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Ask Slashdot: Why Do We Still Commute? (citylab.com) 422

An anonymous reader writes: Over the last year, many companies have ended their liberal work-from-home policies. Firms like IBM, Honeywell, and Aetna joined a long list of others that have deemed it more profitable to force employees to commute to the city and work in a central office than give them the flexibility to work where they want. It wasn't supposed to be this way. In 1975, when personal computers were little more than glorified calculators for geeks and the Internet was an obscure project being developed by the United States government, Macrae, an influential journalist for The Economist who earned a reputation for clairvoyant prophesies -- including the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Japan -- made a radical prediction about how information technology would soon transform our lives. Macrae foretold the exact path and timeline that computers would take over the business world and then become a fixture of every American home. But he didn't stop there. The spread of this machine, he argued, would fundamentally change the economics of how most of us work. Once workers could communicate with their colleagues through instant messages and video chat, he reasoned, there would be little coherent purpose to trudge long distances to work side by side in centrally located office spaces.
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Ask Slashdot: Why Do We Still Commute?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:44AM (#55482581)

    so he can lord over us
    makes him feel special so we all drive an hour to get here
    yay

    • For the same reason people are forced to have "standup" meetings.

      Fuck you, prole, that's why.

  • by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:45AM (#55482585) Journal

    Our dormitories in the company towns are not ready yet. When they are, our commute will be four floors down from our cell to our cubicle.

    The broadband connectivity will be awesome. And we'll be able to go outdoors into the courtyard every other Sunday.

    • by Graydyn Young ( 2835695 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @11:02AM (#55483403)

      And we'll be able to go outdoors into the courtyard every other Sunday.

      That's not mandatory is it?

  • My reasons (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:46AM (#55482597)
    I can't speak for others, but I for one enjoy slowly growing old one day at a time in a small tin box that slowly moves through stop-and-go traffic for hours at a time. All while considering merits of being dead over my current situation.
    • Re:My reasons (Score:5, Interesting)

      by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:00AM (#55482773) Homepage
      ever since audiobooks were invented, my commute has been the high point of my day.
      • Re:My reasons (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tx ( 96709 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:16AM (#55482967) Journal

        I don't do audiobooks, but my car stereo is by far my best quality audio equipment, and the car is the only place I can listen to music at a decent volume without pissing someone off. I enjoy my (admittedly short 25 minute) commute, and I prefer leaving the house to work. I have a very clear mental distinction between work mode and relax mode, and the commute makes a nice transition between the two.

        • Re:My reasons (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jeff4747 ( 256583 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @11:15AM (#55483505)

          I prefer leaving the house to work. I have a very clear mental distinction between work mode and relax mode, and the commute makes a nice transition between the two.

          I've known people with a similar attitude who solved it by adding a fake "commute" to their working from home. They'd get ready for work, hop in the car and drive around for 5-10 minutes. Or go pick up something from Starbucks. Something that was a similar "and now it is time to work" flag.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

            That sounds silly to people who have never worked from home, but it is such a good idea. I worked from home for a few years, and while it sounds great to roll out of bed in your PJs, log in, and be at work, there is a real-world downside. Work never ends. Work stress comes home. I go from work, to coming home and playing a video game -- but IM is still online. Other people in other time zones are still IMing me. I felt *guilty* having fun on my home computer, almost like I should be working. It was s

    • The root cause of this problem is the (post-WW2) urban design and layout of most (North) American cities, not in the fact that employers require workers to be physically in the office.

      There are places on this Earth where living (relatively) close to work is possible and affordable, where commuting is a 15 min. walk or a 30 min. bus/subway ride, or a 20 min. drive, or some such thing.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:47AM (#55482607)
    If I don't commute between the couch and the fridge, how will I eat?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:50AM (#55482643)

    I work in a company producing IoT, internet of things, devices that use RF.

    The reason that I still commute is that I don't have access to RF test equipment or RF chambers at home. The equipment that I need to use to validate my software simply isn't practical to have at home. I suspect that anybody doing software development for the embedded device marketplace faces similar constraints.

    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      So then wouldn’t that be an example where commuting does work?

