Author Topic: A Permanent Change - Working from Home  (Read 2964 times)

Zetetic

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A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« on: September 13, 2020, 06:20:18 PM »
Welsh Government has decided that it aims to get 30% of workers doing so from "or near" home after this is over. Near might mean shared spaces.

I live within walking distance of my office, so to be honest it makes little difference. I slightly liked going in recently because 1) the offices were empty, 2) I missed air conditioning and 3) I got to use a massive SurfaceHub again.

Other than the last two, the only real incentive for office working from my point of view is it made one of my colleagues more likely to come out for drinks on. And I suspect it was less relevant than I imagine.

Was slightly dreading an office move but I suspect it won't matter so much now. I'll still have to travel to places where people do real work occasionally (hospitals, that sort of thing) but that's a bit different.

Liable to provoke a backlash from UK Government, supposedly.

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2020, 06:46:45 PM »
Good stuff Wales

sirhenry

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2020, 07:07:55 PM »
I wrote this almost a year ago, before lockdown and wfh becoming a known acronym, as part of climate change research. I may even have posted it on here at the start of lockdown before people were used to wfh. We haven't yet had any signs of it happening yet and a lot of people appear to be happier now working from home, but I still think it will come true:

One outcome of this is that companies and workers will become more used to working from home. And while there are some obvious climate change benefits to this there are a few slightly more worrying possible outcomes…

Once companies get used to the setup where as many of their employees work from home as possible because of the overhead savings, they will quickly want to make sure that their workers aren’t skiving. So there will be development of software that keeps track of exactly what work is being done and when, maybe even software that the user/worker has to pay for for the privilege of working. But it’s cheaper and cleaner than commuting…

Once that is in place, it’s a very small step to converting virtually all of our digital economy over to a gig economy where you only get paid for the minutes that you’re actually working. It’s a very simple way of massively increasing productivity in one easy step. No more 60% work time wasted (https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/in-an-8-hour-day-the-average-worker-is-productive-for-this-many-hours.html)

Also, with work being done online, there’s no reason not to globalise employment and cut wage costs that way. Any country bringing in minimum wage legislation or restrictions on exploitation will be cutting its own throat as employers choose a cheaper workforce elsewhere at little or no extra cost.

This should bring about a more egalitarian world (on a national level, at least). There will still be “the 1%” and the disparity is likely to be greater than ever, but it’s also likely to be spread more evenly around the world than now. And as far as I can see it will leave a rather large unemployed underclass in most/all countries. But workers will have little sympathy as they will be suffering a big increase in depression, loneliness, ill health and other outcomes of isolation and so unlikely to have a strong-, or united-, enough voice.

Zetetic

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2020, 07:11:22 PM »
So there will be development of software that keeps track of exactly what work is being done and when, maybe even software that the user/worker has to pay for for the privilege of working.

Worth noting that this is well underway, and similarly in the context of lecture-attendance/exam-invigilation. Will try to give some examples. (Half remember something about law exams and pissing in bottles…)

Shit Good Nose

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2020, 07:54:53 PM »
We've been "flexibly working" for about 6 years now, so most of us work from home at least once a week and we've long got over the hump of "are my staff doing the work?"  Most of us are in jobs where it would VERY soon be noticed if were skiving and not doing the work.

We're in the process of selling and renting most of our remaining buildings to try and plug some massive holes in our budgets, leaving just a couple of HQ offices in main towns, so we've now got to a point where most of us will have to start working from home for two, three or even four days a week.  Out of ~2000 staff, there are about 150 who can't work from home purely because of the nature of their work and another 100 or so who can't either because it's not practical with their living situation, or they have health reasons.

I've got no issue with working from home and have been doing it a day a week on average, and I reckon I'd be happy to do it for two or maybe three days, but I don't think I could do much more than that.  I know most on here who are in employment absolutely hate the people they work with and will no doubt relish the opportunity to not have to deal with them on a regular basis any more but, as I've always said, in the place I've been working for the last nearly-twenty years my colleagues are, by and large, a great bunch of lads (indeed, a couple of my now closest friends are people I've met in this place), and a big part of going to work is the social aspect.  So I'd really miss that.  There is also the mental health aspect of staring at the same walls - a mate of mine has been working from home full-time for about the last five years due to a major stroke, and he said it's done his mental health no good at all.

