back to article IBM Software tells workers: Get back to the office three days a week

IBM Software has mandated a swift return to the office for staff globally, telling those living within a 50 mile (80km) radius of a Big Blue office to be at their desks at least three days a week – to "spend more meaningful time together." In an internal blog published on September 5, IBM Software's Kareem Yusuf, senior veep …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Has anyone actually produced an independent analysis of worker productivity remote/office to back this up?

    I can see good reasons for being together as a team during certain aspects, but equally I can see that many jobs, especially software, can be done just as well, if not better, at one's own home with few distractions and less of one's life wasted commuting.

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Maybe adding employees' travel-to-work should be added to a company's carbon footprint might help managers see sense here.

      A bit of green-washing can be good!

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Boffin

        Even better, consider the employees' commute as part of their working time, so 1-hour commute = 6 hour working day instead of 8

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @jmch

          You are absolutely right. That is the thing to do.

          So, they have no commute. So I cut their pay accordingly.

          They want to rewrite their contract and work from home? Fine by me. Saves me money so I can pay myself more.

          So I sacked them.

          But that is not what happened...

          They chose not to rewrite their contract.

          They are still employed by me.

          They still get the same wage rise each year that we negotiate, ( usually inflation plus 3 or 4%)

          They are still my friends as they were before I "employed" them.

          Moral. You want to work from home? Forget all the bullshit surveys. You are wanting to rewrite your contract.

          Think about it before you pile in and whine about how shit your management is.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Great approach! You must be a real “work from office” magnet for your staff.

          2. chris street

            You pay us for our ability - not for some arbitrary distance I am from your office. Want to screw me on that. I'm paying for my own heat and lights and internet - you can pony up for that thanks then. Two can pay that game.

            My contract is to do the work put in front of me. I had an employer chose to do exactly what you decided.

            I left. And it wasnt amicable. That cost them a lot of consultancy fees to pick up after I was gone because their ego decided to summarily dismiss me.

            That cost them a lump sum instead of wages - because their ego decided to summarily dismiss me.

            Just remember when you think as an employer that you hold all the power.

            You don't. Theres a big shortage in tech areas, and employees have the power now.

          3. Scott 26
            Devil

            > Think about it before you pile in and whine about how shit your management is.

            yeah, cos you've just demonstrated how much worse it could be..... thank fuck I don't work for a prick like you.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hi Elon, how's "X" doing these days?

            1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

              Elon: "I lost the full $45 billion...and I don't care!"

          5. cje

            Oh dear! A place of work should not be like the way you manage it - you clearly don't understand the role of a manager. I've seen micromanagers (like yourself) in action, and you are usually too paranoid about what your employees are doing, instead of focusing on your own job.

            How can you possibly run a team if there is no trust? Just because you can't see people in the office doesn't mean that they aren't working.

            We work in an industry that is 24/7. For a lot of us IT professionals, 9 to 5 just does not cover the hours that we are called upon to work, from the office or at home. People like you just don't understand that.

            And there is no place in work environment for bullying, narcissism, nepotism, etc, etc.... basically a lot of the negative traits that you are displaying in your post. People like you should be routed out and fired. Employees in every industry have put up with a lot of shit from people like you and it's time that changed.

          6. david bates

            Did you re-write their contract when you had to close your office and everyone had to work from home to stop the company collapsing under COVID?

            When the next lockdown hits (and it will) do you think that all the workers being forced back to the office will be willing to upend their homes lives again to help an organization that has no ineterst in quid pro quo?

          7. TonyJ

            Or how about you pay a 10 hour working day? You already DON'T pay for commuting even when not working at home. It takes place outside of normal working hours. That's the point being made. Pay me six hours? Get six hours.

            Do you realise that most people actually start work before 9am, then finish a bit later, because there is no rush to commute? Or at least that's the case in my team and no one forces them (quite the opposite, I try to get them to spend less time working and have a better work-life balance).

            I get more done with fewer distractions - the amount of bullshit that fills a day in the office by people who just want to touch base as the pass - i.e. distract you to talk about their weekend/hobby/bbq/<insert other non-work related chat.

            You come across as the real bitchy micromanager type that needs to "see" their minions at a desk to reinforce their perceived power, control and the size of their empire.

            I won't return to an office. If a company insists, that's cool. I am sure they will find a suitable replacement.

            I work to live. Not live to work.

          8. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            What prize do you get for wasting hours of your staff every day ? WHy not make them waste 10 hours commuting just because you can be an arsehole ? Im sure wasting time is such a bonus to th ecompany.

      2. MarkTriumphant

        But instead of the environmental cost of travelling, there is the cost of heating each workers home, so it is not a simple calculation.

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          There'll be some incremental cost to keeping a WFHers home habitable during the hours of the day when it might otherwise be completely unoccupied (which depending on how many people live at home, and what times they come and go, may only be a relatively small fraction of the WFHers working hours), but that'll be offset by the reduction in costs of keeping the business premises habitable instead, not by the reduction in travelling costs.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            It's reasonable to assume that heating/cooling a home is less efficient per person than heating/cooling an office.

            However, it's also reasonable to assume that the actual marginal difference is very small, because people need to heat/cool their home for some proportion of the time it is empty during the day, to ensure it is habitable when they return.

            1. richardcox13

              > It's reasonable to assume that heating/cooling a home is less efficient per person than heating/cooling an office.

              Visit more offices. The number with poorly fitting windows letting in drafts... or windows open because no-one can switch off the heating....

              I suspect most offices are pretty poor.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                Per person. Even leaky as heck, if there's 100 people in there it's not 100 times the heating bill.

                Though sometimes one suspects this is actually because they set the thermostat to the legal minimum temperature...

                1. Blank Reg

                  except that office building is also heated/cooled for the 1/2 to 2/3rds of the day when people aren't there. Better to just ditch the office completely.

            2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
              Flame

              My Winter Heating Is Always On

              & my home is kept "warm" at about 15C during the (rare) unattended periods of the day, & will heat up on schedule prior to my return, this is especially useful when its -32C outside.

              Given the temp extremes I have in this part of the world, I'd WFH if I could.

              1. Scott 26

                Re: My Winter Heating Is Always On

                Passive House here (yay, Germany Building Standards!!!)....

                No heating/cooling required.

                1. sabroni Silver badge
                  Mushroom

                  Re: No heating/cooling required.

                  Surely this is magic?

                  Why the fuck are we still building houses that need heating?

                  1. Jugularveins

                    Re: No heating/cooling required.

                    lmgtfy ... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house#:~:text=Passive%20house%20(German%3A%20Passivhaus),for%20space%20heating%20or%20cooling.

                    1. sabroni Silver badge
                      Thumb Up

                      Re: No heating/cooling required.

                      FYI, You can post with html: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house

                2. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: My Winter Heating Is Always On

                  "Passive House here (yay, Germany Building Standards!!!)....

                  No heating/cooling required."

                  That's my goal. I just picked up some more materials yesterday to build two more solar heating panels. I was hoping to have my evaporative cooler running on solar this year, but the budget said otherwise. I'll have it off-grid before next spring/summer. My electric blanket does a magnificent job of keeping heating bills down in the winter. I sleep better when the room is cold and I'm snug under the blanket. I shouldn't have waited so long to get one (now have a spare too).

                  Since my HVAC and utility costs in general are my look out, it's good for me to invest in ways to keep them to a minimum. For an office, there are fewer options and it can be extremely expensive. Even worse, if the office space is leased, the improvements typically remain with the building according to all of the commercial leases I've ever had. The ROI better be good enough in a short period of time or it's not worth it to the company.

            3. MachDiamond Silver badge

              "It's reasonable to assume that heating/cooling a home is less efficient per person than heating/cooling an office."

              There are so many variables that it's hard to quantify. I've been to some offices where there's a a soaring atrium and a receptionist or two sitting at the front desk and, perhaps, a security guard. That foyer is heated/cooled and could be a larger volume than an average home. Many people looking to reduce their energy bills will make sure their home is well insulated, switch to double or triple glazing, a heat pump, etc. Upgrades that aren't necessarily possible with an office building.

              Adding to the energy cost to commute can blow figures right through the ungasketed front door of the office. No to mention the cost of wear and tear on a personal auto and even trains

          2. parlei

            And how many change the heating during the day? Sure, technically you can get the thermostat to lower the heat e.g. 8-15, but is that something that is actually done? Lights, a laptop and a monitor or three is not going to be a large part of a homes energy budget.

