In my opinion, the reality of working from home is that 20-30 hour work weeks need to be acceptable and we should use the rest of our time on non-working things, just like we did in the office, but now that time can be more meaningful to us.
I think the ability to maintain a convincing presence in all-day Zoom while still getting your work done is the new meta-game for engineering. And I hate it.
Some of the biggest disadvantages of remote work is that it is harder to “just grab someone”, social isolation, and communication isolation (ie- people not talking to each other.) Meetings can partially solve all those issues and get used as such. However, because they are such a useful tool they get over used and I had to figure out how to say no to meetings, how to end meetings early if they’ve accomplished their purpose, encourage people to leave meetings if it turns out they aren’t needed and how get better at ad hoc remote communication without pulling together a meeting.
It took a while but I think I’m actually spending less time in BS meetings then before because there is much less pressure to stay or preserve a meeting no one had to walk to or book a conference room for.
If you're done with the agenda, then the meeting is finished and everyone can leave. If that happens after 5 minutes, then that's good.
I have been in meetings where the organiser has said "well, we've finished, but we've got this room for an hour, so let's just hang out for the rest of the time". That can be tough to respond to. Just saying "Sorry, but no, I've got work to do" can be offensive (though it shouldn't be).
And management hate that.
In an office you are forced to pay attention (laptops away…). It’s a new skill to balance between paying attention to irrelevant shit and missing the important details
If the meeting calls for it, I take it on a proper computer. Most meetings don't, in my experience. Just a lot of listening and maybe 5 minutes of talking.
- direct engagement -- 2-4 participants
- broad forum -- 5-12 participants
- fly-on-the-wall -- any number, but my contribution will be 0-4 sentences
I can frequently take fly-on-the-wall meetings (and sometimes even broad forum) while out walking, which is a nice plus.
The other side of this is just doing minimal work but being "available" which I've heard from plenty of friends & acquaintences
When I worked in an office I never worried about being the first to leave, and didn't even realize other people do.
For me, the biggest downside of working from home is how easy it is to get distracted by non-work. I go grab a coffee and end up putting dishes away, cleaning up, etc. and next thing I know an hour's passed by so I'm working late or feeling guilty.
I've been working on my time management, in general, and that's helping.
Sometimes taking a short break like that is the best way to make progress on a difficult problem though. Realistically we probably get 2 or 3 hours of actual work done in a day. Everything else is a bonus and it comes and goes over time.
A lot of it is scarcity vs abundance mindset. Many people are quite scared to lose their jobs. I know people making six figures who would be in deep shit if they had a month of no paychecks while switching jobs.
The two extremes are:
1. Working as hard as possible to get a promotion over the next person working as hard as possible.
2. Doing the bare minimum to not get fired.
Anything in between is, logically, irrational, because you're doing more work than necessary.
Luckily, companies have found the levers for most humans and tend to get them working in between the two extremes.
That’s the unfortunate part.
WFH at large can only sustain if that hard line is drawn - end work day for good, disconnect, connect back tomorrow morning!
No fluid working hours and being ready to “jump back in”.
1. Understanding colleagues
2. Sane boss and sane company
3. Similar culture - company wide
Otherwise you’re just buying another recipe for stress and in some cases confrontations as well.
It is much easier but I also believe it's something people will get out of the habit of (or at least I hope). It really isn't a difficult habit to break.
Since working from home I do exactly the same as I would in the office:
At the same time every day I close the laptop and put it away.
It's actually easier for me to get away because no one is stopping me on the way out to ask me some questions or to just have a quick chat.
If you have young children or infants you can spend your time caring for them and worrying that those with older kids (or no kids!) will judge you.
Honestly, the biggest impediments to productivity at my workplace have nothing to do with where we work and everything to do with management style (heavy-handed Agile/Scrum, micromanagement, the works).
I'm also curious what productivity measures are being watched, especially for developers.
Yes, yes, yes. I am totally convinced that we can all start working 20 hours per week starting next Monday and the world will just keep going as normal. Only we will be healthier, happier and richer.
I love the idea of a 20 hour workweek, but I also understand that the harsh reality is that it would make things like construction, building security, janitorial services, etc. 2x more expensive.
I personally think that would be a boon for society, but given how much everyone is worried about (largely transitory) inflation today, IDK how willing they would be to accept that inflationary pressure.
Right. A FireFighter or an on-call IT Tech are excellent examples of how we can have 40 hours of presence while only requiring 20 hours of work. Making it acceptable for people to read a book if working 40 hours makes things better.