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2020, 09:37:40 PM »
Don't get too comfy, Wales will vote in a Tory WAG next year and this will be knocked on the head.

Zetetic

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2020, 09:42:35 PM »
"WAG" hasn't existed since 2014.

Zetetic

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2020, 09:55:00 PM »
A brief Twitter thread on the risks of reinforcing inequalities:
https://twitter.com/llannerch/status/1305194043496955905

Not clear that WG is going to do the work required on supporting coworking spaces etc. (which mostly seem to terrible, but all my experience is really second-hand).

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2020, 10:10:46 PM »
A brief Twitter thread on the risks of reinforcing inequalities:
https://twitter.com/llannerch/status/1305194043496955905

Some good points which took me right back to mid-to-late 2009 through to about 2013, during which I suffered from (diagnosed) paternal post-natal depression and Mrs Nose's full-on depression began (little Nose was born in 2010, but Mrs Nose suffered very very badly throughout the whole pregnancy and the birth itself - at 45hrs in duration - remains the single most traumatic thing I've ever experienced, following which we averaged about an hour to two hour's sleep a night for three and a half years) and I wasn't given anything by my GP to help with that other than a recommendation to take regular exercise.  I absolutely dreaded getting home from work and the weekends (which seemed endless during that period), to the point where I was leaving the house for work at 6am (our office at that point was accessible 24/7) and staying until about 5 to 5.30pm every weekday.  I'm not quite sure how I would cope if that was all happening now during covid, so I sympathise and empathise with anyone who - for whatever reason - can't face the possibility of working from home.  I count myself extremely lucky that the prospect of full-time home working for me now is little more than an eye-rolling annoyance.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2020, 10:33:39 PM »
A brief Twitter thread on the risks of reinforcing inequalities:
https://twitter.com/llannerch/status/1305194043496955905

Not clear that WG is going to do the work required on supporting coworking spaces etc. (which mostly seem to terrible, but all my experience is really second-hand).

An interesting read, thanks for that.

My team embraced flexible working a couple of years ago (thanks in part to my manager fighting HR for the option to work from home one day of the week, because their young child couldn't get a nursery space on that day), and we were also split across multiple offices anyway, so we'd already been using platforms like Slack to stay in touch.

As a result the micro-manage-y hand-wringing from lots of employers over not knowing whether their staff will be actually working, worrying about people taking extra long lunch breaks etc. - Slacking off, if you will - seems bizarrely archaic to me. (I change my Slack icon to a burger when I'm on my lunch hour, fwiw.)

Personally, I've been pretty miserable working from home full time because I don't have the space or privacy to do so comfortably or productively, and I also miss my mates from work horribly, but I think it's got massive implications for opening up opportunities for people who'd otherwise be shut out of roles because they can't physically get into the office (due to disability, childcare, cost of rent in particular areas, etc.).

I do think the point made on the Twitter thread, that 'home' varies hugely for everyone, is incredibly important though.

Re: coworking spaces, I wonder what's going to happen to all the WeWorks - they were like shit in a field in central London when the 'vid struck. Can't imagine the BEER TAPS AND FREE PIZZAS, YES MATE business model is especially COVID-secure. Visited a friend at one last year, seemed fun but I don't think I'd ever actually get any work done if that was my office.

Zetetic

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2020, 11:10:46 PM »
Had a look at the 2011 Census figures and back then about 10% of workers in Wales worked from home, or went to work on foot or by bicycle.

(England was a bit higher, about 12%. Massive variation within each, I'm guessing.)

