A couple years ago, I had this unusual lifestyle where I largely worked from home. Fast forward and many, many people are living that life now. What’s the transition been like for you and what city/area is it happening in?
I am a Seattle-based engineer for one of the large tech companies, one which, before Covid, emphasized the benefits of working in person most of the time, and which rarely approved requests for permanent remote work. I'm very grateful I got to WFH during the first year of the pandemic, before the vaccines became widely available. Even though I'm not in a high risk group, it was a nasty bug, and I'm glad I was able to reduce my exposure. No doubt significant WFH also slowed the initial spread.
But I've come to hate WFH. I find it isolating and unhealthy, and it's significantly reduced my work output, because I don't get to collaborate and network face to face. My team's work output seems to have been reduced across the board. The goals we're setting each quarter are less ambitious and that's not because we're sandbagging them.
I've slowly gained weight since my company mandated WFH, although that's also because I haven't been into a gym since early 2020. Washington reinstated the indoor mask mandate a couple of months ago, just as I was about to sign up for a gym. How the hell am I supposed to do cardio with a mask on?
Some people have loved mandatory full-time WFH. In my experience, those folks fall into at least one of four categories (in no particular order): a) introverted and (to be blunt) often somewhat socially awkward people who always wanted full-time WFH, and prior to Covid, complained bitterly about the company's reluctance to approve it; b) people who have newborn kids; c) people with very large families (4+ kids) who have all -- totally understandably -- decamped to far cheaper housing in the midwest and south; and d) people who have family care situations where they have to be near a parent or sibling. It remains to be seen whether the people with infants will still like it once the kids are big enough to scream really loud and run around all day long.
For most of the rest of us, I think full-time WFH is a bearable burden that is slowly turning us a little crazy. I feel like I'm just stuck in an endless chatroom with people I don't really know. It doesn't help that the company continues to vacillate on when mandatory return to office will happen. Voluntary RTO was allowed a while ago, and people were starting to trickle back, and things were just starting to feel normal again. But thanks to the state mandate, we all have to wear masks 100% all day, even at our desks, even though the company requires vaccinations and actually verifies our vax status.
Beyond work, I think WFH has completely broken the brains of the politically-active knowledge worker class, which was already a very-online left-liberal bubble. The left seems to have become the party of half-assed Covid zero. They know we won't actually lock down again, and vax mandates have been pushed about as far as courts will allow. The only button remaining on the control panel is "mask more" so they're frantically pounding it because we have to DO SOMETHING, even though this something is, empirically, of limited value, and is precluding lots of normal, healthy human interactions and behaviors.
My politics are pragmatic and centrist, but I always identified with the left, because the left was the part of the political spectrum that was pro-urban living and the things that facilitate it (housing density, public transit etc.) Now the left has become pro-social isolation and the right is pro-normal human interaction. Same with public schools, who knew republicans would be marching to battle under the banner of providing universal taxpayer-funded government services? I'm afraid democrats will get wiped out in the 'burbs in the next round of elections. Some of the republicans who are swept in on that tide will be loony bin conspiracy theorists, who will make effective governance impossible.
Oh man, I know for some people the WFH was great (I think there is also a gender gap on this, but purely anecdotal), I assume if you have a family and a long commute it may have been very helpful, but for me it has fuckin sucked big donkey balls.
I'm in Philadelphia, in financial services, and it eliminated many of the good things about my job.
It hurt my productivity because I am a distractable fucker at home alone, turns out.
It hurt my career progression because my boss, now that we barely saw each other, stopped including me as often on client calls, and ceased working on generating new client prospects.
It killed the camaraderie of the foxhole mentality and the late night after work drinking and venting sessions, which really helped on tougher weeks.
And it of course shuttered the office, which was/is a cool newer skyscraper that had a ton of amenities like a golf simulator, and movie screening room, and where I spent plenty of free time pre-pandemic.
I am getting ready to move on to a company that is more return-to-office oriented. And of course to make more money. Gotta love that tight labor market.
