolutely certain that the one thing I'd never want to do again is work full time in the office. I'd still prefer to have the option of choosing if/when I come into the office at all, but the hybrid 2 out/3 in (plus a certain level of flexibility beyond that provided we don't take the piss) approach my employer adopted as the C19 restrictions were lifted once and for all is a reasonable starting point. And considering how uninterested in offering WFH they (and most others) were pre-pandemic, the fact that so many are now at least offering some level of WFH shows that, with the exception of the headline-making dinosaurs, companies have realised that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle now, and that employees aren't going to want to go back to the bad old days of dutifully trekking into the office 5 days a week just because that's how it was always done.
And considering how uninterested in offering WFH they (and most others) were pre-pandemic, the fact that so many are now at least offering some level of WFH shows that, with the exception of the headline-making dinosaurs, companies have realised that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle now, and that employees aren't going to want to go back to the bad old days of dutifully trekking into the office 5 days a week just because that's how it was always done.
You're an optimist. Those that are sticking with their office building albatrosses will have their CEOs losing their shit by Christmas and go back to full time like it or lump it. Those that are sticking with 50% WFH will downsize offices by 50% too and it'll be hotdesking open plan hell by Christmas.
"Those that are sticking with their office building albatrosses will have their CEOs losing their shit by Christmas and go back to full time like it or lump it."
It's a big pill to swallow being stuck with a bunch of unneeded office space, but not needing to keep it heated/cooled, cleaned, provided with coffee and bog rolls is a savings until it can be gotten rid of. In the mean time there will still be some roles that need to be done in an office and it's possible to figure out the true size and layout of what's needed. London, Paris, Los Angeles and New York are going to be where large amounts of business is conduct for decades to come, but the amount of staff required to be in office there can be drastically reduced. A CEO isn't going to visit the accounting department to get the latest figures he needs, he'll call or have one of his assistants pull of the information on their computer, print and deliver it to the executive. It won't matter that the accounting department is miles away and the assistant that's collecting and preparing the information is in a different country or somebody with special needs working from a home office.
It's best to sell an expensive asset the moment you realize it's no longer needed. The same would go for an expensive lease. The question has to be asked if trying to make it work is going to cost more over time and just taking the hit right away.
Interesting. So, basically, corporations sent everyone home because pandemic, then noticed that office space rent was dropping like lead weights, snapped up a bunch because some beancounter was still in the "buy low, sell high" mindset, and now they've got all this office space and the pandemic is last year's news so let's fill up the desks, shall we ?
I'm pretty sure that that is only part of the explanation. The other part is the severe peon-withdrawal that many managers are experiencing. Not being able to call one of your underlings to your office at a whim to lord over her/him and make 'em know who's boss must be an incredibly painful experience. Teams is just not adequate for that.
Maybe Meta and whimpering dog avatars could help ?
The other part is the severe peon-withdrawal that many managers are experiencing
one guy used to literally pull me aside to give me and others mini-bollockings over nothing at all because he just loved that power and liked to remind people he was in charge, now everything's fully documented over slack and email we haven't spoken in 2 years.. strange that
It's almost always the CEO or board demanding a return of bums on seats in order to satisfy some unachievable metric, when in reality we all know it's so they can look over the commoners in their kingdom.
Sad, short-sighted and expensive mistake. It would have been cheaper and more sensible to downsize the real estate and move to a fully remote model, but oh no, gotta have the shiny office space to show off to customers.
At my last place HR kicked up a stink pretty early on after the start of the great return to work about how those who were still WFH were slacking. Oddly this very same HR person was hardly in the office, always had a good tan in the summer and lots of complaints that they never picked up their mobile or replied to emails.
"You never quit until you have another (better) job."