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2020, 11:34:04 AM »
Re: coworking spaces, I wonder what's going to happen to all the WeWorks - they were like shit in a field in central London when the 'vid struck. Can't imagine the BEER TAPS AND FREE PIZZAS, YES MATE business model is especially COVID-secure. Visited a friend at one last year, seemed fun but I don't think I'd ever actually get any work done if that was my office.

WeWork was basically fucked even before COVID. Last year it made a lot of people redundant and had a major restructuring after a lot of the investors realised it would never make any money. It's incredibly unsurprising. For larger businesses, it's going to be cheaper to cut out the middle-man and control your own office space. Even for small businesses there are many other solutions, from cheap incubator space (run by non-profit/charity/public sector/uni) to homeworking or Starbucks. Co-working businesses like WeWork made a sort of sense in an economic boom/bubble with a shortage of office space, when it was buying up lots of office space and making it much easier to rent from them than to find an office, but that's no longer relevant.

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2020, 11:41:59 AM »
I like it better than going into the office, but it's basically passing space and equipment costs onto employees. Fine if you're privileged enough to afford a spare room or study, less good if you're in a 1-bed or a bedsit. There was a teacher on Reddit saying they had to make a weird setup that didn't show they were working from their bedroom, as the guidelines make no distinction between teaching online and teaching in person, and it's against safekeeping guidelines to teach in a bedroom.

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2020, 12:09:47 PM »
I distrust people who only socialise with people they work with - going from job to job and promoting Geoff from Accounts to bezzie drinking mate because of the decision of someone in HR who hired them.

I would be delighted to work from home for the rest of my working life (= death).

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2020, 12:12:26 PM »
2) I missed air conditioning

Isn't AC a good miss during pandemics (if there are others around, at least)?

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2020, 12:39:59 PM »
Yeah, I'm sure employers will find new ways to ruin our lives even if this does become the norm. For me it's been okay apart from the aformentioned sameness of staring at the same places all the time. Plus the realisation over the last 6 months that most of my colleagues have terrible reading comprehension.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2020, 12:51:09 PM »
So there will be development of software that keeps track of exactly what work is being done and when, maybe even software that the user/worker has to pay for for the privilege of working.

When I worked in an office about 15 years ago they had remote monitoring software on all our computers so they could "drop in" whenever they felt like it. There was a little symbol in the corner of the screen that turned black when they were looking. So many times caught browsing the internet/this forum and having that symbol turn black, and quickly closing out of it.

As long as people are getting the work done by the deadlines each day/week/month, I don't see an issue. As a freelancer I know that I have to get work done whether I work steadily each day or rush to get it all done at the last minute, or I don't get paid and potentially lose an employee/client.

Zetetic

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #17 on: September 14, 2020, 12:55:03 PM »
Isn't AC a good miss during pandemics (if there are others around, at least)?
I guess so, if there's recirculation involved.

But, like I say, largely empty, and I was in an empty meeting room on an empty floor. (I tell a lie: the receptionist was around somewhere).

Anyone coming in would've been more vigilant than the average for symptoms.

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2020, 04:35:33 PM »
I distrust people who only socialise with people they work with - going from job to job and promoting Geoff from Accounts to bezzie drinking mate because of the decision of someone in HR who hired them.

I would be delighted to work from home for the rest of my working life (= death).

A lot of people might struggle to make friends outside of the workplace though, you're not going to make friends with a lot of people but the enforced socialisation means that even people with limited social skills can get to know people. It doesn't work for everyone of course, it depends on the workplace, the people you work with and to an extent the job you do.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2020, 04:40:58 PM »
As long as people are getting the work done by the deadlines each day/week/month, I don't see an issue. As a freelancer I know that I have to get work done whether I work steadily each day or rush to get it all done at the last minute, or I don't get paid and potentially lose an employee/client.

Yeah I bill my clients saying I'll do x for them for £y, and if I'm working on an ongoing basis then I let them know what £z gets them. If I'm subcontracting then I say "do this job and I'll pay you this much." So if you work fast then you can dick around.