> love the idea of a 20 hour workweek, but I also understand that the harsh reality is that it would make things like construction, building security, janitorial services, etc. 2x more expensive
I'm not sure that's true. As I understand it, a lot of construction time is spent dealing with looking busy because of blocking tasks. But if we transition those jobs from hourly to piece-rate it solves a lot of problems.
Even building security only doing rounds/checking tapes 1/2 the time seems sufficient.
Pay has nothing to do with how critical or important a job is. Nothing.
Pay is determined — like everything else — by supply and demand.
Nails are the most ‘critical and important’ component of a house. They are also the cheapest. Because the supply is endless. The chandelier in the entryway, on the other hand, is neither critical nor important, yet it costs a great deal more than a nail.
If the wages are too low, you’ll have a shortage.
To remediate the shortage, wages must increase.
The point here is, the situation should make us ask ourselves "huh, I wonder why wages aren't increasing." But I can save you some time and tell you the answer is mostly we don't think those jobs are high status enough.
>Pay has nothing to do with how critical or important a job is
Well yeah, that's the observation I was describing. The difference is that I think that's a bad thing.
>supply and demand
We aren't describing free markets, so you're going to have to fill that out a little bit to meet reality.
I'm compensated fairly, and my pension makes it actually quite well compensated. The career does suck and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but for someone needing mobility from generational poverty it can work.
The career opportunities upon retirement are nothing to be trivialized either. Compensation there may not be SWE level, but it's WELL above median.
Aside from monetary compensation (which can range widely, and typically is made up of 25-50% tax sheltered disability pay) there is health insurance at a maximum out of pocket of $3600/year for a family ($600 premium plus $3000 catastrophic cap), tax free shopping, discounted fuel, free flights, remarkably cheap lodging all over the US and in allied countries, and the list goes on.
The last calculation I saw for an average Senior Enlisted retiree was that you would need a lump sum of in excess of $3 million to hope to compare, invested at a decent return. Albeit that’s not completely accurate, but it’s as close as we can get given such different financial vehicles.
Are you saying you think most people on HN do piecework? Because I sort of took for granted they were salaried.
At any rate, different companies within an industry area can be quite different.
I have had jobs involving programming that were:
- hourly, with overtime
- required time entry of billable/nonbillable projects worked on in 15 or 6 minute increments
- required using a time clock (but not intraday time entry)
But everywhere I'd previously worked, I had to account for every minute of the day so clocking in at the beginning of the day and out at the end was a million times less micro-manager-y from my viewpoint.
Or secretaries. Or HR.
I worked twelve hour overnight shifts about ten times a month, supplementing the full-time crews (24 hour shifts.) I was a signed off as a firefighter, driver-operator, EMT Basic, and acting lieutenant.
Maybe it's different elsewhere, but in our city no one spent their time doing nothing. There was always training and drilling, classes to attend, physical training, station, rig and equipment maintenance, and usually, a few calls to run.
Most people were friendly most of the time.
We did usually watch a couple of hours of television or a movie most nights before we racked out.
For example: Seattle vs Copenhagen
 Prices at the large supermarkets don’t vary much if at all between shops across the UK
20 hours at 100% efficiency is so much better than 40 hours at 60%, for all parties involved. Even if the latter has slightly higher overall output, when you look at it long term (health/happiness) the former wins hands down.
It's a prisoner's dilemma situation though, as others point out. Some people are going to insist on wasting their new extra free time at another job. The solution would be to put a hard cap on labor hours per person, mandating an overtime pay requirement that follows the worker from job to job.
You are sitting on a trillion dollar marketing opportunity here.
The problem is that our culture does not strongly encourage consumerism during work hours. Beyond a couple of decorative trinkets on the cubible walls, people don't spend much on or at their workplace.
Capitalism teaches us we must fix that glitch.
The right solution is to create a culture of "office bling". You don't want to be the only person in your office without a gold throne, do you? Are you really writing on the whiteboard with a fucking Expo marker from Office Depot when you could show your worth by using the new $17,000 Montblanc Whiteboard Excelsior? Oh, you had a Starbucks latte on your break? Plebian. I had a flat white made with kopi luwak and gold flakes.
Why should we only burn cash distracting ourselves from our miserable home lives, when we could also burn cash distracting ourselves from our miserable work lives too?
