No "drive by chatters" showing up at my desk with "Hey do you have a moment?" or just shooting the breeze but dumping me out of the zone.
I'm not tempted to buy lunch every day, wasting money and time.
I am more productive; there's nobody playing pingpong, shouting across the open office to each other, cheering at winning in a video game, or delaying me in the hallway on my way to a conference room.
I don't have to book conference rooms and pressure the previous meeting to vacate on time.
In a global company, we don't have situations where the one or two remote people are an after-thought to meetings that are being held in person for everyone else. In a meeting, everyone is on the same playing field. There's no office with five people in it, and then one person on a screen.
Tools have become good enough: Jamboard, Figma, and other collaborative document tools, Meets / Zoom / Teams, tmate / tmux (for terminal-based collaboration; vim, etc.)
Pair-ups and tutoring can be ad hoc, and when they happen, I'm not needing to book a room or annoy my open office neighbors with chatter.
My company has people working in every US timezone, plus several timezones in Europe and Asia. If I need to take a 6:30 AM meeting to accommodate folks in India, that used to put me in a position of not having a good option for when to finally commute into the office; go in before? That's rough. Go in after? That might disrupt my day. Now it doesn't matter.
It's easier to just take a walk, or to pick up a kid from an emergency at school. This de-stresses life a little, making me able to focus better while I'm working.
There are cons, of course:
In-person, face to face communications includes body language, facial expression, and a bit more freedom to relax and discuss. This hurts more junior developers who need more day to day, hour to hour support.
It's harder to build team loyalty. You have to plan to spend time together in virtual meetings and possibly occasional in-person meetings.
Whiteboarding is a little rough still. Figma and Jamboard help, but it's a little harder to brainstorm as a group, and it doesn't just happen as naturally as an in person conversation could migrate to a whiteboard.
Not everyone has a good place at home to work. I'm lucky that I have a couple of options at home; a nice office that is in a more common area in the home, and then a more "bat cave" office that is quieter and secluded for when the kids are home and noisy.
Let's be honest; it can be fun going to lunch with your coworkers, exploring the neighborhoods around offices, and so on. We miss that sometimes.
Some people have trouble unplugging at the end of the day.
Having long suffered an unhappy home life, I've relished escaping that misery by heading in to the office.
Perhaps egged on by Google, I also noticed a huge improvement in office conditions in high-end companies over the past 20 years or so:
superb desks, ergonomic chairs, powerful computers with multiple large screens,
well-stocked kitchens cleaned daily, fantastic coffee machines (some companies even providing chefs and baristas),
ping pong tables, the list goes on and on.
I was also lucky to have some fantastic and entertaining workmates, close friends, almost like family.
So the Covid lockdowns hit me really hard.
Though the new on-line meetings were fun, I missed the daily office banter and
especially the enjoyable physical activities that kept me fit, such as ping pong matches and going on walks together at lunchtime.
No. Having long suffered an unhappy home life, I've relished escaping that misery by heading in to the office. Perhaps egged on by Google, I also noticed a huge improvement in office conditions in high-end companies over the past 20 years or so: superb desks, ergonomic chairs, powerful computers with multiple large screens, well-stocked kitchens cleaned daily, fantastic coffee machines (some companies even providing chefs and baristas), ping pong tables, the list goes on and on. I was also lucky to have some fantastic and entertaining workmates, close friends, almost like family.
pretty much what he said. well, close enough to copy/paste...
I miss my long lunch walks and long 20-30 mile cycling commutes, one way, twice a week for additional fitness... but i stink at ping pong.
I miss my long lunch walks and long 20-30 mile cycling commutes, one way, twice a week for additional fitness...
Impressive level of fitness.
but i stink at ping pong
I don't. ;-)
As an indoor sport, ping pong took a massive Covid hit. I still miss the fun ping pong battles in the office.
I also miss attending in-person Meetup events ...
as mentioned here (in the last paragraph),
Covid put a crimp on those who avoided cooking, cleaning and shopping simply by wolfing down the free food on offer at a different
geek Meetup group every night of the week. :)
Update: When the Covid lockdowns hit my workplace, I noticed that single people, especially those who lived alone,
were generally lonely and miserable ... while family folks, especially those with nice homes in leafy suburbs with long
commutes to the office, were generally ecstatic.
No, over the last 20 years of my career I found easily the most rewarding part of it was teaching and mentoring; I am not so skilled as to be able to do that remotely.
Home has always been far and away the best place to get code written. But I never felt that the breadth of my job should be restricted by the contract: I've always looked for opportunities to add value in other ways, and often found those opportunities as enjoyable as writing code or more so. For those jobs where I worked 100% from home (usually at my own insistence) I rarely found such opportunities, and over the longer term my job satisfaction suffered for it.
Strongly prefer a mix (so voted No). I go in 2-3 days a week and I use remote days for long tasks requiring focus and days in the office for shorter tasks or tasks requiring collaboration (and since I'm an industrial automation developer, I also need those days to run tests on the actual machine hardware).