I'm in engineering. I've been doing the WFH since 2010 and, for the most part, have found my productivity has been much better than the previous 20+ years of working in an office setting. Prior to that I worked primarily at construction sites on mega projects at various locations (mostly rural) around the U.S.
In my experience there are positives and negatives in all of these settings. In the construction biz, when you're on-site there is a lot of teamwork required between all aspects of the project (engineering, craft, management, QC, etc.) in order to succeed and with that comes a lot of camaraderie. You also get to see the results of your efforts in that whatever it is that you are working on comes to exist in a physical (real -- you can see it and touch it) sense. Significant milestones along the way are usually celebrated jointly and that seems to lead to a kind of "one for all and all for one" attitude. This has been my experience anyway.
As far as working in an office. In a field where experience and mentoring is very important, since what you get at university is really just a foundation, the office setting is almost a necessary thing in order to enable an efficient transfer of knowledge from the old heads to the younguns. The down side for productivity for the more experienced is that being in the office requires taking time for mentoring, bullshitting with your office mates, and the endless meetings about things that are, at best, incidental to completing the projects or products that create income for the company (You can put various harassment training requirements which occupies more time and effort than that spent in improving the technical knowledge base of those doing the work here).
As far as WFH. If you don't make a concerted effort to interact, ideally in person, with your coworkers, management chain of command, and clients you find that your contributions are gradually seen to be less significant/desired with time (out of sight-out of mind). Also, the lifeblood of a career is often tied directly to the continual interaction with other people in the industry in order to increase your client base. That's very hard to do in the WFH setting.
I'm a middle manager working for a consulting company in the midwest. Our company is laid back and generally approved WFH on an ad hoc basis pre Covid. Since Covid, at least 75% of employees are always working at home. When we were told we should work from home, some still came into the office, when we were told to come back into the office, Delta quickly waxed and even though no official policy on going back home was ever articulated, the vast majority (via tacit approval from management) went back home. There's been a strategic ambiguity about policies from the get go. No one wants to make any sudden moves. The general playbook seems to be: upper management sets somewhat overwrought policies (masking, social distancing, temperature checks, a scrooge mcduck vault's worth of hand sanitizer) and enforcement is minimal. (That forehead thermometer was never used until some developers called it baby laser shark and made it the unofficial office pet). We all got to take home a ton of free hand sanitizer (but it smells horrible).
Majority WFH has, I think, neutered one of my company's best attributes - it is a pleasant place to spend your day working. People are generally collaborative and friendly, there's really no office politics or toxicity, and in general it's just a supportive environment. It's also a nice building aesthetically with free snacks/pop. So I think some of our issues with retention this year are that people are now getting big offers to WFH and when you're stuck in your home office anyway, the paycheck to culture calculus is going to skew even more paycheck. I don't want to overstate this as it's anecdotal, but I think banks, law firms, tech companies that are located in urban areas or areas with higher cost of living, are now seeking out talent from the midwest. They can pay more than we can and we haven't abandoned brick and mortal overhead yet. I'm suspicious this trend will last forever or that we won't adapt too. In some ways it's a great trend for employees, but it is creating so many challenges for me and other managers.
For my part, I have many kids and the hardest part of working from home is the emotional toll of boxing out my 5 year old son. He just loves to play with me and when I work from home I will average 3-5 times a day kicking him out of my office or asking him to stop knocking on my door. He is persistent so it feels like I'm just aggressively demonstrating to him how my work is more important than our time together. He takes is hard and says things like "I hate stupid work/meetings". It sounds silly but after the first year I went right back to the office and am there 9 out of 10 business days. I was also working much harder at home. At the office I talk to a lot of people and I can feel like I'm being productive in one sense while not grinding away at PowerPoints and spreadsheets. At home I work through breakfast, lunch, and sometimes don't even come up for dinner. My hours were longer. It's also harder as a manager to work from home because what used to be quick answers might now take a crafted email or back and forth. And if this is part of a serialized process it can just make things a struggle.