Yeah, several of my friends “indirectly contribute” with their extra free time by smoking pot and watching youtube and Netflix. They don’t really consume less ecologically either since they drive around more with their free time. This is not something I see paying off as a societal investment.
There’s a reason for that. Would it also shock you to hear that drunks make bad drivers?
Well no. Because some people will use that to work 2 jobs and make twice as much money. Then inflation will take that into account, prices will rise, and everyone will end up working 2 20-hour jobs. If you ever want to work significantly less hours I suspect it will require laws forbidding people to work more than X, and even then people will take that second job under the table.
I now have a 9-5 office job. I am apparently capable of working at least twice as many hours but I choose not to because I don't have to.
There are already people making twice as much (and more) than I do in as much or less time.
I don't think a 20 hour week for knowledge workers would have the effect you claim.
John Maynard Keynes famously predicted something like a 10-20 hour work week by the year 2000. You can actually have that today... if you are willing to live at the standard of living of someone in the 1930s.
That would mean a much smaller house, much less technology, a very cheap car or public transit, vanilla food, only a few suits of clothes, and bare bones health care.
Instead we tend to use our gains to get more space (houses today outside dense cities are huge), more tech, more education, better health care, designer hipster food, more entertainment, and so on.
For one the fact that it’s preserved likely means it’s one of the finest homes of the era. Two it’s heavily updated inside. Air conditioning, modern appliances, high capacity electrical circuits, fire safety, better windows and insulation, etc.
You can get those utility costs down by living right. :)
But the cost of wood isn't bad. The worst winter bills appear to arise from heating oil from what I've heard anecdotally, which is common in old houses in New England.
But yes, I don't have an extensive wardrobe or a large house. So what?
When looking at those tables, keep in mind that taxes in most of those countries (except maybe Switzerland) are significantly higher than the US taxes. In fact, the US median wage earner pays almost no income tax, only payroll.
It's not like this would've affected companies at all. R&D is at an all time low compared to profits. It's not like they couldn't afford to invest in R&D to keep an advantage if workers were getting paid more.
Seeing as inequality is higher than during the Bell Epoch in France - and any other time in recorded history, this doesn't seem preposterous.
How can you be so sure? Tens of billions of profit every year/quarter make these companies very appealing for investors, allowing them to spend unlimited cash to expand their business.
A well run company that has limited profits and expansion will then in turn have less R&D. Think IBM, Oracle - they haven't kept up the pace and got seriously behind MS, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google etc.
Not only the companies in this list https://spendmenot.com/blog/rd-spenders/ spend the most, they also offer really high salaries, because they are successful.
I don't have a crystal ball or a degree in economics, but to me it's pretty clear that a successful company will make life better for everyone, including R&D and menial jobs. Say what you want, but Amazon warehouse jobs are better than other no skill needed job in their respective areas.
You could argue that startups wouldn't be able to raise as much money, sure. And they DEFINITELY wouldn't be able to if interest rates were higher.
But the America of today (>95% of corporate profits) came from companies that weren't able to raise ridiculous amounts of money because of low interest rates from the last decade.
Startups from the last 10 years might have a lot of market cap - but their profits are very, very small compared to just FAANG+M - let alone the rest of the S&P 500.
So you'd have to live like it was the worst period of global economic collapse and hardship in modern history?
I'm not too far from this, 30 square meter apartment, no car, make most of my own meals, have only a few inexpensive clothing and don't have private insurance (because universal healthcare is better). I have a fair bit of technology but that barely makes a dent in my overall budget, in the last couple of years it's just the internet and the electricity to run them.
10 hours a week (assuming I could get divide my current salary by 4) would barely pay the mortgage/rent due to inflated housing costs. With 20 hours I could pay food/water/electricity and probably have enough left over for some indulgences.
So this is feasible for me, but I just creep into top 10% income bracket in my country, it's definitely not achievable for most people.
You would have to be highly skilled to do that, the average worker couldn't get anywhere close to that lifestyle on 10-20 hours a week.
The 40 hour/week company will get more done.
Also, imagine if your doctor only worked 20 hours a week.
The problem is that job != job, because different jobs have different requirements.
A doctor needs to be available continuously, but he doesn’t necessarily need to be working continuously. An on-call doctor needs to be available 24/7. A general practitioner may only need to show up for scheduled appointments in strict timeslots.
