Lion of the Blogosphere

Addressing various work-from-home issues

(1) People really like working at an office

Well “work-from-home” is probably the wrong term. It should be called everyone-working-remotely.

I’ve previously made fun of WeWork, saying that it’s where people without real jobs go to feel like they have a real job. And WeWork took a huge hit from the pandemic. But once the pandemic ends, companies like WeWork can fill the void for people who don’t want to work in the same building where they sleep. But instead of long commutes into Manhattan, you could live in a small city with lower housing costs and drive a short distance to the nearest WeWork office.

Perhaps a common feature of new planned residential communities will be a shared office space in the community.

(2) Cheaper labor in India or other countries will take your job if it can be done remotely.

From the perspective of whether WFH becomes permanent, this makes it more likely. The purpose of corporations are to make profits for the CEOs and Wall-Street types, not to make life good for the lower-level workers.

Likely, people who have jobs will keep them, at least for a while if not longer, but it will make it a lot harder for people to find new jobs because they will be competing against the entire world and not just people in commuting distance from the job in question.

(3) You employer will lower your salary if you can work in less expensive places remotely.

See #2 above.

(4) Managers hate WFH, they like to micromanage their employees.

This is a gross generalization. Sure, some managers are like that.

But the only managers that count are the C-suite level, and if they feel the company will be more profitable with permanent WFH (thus making their stock options worth more money), then the middle managers who don’t like it won’t have any say in the matter.

Right now, the word from the news media is that the vast majority of companies find that work from home isn’t harming productivity, or at least not enough to outweigh the potential savings of not having to rent expensive office space.

(5) Sales can only be done face-to-face

This is only a problem for the people doing the selling, not a problem for the buyers. So I don’t see how this makes mass-adoption of permanent WFH less likely. Sales will have to evolve to the new reality.

On the other hand, I see this being an overall benefit for the economy is if buying decisions are made more logically in the absence of face-to-face salesmen.

(6) How will new people be bought into the remote team if they never meet anyone face-to-face?

My company has been doing it, and life has gone on. So it’s not the major roadblock that’s imagined.

(7) Can so many jobs really be done remotely?

It has now been proven that something like 99% of the jobs people are doing in office buildings in Manhattan (not including the janitors and security guards and blue-collar people like that) can indeed be done remotely.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

June 25, 2020 at 3:48 PM

Posted in Labor Markets

43 Responses

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  1. I could see the office footprint shrinking. Maybe everyone comes in for a conference once a month. It can rotate between different sections of the company. So a few conference rooms would be needed. My old company let us work from home sometimes, but everyone still had a desk so the office space was just as large. This could be addressed. There is nothing worse than driving an hour to work. If more people work from home, rush hour traffic will decline, which would be great for people who still have to drive to work.

    Cow Of 2020

    June 25, 2020 at 3:55 PM

    • I think this pandemic opens up a new chapter of status in the food and agricultural industry. It isn’t back breaking like construction work, and with the organic and healthy eating trend, it garners a lot of status from SWPLs. It isn’t rote, redundant (useless) and boring like many White collar jobs or stressful and cruel in settings with high paying professional types. Commenters here are pandering to Lion’s old school.

      Ok, what, who's this again?

      June 25, 2020 at 7:46 PM

  2. #4: If a company decides to go the WFH route but leaves implementation up to individual managers, WFH may remain uncommon.

    Peter

    ironrailsironweights

    June 25, 2020 at 3:57 PM

  3. I cannot remember the last salesman I talked to in person. In purchasing a very expensive peice of analytical equipment for a lab, the work as done on the phone and by e-mail. Today, It would probably be done on video. There used to be rep who helped you sent up expensive lab equipment but know they just send you a link to a video on what to do.

    The closes to a salesman was the repairmen who would talk about newer models that what they were working on.

    Most of the salesman I know work from home and just go to professional meetings/conventions to develop leads.