    • Yup, that's a huge reason. Maybe a lot of slashdotters don't realize this, but there are more to many jobs than just reading and forwarding email. Sometimes you need lab equipment, you need the devices or components that you are designing or building, you need face to face time with actual customers, and things like that. Does anyone really think a security guard could work from home? But it's slashdot, so many readers assume everyone must follow their example.

      Also good reasons for commuting for many:
      -

  • Blame the Boomers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:50AM (#55482645)

    We still commute because the Baby Boomer generation is still disproportionately represented in the C level positions. They grew up in an era where you had to physically see a worker to know they were actually working. If you did not see them, then they must be slacking. Even those who are somewhat technologically savvy grew up with that ingrained in how management worked. Even some of the early Gen-Xers, those in their early fifties now, picked up this attitude just because they started working in a time before computers were so pervasive.

    I think you will see this change as the later Gen-Xers and millennials begin to take management positions, but with Gen-X likely being the first generation that will not be able to retire (in general) this may be a long time coming

    • By your logic, Facebook shouldn't even have an office.

    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      If you don't think people slack more when they're working from home - especially if they have family distractions around such as kids or a wife who needs some help etc etc - than when they're in the office then I've got a bridge for sale you might be interested in.

      Its nothing to to with generations - its everything to do with human nature and thats not something technology can - yet - solve.

    • by pz ( 113803 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:46AM (#55483285) Journal

      I manage people. Some of them work remotely for a span of weeks-to-months from time to time.

      If we interact face-to-face, everything is good. If the worker is remote, their productivity goes down the tubes, even when I get daily progress reports. When I don't get daily progress reports, essentially nothing gets done.

      I have enough experience to be able to see a trend in the 15 or so people I've had work for me, but it clearly isn't enough to generalize to everyone outside my laboratory, nor outside my field, nor to other managers. It doesn't apply to all of the people I've had work for me (and the ones who remain productive while remote are true gems), but the trend is very, very clear.

    • Re:Blame the Boomers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:47AM (#55483287)

      I tend to agree with this. My wife has a good job that pays well, but has a crazy commute and the company has an absolute rigid no-work-from-home policy, with work hours that are actually enforced. They're essentially stuck in the 70s when it comes to management of personnel...if you're not there, you're not working because I can't see you. So she has to drive almost an hour each way and is basically one step away from leaving because it's rapidly becoming not worth it anymore.

      Part of it is the nature of the work...the company she works for has lots of front-line workers who do actually need to be there, and lots of call center type jobs where a large fraction of people can't really be trusted to work without supervision. I get that...I used to work for an airline and back-office positions like IT were heavily influenced by the fact that there were pilots, flight attendants, airport agents and mechanics working on location 24/7/365...we never got "holidays", it was only a PTO bucket so you could pick the holidays you weren't working.

      I do think a lot of it is senior management hanging onto the old ways. I wouldn't mind some of the job security of working back in that era, but certainly having to come into an office, wear a suit and crank out manual paper pushing tasks all day would drive me nuts. I think that constant supervision would drive anyone who was slightly independent to drink, but I don't know if _everyone_ can handle not being watched at least some of the time.

  • San Jose (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zorro ( 15797 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:51AM (#55482663)

    Because the housing infrastructure of Silicon Valley is insufficient to support the Human workforce.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:51AM (#55482673)

    We go to an office because (a) you get better team collaboration that way and (b) management frequently, and somtimes with good reason, has doubts about whether a person is really working when not physically present.

    I think pervasive, high quality, always-on video conferencing could address both of these problems, but that's not really (inexpensively, easily) available today.

  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:54AM (#55482715) Journal

    ...because, outside of some utopian fantasy, most work still requires either physically being present, or at least collaboration with a number of other people, and no amount of Skype, VR, or what have you can replace the communication bandwidth and efficacy of actually being there.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:14AM (#55482947)

      Found the manager!

      • True in Academia (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:52AM (#55483329) Journal
        No, this is not a pointy-haired boss point of view. I'm a professor working in a large international collaboration and while we do have regular phone/video meetings we also arrange to all meet in person a few times a year because being physically present increases both the communication bandwidth but also the ease of communication which means that things get discussed which would not if the only meetings were virtual.

