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Author Topic: Back to the Office  (Read 977 times)

Barrington Boots

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Back to the Office
« on: 22 July, 2021, 10:43:45 AM »
I'm back in today, doing 2 / 3 days a week in the office.

It seems a weird decision on the part of my boss: I'm now in here with just four other people, so there's not really the sort of jolly atmosphere that I think they want; I'm working in a less efficient way and I had to spend an hour getting here (I don't want to go into the various Covid risks that no longer seem to be being observed and threaten to derail things, but obviously that's a factor too). From those of us that are in there's a general feeling that it's a waste of time.

I know it varies from job to job but I can't see the benefits to the company of having this massive office sitting 90% empty when they could save money on rent etc and I'm wondering if 'the office' is going to get gradually phased out in favour of home working, regardless of pandemic. What do you guys reckon?
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IndigoPrime

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #1 on: 22 July, 2021, 10:53:19 AM »
Personally, I think flexibility and agility are key. For some people, there is no need to come into an office, but they might want to. For others, there will be some need, but they won’t want to. And then there’s everything in between. The problem right now is companies attempting to fit everyone into the same box by mandating some kind of faux flexibility (like three days a week in, but also stating which days they have to be). Plus, from what I’m hearing locally, rail travel is no cheaper when you head into e.g. London three days a week instead of five.

Companies need to be better. My fear is many or even most will push hard to revert to the status quo, for no obvious reason beyond ‘management’ thinking their employees don’t work unless watched, or through misguided notions about the ongoing and constant (rather than random) benefits of in-person conversations.

Right now, however, I think it’s a very different ask. We are in a pandemic with rapidly increasing cases. It’s reckless to expect people to return to office work, just because a hapless government says it’s OK.

Jim_Campbell

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #2 on: 22 July, 2021, 11:17:26 AM »
Right now, however, I think it’s a very different ask. We are in a pandemic with rapidly increasing cases. It’s reckless to expect people to return to office work, just because a hapless government says it’s OK.

I'm absolutely convinced this whole, unnecessary "back to work" drive is being pushed by lobbying from commercial landlords, who are absolutely terrified of a permanent and significant contraction in the demand for office space.
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IndigoPrime

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #3 on: 22 July, 2021, 11:22:40 AM »
There’s an element of that, for sure. But it’s also down to government ministers not empathising with anything outside of their bubble and increasingly limited experience (in terms of successive governments). So for them, so much of ‘work’ involves face-to-face and they struggle without it. They then assume that’s the case for everyone. We’ve seen Johnson bang on about this several times now.

Barrington Boots

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #4 on: 22 July, 2021, 11:39:41 AM »
A bit of both for me, I think there's substantial pressure from commercial landlords (i've been told this morning several companies who rented floors in our office block have left over this year - landlord must be sweating it) but also I think both the government and a lot of industry leaders do think 'work' means 'in an office, in a suit, talking to people face to face'. Although my job is essentially IT based, the focus of the company is sales, as thus the higher ups are still in a sales mindset.

Flexibility is definitely key: I want to work at home, but I have a spare room, a garden and a cat, which all make the experience extremely nice. If I was in the skanky Birmingham bedsit flat I once lived in then I might feel differently.

I think / hope we will start to see that shift in working habits that we were talking about at the start of the pandemic, but I have a feeling it'll be a while coming,
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Jim_Campbell

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #5 on: 22 July, 2021, 12:00:45 PM »
Flexibility is definitely key: I want to work at home, but I have a spare room, a garden and a cat, which all make the experience extremely nice. If I was in the skanky Birmingham bedsit flat I once lived in then I might feel differently.

I completely get this. Obviously, I've been home-based for over a decade now, but I understand that not everyone's homes are suitable to work from, and not everyone's job can be done from home. The idea, however, that people who can work, and have been working, quite effectively from home should be forced back into the office is enraging.

My wife's employers are doing this right now. She doesn't want to go back — she talks to her staff (all also currently working from home) all the time. There's been zero impact on the functioning of the department she manages, except that she's got 10+ hours a week she wasn't getting paid for back in saved commuting time, and any additional hit to us extra electricity/heating over the last year and a bit is more than covered by savings on travel.