    A better question is whether the digital age will slow down professional society meeting/conventions because why pay travel expenses to sit in a meeting room listening to a presentation versus sitting at home and watching a streamed presentation. Business do not like to pay travel just like they do not want to pay rent.

    superdestroyer

    June 25, 2020 at 4:21 PM

    • “why pay travel expenses to sit in a meeting room listening to a presentation versus sitting at home and watching a streamed presentation. ”

      Because the former is a lot more fun.

      “Business do not like to pay travel ”

      Well no, but the travel to conventions is sort of a fringe benefit that makes employees happy but can be written off as training and development.

      So I think that in a few years, after memory of the pandemic fades, people will go back to doing in-person conventions, and maybe even more so if they are WFH all the time.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      June 25, 2020 at 5:35 PM

      • Redundant parasitic industries are abound and why America is no longer relevant!

        Ok, what, who's this again?

        June 25, 2020 at 7:29 PM

    • professional society meeting/conventions

      Conventions and conferences trigger many hook-ups and extramarital affairs.

      I haven’t been to a convention, conference, or off-site training seminar in several years; and don’t miss them. I earn my 40 continuing professional education units every year via webinars right from my office.

      E. Rekshun

      June 26, 2020 at 5:53 PM

  4. You haven’t addressed the key issue:

    Ambitious workers will go to the office anyway for the facetime with upper management.

    Middling employees will feel forced to follow suit.

    Only moms, the least ambitious, and the Aspie “my work will speak for itself” people will routinely work from home.

    Justice Duvall

    June 25, 2020 at 4:29 PM

  5. I can’t tell for certain if WFH is mainlining. I can tell that everyone I know who is doing it prefers it. When it comes to what the companies who they work for think, it’s a mixed bag. I think WFH in aggregate is a net gain for a lot of people and organizations. Office rents are still holding steady in my city, so its too soon to tell if large scale WFH is catching on.

    Lesbians in shorts

    June 25, 2020 at 5:25 PM

    • As I tweeted a short while back, an informal poll showed that 100% of IT workers with long commutes hope that WFH never hends.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      June 25, 2020 at 5:37 PM

      • Again, the real issue is status and you alluded in the past and we’d agreed upon. Many humans are status seekers and need someone to “punch” down to feel good. If living and working in NYC or another important metropolis is no longer relevant, then how would these individuals define their status in relation to others.

        Ok, what, who's this again?

        June 25, 2020 at 7:33 PM

      • People will always figure out a way to look down on the people who are below them.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        June 25, 2020 at 8:34 PM

      • “People will always figure out a way to look down on the people who are below them”

        “Inner Cities” are not disappearing anytime soon. So yes, the disenfranchised aren’t going anywhere.

        Ok, what, who's this again?

        June 26, 2020 at 8:22 AM

    • I always thought that if corporations actually monitored their utilization rate for offices, they would find that on the best day about 50% of the offices/desks are being used.

      Also, I went to a building that had a virtual receptionist. A touch screen was outside the entry door. A visitor would just find the name of their POC and let the computer contact them. No receptionist. Also, with company provided cell phones, there is no need for a phone on the desks.

      superdestroyer

      June 25, 2020 at 8:18 PM

      • Everyone has gone to using VOIP calls on Slack. The end of calling a phone number to reach someone.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        June 25, 2020 at 8:35 PM

  6. I feel like a boomer.

    I’ve been working remotely for ~3 months now and I feel so isolated from my larger team.

    I was great at collaborating, brainstorming new ideas, catching up other projects people were working by just running into them.

    It’s a lot harder to do all that because you can’t schedule ‘spontaneous’ catch ups. What am I supposed to do, set up 15 minutes once a month for each of the ~60 people on my larger team? It’s awkward but I might need to start doing that.

    Kaz

    June 25, 2020 at 5:38 PM

    • Team players are beta and brainstorming well, it is prole for an employee.