I appreciate my company's flexibility (it has allowed me to keep some of my top talent) and I'm glad that going forward, WFH will be more normalized, but I think I personally will be using it sparingly in the future and I think it has really hindered a lot of junior employees. Many young people in my company do not have a support system and I think they are lonely/struggling. They also don't really experience their mid and senior level cohorts in action, to understand what it takes to be a professional. Some of our interns that are still in school have really struggled, in part because their college experience (educational and social) has been severely degraded. I feel for them, and encourage them to come into the office for camaraderie. Some do, some don't. I'll close with: the county I am in is center right politically and sort of got over covid restrictions as soon as the governor lifted them last summer. So for some people, getting back into crowded conference rooms, going out to eat, etc has been going on for months and no one masks up or anything. But in some nearby urban centers, that's not the case. I'm curious whether your other subscribers see WFH as more of a blessing or curse in Covid restriction-heavy regions.
Thanks for the opportunity to let your readers chime in about slice of life things.
I'm a TV writer in Los Angeles.
It has definitely made life easier with regard to pitching shows and doing general meetings. Was always very annoying to drive an hour for a 30 minute meeting, then drive an hour back, for a general. Now it's very efficient on zoom. But writers rooms are difficult. Especially if it's a first year show, or a show where people aren't familiar with one another. For newer writers I imagine it's even harder. So much of the writers room is feel and familiarity... feeling comfortable to pitch real stuff, and it's much more difficult on zoom.
Also, I was curious if you read Peter Keifer's article on Hollywood last week?
I don’t like working from home. I’m lucky enough to live in a really nice apartment in central London with a plenty of space and lots of comforts. But, I just miss being out and about and around people. It’s not that I miss the office itself, I miss the ancillary things that go together with making the effort to go somewhere to work. Before Covid I had always considered myself to me quite an insular person, it turns out actually I am not.
I’m on Long Island; my office is in the city. I was already partly working from home before the pandemic - a day or two a week, usually. Without the pandemic it would never have gone more than that.
Working from home has been amazing for me and my family. I used to need to be out of the house by 7:15 to get into the office by 9. My day ends at 6, so I usually didn’t get home until 7:30 or so.
I’ve got three kids, the oldest 6. When I had to commute I got to make breakfast for them, sometimes, and maybe make it back in time to read them a book at night. Maybe. That was it. Now I’m heavily involved. I can eat breakfast with them, have lunch with the ones too young for school and dinner with everyone, take them to events, etc. My wife is on extended maternity leave, but having me around is a big help.
I’ve gained 3 hours a day back. My life is extremely flexible and I can get a lot of non-work stuff done during the day.
I’m in better shape. I can fit more exercise in, though I’ve lost a lot of walking during my commute. The walks are just about the only thing I miss about it.
We’re saving tons of money. My train ticket was about $350 a month; breakfast and lunch in NYC ran around $30 a day. We’re talking almost $1000 a month.
So it’s been great, and I’m not anxious to go back into that dump of a city, ever, for anything. But it looks like I’ll eventually have to do a day or two a week. Fine, but I can think of a few people I work with who are going to kick at that, and will probably quit.
Sometimes I wonder how much of the pandemic furor and anxiety is driven by people in similar situations to me, who desperately don’t want to go back to commuting. Getting in and out of NYC really, really sucks. I’ve got to imagine it’s one of the worst commutes around.
To complete my previous comment, I'm in northern New Mexico. Also, the COVID thing has made in person interaction very difficult. In my case, I have a network of people built up over 40 years, so interactions with that network kind of continues on the inertia built up previously. I would imagine for those new to an industry, the reduced opportunity for networking will be a real career killer.
We live in South Bay, and I work from home full-time since the beginning pandemic while my wife works from home half of the time and is in the office the other half. The transition has honestly been ideal in many ways as it lined up with the birth of our first daughter. We haven't had to use daycare or anything while both still being able to work full-time. I definitely miss going into the office and seeing people daily, but the positives around family with a now one-and-a-half year old have far outweighed that.
I go to the office 3 times a week, Tues-Thurs. It's a nice split. I'm productive at home, but I can lock-in a little easier in the office. But mostly, my office is in a vibrant part of Chicago, so I like to commute, walk the neighborhood, and feel the energy of the city a little bit. It's why I live here and not in suburbia.