It might seem modern and progressive but I once worked as a cleaner in a hotel and they did the same thing to their poor staff. "You should be able to clean 3 rooms an hour, so you get an hours' minimum wage for every three rooms you clean." Shit if you're getting minimum wage and probably illegal.

Friend of the family handed in their three month notice over the quarantine and simply wiggled their mouse every 20 minutes.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #20 on: September 14, 2020, 06:06:28 PM »
I like it better than going into the office, but it's basically passing space and equipment costs onto employees. Fine if you're privileged enough to afford a spare room or study, less good if you're in a 1-bed or a bedsit. There was a teacher on Reddit saying they had to make a weird setup that didn't show they were working from their bedroom, as the guidelines make no distinction between teaching online and teaching in person, and it's against safekeeping guidelines to teach in a bedroom.

My employer (video game devs) have now paid us two wfh stipends of $500 to cover wfh costs/upgrades. It’s a rational investment to improve wfh productivity, so win win really.

sirhenry

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #21 on: September 14, 2020, 06:18:19 PM »
As long as people are getting the work done by the deadlines each day/week/month, I don't see an issue. As a freelancer I know that I have to get work done whether I work steadily each day or rush to get it all done at the last minute, or I don't get paid and potentially lose an employee/client.
The issue I see is that you will only get paid for the minutes/seconds that you are actually working at the keyboard (if the system is based around keylogging or similar), so the 60% improvement in productivity will also herald a 60% drop in wages.
I'm a freelance too so see work in much the same way, but apparently most people are paid by the time spent working rather than the final output and this could affect them hugely.

It would be similar to how Uber and many other parts of the gig economy works as far as I know, where you're only paid for the time you're actually on the clock. Any toilet, coffee, food or browsing breaks are on your own time. And, of course, if you take too many of those breaks you're out.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #22 on: September 14, 2020, 08:28:53 PM »
About 8 years ago I worked for a company that started rolling out a time management software; you had to literally press a button to say when you are physically doing your work on your computer, press pause and click "toilet break" if you need a piss, then resume when you're done etc etc. Logging every single second of your working day. That stuff is a tad scary.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #23 on: September 15, 2020, 01:12:36 AM »
WeWork was basically fucked even before COVID. Last year it made a lot of people redundant and had a major restructuring after a lot of the investors realised it would never make any money.

Yeah, that's not a huge surprise I guess.

I also remember at the start of this year seeing adverts on the Tube for a sort of bespoke 'matchmaker' service for finding a suitable office spaces for your company. Even at the time, it seemed a bit optimistic as a viable business, based on piggybacking off another trend (in this case the apparent boom in flexible urban workspaces) - a little like those incredibly grim ads promising to help landlords chuck out their tenants and turn it into an Airbnb instead.

Anyway, fast forward to post-COVID: yeah, good luck with that one mate

About 8 years ago I worked for a company that started rolling out a time management software; you had to literally press a button to say when you are physically doing your work on your computer, press pause and click "toilet break" if you need a piss, then resume when you're done etc etc. Logging every single second of your working day. That stuff is a tad scary.

Fuck THAT.

The prospect of a return to that sort of micromanagement of every moment is scary, especially given that the reality of being at home all day means you're unlikely to be able to spend every consecutive second of your working hours at your desk - if you've got other people/kids/pets around you to deal with, or you've got to actually spend time making your own lunch, or putting the washing out or any number of things.

It's frustrating too because for me, the days I work the longest hours certainly aren't necessarily the most productive. When I started going back to my office two days per week in July, on average I was probably logged in for about 30 minutes to an hour less than normal on those days (because the office had very strict opening/closing hours, but as it's about an hour's walk for me, waking up a bit late on those days meant shaving a fair chunk off my working hours, because I'd have to leave the office by a certain time regardless) - but I'd get SO much more done on those days, because it was such a fucking relief to be out of my flat.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #24 on: September 15, 2020, 07:35:07 AM »
I can see my place doing the same thing ref tracking the work people are doing from home.