        Given that the cost of travel to these meetings means that we have less money for grad students, postdocs and equipment shows that the majority think that there is a clear benefit to these meetings and with the state of modern air travel there is no way you can accuse us of "just liking to take trips" - academic grants all require cheap, economy class travel (and even if they didn't most of us would because every dollar saved is more for people and equipment) so many of us now hate getting on a plane! We use virtual meetings where possible to reduce travel costs and avoid air travel but there are somethings for which you need a physical meeting.
        • ... being physically present increases both the communication bandwidth but also the ease of communication which means that things get discussed which would not if the only meetings were virtual. ...

          I actually agree with you on this. I currently work from home one day a week; and, for my job, doing that five days a week would not be the best allocation of my time. I do need to meet with people to discuss projects occasionally, and that does work better face to face. However I am *supposed* to be coding the majority of the time, which I invariably am able to focus on more when I'm at home - for one thing, faculty aren't popping into my living room unannounced, like they do at my office (sometimes to as

    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hazardPPP ( 4914555 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:40AM (#55483211)

      Exactly.

      Not to mention that, outside of the Slashdot-type crowd, most people are not a/antisocial geeks that choose jobs that require minimal meaningful interaction with other people (I'm among the more antisocial types myself, but I realize that in wider society, I am in the minority). Maybe many or even most IT/tech jobs can mostly be done from home, but in other fields (think e.g. marketing, branding, event management, such things...then things like auditing...and lots of other examples) it is not possible.

      Finally: slackers/abusers removed, the people who complain about not being able to work from home are the ones who like working from home and are productive doing so. Not all of us are productive working from our living room or bedroom (and actually few of us can afford the space for a dedicated home office), and we prefer to spacially separate our work and home lives, and not be distracted by the cat/dog/wife/kids/neighbour mowing the lawn/etc. while working, enjoy, if just for the sake of changing the scenery, getting out of the house and meeting our colleagues, etc.

    • by be951 ( 772934 )

      I don't know whether most work requires physical presence. Perhaps. Certainly there is quite a lot that can be done without it -- far less than is currently being done remotely. There may be some debate about what is most effective, but that depends on too many variables to make a blanket statement, IMO. Call center work, for instance is a great candidate for remote workers where the option is probably under-utilized. The software used already tracks all the details of when the worker is online (if he start

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday November 03, 2017 @11:02AM (#55483407) Homepage

      Yeah, honestly I think there are a couple of types of people who think that there's no reason to actually come into the office:

      * Young people severely lacking in experience.
      * People who have jobs that require no physical presence, and who can work without much collaboration (email and IM are generally sufficient), and assume everyone's job is like that.

      For the second item, I'm sure I'll get some people yelling at me saying, "I'm a programmer, and I collaborate all day long! There are a bunch of other programmers working on my project, and we're constantly sending IMs back and forth. We even do Hangouts." Yeah, but still, the information you get from collaboration is largely that: information. You get the information you need, and then you can go on doing fairly isolated work.

      There's something else that happens when you get a bunch of people in a room together, where you can read body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. A person's physical presence changes things. There are times where I'm having an IM or even phone conversation with someone, and the message just isn't getting across, and so I go and walk over to their office. The direct, face-to-face communication allows for something that just doesn't happen over phone or video chat. In person brainstorming sessions can be more productive than conference calls. It might be purely psychological, but if so, the psychological effect is real and not to be discounted.

      Some jobs don't need that. A lot of jobs don't need that all the time, every day. But for some jobs, it's important that it happens.

      • I don't work from home often, but when I do I tend to get about 2 days of work done in 6 hours, and then I run out of stuff to do. I have worked remotely before, and I've been paired with a coworker who did as well. In both cases, working remotely was massively productive at the start, then the lack of human contact crushed productivity.

        I really think the happy medium is a day every week or two. Give your employees an uninterpreted day to crank through work, and they'll be amazingly productive. I don't unde

  • I don't. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scumdamn ( 82357 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:55AM (#55482727)
    Working at home is what has kept me at this job when I'd think of looking elsewhere. It's one of the main perks of the gig.
  • I don't... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:55AM (#55482729)
    One of the reasons I'm at my current job, my "commute" is about ten feet and pants are optional. Working at home alone does seem to result in a high level of work place sexual harassment however...
  • The reason why.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cogeek ( 2425448 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:58AM (#55482757)
    During my time at Big Blue (prior to working from home being acceptable) we tried convincing our manager to let everyone on our team to work from home with the exception of one person rotating through the team to come in and be available for things we couldn't do remotely (swap cables, rack equipment, etc.) We were told by our manager that he could go to his manager and present the idea, but that we had to keep in mind if we were saying that our job could be done from anywhere in the world that it would become obvious to upper management that it could be done from ANYWHERE in the world....