I've jumped without a net a couple of time. Both were highly stressful jobs that were affecting my health and I felt immediately better when I gave notice. I have enough confidence in myself that I'll quickly find paying work. It helps that my expenses weren't that high and no family responsibilities. Now with a house paid for and no auto loan I could tell Them to take their job and shovel it except I'm self-employed. I advocate at every chance for people owning their own home. One should at least delay some gratification until they've built up a health F-you fund so they can walk if an employer is being abusive.
Meh, after 29 years in post I know how they play the game, getting sacked would take 9-12 months, unless "gross misconduct". Handing in my notice let me set the timescale and dates. Besides, it's not like they have even put out an advert for my replacements yet & I am in a unique role, no one else in the org can "step in" to it. They are deep in the shit and know it.
As for moving on, early retirement beckons, I will become part of the brain drain post Covid retirees, all because there was no way I'd return to work in a cold/hot (pick your season) noisy, shit office with old furniture (I know, I bought it in 1996) & a 2.5hr daily commute only to spend my time doing the same online workflows and sitting on teams meetings/calls doing the exact same thing I've been doing from home since early 2020.
Maybe it's because I'm not the micromanaging type, but I've never understood why it matters where, or even when, you do your work as long as the work gets done by the necessary time. Everything else is just pointless details.
And what are all the micromanaging managers going to do when they replace us all with robots? There won't be any point spying on them because they literally only do what they're programmed to do. That's probably 90% (or more) of the day (easy) for a lot of managers.
More than a few bad managers I've known were fond of quoting pithy (or so they thought) extracts from various Management 101 books and papers they found online, bought from Amazon's recommendations, passed around by their superiors as "must read!" etc.
Hardly an original thought among the lot.
Seems like a variation of chatgpt has been in play for quite some time.
Oh so true! I've dealt with a number of 'managers' who just read a load of books and had no real knowledge. Often they have completely missed the point of what the book was telling them or maybe read a summary by someone who didn't understand the concepts. Usually spouting buzzwords like 5S, lean and catchball.
This was suggested for buildings like Centre Point in London and the old IBM North Harbor in Portsmouth. One issue is that there is rarely enough plumbing (its usually centralised) and insulation standards are completely different as you don't normally work there overnight for example.
One of the things Walmart has done in the US is build their super large stores to be very hard to segment so if they move over the city/county line to take more free money or tax abatements to relocate, that old store isn't going to be reconfigured for use by a bunch of competitors.
Large office buildings are like that except that they aren't doing it on purpose. Utilities such as electricity have been designed to be metered on a floor by floor basis or two meters on a floor max. To split that up into 10+ apartments would be difficult. Water and sewer are also not sized for residential use. It could be more practical to completely gut a building than to rebuild what's there into a completely different purpose.
For me, hybrid is the way forward. Give people a choice.
Simply closing your offices down, burping everyone onto WFH contracts without warning or consultation, isn't my thing. For many people WFH doesn't seem much better than forced office.
As for these "X in Y out" schemes, a lot of the time, those are just a fig leaf for a hotdesk rota necessitated by downsizing of office space and you often don't get to choose which days X and Y actually are. That's not progressive either.
I hope this leads to the situation where businesses keep work from home as much as possible and freeing up a load of offices etc which can then (with government snails pace permission) can be turned into residential homes. A bit of converting which can be handled privately and we quickly gain more homes.
"Good idea, but are there not already massive amounts of unused housing (250K homes) and office space (100 million sq ft) ? How will even more empty offices help?"
Isnt it estimated that 250k new homes need to be supplied per year just to handle year on year growth? More housing means lower house prices which people have been complaining about the costs rising for some time.
"Which is propped up by the housing market to a large extent."
A problem in its own right and the product of years of cheap money due to interest rates being based on a cost of living measure that didn't take into account soaring house prices.
It's a very fragile prop.
"A problem in its own right and the product of years of cheap money due to interest rates being based on a cost of living measure that didn't take into account soaring house prices.