            1. MarkTriumphant

              Do you not have a timed on/off cycle as part of your heating controls? That seems fairly standard here.

            2. AndrueC Silver badge
              Meh

              You only need to heat the room you're working in. So close the door and use an oil filled radiator. If it's a small room it shouldn't take much energy to keep it warm between you, the computer, monitors and the radiator.

              The walk to/from a chilly kitchen ain't gonna kill anyone so just let the rest of the house cool down like it would if you weren't there.

        2. Nifty

          I'm WFH here with the Mrs, she needs heating all day anyway. And these new fangled heat pumps that we're all going to install... work best providing steady background heating, not stop start bursts.

        3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          It will of course depend on the individual house, insulation, and personal requirements, but in my fairly modern house the difference is not actually that large. You're not moving around much in most WFH jobs, and it can be quite cheap to keep one room warm.

          The increase in electricity I did find notable, but it's still far below the commute cost. With extra energy requirements, and accounting for a SIM for 4G Internet backup, it's still at or below the commute cost for a week.

        4. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

          Wear a t shirt or jumper with a blanket...

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I have a wood burning stove and happily work in 14 degrees air temp. I don't need to share with the girls who need 21 degree heat in the office (no offence ladies) and I can absolutely guarantee my carbon footprint is lower.

          My commute was 140 miles round trip per day, even in my eco friendly diesel that was generating 35 kg of CO2 emissions each day - 8.4 tonnes per year. So in the time I've worked from home (last three years) I have not emitted 25 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases.

          Any company that demands I return to the office will be very politely told to fuck right off.

    2. abend0c4 Silver badge

      I think pretty much all attempts to measure the productivity of software development have failed. Insofar as there have been attempts to measure the return on investment of software projects, it's not made for pleasant reading. The only metric that really matters is whether people continue to pay for it at a rate that covers the cost - but that doesn't seem to be a factor in these latest edicts from the temple of management.

      I wonder if the real problem is that a bunch of execs are finding themselves very exposed rattling around in expensive, empty premises whilst the people they are nominally supposed to manage are self-organising and getting the work done without them. That kind of productivity is dangerous.

      1. Blofeld's Cat
        Devil

        "I think pretty much all attempts to measure the productivity of software development have failed.

        I worked on a contract where the project manager decided that such productivity could be measured by counting the number of semicolons in the source code, and got someone to write him a script to do so.

        Soon after this edict, function description blocks started becoming outlined in semicolons rather than asterisks. Two blocks a day was the informally agreed rate among developers IIRC.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Not a good idea.

          I will work out how to do the most work with the least effort, so will reuse lots of code written to be reused.

          As in the past we had junior developers knocking out the simpler screens by copying what was done before.

          I managed to remove 90 or so screen classes and inherited the lot from one.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Exactly.

            Most competent developers shouldn't be writing a lot of new code, on average. Their time should be dominated by other activities: design, research, refactoring, reuse, testing, and so on. Writing a lot of code is a process failure, in most cases. It's inefficient and tends to produce more technical debt and defects.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              "Most competent developers shouldn't be writing a lot of new code, on average."

              Electronics engineers shouldn't be coming up with new and novel circuits for things either. When I started, there were books of circuit blocks and now there's a huge internet of searchable circuit blocks. Not only that, there's gobs of online calculators so I don't have to remember the formulas for a second order RC lowpass filter and have that sort of thing bookmarked. I have a shelf of books (many shelves, or I should say, many bookcases) of engineering books so if the net is off, I can still get work done, at home. On the last move I counted 120 banker's boxes of just engineering books. I'm not going to take that to work. I've only worked at one company that had a really extensive library right in the engineering area and one more that had a library located on the campus which wasn't as handy. I'm proud of the new things I've come up with, but managers are mainly impressed with the volume of work, not how clever it is.

        2. billdehaan

          I worked on a contract where the project manager decided that such productivity could be measured by counting the number of semicolons in the source code, and got someone to write him a script to do so.

          The term for this is Goodhart's Law, and I've seen it hundreds of times over the years.

          In an example almost identical to yours above, when I worked at one large, unnamed (*cough* mentioned in the article title here *cough*) Fortune 1 company decades ago, the metric was kLoc, or "thousands of lines of code". Yes, they measured software productivity by weight, essentially.

          Management had a parser that went through each developer's code, including all included headers and etc., and counted the number of lines. There was a database module that was particularly huge, including hundreds, if not thousands, of 3-5 line modules that handled the numerous permutations of data. It was completely and totally unnecessary to every subsystem but the database module. One week, every subsystem, including the graphics, communication, and all others, suddenly included the root header file for the database, because doing so dragged in about 8,000 lines of headers.

          Build times went up from 90 minutes to about four hours. Ugh.

          When I asked what was going on, I was told "next week is audit week". Sure enough, after the audit was completed, the code was "re-factored", and through brilliant optimization, the developers were able to improve the four hour build time down to less than half, about 90 minutes. Management was extremely impressed, and I believe one developer even got an award for his brilliant optimization work of, err, removing the pointless header files that they'd only inserted a week earlier to make the kloc audit look good.

          1. Grumpy O'Toole

            Every place has this code to insert lines, comments, etc.

            Because micro-managers are stupid and don't add any value themselves.

            These people working out in India... Are they coming into our office 3 days a week too, or is India not remote?

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "removing the pointless header files that they'd only inserted a week earlier to make the kloc audit look good."

            There's lots of stories of how it is very important to measure things in ways that are useful or somebody is going to game the system to their benefit. It's one thing to say that there needs to be 100 assembled widgets at the far end of the line at the end of the shift/pay period/quarter (with bonuses) vs. there needs to be 100 widgets 'that pass QC' at the end of the line and for every one that fails, the count against a bonus is reduced by 2-3 widgets.

        3. Someone Else Silver badge

          "I'm gonna code me a minivan!"

          1. cookieMonster Silver badge
            Pint

            Upvote & pint for the ref.

        4. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "I worked on a contract where the project manager decided that such productivity could be measured by counting the number of semicolons in the source code"

          So, you had a manager that didn't know much about what you did yet still had to manage. I think I'm starting to see the problem.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I've seen studies used to support all kinds of things which clearly weren't working or at best made no difference. I've seen 'bubble spaces' introduced after a study showed they'd be a "good thing" but in reality they're hardly ever used except as overflow storage areas.

        So it would be hard to know if a study to look at the pros and cons of home working would be of any help. Those who didn't like the outcome would say the study was faulty... and they might be right... or it could be right for the wrong reasons.... :-)

        I know it's not popular on these pages but the reality is in the area where I'm living that more and more people are returning to the office at least three days a week. I've seen the traffic queues getting back to their pre-COVID levels (not as bad but getting that way). I think some people prefer working at the office and at a certain point others just find it easier to join them.

        Obviously I don't speak for the whole world!

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          And then there are those who've had the decision made for them, but still sufficiently enjoy what they're doing/how much they're getting paid to do it that they'll put up with having to make a pointless journey to the office 3 days a week rather than treat it as a deal breaker and look for work elsewhere.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          " I think some people prefer working at the office and at a certain point others just find it easier to join them."

          If you have roommates, young children or a big construction site next door, going to the office might be a good thing. It may also help some people that need to remove themselves from the temptation of going off to watch the telly or muck about in the garden when they should be working. I'm the same way when it comes to learning. I have taught myself a lot of stuff, but I do best in a classroom with a structured lesson plan and a good teacher.

      3. Shuki26

        Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

        FWIW, productivity is not the only parameter.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

          Er, because the workers who wanted back to the office are already there?

          1. Dinanziame Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

            Er, because the workers who wanted back to the office are already there?

            The point is not just working from the office, the point is working at the same place as the others, so you can talk to them face to face. For that, everybody must be in the office. People working from home probably consider that not being interrupted by random people coming to their desk to ask questions is a great advantage of working from home. But all the people who used to ask these questions are now really annoyed that they can't do that anymore.

            In fact, having half the people in the team working from home is the worst, because you need to handle separately the communications to both groups, so it's pretty guaranteed that some of the info gets lost: "we talked about it" "no we didn't" "yes, we discussed it in the break room" "well how was I to know since I work from home" etc.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              How about multi site businesses?

              Before the lock down we got sh*t done on time, during the the lock down we got sh*t done. Guess what after the lock down we are still getting sh*t done.