    As it happened not long after I left they outsourced almost every job anyway. So kind of surprising they later allowed people to work from home and then reversed it again.
  • by gdr ( 107158 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @09:58AM (#55482759)
    Because sometimes a face-to-face meeting in front of a whiteboard is the best way to do things. Virtual whiteboards, like so many virtual things, are clunky and harder to use. Video conferencing is not so bad but still more inconvenient than when you can all be in the same room.
  • Video conferencing is great, but we're still social animals that interact better when we can shake hands, read body language, share a meal, etc.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:01AM (#55482793)

    The company I work for allows _some_ WFH days, but you can tell they're not happy about it. The only reason they do it is because they're trying to remake themselves as "hip" and "with it" so they can attract Millenials. The company used to have a very liberal work-from-anywhere policy, but it turned out that a very large percentage of people abused it and never showed up to the office.

    Management still doesn't believe people can be productive without sitting on top of one another in an open office setting. That's because of "collaboration" and "synergy" but IMO bad managers are still hanging on to the idea that you need to be present during working hours, or they can't trust you to produce on your own. In my case, they get plenty of out-of-hours work from me...just yesterday I left early to attend a school thing and worked on my stuff after everyone went to bed.

    Personally, I like a mix. I'm not exactly an extrovert so commuting just to talk to colleagues doesn't have the same effect it would on a hyper-outgoing type-A management or marketing person. But, I can also see how someone who isn't as self-directed would just WFH as an excuse to slack. I think management is stuck in the old days when office work involved getting off the train, walking to your desk in a sea of hundreds of desks, and working on the piles of paperwork in your inbox until your shift was over.

    In my case, I actually accept a lower salary so I don't have to commute crazy distances. I live "near" NYC but the train ride to the city is almost 90 minutes and driving is nearly out of the question. I've done it in the past, and will only do it again if I have no choice or really need the extra money.

  • can lack a bit when you don't have that visual awareness of who you're working with. That's what I've been told by our management. Delivering as a team becomes an abstract concept because that physical presence isn't there to solidify the importance of your work to the team's success. Perhaps our millennial generation will resolve this because it's a more understood concept. I imagine it takes effort for some people to wrap their minds around remote teamwork.
    • Teleconferencing simply isn't as effective as in-person meeting. Happenstance meetings in hallways tend to accomplish a lot more than structured periodic gatherings. The ability to lean over and chat with a coworker about a problem is superior to using email or your phone.

      And then there's people like me, who simply need a distinct work environment to be mentally in 'work mode'. I can (and have) worked from home, but unless I have something fascinating to focus on, I tend to be less productive outside the

  • by Kamiza Ikioi ( 893310 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:08AM (#55482889)

    Telecommuting is still not ideal. Even with a decent setup like FiOS, Skype, Slack, etc, there is something to be said about physical presence that the current system simply doesn't support.

    I personally don't foresee the day of true telecommuting being the norm again until the infrastructure is much more robust and the tools allow for no distinction of presence and telepresence. That includes technologies like Halolens, backbones of all fiber, and redundant cloud services.

    Just as an example, look at how horrible many shows TWiT.tv get when someone is trying to Skype in over WiFi from some Google or Facebook event. Sure, they conference is getting hosed, but they're just trying to have a single conversation. I certainly wouldn't want my Fortune 500's... fortune... resting on the, excuse my language, CRAP infrastructure that we have today.

  • I think there's several different reasons and not every workplace uses every possible reason for making people come in.
    1) No partition cubes are now trendy because pointy haired bosses have seized onto it as the key to greater productivity. My current employer has experimented with that and while some groups of customer service people do now have cubicles like that, at present it looks pretty much dead in the IT parts of the office because it just seems unnecessary and maybe even counterproductive. Peo
  • by wired_parrot ( 768394 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:17AM (#55482975)

    At least in my experience:

    1. The IT infrastructure isn't there yet. I regularly deal with large files. Transferring those from home to the work server can take an hour. At work the same file transfer is a question of minutes. And I live in a major city in north america, for those who live in rural locations with limited broadband working at home is not a feasible option.