A programmer on a long term project needs to eventually put in hours, but precisely when he puts in those hours matters less. A senior developer is productive anytime he’s available for advice (and there are others working to be advised — with off-shore resources, this can mean extended availability)
A warehouse worker is productive only when he’s explicitly doing labor. Being available for labor, but not doing any, is worthless.
A programmer on a short term or last-mile phase of a project needs to put in the hours, but on a strict timeline — there’s no room to skip a day and make up for it tomorrow.
Companies already acknowledge this, albeit implicitly. The higher you are in the hierarchy, the more valuable your availability and the less your labor. CEOs don’t get to have strict no-work vacations, but they also don’t have strict 9-5 work/life split, because they need to be available all the time. At the same time, they can go normal days without any real work to do, because they aren’t needed for anything.
- Clear goals that the team is bought into
- Productive people who can sustain emotional enthusiasm for extended time periods
- An environment where intrinsically motivated people can thrive, and/or incentives for extrinsically motivated people
- A healthy feedback loop so people know when they're improving and are rewarded for it
Looked at this way, a team of 5 people working 20 hours per week in this type of company can vastly outperform a team of people working 40 hours per week at a company that lacks the above items. (And I'm probably missing some)
Compare both companies at 40 or both at 20. The good-culture-40-hour would outperform the both the good-culture-20-hour and bad-culture-40-hour so why wouldn't all companies aim for 40/hours with a good culture?
It could be argued that it is impossible to have a good culture and 40 hours, but that needs a lot of analysis.
(You are working to argue that the comparison being made isn't useful and haven't gotten there. For instance, if I was going to build a company, I'd certainly want to know what parts of a culture were important to a company that compared so well against the longer working company)
That would be fabulous. Much better than doctors working to a regime designed by a cocaine addict that sees them punch-drunk from a lack of sleep by the end of their rosters.
Of course, there are lots of related issues, like are your employees getting enough sleep? Very varied work might tax employees differently. Is 8hr days, 5 on, 2 off necessarily the optimal pattern? Can people work more efficiently for longer if they're working on something they truly believe in?
I rather imagine I’d have two doctors.
The reduction in misdiagnoses and straight up practical errors might give them better throughput overall?
The fact is, most (white-collar) places just don't have enough work to consume people for 40 continuous hours.
Beyond that, we solve that problem with government regulation. If companies really need to run 24/5 they can just go to 6 shifts instead of 3.
Meaning, productivity is not only factor.
If 20 hours were the new weekly target instead of 40 it could negatively impact people if productivity declines on crucial things. That could happen if the new minimum acceptable amount of work to management were, say, 10 hours. So people would similarly spend 50% of their 20 hour working week avoiding work. So there could be a temporary shock throughout the economy as supply of things decreased until things adjusted.
After almost 8 years with this model, I think the evidence is overwhelming that we maintain somewhere between 85 and 90% of the productive output of our 40+ hour/week counterparts.
I’m excited at the prospect of a positive shift in work/life balance coming out of the massive WFH experiment that’s happened over the past 18 months.
Also, are you in management there (and thus more pro-union than the rank-and-file which is quite remarkable)?
More fundamentally I come from a strong Union family. My father is a professor, my grandfather worked for petrochemical companies after the war, his father came from West Virginia and so on. I think that the high salaries and plentiful amenities gloss over the need for a real strong union presence in software. It’s exactly when workers have the power that they ought to capitalize to entrench that power. All we have to do is look at how companies like Amazon churn through H1B workers to see how brutal dev work _can_ be. While development skills are still a relatively scarce commodity we owe it to the next generation of bit pushers to create a strong voice for the rights of labor. Our power as a workforce can then be better leveraged to improve conditions for workers everywhere.
Unions are not — and have never been — perfect, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to fight for fair labor practices in every industry.
Wow ... I would think if management is convinced it would make life better for the workers, management could make the case, bring in the organizers and get it done. There are definitely some ripe topics: H1Bs as you mention; age discrimination for sure; wage fixing. Of course the labor-friendly status quo disincentivizes "job security" but I'm sure you agree that's not the only or even primary reason for a union.
I'm not trying to imply it's simple or easy -- I'm pro-labor, a founder, and a dev, and I'm _very_ confused about what unions mean for us and would like to build a cohesive narrative.
Someone in HR somehow found a way to complain that "they're not very social and they're always at their desks working".
I was kind of blown away that somehow that could be a thing to complain about.