              If anything the mandatory everyone must turn up day actual productivity takes a nose dive because everyone is "catching up". This includes people I deal with multiple times a day via Teams.

              Also the day after I've noticed an increase in the number of blood shot eyes due to extra curricular team building....

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

                "Also the day after I've noticed an increase in the number of blood shot eyes due to extra curricular team building...."

                Sounds like the office day should be on a Friday. The downside is those evening meeting spaces are pretty booked up on Friday evenings.

            2. richardcox13

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              For that, everybody must be in the SAME office.

              FIFY.

              (And that means any business leaders that splits teams over offices making any claims about being in the office for easy communications are at the normal level of "business leaders".)

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

                "And that means any business leaders that splits teams over offices making any claims about being in the office for easy communications are at the normal level of "business leaders"."

                And we are back to companies gathering everybody in a downtown office block where traffic is impossible, crime is rampant and the cost of a coffee is on a level with the monthly cable bill. So much for leveraging the vast advances in communications there's been since the 19th century. I have a face to face meeting scheduled with somebody in Moldova this weekend and I'm in the US. In this case, it's mediated via computer, but we'll be able to share information and have a discussion with hand waving, inflections and everything. There might even be some........ facial expressions. This is all a good thing as I'm not in any way going to travel to Moldova.

            3. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              "yes, we discussed it in the break room"

              If it is important you make sure it is communicated to all and written down.

              Also there are tools like a phone and video conferencing that let you talk to those on and off site as well.

            4. chris street

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              For many many years the introverted people have just wished that the extroverts would shut the f*** up and let them get on with work. And now that the extraverts cannot interrupt people at pleasure, they don't like it one bit...

              Daily standups - why do we have these? Whats the point? It's to make sure that everyone has everything sorted for a days work ahead - a days uninterrupted work. Because thats when you get the most work out of people - clear the blockers out the way, plan the day, and if Bob needs some help, he says so at standup and Alice schedules time in for him and agrees it. If there are critical problems in the day, then Trudy goes to the scrummaster and Mohammed finds the duty person and passes the urgent cannot wait problem to the duty person Terry to sort out.

              No one should need to be interrupted at the desk at all....

            5. steward39
              Facepalm

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              We use Teams for virtual meetings. We are on a hybrid schedule, 2 days at home, 3 in the office.

              Since coming back from five days at home, we still have only virtual meetings. No in-person meetings, *even when everyone in the meeting is in the office.* Why? Because then at least we have a record of exactly what was discussed at the meeting and we can refer back to it at need. (Actually, the C-suite manager running our department wants us still all remote, she can prove that more work gets done that way - but our COO and CEO care more about the social aspect of work, right up until they're demanding explanations of why work isn't accomplished as fast as in 2020-2021...)

            6. ecofeco Silver badge

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              Must be in the same office?

              I'll let my 50,000 co-workers working all over the world know we are doing it wrong.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

                You regularly have meetings with each of the 50,000 different people? Or just maybe you have a small team of people with which you talk every day, and you hardly ever talk to the rest?

                1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                  Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

                  For the past 30 years, I've worked on small, geographically-distributed teams. We've never needed to be physically in the same place. Partly that's because, yes, we're better than everyone else in the world; but partly it's because this "better in person" myth is bullshit.

                  1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                    Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

                    "but partly it's because this "better in person" myth is bullshit."

                    It's not a good 'global' argument. There are cases where in-person is better, but those are few. Classically, the issue has been comms. Even the alien starship conferencing pods were crap in a reverberate room full of people. With everybody communicating with their own mic and camera, the level of quality is substantially better. Even going to a headset and better camera can improve on what's built into a laptop. I still have times where I find it useful to get together with a client in person, lock the door and work on a project until we've thrashed out all of the important bits. From there it's back to email and a vidcon now and again to stay the course with another in-person towards the end of the project. That's a whole 2 in-person meetings in an average of 6 months. I can skip the in-person stuff if I need to, but I do find it more efficient for the most critical aspects if we are close enough that it isn't a huge bit of travel.

            7. ChrisC Silver badge

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              An alternative take on that could just as easily be:

              "yes, we discussed it in the break room" "well how was I to know since I was actually working at my desk rather than skiving in the break room at the time"...

              Presuming that everyone being back in the office means there's no need to have a more formalised means of keeping everyone up to date with relevant information is a really bad way of thinking - unless you know FOR CERTAIN that everyone who needs to know something DOES know it as the result of an informal chat, then you still need some way to make sure the knowledge gets out to all concerned.

              So if, and you DO, you need a more formal method of knowledge sharing even when everyone is working in the office, then it's trivially easy to make sure that method is also suitable for someone to use if they're not in the office for any reason - remember that even before the days of formally agreed WFH, people were still having to work away from the office, e.g. customer visits, off-site testing, staying home to look after a sick child etc. etc. so there's always been a need to capture important information and make it available for anyone who wasn't able for whatever reason to get it at the time - to just exclude them from things they ought to know about might even lead to some HR issues down the line...

              Also:

              "But all the people who used to ask these questions are now really annoyed that they can't do that anymore."

              What's stopping them putting their question into written form and sending it as an email, Teams message etc? Or, if they really do feel the need to ask it verbally, then video call? It's a different way to ask the question yes, and it may well be that in having to stop for a second and think about the question before asking it virtually rather than simply by wandering over to their desk, it helps focus their mind as to whether or not they really need to be asking it, but if the question DOES need asking, then the fact that their colleague isn't in the same room as them really shouldn't be an impediment. I mean, how would they cope working as part of a team where, even if everyone was in the office, they still wouldn't be in the same place due to those offices being spread out around the globe?

              So no, WFH isn't the problem here.

            8. Dagg Silver badge

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              the point is working at the same place as the others, so you can talk to them face to face

              I hate that, I am much more productive being left to actually code. Having some idiot wandering around and talking to me completely stuffs my productivity!

              For those that actually need a question answered, this means that actually need to think about the question and write it out in an email. In the process they may find they have an answer. It also means you have an audit trail of question and answer.

            9. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Why do people assume it is only upper management that supports back to office?

              "In fact, having half the people in the team working from home is the worst, because you need to handle separately the communications to both groups,"

              If people that need to ask their colleagues have to send an email/PM/Text or other written communication, it means they might look for the information on their own or at least not interrupt somebody else's work until that person looks at their messages. I'm happy to answer questions, but I really hate losing my train of thought when I'm "in the flow". There's always some point where I come up for air and will check mail, see how long past lunch it is, etc.

              If things are being discussed in the break room or in the halls and not summarized and written down, they didn't happen. It's important that things get documented since there can and will often be people not in that loop due to being off that day, at a conference, in the loo, etc. A manager is not going to be happy with not being told about something they should know but weren't at that informal confab. If there are people working outside that one office in the group, there should be a formal workflow that keeps them apprised of things. It could be a workmate that's at home due to a broken leg and while they can do their job just fine, getting to and from work, not to mention taking care of personal needs, isn't going to be easy for them. I've worked at a place that had too much off-the-record decisions being made with no thought as to all of the others that those decisions would affect. I had a week go by where a change was made to the type of motor being used was changed from one type to the another. That week I was working on the control circuitry and wiring specs. It wasn't until I was getting approval to order the parts that I was told about the change. WTH, a week wasted and it wasn't like there weren't pages on my todo list that I could have been knocking out, but I wanted to get that part done so it could be handed off to somebody else for them to take it from where I left off. That person wasn't told either so they had a bunch of wasted time on their work log as well.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "I think pretty much all attempts to measure the productivity of software development have failed."

        I think it would depend on how you break the process down. Many things will be very straight forward and might even be able to be dragged over from someplace else, slapped with some motar, leveled off and made part of the whole with other bits being the core of the project and taking more time. A good manager should be able to know what is what and be able to sort out, roughly, how long the different parts take to get done and look for that progress on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. It's tying everything together if multiple people are working on one project where having people in one place can make a difference. The rest of the time all you'd see is tables with row of people with headphones on banging away on a laptop.

        When I was working in aerospace, it was much like that example of everybody together, separately. The first day of the week we held a meeting to see where everybody was and compare notes and the rest of the week, outside of going to the testing range if there were something to test, was people around the office with headphones on banging away on computers. In my case, I might have also been at my electronics bench. The propulsion engineering might have been bending some tubing and installing fittings. I would have been better off at my home work bench which is much better supplied and the propulsion engineer didn't work on hardware every day.

