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The Great Office Return

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  • The Great Office Return

    Just an article about how the "Great Return" may pan out from a few different perspectives....

    Fifteen months into the pandemic, Brookfield's office buildings in Washington are only at about 14% occupancy, down from 80% in normal times. Companies that ordered their employees to work from home in March 2020 are only now starting to bring them back into the office. Some are waiting until fall to bring back workers in significant numbers, while others have no plans to return to pre-pandemic work arrangements at all.
    I think most folks are aware of my perspective, that the Work-From-Home revolution will be slowly rolled back for a variety of reasons. The number 1 reason being the employers desire for easy control of their workforce.

    However, that is not the only perspective. I think this article takes a decent look at some of the alternate perspectives and thinking out there about the Great Office Return.

  • #2
    I think once employees get back to the office and the higher ups notice that being in the office doesn't really improve productivity, that is when things will start to change. They will be asking why they are paying for these building leases? Why are they making their workers commute so much and making their lives harder?

    I think the ones that keep Work from Home will keep a very sharp edge over competitors who do not. People who want or need work from home will leave for better jobs in droves.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Dreadwinter View Post
      I think once employees get back to the office and the higher ups notice that being in the office doesn't really improve productivity, that is when things will start to change. They will be asking why they are paying for these building leases? Why are they making their workers commute so much and making their lives harder?

      I think the ones that keep Work from Home will keep a very sharp edge over competitors who do not. People who want or need work from home will leave for better jobs in droves.
      They might care about the building leases. They won't care about making their employees commute.


      • #4
        Eh, if it is an easy way to raise morale. They will care.


        • BobtheInquisitor
          BobtheInquisitor commented
          Editing a comment
          I thought that’s what the proverbial beatings were for?

      • #5
        I work for a state government. We're winding down WFH and I think it's because they want to keep an eye on us. After all, all government employees are lazy and need strict supervision or they are going to not work. ;)


        • #6
          I am an "essential" service worker. Though no one would die or fall to any particular harm if I hadn't gone to the office for the last year. I would have *loved* to have worked from home, but it wasn't meant to be.

          I think that companies that found productivity was good, and also noticed a decrease in costs due to less overhead, fewer sick days, etc will strongly consider a permanent change. I have a friend that works in insurance, and his company is currently on the fence about making the arrangement for the brokers permanent. His company has a "tracker" of sorts that if you are away / not typing on your computer for a length of time, you need to justify it (if your boss decides he wants you too...). For example, he had booked an afternoon off for an appointment, his boss forgot, so on Monday he had a "Where were you Friday afternoon" email to deal with.

          I'm an introvert by nature, I wouldn't mind it at all. My brother-in-lawesome has been working from home, and he's an extrovert. He's suffering from lack of outside interaction, he likes the office atmosphere... for me it's a distraction.

          I think that there's a sufficient "Big Brother" capability that the easy control of the workforce / ensuring productivity isn't much of an issue. I would personally see it as a win/win for people to work from home, if they could.


          • #7
            I wa sin the office this morning for the first time in over a year, showing cleaners the place as it's been dormant for the whole time and there is a lot of dust etc. We are hoping to slowly ease back to full time in the office over the summer.

            For me, WFH has been a mixed blessing. Sleeping in until 10 mins before I have to 'clock in' has been nice but honestly it's harder to stay motivated and focused from home. Plus I like people.


            • #8
              I will put this as exhibit A as to why the WFH revolution is not going to last. This was from 2013, but all the "findings" and reasons still apply.....


              Best Buy management gives the same justification Yahoo has, that they need everyone in the office as they try to turn the company around:

              “It makes sense to consider not just what the results are but how the work gets done,” said Best Buy spokesman Matt Furman. “Bottom line, it’s ‘all hands on deck’ at Best Buy and that means having employees in the office as much as possible to collaborate and connect on ways to improve our business.”

              It may be an unintended consequence, but Joly's involved himself in a debate about flexible work as well. Best Buys' particularly liberal policy was heavily publicized in the past, and it's a big shift to do away with it entirely.
              This was from back in 2013...... I was in the area and got to see the experiment play out real time.