When interest rates are low, housing prices will rise to meet a monthly payment that enough people can qualify for loans at that level. When interest rates go up, there's a lag, but housing prices will fall back down so that important monthly payment amount is back where it was. My advice is to buy when interest rates are high and house prices are low. Just make sure your loan can be refinanced. There's no way to renegotiate the price of the home after the sale. Many people could cut out enough to live with some high interest rates for a year or two until they come down again.
It's the unrented, unoccupied ones that are the problem.
I have some personal interest in this in that I have a pension fund which includes a commercial property element. That certainly doesn't stop me believing that the established state of affairs - big cities, long commutes - is unsustainable in the long run, needs to be rethought and rebalanced, and the quicker the better.
The target as I see it should be a mixture of:
- less urban office space
- more urban residential space for those whose lifestyle it would suit
- more working at home (I distinguish that from working from home. There are many jobs, field engineer, for example, where at least some of the work is performed in locations which is neither home nor the employers' premises but this is less likely to be affected in any rebalancing.)
- more suburban offices so work in the office does not need long commutes for cases where W@H does not fit
- more use of serviced offices for those who do not have suitable working space at home
There's an urgent need for governments to catch on and change the planning rules PDQ. For instance use of "brown-field" sites is encouraged for residential use but those sites, at least those in my area, are old mill buildings which would provide for the last two of my points and there are very few of them left.
>There's an urgent need for governments to catch on and change the planning rules PDQ. For instance use of "brown-field" sites is encouraged for residential use but those sites, at least those in my area, are old mill buildings which would provide for the last two of my points and there are very few of them left.
Old mill buildings can be converted like Dean Clough at Halifax. The ground floors are shops/restaurants/gyms, higher levels and offices/hotels/flats. Mixed use spaces.
And why are they in the "wrong place"?
Because there's no jobs.
Why are there no jobs?
Because of companies requiring people to work from a central office, and there aren't many companies based there.
If more people can work remotely (whether at home or from a remote serviced office), then suddenly a lot of homes become viable as all they need is FTTP.
Ironically, they're often in the "wrong place" because they were built to house the labour required by historic industries in places where people were previously thin on the ground. Often the only reason these places exist is because of the previous nearby existence of raw materials. Neither commuting nor working from home were options then. However, they're often places no-one would choose to live if they had an alternative so FTTP isn't really a solution.
"Good idea, but are there not already massive amounts of unused housing (250K homes) and office space (100 million sq ft) ? How will even more empty offices help?"
Let's go in assuming that the people with a job live under a roof somewhere so it's not a matter of needing more housing when reducing the number of people going to an office to do whatever it is that people do in offices. There may be a need for more housing, but that doesn't have anything to do with office space.
…and it wasn’t pleasant. I wouldn’t want to live in one, and I wouldn’t inflict them on anybody else, we already have plenty of shoddy, poor quality housing stock and adding to that isn’t really going to do anybody any favours.
While I’m sure it’s theoretically possible to do good quality conversions my suspicion is that the poor quality lash-up on a building which was cheaply constructed in the first place, and which just about scrapes through planning rules will always look better on the developer’s spreadsheet, and so that’s what we’ll get.
"While I’m sure it’s theoretically possible to do good quality conversions my suspicion is that the poor quality lash-up on a building which was cheaply constructed in the first place, and which just about scrapes through planning rules will always look better on the developer’s spreadsheet, and so that’s what we’ll get."
The fact that is scrapes through the planning rules puts it to a minimum accepted standard in the country. If it ends up as low end housing stock I cant imagine that being something to complain about as people are looking for cheap housing. It is the rules that restrict the building of housing and there is a housing shortage so I do wonder if this is an easy improvement to the situation (not a solution because housing needs to be built to keep up with population growth).
I did find a news article saying they were going to convert Centre Point into luxury apartments, no idea if it has happened. But then some people will pay through the nose to live in the Barbican or Trellick tower where due to listed status you can't change the single glazed windows and insulation wasn't really a thing in the 60s.
