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Why Working Remotely Needs To Make a Comeback 455

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-commuting-sucks dept.
silentbrad writes sends this excerpt from a blog post about the history of working from home: "Remote working has existed for centuries. And now is the perfect time for its comeback. ... Prior to the Industrial Revolution, goods were manufactured by contracting individual craftsmen who worked out of their homes. The merchant would drum up sales, and would coordinate the production with at-home sub-contractors. ... This all changed with the Industrial Revolution: production was centralized in factories and cities. For merchant capitalists, this made sense: it was cheaper and more efficient to produce goods in one place, with machinery. ... We've been in the Information Age for at least 25 years. We've made huge leaps in technology. Many of us would describe ourselves as Knowledge Workers: we don't work in factories, we work at desks in front of glowing screens. We don't make goods with physical materials, but rather things made out of bits. The great thing about bits + the internet is that the materials and means needed for production aren't dependent on location. But here's the funny thing: the way work is organized hasn't changed. Despite all these advances, most of us still work in central offices. Employees leave their computer-equipped homes and drive long distances to work at computer-equipped offices. ... CEOs, like Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and Apple's Steve Jobs, think that a central office fosters more innovation and productivity. I think they're wrong. We're still early in the research, but recent studies seem to dispute their claim. ... Managers have developed centuries worth of habits based on the central workplace. The hallmarks of office work (meetings, cubicle workstations, colocation) need to be seen for what they are: traditions we've kept alive since the Industrial Revolution. We need to question these institutions: are they really more innovative and efficient?"
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Why Working Remotely Needs To Make a Comeback

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  • I agree but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Itsik (191227) <demiguru-at-me@com> on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:10PM (#42998167) Homepage

    I recall over the summer reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal (http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2012/07/13/working-from-home-beware-a-career-hit/?mod=e2tw)
    Pointing to the fact that telecommuters aka people that work remotely are less likely to get promoted regardless of their productivity and work ethic.

    Quite alarming

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:19PM (#42998239)

    Productivity is not based on location of the workplace
    as much as it is based on the person doing the work.

    Only ignorant paranoid idiots want workers "where they can
    be watched". I won't work for such fools.

  • It requires... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by madmarcel (610409) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:20PM (#42998259)

    Working from home requires a certain work ethic.
    Not all of us possess this.

    I've also heard from friends who do work from home that they struggle to distinguish between work/home and personal/business. It seems that the physical acts of leaving for work and coming home from work are required for some people to be able to keep the two (mindsets?) separated.

  • Re:Teamwork (Score:5, Interesting)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:21PM (#42998273)

    sorry I don't want to be programming in a room full of yammering idiocy.. I'd be canned in the first week for lack of productivity. All this 'social' bullshit is driving society to distraction. There's a reason most people don't have every TV and music player in the house turned on at full blast at the same time.

  • Re:Working Remotely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xystren (522982) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:42PM (#42998441)

    I personally prefer having that "divide" between work and home. I dislike the idea of working at home - that's not what it is for. Yeah, can I? Sure, but I absolutely hate it. The travel time to/from the office I also appreciate. It gives me that time to decompress from work - I turn up the radio, sing like a madman that doesn't care that they are out of tune, and by the time I get home, any of the days of "work stress" is gone. I can enjoy the time with my wife, children, grandchild unimpeded.

    When working remotely at home, the stresses of work become integrated as part of your home. The wife, the kids, extended family and friends pick up on that. You have a @#$%@ day at the remote home office and that @#$%@ day sits at dinner with you and your family - your mind and thoughts are at work, not with your family. There is something to be said to have that clear delineation between work and home.

    Now if your traveling all over the place, as a part of your employment, the remote office makes sense. But I don't want my boss's or corporate lack of planning to constitute and emergency in my own home with the stress felt within my whole family system.

    To me, it looks like a corporate grab to save money on the facilities. If already maximizing the number of people in a building by reducing the size of a cubical isn't doing enough for the bottom line, let's kick our workers out our space, and we can invade theirs. This works for corporate and sounds great to them. For me? Not so much. Am I getting compensated for the space that corporate is taking up in my home, my bandwidth, power, utilities, and the intrusion into my family's space? I'm sorry, saving 2 hours of travel time isn't enough to compensate for that. Many view travel time as time wasted - for me it is my stress decompression time, self-care, or me time.

    I completely disagree with the win/win which is in short, a collaborative process (Our way). For some, yeah, it may be win/win. For me, it is coercion (Their way) - a win/lose; corporate wins, I lose.

    How accommodation with the flexibility to work with both styles?

  • by JeanCroix (99825) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:45PM (#42998467) Journal

    Asshole on speakerphone

    Holy hell yes THIS. Who the fuck ever thought it was a good idea to equip every desk in a cube farm with a fucking SPEAKER PHONE?

  • by stretch0611 (603238) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:23PM (#42998681) Journal

    I've worked both remotely and onsite. I have worked from home on team and individual projects. I have seen it work and fail.

    The key factor of whether it works or not depends on communication. If you talk to your co-workers regularly, and they contact you all the time it works well. If there is no communication, or if you can't contact your coworkers regularly (or vice-versa,) the project will fail.

    As a sr. developer, I still see other people's code, and people see mine. Managers can (or at least should) be able to determine if I am productive.

    Working on individual side projects, if you can motivate yourself, it will succeed.