The mixture also provides a significant social benefit. When I'm physically at work, I consider myself interruptable so will be more pleasant with people and more focused on useful collaboration - since I don't have any expectations of accomplishing anything large anyway. Conversely, I don't do meetings and will be much less responsive on remote days - those are the days I'm productive in code generation.
At a job that provides vast flexibility. This allows me to travel and do whatever I want, whenever I want and wherever I want so long as there's either a cell signal or Internet connectivity of some sort.
I've worked remotely for almost six years now, and I love it.
As a business owner with a small, fully remote team, this is a major challenge. It becomes greater for junior staff and because we are a very small company in terms of headcount. Most of my current team are all based in the same country (the UK) and geographically close so we can meet up for a meal or other social activity a few times each year. But one of the reasons for building a remote team before the Pesky Pandemic is the ability to attract talent from anywhere globally.
I have a simple rule - everyone can work when and where they want subject to a few restrictions. In accessing those restrictions I ensure they are as few as possible. MS Teams is our office and I expect everyone to appear there at least three times each day unless they are on leave or have otherwise explained they won't be. We have a few channels (such as our virtual coffee machine) within Teams which are there to deal with some of the issues with not getting personal interactions - using them is not optional!
It takes some people a while to realise that it's OK to keep a voice-call going for a few hours with very little being said. Breaking the habit of putting the phone down at the end of a conversation can be hard.
But for all the difficulties, I would not have my team any other way. Looking back I cannot believe that 15 years ago I spend an hour sitting in the car most mornings before I got to work. No way would I go back to that and I would not expect any of my team to either.
Looking back I cannot believe that 15 years ago I spend an hour sitting in the car most mornings before I got to work.
No way would I go back to that...
Yes, I agree that driving to work really sucks (especially through working class neighbourhoods ;-).
In my younger days, I'd get the job first, then rent nearby, close enough to walk to work.
Looking back I cannot believe that I used to routinely stay up gallivanting till 3:00 am ... then drag myself out of bed at 9:50
to arrive in the office puffing at 10:00 am ... while an older family man, residing in the scenic (not working class)
diligently arose at 5:30 am for his two-hour train journey to arrive in the office two hours before me!
By the time I arrived, he'd done four hours work because he got
a lot done sitting in a comfortable regional train with his headphones and laptop.
We both found it hilarious.
As you might expect, he was also the first to leave in the afternoon, so he could
get home in time to spend some quality time with his young children.
pandemic demonstrated we can work from home without any significant impact on productivity or perhaps even with some increment of it.
It mainly depends on the ability of manager to follow our work and this is a problem in Eataly: generally good workers, mediocre mid level and terrible managers.
More: at $work recently decided to move into a mega open space building with ~100 people per floor when in the rest of western countries they finally discovered open spaces are counter productive: to concentrate on my job I had (the few days I'm at office) to wear my headset with high level music to clear the loud of coworkers.
Currently I have only one coworker of my same team working in Rome so it doesent change a lot were I am.
Companies with bit more salt in the head can rearrange themselves to save a lot of money with a diffuse remote work policy.
My home station is better, I made it with some decent wood, coffe is by far better, my little balcony is just here, when is hot I can dress the way I like.
If you ear about a full remote, partime, perl job I'm here :)
There are no rules, there are no thumbs..
Reinvent the wheel, then learn The Wheel; may be one day you reinvent one of THE WHEELS.
Being self-employed for two and a half decades, all of my work has been from home and I've had no trouble using whatever collaborative media are at hand to keep the personal interaction going. The most important thing in my experience, though the most politically delicate, is to keep the bosses' noses locked out of the worker bees' free speech spaces. Everyone needs a place where it's safe to say that the boss is an ignorant jerk, to develop the workarounds that keep the boss from screwing up the work, and to give and receive the help that the less-than-perfect don't want the boss to know that they need, just as people naturally do in an office.
This is not to suggest that I know what I'm talking about. It's just what has always worked for me.
Fom day 1 in my first job, I promised myself not to take any work home. Simply because I know it would be addictive. I would return home late, work on a problem through the night, and have only a little bit of sleep. And that would not happen once or twice, but more or less every day. And I did not take work home for about two decades.
There were little exceptions. When I set up OpenVPN at work so that my boss could work from home, I also set up a VPN account for me. For testing, and for those days when the early birds at work ran into trouble while I was still busy preparing breakfast. Those little things like "oops, I deleted $IMPORTANTFILE, could you please restore it from the backup?"
But generally, I did not take work home. I need about an hour to drive home, that's plenty time to think about unsolved problems. It's my little kind of meditation. More than once, I found a solution or at least I had an idea how to solve a pending problem while driving home. In that case, I simply stopped, wrote down some notes, and started thinking about really important problems like what to cook for the week-end.
Then, COVID-19 happened. Our gouvernment made it mandatory to offer home office to anybody remotely able to work from home. Nobody was forced, but it was highly recommended. So my boss asked me "can we do it?" Of course, OpenVPN works fine, I just needed to create some more accounts, and after about an hour, the whole company except for the cleaning lady had VPN accounts and could work from home. It worked surprisingly well. Our regular weekly meeting was changed to an online conference system, our PBX already supported virtual conference rooms, and only occasionally, a few people worked in the office to test the integration of hard- and software we developed.
