Photo by Salt Water New England

Sunday, March 13, 2022

In The New York Times, article on a return to work.

 

In a recent New York Times article:

 Before the pandemic, in 2019, about 4 percent of employed people in the U.S. worked exclusively from home; by May 2020, that figure rose to 43 percent, according to Gallup...

Reasons people listed for preferring work from home, on top of concerns about Covid safety[:] sunlight, sweatpants, quality time with kids, quality time with cats, more hours to read and run, space to hide the angst of a crummy day or year. But the most strongly argued was about workplace culture....

Before the pandemic, Ms. Gifford, in Pittsburgh, didn’t understand why her workplace wouldn’t just let her work. There was a high school-style clique in her office that talked about Fortnite, cryptocurrency and who had swept up winnings at the most recent poker night....When she’s at home, Ms. Gifford can have conversations with colleagues confined to work, without overhearing their other chatter.  

[For] Ms. Egziabher... [t]he fixtures of her nearly two-decade career now seem like relics of a past she can’t imagine reinhabiting: high heels, early mornings, constant slights.

She says a little prayer of thanks for what remote work has allowed, an ethos strangely absent from the office: “Let’s just focus on the work.” 

- <https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/10/business/remote-work-office-life.html>

37 comments:

  1. Been working from home since 2007. Coming into the office periodically is fine. But requiring 100% full time return to working in the office just demonstrates a lack of imagination.

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  2. I've had several friends who have said they got way more accomplished working from home because there were far less distractions and their personal life improved as they were home to do little things as time permitted (like throw a load of laundry in at lunchtime). Plus no commute!

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  3. There is no going back to full time in the office. Productivity increased at home. Cost for office space reduced.

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  4. Yes, indeed, offices were horrible places to work in.

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  5. Work, and being there with everyone else, was pretty much my social life before I retired. Besides, I think I would have had a lot of difficulty working away from the office, same as the guys back in the cabinetmaking shop.

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  6. Hooray! Now we don’t ever have to leave our homes, even for work. No need to deal with those annoying people who don’t understand you.

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  7. I've loved being able to work from home at this stage of my life--with a toddler--as I've had the flexibility to be present but also continue my work as the director of a historical society. I do look forward to returning to the office occasionally, but have found working from home to be very freeing!

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  8. Working from home decreases the number of times I have to hear people say "like" and "awesome" but increases the number of times I have to read emails containing "reach out" and "going forward."

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  9. i was (and am) fine working in the office, which was about a 15 minute commute to a suburban office most days. i go in voluntarily when i need to. Because our organization functioned so effectively during remote work, the building i work in was sold (being leased back temporarily while they hunt for a smaller footprint located near public transportation downtown). The company will save money on the smaller space & have more flexibility because it will be leased rather than owned. the space will be available on request, but i doubt we'll ever return to working full-time in the office.

    I save time on a shorter commute and money on more formal clothing i no longer need to wear as much. Culturally, I'm in the back 10-15 years of my career and am not looking for the mentorship or connections people build working in person. i think younger colleagues have fewer and lower-quality opportunities for those important benefits as a result of remote work. i have suggested our children consider this as they enter the workforce or change jobs.

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  10. JP Morgan's new HQ at 270 Park Avenue will be 1388 feet. When I first saw the steel assembly on the gargantuan ground floor of the building, (scheduled to be completed in 2024) I was absolutely stunned. I thought what in heavens name is that??? Its a full block Park-Mad/47-48. Mr. Dimon
    might just be adjusting his plans.

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    1. Well, when a massive chuck of your business is predicated on commercial real estate loans... you lead by example and bark at others to get back ot the office.

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  11. My first job was as a mailman in a mid-size financial corporation. 3 times a day I pushed a cart and delivered mail. I loved that job. Walking and chatting all day was enjoyable. But the in-office experience isn't that anymore, at least for me. Open seating is too much. By the time Friday rolled around, I'd be comatose. Now I work from home. My bad temper has evaporated. I take a walk in the middle of the day and chat with my neighbors, or the people at the grocery store, or the doorman. It's great!

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  12. Amazing what conditions will do for our attitude, and temperment! Thank you!

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  13. My job requires me to speak daily to people who are not even in the same state - never mind same office. Work and home life have flourished when I remove the daily commute - a major source of stress - and I have been able to be more flexible in both arenas. Do I still have to be physically present for some meetings? Yes, but I do so with joy of purpose - not burden of arbitrary requirement.