Had the “just a reminder to get back in the office as often as you can” - All happy clappy management “banter” but absolutely laden with little swipes about productivity and keeping to contracted hours, with a firm message that, as soon as the government says it’s ok to do so, you will be returning to the office.

They can fucking stick that, I’m saving a fortune not going to the office everyday, I understand it isn’t great for the economy that I’m saving about 400 quid a month, but fuck going back full time, one or two days a week at the most is my plan

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #25 on: September 15, 2020, 04:39:30 PM »
I like it better than going into the office, but it's basically passing space and equipment costs onto employees. Fine if you're privileged enough to afford a spare room or study, less good if you're in a 1-bed or a bedsit. There was a teacher on Reddit saying they had to make a weird setup that didn't show they were working from their bedroom, as the guidelines make no distinction between teaching online and teaching in person, and it's against safekeeping guidelines to teach in a bedroom.

A good company, if it expects regular working from home, should provide the equipment that works best for the employee. Fold away desks, additional monitors, decent chairs etc either directly or via expenses.

Companies and legislation need to adapt, if thousands of office workers can adapt overnight then so should policy.

I am very sympathetic to people who live in small spaces etc but ultimately those people will move, if they no longer need to be within a regular commuting distance then they have a degree of flexibility.

At my place of work we have a manager who denied my manager (who has a damaged lung due to cancer) the chance to work from home full time TWO DAYS before lockdown because "What was she going to do? Work from home for months" on 18th September my organisation will have been full time working for 6 months.

My preference is flexibility. Are you happy and productive working from home full time? Great if you aren't then lets prioritise safe reopening.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #26 on: September 16, 2020, 06:27:14 AM »
Be aware working from home long-term can leave your house smelling of wotsit-y penis

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Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #27 on: September 16, 2020, 01:33:37 PM »
I like it better than going into the office, but it's basically passing space and equipment costs onto employees. Fine if you're privileged enough to afford a spare room or study, less good if you're in a 1-bed or a bedsit. There was a teacher on Reddit saying they had to make a weird setup that didn't show they were working from their bedroom, as the guidelines make no distinction between teaching online and teaching in person, and it's against safekeeping guidelines to teach in a bedroom.

When in our small one bedroom place until a month or two ago, Mrs Ferris would work on the sofa (turned to face the wall so Ferris Jr couldn’t climb on it and smash the place up), and I’d work sitting on the edge of the bath, with a cardboard box on top of the bog which I’d balance my laptop on.

If mrs Ferris had a call at the same time as me and Ferris Jr was napping, I’d put a folding chair in the front closet and sit in the dark with the door closed and she’d take up my spot in the bathroom, as those were the only two doors we had in the place that we could close

5 months we did that. What on earth were we thinking. Thank fuck we have more space now but passing these costs on seems pretty unfair if you’re not prepared to take them on.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #28 on: September 16, 2020, 02:00:28 PM »
Certainly if I was given the option to work at home on a full-time basis, I'd take it, but I reckon by Christmas we'll be in at least three days a week due to the displeasure of upper management of seeing a mainly empty office building. The fact that most of the staff are quite happy with WFH isn't that important - even the recent increasing cases across Greater Manchester doesn't seem to have caused much nervousness judging by the emails: "be careful, respect the rule of six, but be prepared to cram on the bus/train to get your sorry arses back to the office" seems to be the message.

I understand it's not for everyone, especially the social aspect. But then, I've never really liked being around the general public all that much.

Mind, the other half is flying back on Saturday after ten months away, so we'll see if my sunny disposition towards working at home lasts much longer, ho ho.

Re: A Permanent Change - Working from Home
« Reply #29 on: September 16, 2020, 04:08:06 PM »
Rather than faff around with people trying to order/expense desks, monitors etc for their WFH setup, my organisation just gave everyone $1000 and told us to buy what we wanted. Which is really generous and a simple solution - I've been very privileged during lockdown generally - but it does sort of incentivise you to not spend it on desks or anything, because then you're losing money. I spent it on effect pedals instead and now my neck is fucked.

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