    3. Steve Button Silver badge

      Hilarious

      This is hilarious, because I used to work for IBM as a contractor. I chose to drive to Warwick one day a week to get some face time, however some of the others only came in once a month to get their timesheet signed. It worked perfectly well, as we all has chat facilities and could jump on a call. This was 15 years ago IIRC. How things have progressed.

      I also seem to remember they made significant savings by renting out the buildings to other companies. Probably not so profitable now.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Hilarious

        I'll point out that most of us did some sort of post-secondary school. In my case, I atteneded lectures and lab sessions in person, but the vast amount of my work was done off-site, including ALL of my output. It worked then, it works now. After 3 years of COVID WFH, where nobody has claimed there were any productivity issues, I see little evidence that mandatory "face time" is necessary for good productivity.

      2. billdehaan

        Re: Hilarious

        How things have progressed.

        You have no idea.

        A friend in Toronto was in a team working with their Texas office, and it was decreed that teleconferences were insufficient, in-person meetings were essential. So, the Toronto office packed up their entire team and flew them down to the Texas office to spend 3-4 weeks in person with their colleagues.

        Upon arrival, they discovered the Texas team couldn't put them in the same building as the group they were working with; there simply wasn't enough space. But that was okay, there was another building, about a mile away, that they'd rented, and it had high-speed connectivity, so they could just teleconference. Unfortunately, hotel space was tight, so the team had to stay in a a hotel about 30 miles away.

        So, for about a month, my friend stayed in a hotel, took at 45 minute cab ride into the building where his Toronto team was located, and teleconferenced with the Texas team in the building a mile away, then took a 45 minute cab ride back to the hotel. This apparently was a much better solution than staying at home, commuting 15 minutes to the Toronto office, and teleconferencing with the Texas team remotely from 1,500 miles away.

        At bonus time, the cupboard was bare, because the company had "unexpectedly" spent so much money on flights and accomodations on that trip that they were in dire straights financially. Did anyone have any cost-cutting ideas, they were asked?

        Many the team subsequently, and "unexpectedly" left for saner pastures.

        1. cmdrklarg
          Facepalm

          Re: Hilarious

          N/T - see icon

        2. HMcG

          Re: Hilarious

          But I’ll bet that some manager earned a hell of a lot of air miles. And perhaps a few complimentary hotel stays.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I can see good reasons for being together as a team...

      I wonder how that works when your only other UK team member lives 180 miles away, and the other members of your team are in the US (east and west coast), China, Japan and Australia.

      Just sayin'...

      1. eldel

        Re: I can see good reasons for being together as a team...

        Yeah. My closest colleague is 1 time zone (albeit 1200 miles) away, the others are all between 3 and 11 time zones away. There's an office only 15 minutes away. The conversation normally goes

        Why aren't you working from the office

        What for?

        To cooperate closely with your colleagues

        Sure, which one?

        Well, all of them

        Great, a round the world trip, there goes your travel budget for the year.

        Ah, hmmm, well then, we might make an exception. But you really should be there

        Sigh

        1. Nifty

          Re: I can see good reasons for being together as a team...

          "Ah, hmmm, well then, we might make an exception. But you really should be there"

          I think Dilbert became non-PC before a rich tranche of 'back to the office' and 'productivity' jokes could have been the material.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >> Has anyone actually produced an independent analysis of worker productivity remote/office to back this up?

      There is, like this study from Stanford:

      https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/working-papers/does-working-home-work-evidence-chinese-experiment

      What's interesting in the WFH debate is that the 'pro' side has a number of studies which rely on scientifically valid methodology, while the "against WHF" supporting papers are normally based on self-reporting by managers and other fluid data sources.

      And then there are publications like the WSJ or Forbes which push the "back to the office" narrative because their target audience (managers/execs) want to see them so they can justify bringing the peons back in the office. Which usually happens because the employer sank a lot of money into long-term commercial real estate deals and now has to show utilization of excessively expensive assets.

      1. steward39
        Holmes

        One of the one hundred and twenty people responsible for all budgeting where I work had an epiphany about a month ago: we rent so many buildings that our costs are increasing. Now he only has to convince 60 more people and the CEO.

    6. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

      There hasn't and there never will be. This has nothing to do with productivity but about control and self-interests.

      The self interests of managers who fear the undermining of their position if their subordinates are always remote.

      We'll see smart companies and startups profiting from this by scooping up all the talent by allowing them to work from home! Dinosaurs like IBM, Zoom and Google will be left holding the bag. Their demise will be slow and painful, with layoffs after layoffs because the remaining staff are under-performing and unmotivated.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "We'll see smart companies and startups profiting from this by scooping up all the talent by allowing them to work from home! Dinosaurs like IBM, Zoom and Google will be left holding the bag."

        The smart companies are going to know that they can be much more competitive if they aren't tugging against a giant anchor of a fancy office building. Just the monthly bill for HVAC for offices would scare the pants off of me. Put all of those workers in their own homes and they will have a much wider range of tolerance to the temperature. That's also compensated for by not having to dress in business wear that's too hot or too cold. My favorite jumper isn't something I'd wear to work, but it does keep me warm. When it's hot and I'm working at home, I can put on a tank top and some light shorts or less if I'm not expecting anybody stopping by. I'm not video conferencing on demand so that's not an issue. I don't charge a premium to my customers to work from home. I'd need to raise my rates if I maintained an office and there's nothing a shared office building would net me. A few of my customers have those, but they also have employees and meet with clients there. They like having a conference room they can reserve when they need it yet aren't responsible for when they don't. One is a deluxe building with phone answering, a person in reception and mail handling/package acceptance.

        A photographer I follow on YouTube has a presence in London, but lives elsewhere. There's no way he could afford a studio in London and has admitted it's better for him to not be in a big city full of temptations to sin. The presence is an agent in the city along with a mailing address. When he books a job with a client that wants to work in London, he rents a studio and the gear and takes a train in for the couple of days it takes to do the job. The rest of the time he's paying far less for housing with his SO and kids. They can also afford a larger house in a better environment for raising the kids.(Sarc) If a sole trader sees benefits like this, a larger company full of the most clever people that HR can find should be able to see it too. (/Sarc)

  2. Roo
    Windows

    Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

    These return to the office edicts keep popping up with actual verifiable facts and figures to back them up, the arguments put forward by the executive class amount to they are lonely and they haven't worked out how to do their jobs properly yet so they need people around to make them look good. Put forward some proper reasons for it if you want to motivate people to return to the office.

    1. Justthefacts Silver badge

      Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

      Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy and Research, huh what do they know?

      “Fully remote work is associated with 10% to 20% lower productivity than fully in-person work.”

      https://fortune.com/2023/07/06/remote-workers-less-productive-wfh-research/

      Hybrid is best, according to the data: “thehighest paid group on average accounts for nearly 30% of employees. They typically work from home 2 or 3 days a week and commute to business premises the rest of the week.”

      “The third group of employees work fully remotely. They tend to work in IT-support, call-center, payroll, HR, or benefits jobs that require more limited interaction. These jobs are mostly computer based, often involving mostly individual tasks, and usually easily monitored. We expect the number of fully remote jobs to continue declining in the longer term. [These] will relocate overseas as firms exploit lower labor costs in countries like Mexico, India, and the Philippines. Other jobs may be automated by artificial intelligence, which increasingly can perform routine tasks in HR, payroll, and call center positions.”

      1. chris street

        Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

        And yet this paper from the same institute shows the exact opposite.....

        https://web.archive.org/web/20201101022720/https://nbloom.people.stanford.edu/sites/g/files/sbiybj4746/f/wfh.pdf

        1. Justthefacts Silver badge

          Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

          Yes, that was an earlier paper, and made very famous by the WFH advocates. They authors have now retracted it

          1. TechnicalVault

            Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

            The weird thing, is that when you normally retract a paper you don't delete the retracted paper, you just mark it but that could be because this was only ever a pre-print. Economics is weird, the rest of academia tends to have one agreed pre-print server for the discipline, they just seem to have a database?

          2. steward39
            Big Brother

            Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

            Of course they have. Forbes wanted a different conclusion.

      2. Justthefacts Silver badge

        Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

        https://twitter.com/GregDaco/status/1654126098794565639

        5 straight quarters of productivity decline, which has essentially never happened since 1948. This is not a normal recession. It’s not WFH…..yeah. It’s WFH.