      Ok, what, who's this again?

      June 25, 2020 at 9:30 PM

    • Human connection seems very important. I don’t know how big new ideas and big new projects could come together remotely. Silicon Valley is incredibly innovative but having smart and creative people together was the engine of that. The Internet has been accessible everywhere for decades but somehow Silicon Valley (and other centers like Seattle) remained at the center of things.

      Dan

      June 25, 2020 at 9:35 PM

      • “I don’t know how big new ideas and big new projects could come together remotely.”

        Open source projects are EXACTLY like that.

      • Human connection seems very important for individuals whose IQ leans towards the left side of the curve.

        Why would I want to brainstorm with another individual who is a higher up in the company and makes more money than I do?

        Ok, what, who's this again?

        June 26, 2020 at 8:07 AM

  7. One other issue is on boarding new hires. Imagine that you’re 22 years old, and you have your first post college job in a non-BS field, let’s say you’re an engineer at Ford. It’s going to be much harder to learn from observation and pick up on the job knowledge by osmosis. Sure, you can do trainings and have 1:1 with a mentor but picking up little tricks from listening in on conversations and seeing stuff won’t happen. Valuable senior employees are not going to want to take much time to do 1:1 with inexperienced kids.

    Chris IV

    June 25, 2020 at 9:00 PM

  8. Well “work-from-home” is probably the wrong term. It should be called everyone-working-remotely.

    Isn’t it even better to call it, “everyone-living-at-work”?

    People have been complaining that they feel like they’ve been working longer hours from home and feel like they never leave work since working from home.

    Tom

    June 25, 2020 at 9:03 PM

    • A lot of truth to that.

      MoreSigmasThanYou

      June 26, 2020 at 12:33 PM

  9. I am like Hermes said he is, in the other thread. If I did not go to the office I would barely do any work. I would come up with all the excuses and distractions in the world.

    I also do not think I am unusual in that respect. I can tell from interacting with people on WFH that many of the them are barely getting anything done. Of course a lot of work is show anyway, but on things that matter I can tell the needle is not getting moved.

    I can also management is itching to get all these people back into the office. They just know they can’t rush it. WFH is a disaster for most people and most companies, and you refuse to see that because you like it so much, personally.

    Lowe

    June 25, 2020 at 10:00 PM

    • And who is going to replace you? Someone who needs job training? And they’re going to be trained remotely? They’ll shirk even more than longstanding employees.

      Vince

      June 26, 2020 at 4:51 AM

    • In my (long) experience, there are two kinds of employees, those who do less work when they work from home, and those who do more. I personally fall into the second category.

      Years ago I said that companies should let anyone who wants to work from home work from home. If that employee falls into the ‘more work’ category, let them work from home forever. If they fall into the ‘less work’ category, just fire them; since employees who do less work when they work from home tend to be worse employees in general.

      The ‘more work’ employees are primarily motivated by a desire to live somewhere other than where the office is.

      The ‘more work’ employees also find the following drawbacks to remote work:
      * Much more emotional pressure to accomplish things.
      * No face time with co-workers, and no office scuttlebutt.
      * Work home-life barrier erodes.

      The people I know who were the best work from home employees all did it because the wanted to live near family members who were in a different U.S. state than their job. I’ve also been motivated to work remotely when I had a manager with emotional problems that I didn’t want to deal with, but that’s only delayed me from quitting by a couple of months.

      The people who do more work remotely tend to be bothered if they’re not being productive. When you take away the physical office environment, these people need even more evidence to prove to themselves that they did a full day’s work. People who need that are more productive no matter where they work from.

      Because the 20% of employees accomplishing the most work do 80% of all the work anyway, making your most productive employees more productive makes you more efficient even if your least productive employees do less while also comprising the majority of your workforce.