She's ready to actually quit over this because, quite reasonably, she doesn't want to have to get on public transport with potentially maskless people, nor sit in a building with 300 other workers while the air con cycles everyone's bugs (not just covid) around the place. She hasn't been sick a single day since she started working from home.

I've advised her to push back, to make them try and sack her if they want to be dicks about it. What grounds are they going to cite? Her safety concerns are groundless? Tough to make that one stick, especially right now. Negative impact on the business? Hard to make that claim with fifteen months of continuous evidence to the contrary.

None of her team wants to go back, either. Like I said to her, they're not children and "because we said so" isn't a good enough reason for adults to follow the instruction of other adults when those instructions mean significantly increasing the risk of exposure to a dangerous virus.
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #6 on: 22 July, 2021, 12:28:21 PM »
That's terrible about your wife Jim, she really should be pushing back. I hope it's resolved in her favour as it sounds like forcing her and her team back is literally because 'we used to do it like that' without any real assessment of the impact on actual work done.

I can empathise as I feel exactly the same. I've raised it with my line manager and it's been suggested that I do this for a few weeks and we review mid-August. Obviously I'm hoping I don't catch anything on the plague-train in the interim, but even without that there's quality of life issues: not wasting hours on a commute is huge and you can do a lot with that extra time. (It's a big saving financially too but I've been wasting all that on comic stuff). I feel it'd be different if there was a business case for it, but it doesn't appear there is one.

I think there'll be a few cases arising of people challenging this reverting-to-an-old-status-quo, I suspect a lot of employers will go with majoroity opinion.
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Jim_Campbell

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #7 on: 22 July, 2021, 12:51:50 PM »
I feel it'd be different if there was a business case for it, but it doesn't appear there is one.

This is exactly what I've said to my wife: every time they bring it up, ask them what the business case is for doing this. Sooner or later, they'll have to admit that there isn't one.

It's particularly galling because both her manager and the manager above (director level) agree that there's no reason for it but, apparently, the push is coming from the senior exec level and, at that point, it starts to sound a lot like someone just wants to exert their authority because they feel everything should go 'back to normal'.
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Woolly

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #8 on: 22 July, 2021, 01:07:43 PM »
Right now, however, I think it’s a very different ask. We are in a pandemic with rapidly increasing cases. It’s reckless to expect people to return to office work, just because a hapless government says it’s OK.

I'm absolutely convinced this whole, unnecessary "back to work" drive is being pushed by lobbying from commercial landlords, who are absolutely terrified of a permanent and significant contraction in the demand for office space.


This. Absolutely this.

I'm also guessing this is related to the massive push in buying residential properties that investment firms seem to be doing, which is making buying a house *very* difficult for people I know.
The rich have got to keep that rent coming in if they're going to continue sitting on their arses!

sintec

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #9 on: 22 July, 2021, 01:10:10 PM »
Yeah seeing some of this at my place too. Thankfully I'd agreed to move to home working before Covid hit as I needed to relocate for my partners new job so it doesn't directly impact me.

We've already had one person leave because they didn't want to return to the office and were being told it would (eventually) be mandated. I can see us losing some more before this is over. From what I can see this mandate is largely being driven by one manager who has a tendency to micro-manage her team. She's finding every reason she can to justify getting everyone back in the office despite things having, largely, worked quite well for the last year. There are a few genuine issues but I get the feeling no one is looking for any alternative solutions.
« Last Edit: 22 July, 2021, 01:12:39 PM by sintec »

IndigoPrime

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #10 on: 22 July, 2021, 01:45:58 PM »
This is exactly what I've said to my wife: every time they bring it up, ask them what the business case is for doing this. Sooner or later, they'll have to admit that there isn't one.
A friend works for a company that tried to push things, even when there wasn’t a business case. In the end, things derailed when the senior managers all stated they would continue to work remotely, because one of them had moved overseas and rather liked it there. Even so, they’re still trying to stipulate other staff should be in at least two days a week. It’s insane.