        1. chris street

          Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

          A global pandemic with immediate effects has never happened since 1948 either....

          1. Mark time

            Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

            Is 1948 a good reference point?

            Was IT a thing back then? There have been so many changes in the workplace ( shift from manufacturing to services etc) and society as a whole since then I can’t see how that comparison is valid.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

              "Was IT a thing back then? "

              No, but WfH was. Housewives would take on piece work to supplement the family's income when kids weren't taking up all of their time. Some craftsman would live immediately adjacent to their shop so could be defined as working from home even if it was a separate building. A classic high street would often have shop owners living in a flat over their business.

              Large businesses in the 1950's needed to have employees in one building for communications. Mail boys would constantly be running between floors delivering and picking up post as well as inter-office memos. With the internet and phone calls being so cheap, there isn't that need any longer. Functional divisions of a company can be miles or even countries apart with little affect. Many companies already are even if they don't admit it. The main corporate offices of Google are in California yet they have satellite offices all over the world. What's a few more "satellite" offices (WFH)? The same goes for IBM, Amazon and every other very large company. The phone 'receptionist' for Amazon could be a little old lady working from a cupboard in Des Moines, IA for part of the day and somebody based in Metairie Parish, LA at another time or Hilo, Hi later the same day or all at the same time. A VOIP phone, computer and internet connection is all they need. To see if our Mr. Smith is in doesn't require being in the same building to check anymore.

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

          Some data missing here...what industry[ies]? What jobs? I can see this happening in manufacturing jobs, but my own experience in a design job (and that of my coworkers) differs from that shown in the graph.

          I WFH during the pandemic, but went into the office when hands-on work was necessary. Schematic capture, simulation, document writing, can all be done more efficiently from home (at least in my case), and that was 75% of what I was doing during the pandemic.

        3. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

          So is Covid not a thing any more in your world?

          If one person gets Covid and brings it to the office, a whole bunch of people who come to the office can be off sick for days or trying to work but not being very productive because they feel like crap.

          Another argument for WFH BTW.

          1. David Nash

            Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

            And not just Covid. Other viruses are available and also make you feel like crap.

          2. ChrisC Silver badge

            Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

            Or, if not full-time WFH by default (such that viruses wouldn't be given a chance to spread in the first place), then it's certainly an argument for having the ability to transition seamlessly and instantly to a temporary full-time WFH scenario, so as to minimise the loss of productivity caused by this sort of thing - i.e. if you need to stay home to avoid infecting the rest of the office, chances are you'll only be feeling like crap for a day or two within that isolation period, and would be able to work from home quite effectively if you've got the necessary setup in place to allow it to happen.

            The thing is, unless your employer is already actively pursuing at least a hybrid approach to WFH, then chances are you won't be able to make that seamless/instant transition to WFH because things won't already be set up to facilitate it, so any sort of unexpected need to not be in the office is likely to lead to a loss of productivity. OTOH, if the team members are geared up to switch from office to home without a second thought, because it's become an integral part of how they now work anyway, then these unexpected times away from the office become far less disruptive - indeed, they may even be entirely undetectable unless you're actually in the office wondering where so and so is.

            So even the most ardent opponent of WFH as a general rule MUST be able to appreciate that giving their workforce at least the ability to switch to a WFH setup on an as-needed basis is A Good Thing for the business overall. And once you've put in the effort to facilitate that, then it's a far easier step to take to then think "hmm, maybe it might be OK for them to WFH on a more regular basis". But until this inherent dislike/mistrust/whatever the hell it is of WFH can be tamed, its benefits will never be realised and those employers stuck in that archaic mindset will become increasingly irrelevant as more of their competitors embrace the new way of working and reap the benefits.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

              " i.e. if you need to stay home to avoid infecting the rest of the office,"

              It might not even be you. It could be a sick family member or an injury. A sick child doesn't need constant looking after, but a parent will need to be home with them. There'll be plenty of time to get work done with no more time off durning the day than one might take at the office.

        4. steward39
          Boffin

          Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

          The recession didn't hit until Russia invaded Ukraine. Inflation leading to a possible recession can be very simply traced to the price of oil.

          Sadly, returning to the office *at the same time* as the oil markets are going crazy increases demand while supply decreases, which increases - not just the price of gasoline/petrol - but anything requiring mechanical energy.

          WFH F/T would drop demand for oil, stop the inflation, and then central banks could stop the ridiculous interest rates driving the recession - and maybe even bring Russia to heel as a bonus.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Where are the facts & figures to support a return to the office ?

        That paper's conclusions are over-generalized. The studies they cite for the decrease in productivity looked at a pool of call-center workers for a single firm, "IT professionals in a large Indian technology company", and data-entry workers. The first and third are low-skill, low-reward jobs that are tremendously different from high-skill knowledge-worker positions. The second group found that overall productivity was consistent between at-office and WFH, but that WFH employees recorded longer hours and so were less productive per hour. Productivity per hour is meaningless for knowledge-worker positions, because 1) rate of work is much more likely to be a lifestyle choice or influenced by other commitments, and 2) you don't get more output by forcing knowledge workers to work more hours, due to limits on cognitive load (and labor factors).

        So it's utterly irrelevant for most or all of the people commenting here.

        But, hey, good attempt at putting up a strawman.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Devil

    "tripling development output"

    Setting up impossible goals to justify moving to full-time working-from-office and future firings...

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: "tripling development output"

      I was wondering if someone else would pick up on that delightfully motivational yet almost throw-away in nature part of the comment... "yeah, not only are we demanding you waste more of your personal time and takehome pay 3 days a week on an unnecessary commute, but by the way we're also going to be expecting your productivity to take a giant leap towards the stars. See you next week bright and early at your desk!"

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Setting organisation wide mandates for how often staff need to be in the office will only breed (more) resentment. As a manager I see the benefits of both working from home and staff coming together in person. For me, different teams come into the office different amounts depending on their needs. Some come into the office almost daily, whereas others come in maybe once every six months.

    Flexible working is here to stay. Let's be sensible and let teams and managers decide what works best for them. If a team or person aren't being as productive as you think they should be, then that's a HR matter for the people involved that needs to be addressed.

    A corporate edict of "You must be in th office X days out of Y" is pointless. There are only two possible reasons for these edicts:

    1 - Stupid top brass

    2 - The company has signed expensive leases on offices which they can't get out of and want to see some return on their money.

    1. ChoHag Silver badge

      Back to office mandates are very helpful

      We've long known that the vast majority of companies do nothing and employ a lot of people to do it (and consequently drive up our prices for nearly everything).

      Now we know which ones.

    2. jmch Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "The company has signed expensive leases on offices which they can't get out of and want to see some return on their money."

      Which is a sunk-cost fallacy. If they can't get out of the lease, they have to pay the same amount for it whether it's empty or full*, in which case might as well go for the option that gives the highest productivity (which for all accounts is giving teams the option to choose themselves where they want to work from).

      *In fact an empty building also saves on power, heating, cleaning and maintenance.

    3. Electric Panda

      Quite a lot of the time these "X in Y out" regimes are a mere fig leaf for the fact that there just isn't enough desk space to begin with.

      In many cases it is simply a glorified hotdesk rotas, and I know of at least one organisation (a friend works there) where as a result you don't even get to choose which days are which. If your alotted days are Monday, Tuesday, Friday, then that's you. You are NOT allowed in on Wednesday and Thursday even if you want to, unless you find someone willing to swap.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "A corporate edict of "You must be in th office X days out of Y" is pointless. There are only two possible reasons for these edicts:

      1 - Stupid top brass

      2 - The company has signed expensive leases on offices which they can't get out of and want to see some return on their money."

      3- The managers don't know how to set goals and evaluate performance unless they are staring at the back of somebody's head.

      The lease on the expensive office space is only exacerbated by also having to pay for HVAC, internet, coffee, bog rolls, cleaners, etc. With the space vacant or at least a section-able part vacant, there's a chance of finding another band of suckers to lease (sub-lease) the space. Often a landlord is happy to break a lease if they have another entity willing to move in (and execute a lease of at least the same remaining term). In the US there's an odd practice of a separate company operating the car park at buildings. A company may have an allocation of spaces that's just enough for a few managers, but anybody else will be required to pay. Since it would be rude to have a meeting at your office and expect your visitors to pay for parking, you would validate their slip and pay the charges for them. Yet another cost tacked on to keeping that building.