      MoreSigmasThanYou

      June 26, 2020 at 12:30 PM

  10. Yeah I was very comfortable at my old job. But I had my own office. Everything I needed right there.

    Only thing as I got older I got disgusted sharing bathrooms with various and sundry. Really disgusted with the aspy coders who apparently couldn’t do their business at home before coming in.

    Anyway the new open offices with everyone sitting close together, no privacy, looks awful. They can’t do that anymore.

    Mrs Stitch

    June 25, 2020 at 10:13 PM

    • You brought up a good point. Many people hate sharing bathrooms with strangers at the workplace. WTF will change all of this. Furthermore, this pandemic will last into the holiday season, and life with your co-workers and friends is no longer the same for the rest of the year.

      Bye Bye the workplace, and the dining and drinking sector for 2020!

      Ok, what, who's this again?

      June 26, 2020 at 12:09 AM

    • that is so funny. I swear my husband held it all day because he didn’t want to use the restroom at work. Every day he headed straight to the john when he got home. Now he is wfh, so….

      Alice

      June 26, 2020 at 12:46 PM

  11. What if people are complying because they know this is a dire time and they’re lucky to have a job? Post-Coronavirus, they’ll be less motivated. If productivity declines, then wages could take a hit.

    Also, there’s competition. Companies where employees meet face-to-face could outcompete those who work from home.

    Vince

    June 26, 2020 at 4:49 AM

  12. You need to get a parler account. Everyone right wing is being banned from twitter.

    prolier than thou

    June 26, 2020 at 7:15 AM

    • What’s the need for all these alternative platforms? I thought Gab was the Twitter alternative.

      S.J., Esquire

      June 26, 2020 at 6:37 PM

      • I would guess Lion doesn’t like Gab because they allow antisemites.

        Hermes

        June 26, 2020 at 11:33 PM

  13. O/t – I thought Chelsea Clinton lives in the neighborhood which shares her name and not in nearby Flatiron where MSG is located. Despite a Shake Shack installed inside Madison Square Park, it has always been riddled with idle undesirables sitting on the benches, as with all NYC public parks.

    Ok, what, who's this again?

    June 26, 2020 at 9:30 AM

    • You mean like the benches at the Farragut Memorial?

      African Quilts

      June 27, 2020 at 12:02 AM

  14. You closed the comments on the Law School thread, so I’ll park this here:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulinaguditch/2020/06/25/is-an-mba-worth-it-after-covid-19-absolutely-not/#207abdee1111

    Brendan

    June 26, 2020 at 4:40 PM

  15. Remote work is a security nightmare.

    You want your important business strategy meetings, your legal matters, any problems your company might have, even whatever conversations your employees are having, to ride on Zoom? Not likely. Companies will want to have their own private networks apart from using third-party software.

    Remote work makes women look bad on camera.

    Remote work will impose monitoring requirements on your personal computer. Want to have keyloggers on your system with an always-on camera?

    You will literally have to create a home office environment that looks like a cubicle to keep corporate out.

    map

    June 27, 2020 at 11:57 PM

    • If a company wants you to work from home, they will give you a notebook computer with VPN and security. That way the cojmpany can keep its stuff separate from your personal stuff and it does not rely on the security of your router/ISP.

      I believe the biggest issue is the change in how management will work. I would on a project that involved people throughout the U.S. and was based in the cloud. The biggest problem was one sight just would not follow the conventions of document handling and keep creating multiple, parallel version of project documents. A good manager would have picked up on that and had a side meeting where they insist the procedures be followed.

      superdestroyer

      June 28, 2020 at 11:47 AM

  16. (1) People really like working at an office

    My guess it is ‘(1) Young people really like working at an office.’

    It doesn’t take long before reality sets in: the commute sucks, cubicles suck, you are sick of your coworkers.

    Once you have gone through about 3-5 years of being excited to be a new professional and meeting cool people for lunch, the office loses its appeal.

    anon

    anon

    June 28, 2020 at 8:22 PM


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