I just checked and I've been on the phone for 19 hours last week (out of a 35h work week), and I'm only attending like half of them that are actually related to work, i.e. skipping meetings that are just for coffee and talk, lunch break videogames, and whatever they do in the discord (yes, they created a discord to "keep in touch").
The best was last summer when we had a 2/3 office/home split, which left people happy in terms of social contact and at least I could work from home without nonsense for 3 days.
None of the 'problems' you mention will necessarily come to pass either. Unless you have a crystal ball, you're future is no more likely then any other...
Having worked from home for 20 years now, I can tell you that hasn't been my experience.
For us it saved everyone an average of 1-2 hours per day.
Also consider the energy savings. Commuting by car every day uses tons of energy. Of course this is somewhat offset by more HVAC being consumed by houses, but I highly doubt that totally erases the savings from not driving so much. Cars are very energy intensive.
Childcare was practically nonexistent during early phase of the pandemic.
It is well established in literature on workplace studies that any major change to a workplace results in short-term productivity boosts.
Some changes result in long-term productivity boosts.
Privately this is what I end up doing anyway, and it works out pretty well
Looks like the 'science' of in-the-office productivity needs some new theories.
I would love to be proven wrong.
Then management said they thought planning and roadmap would implode, but those also (subjectively) went much better than usual this year, with written down decisions, and discrete decision points instead of useless repeated verbal syncs.
Also, it seems as though fewer high profile things slipped than usual, but that’s hard to measure year-to-year.
Finally, surveys say a large majority of the employees strongly prefer indefinite part or full time work from home.
The parts that for me made the job bearable. The rest is legacy support for CRUD apps. The office is a perk for people with few other outlets.
But as an engineer become manager, I can absolutely feel both sides here:
While everything development is massively more chill remote (no interruptions and hey, just go fill your dishwasher while stuff compiles), everything about managing remotely completely sucks for me.
Videocalls. Whiteboarding. Interviewing. Strategic work. Reading emotions and connecting to people. What was a matter of just getting six people in a war room for a week and getting that hard problem done now takes eternities and every meeting is an energy hog.
Honestly, I really enjoyed being a leader for a technology organization, but right now, I absolutely hate it. There seem to be others who cope better, but it's certainly not for me.
I'm pretty curious on how all of this will turn out.
> everything about managing remotely completely sucks for me.
As an engineer, everything about working in-person completely sucks for me. I hate being around people, I hate hearing people, I hate interacting with coworkers face to face, I hate sitting in office chairs and desks, and I hate commuting.
> Videocalls. Whiteboarding. Interviewing. Strategic work. Reading emotions and connecting to people.
Again, these all completely suck for me in-person. I'm an introvert and I hate having to put on a happy face for the manager (my resting face looks anywhere from tired to murderous), I hate "sitting in a war room" pretending to focus while my time is just wasted by people talking, I hate traveling and waiting in a lobby for interviews when I'm already nervous, and I hate having to mime the emotions and interactions that leaders think are meaningful but that I just do because it's part of office politics.
Maybe you're an exception, and it would be great if you are. But I've had deep and meaningful relationships with people, fully remotely and text-based, since I used IRC as a teenager. I think in 2021 it's fair to raise the bar and expect managers/leaders to learn basic online communication to the level that teenagers were doing like 10-20 years ago, rather than shackle everyone to the office and commutes because leaders can't learn how to use slack/zoom
All of that requires tremendous amounts of communication, and communication over Slack and even Zoom is very low bandwidth compared to communication in person.
Consider this: if your home had only a 56k dialup modem and your office had gigabit fiber, would you still prefer to work from home? Because that’s kind of what covid-remote had been like as a people manager in a larger org.
To make remote management work you need to not just “learn how to use Slack and Zoom,” you need to fundamentally redesign your entire org for extremely low social cohesion and low bandwidth communication. It can be done, as evidenced by many successful remote-only companies, but it’s not simple or easy, and it’s brutal to be a people manager in an org that was designed around office work and leading through the conversion to remote-only.
And if WFH improves output and morale at the cost of more difficult management, isn't that absolutely worth it for managers? Their entire effort is dedicated to enabling contributors, if a policy does just that then they should push for it.
I do mechanical engineering, we design stuff for our manufacturing operators and our customer's operators. Whenever some amount of effort on my side may reduce the operator's burden over the life of the product, it's absolutely worth it. I'm not going to make a subpar design just to save myself an analysis, that's the job.
So if WFH requires more management effort, and results in better output for the team, it should be pushed by management. Managers shouldn't compromise their team's output and morale just to save themselves some remote meetings.