  5. ChoHag Silver badge

    This suggestion comes after whittlling down their workforce by removing all the people who are used to being in an office and had already resigned themselves to doing so for the rest of their life in favour of the people who have grown up with the internet surgically attached to their hip?

  6. Giles C Silver badge

    I have to attend an office 40% of the time for my job.

    However when I attend is up to me, if I have to go to another office or a DC then that counts as a day in the office.

    Normally I am there the days it is most useful for me i.e. those with big meetings, or for hardware installation / maintenance. Also if I go in 3 days one week I only have to do 1 day the next week. Some of my colleagues are in the office 5 days a week (but then they live a mile from work) it is down mostly to you.

    Besides the office is 50 miles each way, so doing it a lot becomes rather expensive on fuel.... yes I could take a train but it would cost more and take 2 hours rather than the 1 driving each way.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "However when I attend is up to me, if I have to go to another office or a DC then that counts as a day in the office."

      If the company has people moving around, a small office here and there isn't a bad thing so a transient worker has facilities at that location, but does it have to be in DC? The traffic, the crime (petit, grand and real whoppers) and the cost make it a horrible place. Other than the museums and monuments, obviously.

  7. theblackhand

    A small correction...

    IBM Software, sensing an easy way of culling staff, has mandated a swift return to the office for staff globally, telling those living within a 50 mile (80km) radius of a Big Blue office to be at their desks at least three days a week.

    IBM also called on the government to also large corporations to allow the use of guns in their HR practices to cull the weak, infirm or those they just considered too expensive.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: A small correction...

      IBM also called on the government to also large corporations to allow the use of guns in their HR practices to cull the weak, infirm or those they just considered too expensive.

      Due to cost cutting (Have you seen the price of bullets) - Can procurement please get quotes for rough hemp rope & some form of platform with a trapdoor as this is is a greener & cheaper reusable option & will enable us to make improvements on our Net Zero targets

      That will be outsourced to their subsidary Killndryl.

  8. TechYogJosh

    Impact on staff

    People casually say companies putting return to work in place will lose staff. Where the staff will go? If most of the companies have similar hybrid work policies, there wont be too many options. Also blaming the senior executives doesnt make sense as they themselves may not want to come to office, but have to due to collective mandate. Its impossible to tell now, only hindsight will, which model is/was better and how many days in office are ideal etc. Till then lets just keep aligning with company policies. The talent market has cooled and no one is out there to hire so many people if they want to leave their current firm protesting return to work initiatives.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Impact on staff

      > . Also blaming the senior executives doesnt make sense as they themselves may not want to come to office, but have to due to collective mandate.

      Who creates this "collective mandate" you suggest exists? Answer: the senior executives. It isn't coming from the bulk of the workers and if it was just a Command From On High then it would not have any collectiveness to it.

      If it comes from the junior managers whining they can not cope then the seniors can just tell the juniors to pull their socks up and get on with making it work: junior managers don't get a mandate of their own against the senior execs.

      > Its impossible to tell now, only hindsight will, which model is/was better

      From the article, which quotes an earlier article: "80 percent of execs who made that call regretted it. "

      1. Shuki26

        Re: Impact on staff

        Perhaps misleading. It's not only 'senior executives'. Even junior management might struggle to manage people remotely. 'Getting the work done' is not the only parameter when people are working on a team. So John and Sarah might be able to do their tasks whenever, but what happens when they need Susanne or Robert who are also 'working' from home?

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Impact on staff

          but what happens when they need Susanne or Robert who are also 'working' from home?

          Oh, good point! Maybe if someone could invent a gadget that allows you to speak to someone remotely?

          Or maybe some sort of space-age computer system that would allow you to talk AND show moving pictures at the same time?

          Gee, this could be a good market opportunity!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Impact on staff

            Sure, these things exist, but they're not as good as talking face to face. For you maybe, but not for other people. Most people still prefer talking face to face when that's possible.

            1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

              Re: Impact on staff

              That is true, useful if it is a face you need to punch, for example...

            2. David Nash

              Most people still prefer talking face to face when that's possible

              ...Citation needed...

            3. ChrisC Silver badge

              Re: Impact on staff

              Which might be a reasonable justification for everyone to be in the office on the same day if they're going to spend enough time that day having these *essential* face to face talks that simply can't be facilitated as successfully any other way.

              Otherwise, all you're doing is essentially telling your workforce that you're happy to waste their time and money trekking dutifully into the office x days a week just on the off chance that enough of these essential face to face talks will occur to justify not only their financial/personal time expenditure, but also their reduced levels of desire, and the reduced levels of productivity that come with it, to put in the extra few minutes at the start/end of the working day to get stuff finished off there and then instead of just leaving it till tomorrow, because instead of then being able to close their laptop, get up from their chair and almost immediately transition into "being at home", they've still got to face the commute home first.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Impact on staff

      If I’m ‘forced’ back to the office more than one day a week then stuff it, I’m retired. Currently I work on old stuff that no one new is learning from scratch. When myself and a couple of similarly aged colleagues have had enough they will be a bit screwed. They know this but continue to have their heads buried in the sand over it.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Impact on staff

        "When myself and a couple of similarly aged colleagues have had enough they will be a bit screwed."

        You and your colleagues need to all quit, form a small consulting company and contract with the company for 3x what you make now.

        I know a few people that are kept on due to their vast institutional knowledge of things that must be kept going for contractual reasons, but nobody new is being taught about them and the schools don't teach those skills. Part of the reason that the Shuttles were retired is they were designed using 1960's technology and the the little old ladies that could wind the magnetic memory cores were all used up. To replace that technology with modern electronics would have been too expensive to amortize over the remaining life of the spacecraft. I expect that towards the end, those ladies could command an exceptional pay rate for their work since not many engineers now have even heard of magnetic core memory. I once made a stack of money redesigning some electronics modules that went into the fire alarm system used in high rise buildings. They were no longer supported by the company that made them and it would have been super expensive to replace the entire system. I think they would have also needed to close the whole building during the time it took to R&R the alarm system since it couldn't be occupied without it. It wasn't a "money is no object" thing but they were willing to budget a whole lot for the project if required. Time was of the essence to since they found me through the original engineer when they had installed the last spare of one of the cards. If that stopped working, they'd have to close the building which I expect would cost in penalties due to the tenants. I'm glad I marked up my prices for that job since the last time I checked with them, they haven't had any failures and still have a stack or replacements on hand. Maybe I did too good of a job.

  9. jmch Silver badge

    80km????

    So you want to impose a 2-hour drive each way for your staff (12 hours a week at least), and then expect productivity and/or morale to improve???

    Good luck with that!!!

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: 80km????

      Three and a bit years ago people were already doing this. Smart employers were already offering some kind of flexible working as they saw it made their employees happier and hence more productive.

      Lockdown made people realise how unpleasant big commutes were and so people lept at a more flexible working environment.

      At our place, I'm hearing stories of people who have moved to be a 5 or 6 hour commute from their new home to the office and are refusing to ever set foot on company premises ever again. If that's part of you working your notice so be it, but as a permanent working arrangement? I'm not so sure.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Meta

    Perhaps they could issue each worker a VR headset and, when they are in the office in meetings/conversations with colleagues, they will be transported to a view at home.

    Ticks both boxes. Physically In the office and collaborating with VR

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Swing! That Blue Axe!

    Sam P fired and merged Hardware and Software and Business and Services.

    GinR flushed and drained the entire company.

    AriK is glorifying the good ole days buying new properties and pinkslipping all excess.

    So the next step is leasing...

    But what ? Places ? Museum pieces? People?

    Watch as Immovable Building Masoleum is a tourist attraction soon

  12. sanmigueelbeer
    Devil

    spend more meaningful time together

    We have the go ahead from corporate. Your place or mine?

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      ...or maybe the pub down the road?

  13. Howard Sway Silver badge

    WFH productivity

    All the debate about whether or not WFH in itself is more productive or not is missing the point. Productivity is a function of how you work, not where. So one company may find that WFH is less productive, but underneath that lies the fact that their middle managers are trying to justify their existence by calling people all day to check what they're doing and interrupting their flow. Another company that has good trust relationships might see an increase in productivity as people are left alone to get their work done.

    It's not hard to guess which category a big bureaucratic company like IBM will be in.