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  14. Working for an AmLaw 100 Firm, I've always been tethered to large cities (although, being an attorney, I've been able to largely WFH for most of my career), but with the pandemic, we were able to leave DC and move to our home in Maine fulltime. Wild horses couldn't drag me back into the office - I look out at the ocean from my library window, swim with my dogs on breaks, and have time to sail before and after work. Bonus - no sirens, and practically no crime. I just get so much more done at work and in my personal life.

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  15. As a continuing education student (retired 2008) I miss the interaction in the classroom, but I don't miss the one hour train ride into the city and the 30 minute walks to the lecture halls. Exercise, yes, efficient use of time traveling and finding parking at the station, no.

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  16. I've spent the majority of my (10 year) career working in financial and platform technology, so while I had some flexibility with remote work 1-2 days a week pre-pandemic, going fully remote in 2020 was a real wake up call, not to the uselessness of the office, but the uselessness of the start-up style open concept office. All of us were burnt out after a full week in office, due to the constant din open concept offices have. And we all would pass along colds to each other due to the poor ventilation of such spaces, like we were schoolchildren. The start-up style office in my field wasn't efficient, nor did it promote good working environments; rather, it was all for show. Why was it so cold and noisy? Why the poor ventilation and poor lighting? Why did our lovely office library have a ping pong table in it that would only ever be used if we knew a journalist was stopping by?

    I've taken a year off to obtain my masters degree, but I've been informed from my old coworkers that while our office is still primarily remote, the office space is finally reorienting towards having mixed-use space for collaboration via conference rooms, as well as more quiet spaces if one must focus on individual tasks or take a sensitive client call. I'm sad it took a pandemic for this to happen, but quite hopeful for these little changes to our working lives.

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  17. As my mother used to say: "There are a lot of *a**holes in the world, and most of them are at work." And she worked in the gentle land of nonprofit fundraising. Imagine how it must be in more pugilistic industries!

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  18. Is there really such a thing as quality time with cats?

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    1. Yes. My cat has enriched my life greatly.

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  19. Working for an AmLaw 200 firm (a "midsize" firm with close to 400 lawyers, which illustrates the change in the legal world since I started a long time ago), I did work from home for about three months in 2020 and it became apparent that my being in the house all day was not the formula for a happy marriage. I am helping train a first year lawyer and that doesn't work very well remotely - there needs to be the ability for the newbie to run down the hall and ask questions.

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  20. Working from home has certainly increased my allotment of "livable life" dramatically every week. I do miss the energy and social interaction inherent to being around like-minded colleagues, as well as the ability to simply ask a question in person vs. sending a text or email, or worse, hopping on a Zoom call. But...my commute to New York, which once realistically stood at an hour and 15 minutes each way, is no more, adding 2.5 hours of life...per day! The absurd and rising cost of transit is also no more. I allocated that money to building a gym in my home and to other interests, including charity. Traveling to and from the gym was also a 10-15 minute journey each way. Today, I can workout at home, do a load of laundry, have lunch or breakfast cooking, and catch up on work all at the same time. This increase in productivity is so great that I have now amassed hobbies that I once had no time for. In short, it's hard to imagine going back, but an occasional visit to a suburban office wouldn't be so bad.

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  21. I am a research academic and I worked from home solidly for 5 months when Covid first hit. Now we are 3 days in the office and 2 days from home (I have a 12 minute commute). For me that is a good balance as I like to catch up with work friends over coffee and wear actual real clothes! We will soon be moving to open plan offices though - urghh. Totally productivity killer!

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    1. I agree with you. Today I spent 9 hours at my open plan office, listening to endless simultaneous zooms. I was unable to finish a proposal and brought it home, where I can concentrate. I wonder who conceived this absurd idea, were the real estate developers?

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    2. Multiple studies have concluded that the open-plan office hinders productivity--no surprise to those of us who have been expected to practice verbal precision while toiling in such places--but we're stuck with it because the younger folks all believe that disorder is the mother of creativity.