1. Not all workers productivity goes up when working from home. During COVID about half my team of ~35 told me they hated working from home and felt their productivity had fallen significantly.
2. It’s often the case that things which are optimal for one team are not optimal for the organization as a whole.
Those two points don’t mean that moving to work from home is never the right decision, it can be the right decision and it can be worth the effort. But it’s just not as simple as most work from home champions like to imagine.
It’s pretty common for people to say what the boss wants to hear. It sounds like you like in person work. So I wouldn’t base too much important decision making on your straw poll.
Also, self reported productivity is a terrible measure unless you specifically want to measure feels.
For management decision, you should have some reliable basis that works to control for your biases.
As an engineer who transitioned to p eople management pre-covid, then back to engineering during covid (after burning out HARD), I gained a ton of empathy for my managers.
It's really shocking just how complex and demoralizing mid-level management can be, especially-so in the remote world.
After seeing just how hard it can be to simply know what your team is doing on a given day (let alone to align them to some vague OKR passed from on-high)... Let's just say it's made me want to adopt some practices that make me easier to manage.
At the very least, I'm putting more effort into keeping my tickets & PRs up-to-date and easy to understand at a glance.
Perhaps you underestimate how much I hate being outside of my home. If given a realistic choice, there is no situation where I would ever prefer or enjoy the office. Nothing is worth it, and most of it is an active detriment to my quality of life, especially the people. I'm not asking for everyone to be remote, unlike the many people who want to force everyone to be in-office, I just want the option for myself and others to be remote based on preference.
> it’s brutal to be a people manager in an org that was designed around office work and leading through the conversion to remote-only.
It's brutal to be an introvert/misanthrope forced to sit in a chair 8h a day, and the point is that it's not necessary. Let people who want to be in-office do so, and let the rest stay home. I still haven't heard a convincing or legitimate reason why things should be otherwise except for people who are stuck in the 1940s office mindset.
All I was pointing out in my original comment is office work is not a conspiracy by management to torture you: it’s by far the best work environment for many people and many kinds of jobs. If you could understand that - while also understanding yourself and that it’s not a fit for you - you might be able to let some of that anger go and find a more comfortable fit on a team.
You're right. Thankfully I'm finally in a position where I can do that moving forward. Before my current point in life, I was more in a position where I had to take what I could get, which is where the lack of flexibility became very frustrating. Just like we let engineers listen to music and wear hoodies, I think it's reasonable to let engineers work from home or the office as desired.
> office work is not a conspiracy by management to torture you: it’s by far the best work environment for many people and many kinds of jobs. If you could understand that - while also understanding yourself and that it’s not a fit for you - you might be able to let some of that anger go and find a more comfortable fit on a team.
You're right about this as well. It's not a conspiracy to torture, and office work is best for some people. But again, I think people underestimate how much people want to have the option of working remote, and overestimate how important in-office presence is for a huge majority of cases.
But good management can and does create a work environment where everyone feels things are pretty good.
As for me, the biggest takeaway I have from COVID life is that open office designs have to go, and possibly that hybrid remote work has some answers for how to make that possible. Open office is fine for some kinds of work, but ruins deep work. I think most people who are having an epiphany about work from home either had a terrible commute and didn’t realize how much it stressed them out, or had never gotten to do deep work before and didn’t realize how valuable it was. Those are important things for all of us to learn.
My morale has never been lower than when they moved us into an open office where I had to hear everyone jabbering away (plus it was in another state which more than doubled my commute).
I certainly won't mind if my manager has to adapt for once (and don't tell me they adapt to each of us and all situations and that's already taxing)
I'll happily turn the tables.
It's a reasonable way to feel, but I don't think the majority of people are like this. People who feel this way should definitely seek remote work.
The more introverted among us get emotionally drained by parties and social interactions.
For the introverts, the draining effect is much less pronounced if the party is among a tight-knit group where being conscious of social norms is not needed.
After a large gathering of people I am not emotionally close to, I need a couple hours alone, without human contact just to decompress.
With all due respect, I‘ve been chatting on IRC since the birth of Undernet, but some people I thought I had meaningful connections with I should have better not have met IRL. These days I prefer to make my connections in meatspace.
I introduced Slack to our company and am fully able to use Zoom, but there‘s a difference between four Zoom calls a week and four a day (yes, you do need to manage up and to the sides as well).
You might hate your manager, but so far companies don‘t work without leadership and coordination either.