    1. aerogems Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: WFH productivity

      God that sounds familiar. This was pre-pandemic, but I did a job that could easily have been done remote even then. I was always on top of requests, almost all of which came in via email, most communication with coworkers was via Linq (now Teams), and my work was basically taking word documents and excel spreadsheets for redlines of SAP BOMs and Routings and entering in the changes. But when a Jr employee, who was good personal friends with the boss' boss, decided to use the dead man's shoes approach to get my job, one of the excuses used to fire me was that I didn't always answer the phone. Never mind that whoever had my extension last must've worked in the receiving department because all day long I'd be getting calls from UPS and FedEx, so I just stopped answering unless it was an internal extension. I had mentioned this numerous times over the years, and of course my manager had my personal cell phone number and could have called me there if it were really important.

      Just "here's some useless metric I pulled out of my ass to justify some pointless policy I also just pulled out of my ass" office politics BS. Why is it so hard to just find a job where you show up, do your work, and get paid?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: WFH productivity

        "But when a Jr employee, who was good personal friends with the boss' boss, decided to use the dead man's shoes approach to get my job, one of the excuses used to fire me was that I didn't always answer the phone. "

        If there wasn't documentation that not answering your phone was an issue, that they sacked you using that excuse puts you on the receiving end of payments for being sacked. You have a good case of identifying an issue with being assigned an extension that attracted nuisance calls and nothing was done about it kills their argument anyway. If you responded to messages that involved you in good time, I don't think any tribunal wouldn't side with you. To demand that somebody answer their phone every time is silly. A person could be talking to somebody else. I won't answer my phone if I'm having an in-person conversation with a client unless it a family member who never call unless it's an emergency. I won't put one client on hold to take a call from another unless I know the call is immediately important and can't wait. I think of my policies as just good manners. I've dropped friends that were always texting when we'd get together. If the times we had to have a bite together weren't that important that they could ignore their phone for 20 minutes, how good a friend were they really?

        It always depends on the employment laws where you are, but mostly a company has to show cause for firing somebody to get out of paying some sort of redundancy. To let one person go to make room for somebody else with connections isn't something they'd want to admit.

  14. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    If these were Gus' lines from "Drop the Dead Donkey" they would seem over-egged.

    "spend more meaningful time together." -- "setting the tone" -- "...we must be better stewards of getting into the office,"

    Deserves a trip to the basement (FSB) or carpark (BOFH) in my book.

    When has productivity coming off a non-zero base ever been tripled... anywhere? Even the most dunderheaded management has ever been able to suppress productivity to that extent ... that would require incredible creativity.

    If empty buildings are worrying then turn the lights off and grow mushrooms which metaphorically I guess they are.

  15. WPM55

    Spend Time in the Office

    I'm a retired IBMer. I joined the company in 1979. My last position was a Sales and Marketing Representative in IBM's US Sales and Marketing Division located in Los Angeles. In the early 90s, IBM encouraged its Sales reps to work from home when it made sense to do. We were given new ThinkPads and everything we would need to set up our home office. So, I did. However, it didn't take long for me to miss the office interactions with my peers. Yes it saved time not having to make the commute to the office in the heavy LA traffic, so if it made sense to work from home, I would do so. But for all the reasons IBM states in their recent announcement regarding the software group returning to the office I would agree its better for the overall business. Sometimes it may take time to implement some of IBM's decisions, I say trust IBM, they know what they are doing. I loved being an IBMer, I know most employees do. It's a way of life.

    1. cmdrklarg

      Re: Spend Time in the Office

      Seriously? Sales and Marketing is almost nothing like Software Development.

      Also: The IBM of today is a pale shadow of what it used to be. I suspect you'd have been laid off long ago had you not retired. A way of life? Maybe back when you worked for them... not anymore.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Spend Time in the Office

      "But for all the reasons IBM states in their recent announcement regarding the software group returning to the office I would agree its better for the overall business. "

      Going by the overwhelming sentiment so far in the comments, you'd do well to make some arguments for your position. Would you advocate for being in the office daily or just a day or two a week with all of your other teammates? I can see it being a good thing for sales people to tell each other about customer trends and desires so presentations are more on point, but everyday?

  16. AnOldFormerIBMr

    Worked from home for IBM for many many years w/o issue. Was required to go back in to office to collaborate and accelerate. We had several team members who were in offices across the country. Since there were not enough conference rooms, we ended up having team calls on webex, so there we were, sitting next to each other, at our desks all talking on webex. For those of us who take our jobs seriously, WFH is far far more productive. Online at 6-630am, off at 5-6 when dinner is ready. Commuting would be in at 7am to beat traffic, out at 330 to beat traffic, no exceptions. Since the computer was turned off, but the time you get home after 60-90 mins in traffic fearing for your life, it's not being turned on again until 7am the next day. If a company has problems with quiet quitters and all that BS, that's on them for hiring crap people. Hire serious, mature, knowledgeable people, give them flexibility and autonomy, and the work will get done like you wouldn't believe. Any time you hear a company complaining they cannot find good people, add "for what we are willing to pay" to the end of it, and there will be the truth.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      If a company has problems with quiet quitters and all that BS, that's on them for hiring crap people.

      But if they can't tell who they are without sitting next to them, WTF is going on in terms of measuring productivity and having an idea of who is actually useful?

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Hire serious, mature, knowledgeable people, give them flexibility and autonomy, and the work will get done like you wouldn't believe."

      Also, it's a good idea to teach them techniques to work more efficiently and keep improving in their jobs. Some of the things I've picked up over the years are very meta. It helps to remember things if I write them down. If I were to come up with things that help me be a better sales person that I wanted to share at the next sales meeting, I'd write them down on paper and have a pad, notebook section or folder for exactly that. I do keep notes when there are things that I want to talk to a client about. If it's not urgent, I'll keep those notes with their name on so I can refer to it the next time we have a call. It's little things like that that make more more efficient. I'm also not bothering clients several times a day with one question or topic. I'm bothering them once a week with a longer call and ticking everything off that I can in one go.

  17. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    company goals

    Since IBM's company goals are to get rid of all the staff over 30 or earning above minimum wage in a 3rd world call center - preferably without any lawsuits.

    Getting people to resign rather than return to the office is a win all round

    1. Grumpy O'Toole

      Re: company goals

      Most banks want this.

      Sack everyone except senior management, ask about replacing 3rd world staffers with AI.

      All SW dev must be done in cheapest location.

      Greed until they realise they can't eat money.

  18. Randy Hudson

    50 miles is an insane distance. That could be hours of daily commuting for some employees. I thought about this for a whole 30 seconds before coming to the conclusion that a time-based commute threshold makes a lot more sense, and should probably depend on whether you are using mass transit (can multitask) or driving yourself.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "and should probably depend on whether you are using mass transit (can multitask) or driving yourself."

      That really depends on the buss/train. If it's standing room only, good luck trying to get work done. Busses lurch and sway too much for me to keep my head looking at a notepad or laptop. Some trains move around too much as well when the tracks are poorly maintained.

  19. Terry2000

    Triple Productivity?

    Anyone that believes software development productivity can be tripled in even the medium term is a genuine fool! He is incapable of understanding what the job is or how it gets done and thus reasonably should be fired with cause.

    Return to office is mostly based on the increasingly irrelevant first line manager, which the middle manager needs so he doesn’t have to do anything, which upper management needs to protect him from having to interact with the unwashed masses.

    There also appears to be a component of personal investment in commercial real estate companies that are on the verge of going under and taking upper management’s retirement accounts with them.

    One thing this is NOT about is improving life, productivity , or technically safety (how many people are killed driving to their home office) of the people that actually produce anything.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Triple Productivity?

      Nah, it's easy to triple software productivity. Pick a metric, and watch the teams Goodhart it.

      "Productivity" by itself is a meaningless term.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Triple Productivity?

      "Return to office is mostly based on the increasingly irrelevant first line manager,"

      who has no idea on how to manage people they can't see and shoulder surf.

      One of the best managers I ever had could have been anywhere in the world and not just on the other side of the engineering office. He held a office meeting or talked to each person one on one and let them know what needed to get done. We got back to him with a timeline to bracket how long we thought it would take and what sorts of things might impact the schedule. He put all of that in project management software to show to those above him. We each had a list of things that needed to get accomplished and would be told if priorities changed. It was so easy to work with a clear direction and few interruptions. Everybody knew what they needed to get done and when it had to be completed. Work fast, take time off. If things were going slow, more time had to be put in. It all averaged over a month and none of us cared if we worked 9 hours one day. Chances would be good that Friday would wind up only 6-7 hours long in compensation. Part of that is having a small team that all have respect for each other even if we were complete bastards. You got your job done so you weren't the one holding up the project.