I started to like working from home. Five seconds for the way from breakfast to office are hard to beat, and distractions are really low compared to the office. It was great for the problem I was working on. It was an isolated problem with very few external dependencies. A blackbox being fed with some measurement data and returning some useful results had to be ported from a mess of Excel VBA to C# (see [OT] Finding similar program code). Working eight hours with messy VBA is also a good way to prevent working a single second more that eight hours. ;-)
I missed the meditative hour driving back home to calm down and get the stuff out of my head. And after that problem was done, other problems appeared that needed more communication. Phone calls can do a lot, but just walking over to the next office does more. Also, our offices are open. We close the doors only if we really need an undisturbed hour. That means some distraction, but you also hear what happens, and where problems pop up.
A simple example: Solving hardware problems is not my job, but hearing one of the hardware experts getting mad about transistors releasing magic smoke, again and again, despite the simulation working properly is a reason to walk over to the hardware lab. Just listening what he tries to archive, and having a look at the circuit diagram. In that case, the simulation was perfectly happy with a reverse base-emitter voltage of about -24 V. Datasheet and silicon agreed that magic smoke would be released at about -7 V. Adding a simple zener diode solved the issue. That would never have happened working from home offices. Sure, he would have found the solution all by himself, but he might have killed a few more transistors along the way. Rubber duck debugging for hardware.
The mandatory home office offer is now history, we have now largely returned to the office, but switching to home office has become something usual. Instead of wasting a vacation day for thinks like a craftsman fixing something at home, or an unexpededly closed kindergarden, you simply switch to home office. All you have to do is to mark that day as home office in our public calendar at least one day ago, no questions asked.
I still like to work from home if the problem at hand can be solved in isolation. I don't carry 100 kg of hardware and test equipment back home to debug the software running on the hardware. A single PCB and some adapters is a different story ...
Today I will gladly share my knowledge and experience, for there are no sweeter words than "I told you so". ;-)
I missed the meditative hour driving back home to calm down and get the stuff out of my head
My business coach made much the same observation right at the start of the Pesky Pandemic. He is a very smart cookie but he hadn't realised this subtle side effect of remote working.
It is normal for him to have back-to-back meetings all day long separated only by a car journey between them. Come remote working and that buffer time disappeared. With it, so did his time to reflect on the meeting he had left and mentally recharge a bit before the next meeting. Had he not recognised this early and taken some corrective action, I am pretty sure he would have become seriously ill.
For years I worked in an open-plan office. I found it highly distracting and annoying. I honestly hated the space. However it was useful if you needed to talk to someone, and except for winter, my cycle to and from the office was nice.
Since changing job I now work from home almost all the time. I miss seeing people and my cycle to work, but I don't have the annoying distractions of an office, my desk space at home is better and I don't have the winter commute to deal with.
On balance I think going into an office once or twice a fortnight may be useful, especially if other people were in the office on the same day. Otherwise going to an office when my colleagues aren't in it would be an utter waste of time.
Alexander reminds us that people spend most of their time at home or at work;
nevertheless, office environments are almost universally empty of real vitality.
"They are missing a depth of feeling and richness of function that lets people
reach into those parts of their everyday life and work that are really important".
He goes on to criticize stereotyped office furniture as one of the prime
contributors to an inhuman work environment.
The environment produced by office furniture has realized the nightmare
of Orwell's 1984 at a level so subtle that many managers are not even
aware of it. This is the deathly world that 58 million people in the
U.S. are forced to inhabit eight hours a day. Not only is the situation
oppressive, but instead of making it better, our culture has invested
considerable resources to teach people to accept it without question.
Architecture schools and the professional media deliberately mislead
the public by insisting that emotional well-being is not a requirement
of interior design. As a result, few people imagine that a pleasant
work environment is even possible today.
It is all right to say that individuals and groups have control over their
realms and their work environments, but it simply won't work unless the
actual physical materials the building is made of, and the structural
systems by which it is put together, actually invite and facilitate
People cannot work effectively if their workspace is too enclosed
or too exposed. A good workspace strikes the balance ... You should
not be able to hear noises very different from the kind you make,
from your workplace. Your workplace should be sufficiently enclosed
to cut out noises which are a different kind from the ones you make.
There is some evidence that one can concentrate on a task better if
people around you are doing the same thing, not something else.
I've worked in many different office environments over the years.
My favourite was perhaps my first job in a sprawling lab environment in old converted cottages,
with typically two people per office.
It's the only place I've worked where you could actually open the window!
Yup. Instead of racing out of the house to catch the bus/train (45 minutes each way), I save 90 minutes a day. I can run errands during the day; I can eat lunch at home; and if I'm beat, no need to look for the company nap room -- just go to bed for half an hour. It's great!
And I've heard some companies saying, "OK, we're going back to the office on THIS DAY", then when they see a flood of resignations, they're puzzled. Face it: the pandemic has fundamentally changed things. We have to all accept the new reality.