Mister Pops

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #11 on: 22 July, 2021, 02:54:18 PM »
It's all a bit up in the air at my job. There's to be a review in September before the start of the new semester. My manager is quite happy to let us continue as is. In fact she was quite thrilled she was finally able to implement the paperless office the university had been pushing back against for the last few years. The only students we deal with are Visa applicants overseas*, whom we never saw face-to-face before this. However the decision will be made much higher up the food chain. I'd just like to know if it's worth investing in a desk for the spare room, so I can reclaim my kitchen table.

There have been several staff surveys over the course of this pandemic, the results of which have shown that the vast majority favour home working. There is still a sizable minority of absolute psychos who seem way to eager to get back to the office. Included is my former manager, who pushed to get everyone back last September and caused an outbreak which I got caught in.

My commute is the guts of two hours everyday, and this is by no means the longest out of my colleagues. Over the course of the year, morning meetings have commonly involved colleagues expressing relief that they don't have to drive with all that ice on the roads, or sit on a bus/train for an hour in that heat. Belfast rush hour is also hell on Earth. I remember hearing a report that it's actually the worst in Western Europe by contrast in journey time between on and off peak hours. There's a common theory here that the road system was purposely badly designed, so that traffic could be locked down easily during the troubles**.
Anyway, the point I've strayed off is that it seems needlessly cruel to take that free time off workers, just as things open up and we can fully benefit from that free time.

Many aspects of the office seem needlessly cruel, where once they were taken for granted. I would not choose to spend a single penny on the drab uncomfortable clothes mandated by the office dress code. I wouldn't be allowed to sit at my computer topless in shorts like I am today***. And I can also be productive over my lunch break, doing things like housework and posting rambly posts on weird obscure comic book forums. I've had time for proper breakfasts. I have prep time to make proper meals.

Before all this, there were several campaigns and schemes at my job, stressing the importance of good mental health among the staff. Posters everwhere. It will be interesting to see how that will work if the bring us all back in full-time. No I do not want mindful-fucking-ness classes! I want to be working in my nice comfy house, not dreading the commute and having to face chores when I get home.

I have a friend who is a bar manager who has told me to suck it up because he doesn't have the option to work from home. I have told him I am open to sucking it up, but only after I get the same length of paid holiday he got during furlough.






*many of whom are reconsidering coming here because of how badly Bojo's banjaxing it.

**now Bojo is telling all the victims to just draw a line under their dead relatives and move on with your life****. To be fair though, he has got all the parties here to agree that this is a horrifying thing to do.

***and for that mental image, you are welcome!

****This is probably how he will address the 100,000 families who lost loved ones during this pandemic.
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IndigoPrime

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #12 on: 22 July, 2021, 04:29:48 PM »
I have a friend who is a bar manager who has told me to suck it up because he doesn't have the option to work from home.
Frankly, that mindset of “I have it worse than you, and therefore we should ensure our experiences are equally bad” can get in the fucking sea. Enough of that kind of thing, world.

Funt Solo

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #13 on: 22 July, 2021, 04:50:26 PM »
Such an interesting topic, with so many issues:

 - Less commuting is (probably) good for the environment (fewer cars on the roads) and (definitely) good for the soul.
 - The CBD-supporting economy would suffer.
 - Would each household running a mini-office be better or worse than a centralized location, as regards environmental impact? I don't know the answer to this.
 - Sometimes, it is better to meet in person (e.g. much of teaching), and sometimes it's unavoidable (e.g. bus drivers).
 - Anecdotally, Valve are very keen on in-person working as their entire team structure is founded on an organic, drifting, what-are-you-up-to-now-oh-that-looks-interesting approach that rather requires you to be able to wander over, listen in and peek over shoulders.
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Richard

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Re: Back to the Office
« Reply #14 on: 22 July, 2021, 10:02:31 PM »
Quote
it's been suggested that I do this for a few weeks and we review mid-August.

That's just an excuse to restore the old status quo, at which point it will be harder to go back to working from home again.