I hope we can find something better going forward together.
Me too, but I think perhaps that you and I are several standard deviations above the median in terms of reading comprehension and ability to write clearly.
Not everyone is capable of this, as I learned when I tried to run a whole-ass engineering org like I previously ran more informal teams on irc.
Most people are bad at reading comprehension. It's why they tell people to repeat and rephrase their points when communicating, to give their readers a second chance at getting it.
Seems to me that remote-work has been a bit of a reckoning for managers, in the sense that our societal work environments have been tailored in a way that unnecessarily hampers employee well-being and productivity, all to cover up the fact that many managers are lacking in some soft-skills that are critical to actual management.
Hiring, especially at larger scale, is a matter of constant, neverending multidimensional compromises.
(Another is that the default of "forever" in things like Slack and Mattermost means that a compromise of a single user account gets to see every DM (including sensitive stuff DMed like passwords or PII) ever sent or received by that user. It's insane. It's also able to be subpoenaed. Expire your messages!)
Also screenshots are a thing and easy to do in secret impulsively, recording stuff when your talking in person has a much higher threshold, and far less people are typically listening.
Also once you get to a certain size, there are legislative retention requirements and legal holds.
Don't take this the wrong way but I think you need to think about Therapy.
On the other hand, I can easily see how the sort of non-constructive verbal lashing-out demonstrated in your comment could be a problem in the workplace, and a behavior that one can learn to avoid through Therapy.
That is asking for your employer to say well none of your coworkers want to work with you "total break down in trust" bye bye
Which was my point the person does need to understand that he has to work with other people other wise they will be fired.
As a person who at a previous job was often pulled into said "war rooms", we almost never "got that hard problem done", but we did always make management feel good about not being able to fully solve hard problems. Mostly these "huddle-work" scenarios created more problems (long term) than they solved, because people weren't motivated to solve the problem, they were motivated to leave the war room. I do my best work when I'm not constantly distracted by others, but many managers simply can't understand this and instead hamstring their employees by having "war rooms" and white-boarding sessions and stand-ups and deep-dives and all the other nonsensical ways of preventing people from actually focusing and accomplishing a task. Good riddance to the on-location office and all the hot garbo that comes with it; the rest of us will be quietly humming away, getting tasks done and solving major problems without such managerial hindrances.
In those situations, white boarding and deep dive are useful activities.
Business owners would absolutely love it if you could just run a complex (high value-add, high margin) business by only getting a bunch of commodity developers just pulling JIRA tickets from a heap, quietly humming away.
Reality is that, collaboration is important and is required in order to create non trivial products, and thus the margin to pay for the “people doing real work”.
I'm not saying that digital tools are always perfect replacements, but there is a large gradient between a single person on an island and sitting shoulder to shoulder at a fold out table (which I have also done).
1) creative brainstorming (ux, ui, branding, early architectural decisions) to ensure everyone can present and validate their ideas, and people are more on board with decisions as they saw democratic backing (or, at the very least, feel that objections they raise were heard!)
2) bringing staff that would normally be spread across multiple buildings and units together - the bigger the org and the more stakeholders involved, the more important a common space for (at least) the leadership team is, especially to cut through red tape and organizational barriers.
3) when you have an immediate problem (outages, GDPR incidents) to solve and secrecy is involved - no need to take care about people not in the loop, seeing stuff they are not supposed to etc.
What "war rooms" often enough end at, unfortunately, is cramped chicken coops. Not enough space, sales/PM people directly sitting and blathering in their phones next to developers, ... for months. That's a farce.
Remote work is great if you are a contractor with well defined scope. In fact it is ideal. You can set firm boundries with your client.
But being an employee who isn't just a cog in a machine, remote is rife with pitfalls. You lose connection with the greater company. People you used to work with on other teams. New hires. There is no doubt a huge chunk of people within my own little org that were hired over the last 1.5 years that I don't even know existed. I've lost complete track over the greater org.
Naw. A year from now it's gonna be almost exactly like what it was like in 2019. There is a reason why we didn't do this pre-lockdown and it wasn't just because of "micro managers" or "the suits justifying their work". FAANG companies pour huge amount of "HR marketing dollars" into their office environments. It literally helps them attract new talent.
I really just don't see these "hybrid" things panning out long run. We'll revert right back to 2019 before anybody knows it.
I think the key thing for me is that I never force people to sit in on these.