    The only problem is those occasional programming problems... The ones every programmer gets... where it is a stupid typo or something you are overlooking. (common misspellings like "o" instead of the character zero, lack of quotes, or using an operator from a different language.) All programmers will do this and they can take an hour to find on your own... A co-worker can see the problem in a glance. That is the only problem to working on your own. On a team project, if you have someone you talk to regularly, that can and will find it quickly, you are golden. If you are on a team and no one has the time to bother with you, your communication is lacking and you are doomed to fail.

  • Re:Teamwork (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:52PM (#42998859)

    Sorry, I think you're full of shit. I've worked in an "open-plan" office before, and it drove me mad. I had NO need to collaborate with my coworkers, as we all worked on different projects. Instead, having people constantly interrupt me with conversations about sports and other bullshit did nothing to help my work at all. I started coming in later, and leaving later, so that I could get work done after 5PM when everyone else left and the stupid A/C unit over my desk shut off. My boss didn't like this, pulled me into a 1-on-1 meeting and complained about this, so I threw a resignation letter at him and walked out.

  • by codegen (103601) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:56PM (#42998883) Journal
    The move to open concept happened when the IRS changed the rules for deductions of renovations (i.e. from a short period of time to a very long period of time). But some companies are still willing to go the distance. Before I moved back to academia, I spent 5 1/2 years in the private sector at a company that "got it". The research team had individual offices that we could shut the doors to block out distraction. The development team were two to an office because we were running a hybrid process of team programming. But they could still close their doors to block out distraction. The only people that ended up in an open area were the summer interns because we couldn't justify a year round office for 4 months of seasonal work. It was amazing how productive we could be. In one project that I managed, we did a migration of 200,000 lines of COBOL to Java in about 3 months (2 months planning 1 month execution, total of 4 developers and 1 reasearcher). It amazes me that the people who run these companies are willing to take the hit in productivity that cube farms generate. The smaller city we were in was considerably cheaper for office space than the big cities, but still...
  • by knorthern knight (513660) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:59PM (#42998895)

    The reason people want to get away from what we have now is because it's not what we had 30 years ago. When I first won a promotion to a technical job in our HQ in 1985 we actually had offices. I retired a couple of years ago (get off my lawn kid). By that time only mid-level and higher managers had offices. Us peons were crammed into cube farms. And, oh yeah, there were reviews under way trying to figure out how to cram more cubes into the same space. Obligatory Dilbert http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1996-09-15/ [dilbert.com] Give people real offices, and they might not mind.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @11:33PM (#42999801)

    I do IT work and we are all in cubes in a large room, including my boss (he's a tech, not a PHB). It really works better because when someone wanders in needing help, they can more quickly get routed to the person who can actually help them, when there's questions about something we can get them answered quick, and we can chat about ideas.

    I find I really like it. It isn't perfect, of course, but overall I'd take it over us all being in individual offices, which we could have, if we wanted (most of us do have an assigned office to use if we need, we just don't).

  • by Splab (574204) on Monday February 25, 2013 @02:55AM (#43000735)

    I fucking hate working from home. When I enter my apartment, it's my life, not the company. Having a very distinct line between working and being off is extremely important.

    Also, while it might work for some people to remote in, I bloody hate it when I can't get hold of my coworkers because they are doing their laundry, shopping or whatever the fuck the tend to do, when they should be working.

    If you have the ability to separate your work and your life when you work from home, good for you; but mostly, I find it doesn't work.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday February 25, 2013 @06:03AM (#43001263) Homepage Journal

    Think headphones will help? Try it, and find out what a heart attack feels like when some asshole comes up behind you and taps you on the shoulder to get your attention.

    Etiquette where I work, in an open plan environment (Google), is that you get someone's attention by IMing them. Yes, my teammate who sits right next to me, less than three feet away, often sends me an instant message to ask a question. I respond by yanking off my headphones and turning to face him. It's weird, I suppose, but it works, providing both easy collaboration and strong isolation, as necessary.

  • by houghi (78078) on Monday February 25, 2013 @07:00AM (#43001421)

    I really like it. If people want to ask me a question, they can come to me. This can be from my team or from another department. That way we can easily answer questions. Better then to send back and forth emails all day.
    And if people want to talk about sports and they have time, please let them. I do not care, so I do not listen. People who talk to each other about different things will get along better. This tends to increase the understanding of each other, which will help understand each other later when you have different opinions about a project and it will be easier to find a common ground for a solution.

    You will be more open to ideas from others. A bit like how open source works.

    And as it does not disturb me, I do not even hear them talking about some silly sports game or childbirth process if I do not want to.

    One department where I work everybody is quiet there. No private talking. Nothing. That is how the manager wants it. To the majority of the people this feels extremely unhealthy. As if somebody just died. As a result we have problems finding people for that department. Internally nobody wants to go there. Externally people leave as fast as we can hire them.

    Sitting on somebodies desk is not something we EVER do. We have enough chairs so it s easy to just pull up a chair.
    When you are on the phone and they are too loud, you just say so. There is no shame in saying thing like that to anybody, including the CEO, because we already know each other and have spoken to each other. SO I know how I must talk to him or her.
    Most of the time I just hold up my hand, point to my phone and they will stop. People who are with my back to me will be told to be quiet and either they stop the conversation or take a coffee or whatever.

    All a non-issue, because we know how to communicate.

    What you have is no communication. Due to this the small things start to bother you. This will grow and grow till it explodes. In the mean time your work will be going down, because you can not concentrate.

    Bit like a mosquito in the room. You can not sleep from that, but you will not wake up from the traffic outside. This because you focus on it.

Gosh that takes me back... or is it forward? That's the trouble with time travel, you never can tell." -- Doctor Who, "Androids of Tara"

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