    2. Office politics. My wife tried working from home full time after her maternity leave. Then she got passed for a promotion by a coworker who was at the office and developed a better relationship with the senior managers. Personal relationships matter in the workplace, and for that you need face-to-face interaction.

    3. Not all work is done on a computer screen. Most of my work is done on a computer, but as an engineer I often deal with testing of mechanical system components which need to be done on-site. And I imagine for those working in the service sector, which are the majority of jobs in North America, there is no choice. You can't be a waiter from home, for example.

  • by wardrich86 ( 4092007 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:20AM (#55483011)
    Far better social interaction in an office than at your house. Plus you can actually separate your work from your home. I suppose if the team you work on sucks working from home might make sense, though.
  • A few reasons:

    1. It's not quite as easy to keep trade secrets secret when employee-owned equipment in a residential area is involved. This extends to both the employer's trade secrets and those of its suppliers. Confidentiality is often cited as a reason that video game console makers didn't open up their platforms to individual developers working from home until a couple years ago.

    2. Lab or manufacturing equipment may be too expensive for an individual to purchase.

    3. Local, state, or federal zoning regulations require certain jobs to be performed in a commercially zoned area. Good luck running (say) a restaurant or a pharmacy out of your home.

    4. Local zoning regulations make it difficult for a wired broadband ISP to lay cable or fiber. This has been the case for Seattle proper, where utility installation requires permission from a supermajority of landowners, and absentee landlords and vacant lots count as a no vote.

    5. Distractions from other members of the household, such as demands to do housework. "I 'didn't know' you were on the clock. But could you get off the clock for one minute?" which turns into fifteen.

  • by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:22AM (#55483023) Homepage

    When I was younger I thought being able to work from home was a great perk. Now that I'm 20 years older and work at a place where I can choose to WFH pretty much whenever I want, I realize it's not so great.

    I have a lot of distractions at home and I'm single. It's very easy to start wandering around the house, doing laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, petting the cats, watching something on Netflix, etc. When I'm at the office there's a more limited number of things to distract myself with. If the environment starts getting too loud with people talking I just put on my noise-cancelling headphones and zone out.

    It's also a lot easier to troubleshoot a problem someone is having when I can just walk over to their desk and watch what they're doing. I suppose video chat would work, but it's a lot more cumbersome. I work for a start-up, so there's a lot of ad-hoc conversations between the different groups and decisions are made quickly. Chat works pretty well, but it's definitely inferior to a face-to-face conversation.

    I'm fortunate to live in a large city with a great public transportation system. My current commute involves a 20 minute walk to a train station followed by a 15 minute ride and a two block walk to the office. I watch all of the cars queued up to enter the expressways in the evening and just shake my head. I had a 90 minute commute many years ago and it was a killer. I'd get done with work and then be pissed off that it's going to take me another hour and a half to get home; and I didn't have to drive. There is just no way that I'd ever live somewhere where my only option for a commute was driving. I have family in Sarasota and they have to drive everywhere. No thank you!

  • I know, you can leave a chat window open, I know you can have voice calls and screen sharing and video calls (though that last one has never added anything).

    Ultimately, however, casual interaction in person is extremely valuable. A large percentage of things I address are things I overhear that folks wouldn't have thought to ask me about. Or else something that someone is comfortable bringing up face to face, but when I'm not there, they are more afraid of 'wasting my time' because they have no way to jud

  • Measuring attendance, hours worked, hours in the office is easy.

    Measuring productivity is hard.

    Previous job, I worked at home because all my time was billed. Measuring productivity was easy.

    Current job, I work from work because none of my time is billed. They see me, they say they're validating that I'm working. But none of my output is measured in a meaningful way.

  • I suspect we still commute because the people who make such decisions can afford to live closer.
  • Anything that keeps attrition high is a good thing. If a job is too good, they'll never want to leave and won't become so stressed, ill, or busy that they do something fireable. An employer runs the risk of an employee becoming indispensable rather than interchangeable, qualifying for a raise or insurance, or even, God forbid it, earning a pension.
  • More because there IS value in casual communication that just DOESN'T happen over IM, email or phone... When we wander into the break room or just over hear a conversation.