  20. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Not all butts fit the same size chair.

    WFH needs the right company culture and the right employees. When those come together there are significant advantages, generally reduced costs and improved employee satisfaction.

    I have been WFH for a decade now. The company decided to close my local office and save $100k in monthly rent. I am more productive now than I ever was in the office. Dedicated work space, no kids or other interruptions. And the 90-minutes per day I spent commuting, I mistakenly thought I would get those back. The company doesn't have to pay floor space, power, HVAC, Internet or other expenses for me. I have taken on those expenses, but dropped the commuting expenses, so it all balances out.

    The bottom line is it is impossible for companies to apply a blanket policy toward everyone and expect it to be the right fit in all situations. Same thing for reports from analysts like Gartner. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

  21. Scene it all

    I did software development for many decades and I *hated* face to face meetings. This kind of work requires keeping a lot of things in your head at once and any interruptions can make you lose your place. A lot of the time even our group meetings had two participants from many time zones away, just by phone, and it worked fine. No need to be breathing the same air.

  22. aerogems Silver badge
    Holmes

    Just my opinion

    I personally find all this magical thinking about the magical properties of working in an office vs remote to be pure bullshit and more about the fact that these companies have these expensive leases on office buildings that they have to keep paying for... or take a massive hit to break the lease, which would probably torpedo their bonus for that quarter... if they could at least do things like stagger start and end times, I think it would go a long ways towards helping. Instead of "thou shalt be in thine chair by 9am" say people can start at any time between say 8-10am. Spread out all that "rush hour" traffic a little so your commute isn't full of stop and go traffic and all the other joys of the daily commute.

    If someone invents a Star Trek-like instant (or near-instant) matter transporter that could take me from my house to the office directly, then sure, I'll work in an office with few complaints.

    I also still want to see some Fortune 500 CEOs try working like an entry-level new hire for a month. I'm sure after having to live and work like an entry-level employee for a month their thoughts on remote working will be interesting. At least more interesting than now.

  23. jpreis

    Show me the actual office I'm returning to

    I'm 1000% in support of returning to the office. As soon as there's an actual office to return to. People aren't being asked to return to the office; they're being asked to come back to environments that don't facilitate quiet or private working spaces. They're being asked to come back to setting up their office every day (because the time pissed away driving isn't bollocks enough) and being forced to listen to other team members meetings which is incredibly distracting for some. (Call me Mr. Some). Hell, I'll meet you half way; Give me a dedicated cube in a quad. and I'll be there,

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Show me the actual office I'm returning to

      "Give me a dedicated cube in a quad. and I'll be there,"

      I recall a tv show that showcased an architectural firm that had a big factory space and each of the people there built a shed at an "address' to their tastes. It was amazing and they had a list of people that wanted to work there and expected those that were there to be very good earners for the company. Everybody knew exactly where the bar was set, but due to the sort of people that were hired there, there was almost never people being let go. The sheds were incredible workspaces. Often there would be a couch so somebody could have a lie down and contemplate the universe when needed and there was a library 'in town' stocked with all sorts of art books and photos of architectural works from all places and times. The sheds seemed to have been about the size of a quad.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Less face time and more coding time

    If you are a programmer, surely, you want less face time or less face-to-face time, and more programming time.

    Les form filling to.... write a story, then Jura ticket, writing estimate for duration... by the time this is done, you could have achieve 3 coding tasks instead of none.

  25. Diogenes

    I miss WFH

    I was actually able to teach & provide 1:1 assistance than waste more than 50% of my time on classroom managementcrowd control. I had generous "office hours", because in some households the kids only had access to one computer, because mum or dad needed it for work, and they were only able to log on between 6 & 7pm, in return I could 'disappear' for a few hours during the day - approved by the Principal as I had data as to when kids were actually logging in & retrieving material or starting teams chats with me.

    Without continual interruptions (SWMBO excepted, but she knew closed door meant I was "on class") I rewrote units of work & resources in no time, and actually had time to think about and investigate alternate approaches.

  26. ScrappyLaptop2

    Gee, it's almost as though they want people to quit

    Time to reduce those headcounts!

  27. frankyunderwood123

    Management wants to manage

    I think one of the biggest "justifications" for demanding a return to the office is that a lot of middle Management at big corporations have suddenly been shown to be dead wood.

    Something developers in tech have known for a long time.

    When faced with empty offices and nothing much to do, because the Zoom call is a screen of mostly names, as most of the cameras are turned off, what's a middle manager going to do?

    Demand that people show their faces more often so the middle Manager can arrange lots of meetings and "together time" to ensure they feel like they are doing their jobs properly.

    Yes, there's totally a reason for some office time - no doubt about that.

    But it needs to be hybrid time, rather than demanding "3 days at the office", get people in for important meetings - brainstorming sessions, a bit of a social, to reconnect.

    Also, stagger the times, so you aren't forcing people back into a hellish commute - don't start a meeting at 9am in the morning, start it at 10.30am.

    Allow people to return back home after the meetings are done, should they wish to.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny.

    I used to work for IBM. I used to be in an office 3 or more days a week. My line manager - never had one. My people manager - of the 5 or 6 I had, over a number of years, In total I saw them less than a dozen times. One I never met at all.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank god for UK law....

    Statutory Flexible Requests in the UK, enshrined in Law, make this a really difficult sell for management / HR. The rationale of "come back because we say so" does not apply as a valid reason to reject a statutory WFH request.

    HR will deny it, you appeal it and eventually in the face of being in ACAS conciliation / tribunals for months they will back down. So to anyone impacted by this, be brave and stick to your guns. If you genuinely feel you can do your job effectively from home and evidence this with performance review data, example of output and how flexible working BENEFITS the company (by you being more available instead of commuting etc) then you have a good chance of succeeding.

    That being said, depending on the structure of the team and the projects being working on, in office collaboration CAN be a good thing and some people do take the piss working remotely.....which ruins it for the rest of us who prefer and thrive in that environment.

    This is why we can't have nice things etc.....

  30. unbender

    internal travel time and ad-hoc meetings

    Client wants everyone including suppliers in their offices.

    People regularly disappear early from meetings and arrive late for the next as they travel between meeting rooms. Managers arriving at your desk and "pulling you in" to a meeting totally disrupts workflow and wastes so much time. The noise of open plan offices combined with the lack of desk space are not performance enhancing.

    Net zero and daily commuting are not compatible concepts.

  31. Mockup1974 Bronze badge

    The other time I had to attend a meeting on sustainability. Mandatory face to face, so I drove 1 hour in my car each way. Very sustainable, indeed. Green, almost.

  32. nijam Silver badge

    > "spend more meaningful time together."

    I think that should read "spend more less-meaningful time together."

  33. IBM Software Retiree

    Rules for thee

    We got a similar mandate at IBM Software Group around 2010. Most employees ignored it and stayed home because their directors and managers didn't come in either. (Rules for thee, not for me.) I had colleagues who lived near the IBM offices but didn't come in for months at a time.

    Bottom line: unless the execs and managers follow this rule, it won't mean a thing.

  34. MJI Silver badge

    WFH

    I do most of the time, already said that for office

    1 - I get a lift in

    2 - If I drive my wife and dog come too

    3 - if it comes to it medical retirement

    4 - anyone gives me another lurgy dies

    Poor health is a killer.

    Had an incident while driving a week or so ago, yet another blood test but finally going to get some more investigation.

    It appears a very mild covid infection gave me long covid. My immune system we think went too far.

    But as above, still in tests.

  35. JacobZ
    FAIL

    I worked at IBM and I'm here to call BS

    I was relocated by IBM to Raleigh so that I could "have more contact with my colleagues". I was a product manager, and my dev team were mostly in Poughkeepsie, with other labs in Germany, India and China. My product management colleagues were mostly in Austin and California. The colleagues including the sellers and customers I worked closely with were everywhere on the planet.

    Even my immediate manager was in Pittsburgh, although he did come to Raleigh a couple of days a month. His manager was in New York.

    At first I went into the office pretty regularly (although I always left around 2:30 to pick up my son from school, and work from home the rest of the day.) By the end I was going in only on the days my manager was in town. And even then I would spend maybe two hours a day with him, and the rest in my windowless office with the door closed, working online or on conference calls.

    The whole premise is BS.

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