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    3. For most office workers, an open office was typical. Plain uncarpeted floors, high ceilings, lots of filing cabinets, oak desks and unpadded chairs. It was peopled by men wearing vests and women wearing hose and with most everyone smoking. This was accompanied by the clatter of typewriters and the clickty-clack of adding machines. There was a big safe where the books were kept at night. The boss had a private office with a door that had a glass window that rattled when it was closed. If he was an especially important boss, he might have two telephones on his desk, an intercom and maybe even a dictating machine. Depending on the business, the people who actually did the work of the company were just beyond the office windows. There was another glass-paneled door that also rattled when it was closed. In some companies, only maybe 5% of the employees were office workers. Nobody ever worked from home, but doctors made house calls and milk was delivered door to door.

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    4. It is unfortunately about saving money pure and simple. I was even on the staff (fake) consultation committee about the new building we are moving into. No one wanted open plan. But that decision had already been made someone quietly admitted.

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  22. I am in the fourth semester of teaching asynchronously online after scrambling to redesign my courses as such during summer 2020. Gotta say, I do not miss students (young adults after all) playing constantly on their iphones, in classrooms that are always too warm, or other less visibly apparent forms of human rudeness. Think about it. The university is making those of us who are still asynchronous return to hybrid teaching for Fall 2022, but that will be an hour or so a week face to face, and the rest online. Oddly, everything I read insists that remote work and learning will only increase as we move further into the 21st century.

    Kind Regards.

    Heinz-Ulrich

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    1. Well, look at all of the comments posted here! Nearly everyone would prefer to be at home rather than have to deal with all of those pesky humans who do not conform to their standards of behavior. Then you have cheerleading articles like the one in the Times that affirm their rather antisocial desire to "just focus on the work." Yet seventy percent of work today is collaborative. Learning is in large part a social act. And we continue to burrow deeper into our bunkers. Something's gotta give.

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    2. I enjoy working from home (I'm more productive, my home office is nicer than my work office, I have more personal time), but I do miss the social connection of the office - this is somewhat tempered by many online meetings and the occasional all staff in office day.

      It did seem like many of the individuals featured in the NYT article "do not play well with others" and aren't even willing to try to do so!

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  23. Unfortunately WFM isn't an option for everyone ie: retail/hospitality/medical to name a few. Unless automation replaces some jobs, you are always going to need people in situ. I've been working from home for seven years and its got the point I think its less "work from home" and more "live at work". I think I'm a bit too accessible. But I've heard that complaint from people who don't work from home. I do sometimes miss the socialising of the workplace. I've been fortunate during my working life to have mostly great co-workers, and I was never burdened with a long commute. Something that is becoming untenable as fuel prices continue to climb. I think a split of WFM and in office might be the way to go for some people. If I had my druthers, that's how I would go. However with retirement on the horizon, I'm not rocking the boat. Rather I'm looking forward to sailing mine away to new horizons.

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  24. I agree with Sartresky's perspective. Having been in executive management of a NYSE banking organization and several significant state agencies as well as a partner in an AmLaw 100 law firm, I am in complete agreement on the importance of collaboration, essentiality for those organizations that succeed. It was my experience that stock based incentive compensation was a powerful tool to promote collaboration, and state (and federal) agencies and law firms, lacking the alignment that such compensation provides, tend to be less effective at collaboration. I also find platforms like Zoom inadequate to further collaboration unless strong, pre-existing personal ties are in place. Direct human interaction promotes subtle but very important cues that Zoom and the like cannot capture. Organizations that succeed will find ways to promote collaboration, especially among management and between management and non-management.

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  25. Could not agree more. Face to face seamless communication. Forging relationships.
    Dissemination of information.

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    1. Also interesting on the flip side that the Times article did not mention the negative mental health impacts, isolation, loneliness, and difficulty getting away from work at the end of the day that have been so widely reported by other outlets.

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  26. My work team had breakout years for innovation and productivity, working from home from 2020 to present day. We generously use video and take time to briefly gather each day without "work talk". Aside from a large office, I do not miss anything about the office environment, especially conference rooms, aka "the Devil's Workshop".

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  27. Having spent most of my adult life in sales, sales management and sales training, where the majority of field salespeople worked from home, it was my experience that it took tremendous self discipline to truly be able to work from home successfully. I remember interviewing a young man who wanted to move into sales from an office based career. When asked why he wanted to move in to sales, he stated that it would be great to be able to start work whenever he felt like getting up in the morning instead of having to be at a desk at 9.00 a.m. When I pointed out that all my salespeople would be at their "home" desks by 7.30 am at the latest and probably still be there at 7.30 pm, he was quite shocked!

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