              • #9
                And that translates to "micromanagers don't like it when they can't literally see people sitting at their desks".

                And it is a lot harder to pressure someone into staying for overtime over Microsoft Teams than it is in person. The Bill Lumberghs will drag everyone back into the office so they can nag them about the TPS reports and cover sheets.


                • #10
                  I’m lucky in that I’ve never had a job with much direct oversight (surprising no-one, I’m sure) and even working in an office, I have little in the way of specific deadlines unless a project needs doing... and even then it’s more a case of advising management of my ETA for milestones.

                  In my experience, many of the managers I’ve worked for were mostly hands-off, results oriented people. As long as the job is done well and on time, it’s good times. Maybe that gives me a more optimistic view on this.


                  • #11
                    I've had a mixed experience of remote working but I think a lot of it will stay in place in academia. Obviously tons of us work from home (or libraries or cafes) all the time but remote teaching and remote conferences are here to stay on some level, I think.

                    For conferences I think this is really great. Particularly in my field, where loads of the universities with major projects studying ancient West Asia and the money to hold the big conferences aren't based there. Frequently, our local colleagues can't afford to attend conferences in Europe and the US, and they often can't get visas even if they can find the money. Likewise the big ones aren't at all affordable for students except those at universities with extremely deep student travel funds (which in archaeology, ancient history, and ancient West Asian languages basically means the Ivy League, Chicago, and Oxbridge) so there's been a massive flattening of access to emerging research and networks with widespread WFH.

                    For teaching it's a double edged sword. Online teaching is great for small group stuff. Participation is good. It's nice and easy for most people and you can usually find ways of working around specific issues like people struggling for quiet spaces at home in certain hours. It also lets people ask questions in text in real time and we get a lot more engagement from some students who'd be disinclined to ask questions in front of an audience.

                    I'm not a fan of it for full length lectures to large groups, however. Participation is pretty poor and delivering them to a blank screen is hard so they're less engaging and less informative.

                    Unfortunately, it's the latter that's gonna find lasting traction. Most UK unis at least are planning to retain online lectures next year whilst moving back to in-person small group teaching. It's both easier to maintain social distancing if need be, and easier to schedule classes which is a constant nightmare at basically every university that isn't Oxford or Cambridge (who simply don't have large lectures) because student numbers are high and lecture theatres are few.


                    • #12
                      My wife started working in the office a few days a week, and she feels much more productive. It’s also easier for her to get ahold of people in person than waiting or an email.


                      • #13
                        The site I work at is an office and distribution centre. We're not fully re-opening any time soon. The DC is running, but aside from a small group of core staff the office is empty and everyone else is working from home pretty successfully. We have opened up one office area with bookable desks that home-workers can reserve if they want to come in for the day, but at the moment there are no plans to go any further than that.

                        The distribution centre gets very busy in the months running up to Christmas, and last year with social distancing in place we had to expand the DC picking areas out into a lot of the un-used office space, so that the additional volume of Christmas temporary staff could maintain social distancing. I think the plan is to keep the office space empty until Christmas shipping starts again this year in case we need to do the same again.


                        • #14
                          We're officially offering a hybrid office/home setup for the employees that want it, with full office return (eventually) for those that want to go back into the office.
                          For home working we'd have maybe a 3/2 split, with the obligation to go into the office for any big meetings etc.

                          We're actually going a bit further and moving some people to hot-desks rather than expand the office space to fit everyone (we were nearly at capacity before Covid and have hired more staff). Other companies I know have closed or downsized office spaces.

                          I think there will be a Government level push to get people back into offices, purely because office landlords must be worried about companies not coming back.

                          It's a shame, because from an environmental/congestion/lifestyle point of view working from home is brilliant; think how many car miles we're just not doing any more. I was an 80 mile round trip before.


                          • #15
                            Place I work has had a plan in place for a while now.

                            Currently limited people working in the office, and only for three days (might be two). No word on compulsory returns. Which suits me down to the ground.