When an employee starts a large piece of work they don't understand that I feel have some knowledge on. I ask if they would like to whiteboard a solution with me...or deep dive something in the code, or do daily standups just to talk about w/e is on their mind
Doing these remotely is totally fine, but I do feel these activities...or atleast whiteboarding and deep diving is nicer in person for me
On the other hand for my partner who is non-technical and squarely in management, WFH is an endless nightmare of virtual meetings with no breaks. Hard to read people, hard to get people engaged, nonstop pings preventing what little focus time she has left. She wants to get back to an office ASAP, and I don't blame her.
yeah it probably sucks for managers to see huge parts of their jobs & supposed value-add automated away or otherwise proven unnecessary
those managers are great for a remote IC. makes my life easy so I can minimize my hours and increase my effectively hourly rate
It's also harder to get multiple "quick questions" at the same time, because in office people see when you're physically occupied. And it could be just me, but WFH I've noticed there is more psychological pressure to respond quickly to chats. Don't want people to think you're lounging off! A red "busy" indicator can mean a lot of things, in contrast to someone physically seeing you in conversation with your laptop closed in a meeting room.
In theory you should enforce boundaries "I'll respond to all questions after this virtual meeting is over" or "I have a firm cut off at 5PM and will not respond after that". But that becomes tough when leadership, who should be setting expectations on this stuff, breaks it's own rules and multi-tasks during meetings or has unrealistic availability. Definitely a cultural thing that heavily depends on your exact role and the organization norms.
TL;DR For "Zoom calls and text messaging" are not a drop in replacement for physically talking to someone, especially for people who spend a lot of their day having many small, ad-hoc conversations.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but, you're doing it wrong. As a leader you should be adjusting to the dynamic that ensures meetings respect your teams' time, have clear outputs and follow-ups, etc. As someone who has been, and will continue to be, remote for many years in a leadership capacity, it's not the attendees of a meeting's fault if the person putting it on doesn't respect their time.
The reality of remote work being forced in the office crowd that I see is a reckoning of where mere presence was taken for value. I would never expect to get the best work out of someone by sticking them in a dungeon for a week. Let them walk in the sunshine with a headset, sit in the shade with their laptop, or take a breather to enjoy their own safe space while exploring new ideas.
What would you say exactly, you "do" here?
This was a real jolt to read though. I've been really bullish about WFH or hybrid work for the future, since as an IC I've seen nothing but the benefits as you mention. I never thought of the stress of remote work in a management role though, so thanks for sharing!
Now I changed my job three months ago and remote work is killing me.
I realized that managing remotely it’s easy if you already have build strong relationships while in the office. You know how to approach each team member, who you can trust. It also takes much more time for people to trust you.
A good portion of the workplace population seem, to managers, to be unmanageable. Another good portion seem, to workers, to be unable to manage. It will take real skill to ameliorate that remotely.
Perhaps "remote leadership" is a new skill, a growth area to be exploited by the talented?
Seems more like theory of mind deficiencies as opposed to anything real
Being in any meeting or war room is also an energy hog. I do understand what you're saying though. What worked before, doesn't work anymore. Remote means management has to change. IC work for the most part was easy to move remote. Work that involved coordinating people and communication is going to take longer to figure out. It can be done, as many pre-COVID remote companies showed. But, it takes work to adapt.
I hope that you find some way to adjust for the new way of working, if it is having regular workshops, having workers come in regularly, or if it all blows over and thing go back to normal.
This sounds like hell, stop doing this to your employees.
Managing people in-person requires you to develop certain skills. Managing people remotely requires an overlapping but different set of skills. It is not harder or easier, just different, and like any skill, it can be learned with practice.
E.g., suppose everyone's WFH office had a Google Jamboard and high-quality videoconferencing system.
If it addressed your concerns and per-employee cost was $10k initial + $5k/year, I would think it's still a win given the typical total-comp cost of a U.S.-based software developer.
Would it recapture a substantial portion of the benefits, or do you think you find that the manager utility of each extra day in the office doesn't diminish much?
Honestly I would like to be in the office as little as possible. I get knowing a person face to face has value, but having a fixed schedule of this would feel artificial and more draining.
Literally every day of my life with autism.
> just getting six people in a war room for a week and getting that hard problem done
Sure, it is not about control, yeah yeah.
if they don't get those 6 people in a room, then they'll just solve the same problem in the same time remotely and mr manager won't get any credit!
Now you know how introverts feel about in-person meetings