You often don't even need planning permission thanks to recent government attempts to reduce "red tape" (i.e. protection for the proles).
Office buildings are usually poor candidates for housing as they have a lot of interior space that's a long way from windows. You almost always end up with long, dark, narrow rooms with windows at only one end - or, in the case of kitchens and bathrooms, no natural light at all.
1) WFH isn't for everyone.
- A dedicated work space is needed, and minimum distractions. Some people simply don't have it and the office provides that.
- New / young / first job employees often do not have the experience to establish the discipline to be productive.
2) WFO isn't for everyone.
- Many talented and valuable employees have reached that career point where work-life-balance is more important than a title or top tier pay.
- Some company cultures require it. An authoritarian CEO breeds authoritarian VPs, directors, and managers. This appeals to some employees, but not others.
3) WFH companies reduce expenses (and increase profits).
- Less office space (which encompasses everything from square footage to HVAC to coffee in the break room)
- Less payroll. Just because the job is 'Silicon valley-esque' does not mean that is the COLA pay when the employee lives in Sheboyganville. If employees want 'Valley pay', move to Cali and enjoy the expensive lifestyle.
Bottom line... WFH has been a long & slow trend. It got a massive boost the past three years. It has been proven to work. Mandating WFO is going backward. Smart companies will adapt to some amount of WFH.
- Less payroll. Just because the job is 'Silicon valley-esque' does not mean that is the COLA pay when the employee lives in Sheboyganville. If employees want 'Valley pay', move to Cali and enjoy the expensive lifestyle.
I can understand that point of view. However, employees are (or should be) being compensated for the value they bring to the employer. Where they are when producing that value shouldn't really affect the compensation.
I like going in a couple of days a week for a change of scenery, a bit of a chat with some people, see some other human beings and keep my social skills functioning. My company doesn't ask me to go in at all but I like it, and the office is about 90% empty most days so it's nice and quiet unlike prior to the pandemic. I also like the 90 mins commuting as I've been able to make time to catch up on my reading, finally got around to reading Bruce Dickinson's excellent autobiography last week! I live about 5 mins from my local station and the office is 2 mins from the station in London, so it's cheap and easy for me but i can fully understand some people it's 3 hour struggle at £50/day to get in and I appreciate why they hate it.
It doesn't bother me where I work these days, home or office, no biggie to me either way.
It is probably bad timing for companies to try to force people back into the office right now, but the longer they waited the more used to WFH people would be and the more difficult getting them back into the office would be. Eventually they will get their way, because when jobs are scarcer employees won't be able to easily find a new job and hand in their resignation letter.
I'm assuming The Reg has a lot of older more experienced people, so more of us fall under that 'key worker' category where there is more leverage to demand stuff from employers like more money or special working circumstances that don't apply to the rest like WFH. So the people here who say "I'll never go back" are probably right, but that doesn't mean that almost everyone else won't be forced back in the long run.
I've been a remote worker for about 20 years and it sickens me that I can't gloat to my friends any more, so to this end I've devised a method to decide who should go back to the office permanently.
If you have ever used, or habitually use the acronym WFH then back to the office you go. In addition, if you use the word issue when you mean to say problem you have to go back 4 days a week. The other day will be spent learning the English language.
The sort of work you can do from home is just the material you can do on a computer by yourself that doesn't require any physical interaction with anyone or anything. This is really a subset of work still. I can write and debug software at home, for example, provided that software doesn't have to run on a piece of prototype hardware or something like that. (Here we can go into all sorts of hair splitting but what it boils down to is "if you can run your code either on a laptop at home or on a system similar to that laptop then you're OK".)
Most work involves some kind of physical presence. Its just a fact of life.
I like to not go to work as much as the rest of us (I'm now retired -- I can heartily recommend it) but I think those people who think they can WFH are deluding themselves. Some will be able to, they've always been able to, but they're a minority. The rest of us, not so much. (....and obviously we're all key workers who can't possibly be replaced.......)