  • by Critical Facilities ( 850111 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @10:44AM (#55483247)
    I've seen this happen at HP, then again at Xerox. Many large companies starting doing this, particularly once Yahoo started doing it. It's usually combined with revamping the workspace into a "collborative" work environment (you know, the ones where they don't allow any offices or cube walls....one big open space so that everyone can collaborate.....what a load of shit that is).

    The REAL reason they force folks back into the new office is:
    A) they know people have come to love working from home, and many will not be able to handle a long commute after working from home for years, so they'll quit....which is much cheaper than laying them off (and paying severance) or even firing them (and potentially paying unemployment)

    B) those folks who stay can now be squeezed into a smaller footprint because they've removed all the bulky cubes and offices, thus less real estate costs because they've reduced the amount of square footage they're occupying.


    This is a finance exercise pure and simple.
  • Wait up - back in May IBM reversed their remoting policy and shifted to bringing people back into the office. Did anyone ever get a solid reason why they opted for this route?

    http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/1... [cnn.com]
    https://www.bloomberg.com/view... [bloomberg.com]

  • With a lot of IT work it's hard to know how long a task should take. If a task takes 12 hours to finish instead of the 4 hours expected it helps to be able to look over someone's shoulder. If you know someone is working you're less likely to have unreasonable expectations. And it works both ways. It took me a while but I finally figured out that it's not to my benefit to work at home. If you want your work to be appreciated you need to be seen.
  • I dont care what anyones position is regarding is there, or isnt there, any sort of man made effect on global warming, I really dont. But most of these Corporations whine ad nauseam about the impact of global warming and insisting someone do something about it. Yet they put their offices in some of the most densely populated areas which 1-2hr commute times. Then they kill telecommuting and put that many more cars on the road, often idling, for 1-2hrs. Fuck them. They should be called out for the 2faced sac

  • by shess ( 31691 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @11:16AM (#55483523) Homepage

    I've been on highly-distributed teams (no two people co-located), and on teams with one or two far-flung elements, and everything in between. Working from home can work very well, if the team is focused and actively maintains contact, even on days when they don't feel like it, even when things aren't going well. But many workers simply don't work that way, in which case working from home can become a way to hide things and avoid things. Same can happen in an office environment, it's just a little harder at the margins.

    Also, the team has to be committed to working from home, you can't just wave a wand on it, they need to be actively on top of broadly communicating things. Otherwise you end up with "in" groups and people get cut out of the loop and everyone gets upset. Again, that can totally happen in an office environment, too, but in my experience it's SO much easier to happen accidentally in a mixed group. Sometimes something will get ironed out over lunch or a quick bull session, and nobody thinks to send the minutes to the offsite people. If that happens too often, the offsite people will find themselves routinely behind the curve, finding out about decisions after they're already being implemented, which can really chip away at their morale.

    Lastly, it's really really hard to successfully add new people to a team who work from home. Basically, they need good referrals from trusted sources, and the team needs to really focus on integrating the new person.

    Just to be really really clear - I'm not saying work-from-home cannot work or anything like that. I did it for a decade before getting a "real" job, and I quite enjoyed it, it really worked for me. But there were significant downsides, some of which I didn't realize until I had the opportunity to work with similarly-qualified networks of co-located people. I'd be very nervous about joining a group which was trying to set ambitious goals and also having most members working from home.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @12:25PM (#55484165)

    Once workers could communicate with their colleagues through instant messages and video chat, he reasoned, there would be little coherent purpose to trudge long distances to work side by side in centrally located office spaces.

    It is a relatively rare job that can effectively and economically conduct all it's communication through IM and video chat. For example I am a manager at a manufacturing company. Our employees do not sit in front of computers writing code all day. If I worked from home I would effectively have near zero communication with my staff because they are busy making products. While I could do some engineering from home, a large chunk of my job would be impossible to do off site. Good luck telecommuting to a hospital or a restaurant or a retail store or fitness center.

    There are some cases where telecommuting works great. There are many more where it simply doesn't work at all or doesn't work well. Even jobs that are compatible with telecommuting (like writing code) often find considerable added value in being co-located in the same building. A lot of people lose significant productivity when they aren't in an office and there is a surprising amount of administrative burden to managing a remote team.

Bringing computers into the home won't change either one, but may revitalize the corner saloon.

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