Stop the presses! Work that requires physical presence can't be done at home newsflash!
The only thing wrong with your argument is that a huge amount of work, including having lots of meetings with people and interacting a lot, can be done from home perfectly well. No physical presence required.
And in fact many (most?) meetings are more productive when people have them from their desk.
When someone asks "What about X?", the person who has access to the info can look it up right then, and we can discuss the info immediately, instead of calling another meeting the next day.
Though one major downside is that a lot of managers now "make a recording" instead of taking and distributing minutes.
I can read the minutes of a 30min meeting in about five minutes. Listening to the recording takes three quarters of an hour!
Not just that, but you no longer need to "book a meeting room" (unless being joined by people in the office). When most meetings involve people from other countries and timezones anyway, it's usually _more_ convenient to participate in meetings from home.
It is a fallacy that a bank is too big to fail (or any business). If it fails, it fails. Just make sure that those responsible are held to account (if necessary). The others might just think "it might happen to us too".
Probably what will happen is that the "snouts in the trough" get wider and go deeper.
"WFH lowers the values of all the over-leveraged office buildings. Banks fail. Taxpayers have to bail out the failed banks."
It also means that widening motorways and adding more trains to an already underfunded public transportation network isn't needed for those two times a day, M-F, where everybody needs to get to their place of work and leave at the same time as everybody else. There's an amazing amount of roadway at 2am on a Tuesday morning and a place to sit on a train at 11am where you have to stand at 6:30a. Very poor resource utilization to keep on with business as usual when modern communications has made having an entire company in one building a thing of the past.
Companies have a big investment in office space - either by purchasing their own premises and now have more capital than needed tied up in unused assets, or have leases for more space than they need, so spending more than they need (and will probably find it harder to negotiate a more reasonable rate for what they need when the lease comes up for renewal). The bean counters, who tend to have disproportionate influence at board level will be driving the desire to refill empty desks.
Landlords have also made big investments in city centre property and need to get a return on them.
I am currently working hybrid and it better stays that way. If they try to force me back into the office, my response will be to walk backwards towards the elevator, giving my middle finger salute (goodbye?), while saying proudly and loudly saying: "I WILL NOT SEE YOU MONDAY!" (I work Mon & Tue). Yes, just like Stewie Griffin. Control freaks in mgmt can enjoy all by themselves their shower-fest of moronic corporate lingo and in person "organic generation of ideas" because I will not be there.
Yup. Obviously, there's work you have to physically be present to do. But going into a dreary cubicle farm, only to log into a usually equally-dreary computer and spend all day on a computer coding and collaborating via instant messages and slack channels? Screw that, I can (and now do!) do that from home. As a bonus, the employer I work for now is in an area where wages are much higher than my area, so I'm getting a very good hourly rate. (No, I'm not working from India... it's a US employer and I'm in the US, they're just in a part of the US with higher costs of living than mine.)
Covid measures including working from home accelerated the further uptake of non-literate communication technologies so that now even less is recorded in writing than even three years ago.
From my observation, teleconferencing is largely a waste of time, leaving the benefits of socialising aside which I don't actually discount. But ask yourself what are the artifacts of these interactions that can be consulted at a later date?
Unlike a real meetings of yore it is rarely the case that anyone takes minutes or the participants diarise the discussion.
Email which, when discussing a complex problem, often resembled a Socratic dialogue that could be consulted, or even incorporated, when documenting the conclusion or solution, has degenerated into mostly mindless, meaningless twaddle.
Instant messaging and its unspeakable offspring - social media - is mostly a void filled by the vacuous who are unable construct an intelligible utterance let alone a coherent sentence.
The writer who employs his weekly eight hours of commuting for reading is to be commended and is fortunate. Unfortunately I and I suspect many others are unable to read comfortably or efficiently while in motion.