I'm in Parker CO. I'm a Realtor so I technically work from home but get out frequently. It is amazing and horrible at the same time. I have a 4, 2, and 3 month old (all boys). I feel so fortunate being able to seeing the first two's first steps and be so involved with the day to day. I'm also able to help my wife out.
On the other hand, focus and efficiency are out the window. As Bruce commented below, it gets harder to WFH as the kids get older and start running around. My wife stays at home with them so they don't go to daycare. My office is on the main floor and they have figured out how to open baby gates so I have to put an interior lock on my office door ha. Even then the pounding, screaming, etc is very distracting.
Given that I worked from home prior to Covid I would be in this situation regardless. Overall seeing my kids is worth it but it is very challenging. I feel so bad for families that don't have the means to hire babysitters or live in really blue area's where they can't send their kids to school because the teacher unions are using Covid as leverage to get paid more.
I did, for the most part, WFH from the start of the pandemic through May 2021. It was nice with no commute and avoiding people at work I don't like, but ultimately I was itching to go back. I did go in one day a week from September 2020 through May 2021 just to get out of my apartment. I missed impromptu conversations with co-workers, meeting with students in person, and seeing them when I walked around campus (always good times for impromptu check ins). There definite benefits with WFH, just not my preferred method. I live in the SF East Bay.
I have worked from home (Capitol Hill/DC) since March 2020 in my primary job. I did a detail outside my agency (federal) that had me working in person for about half the year, and now I am back to working from home. I have mixed feelings on it. I don't mind not going into my less than fancy office 5 days a week and dealing with metro delays/crowding/wearing a suit, etc, but I do think something as lost by being totally virtual. It's especially odd as I know many people are probably resuming most of their pre March 2020 activities, but certain parts of society are suspended in semi permanent pre-vaccine mode. I imagine this will change sometime near spring/summer 2022 and then I'll probably be complaining about commuting in the DC heat.
Been working from home since April, 2020, representing East Van, BC! Working from home is the shit. I hate socializing with my coworkers and also it's distracting when there are attractive ladies at work.
I have worked from home for the past 10 years. I think it’s such a win-win for all parties involved. The company doesn’t need to pay for expensive office space and can recruit outside of a 30 mile radius. The employees don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic commuting to work. They can also live anywhere they want and have a higher quality of life. I’m also so much more productive at home without distractions.
I work disability insurance claims and have been at home for 3 years before the pandemic. I love it. Helped me move to a low cost area, out of Portland, ME. My gf also works from home doing IT training for a cloud computing company. A lot of people have said being stuck at home with their girlfriend or wife has been tough but I love it. We basically get to hang all day on the clock and once it’s time to do leisure we’ve sorta already chilled all day so I can watch my games and read and she can watch her horror and reality shit. It’s also nice to be able to vacuum or do a load of laundry while you’re working.
I’ve been working from home in the Bay Area for the first time since the pandemic begun. I take full advantage of my new set up. I’m able to witness every moment of my 10 month old boy’s life and help out around the house during working hours. When work is slow I can go grab groceries, get a workout in from my home gym in the garage or even play 9-holes of golf.
Honestly the best thing about my new office is being able to play with my boy while getting paid instead of being stuck at my cubicle. My work has told us this new working set up will be the way going forward. Covid has been a blessing for our little family
No insight about WFH here, just an article idea. I enjoy how you care for David Stern and I really don’t like Adam Silver. I enjoy calling him a “pussy lib” to all friends that know the NBA. Maybe you can write something about how dear Adam is ruining the NBA. Just go through the things that he’s done that have hurt the league (and what David Stern hypothetically would’ve done, might as well fully embrace the David Stern cape). Really, I think dear Adam is ruining the league with his reluctance to use Elam Ending for all games, shorten the season by at least half, or do anything of substance other than make a show about what a big meanie Donald Sterling is. I read dear Adam’s Wikipedia and he’s one of those rich kids that followed orders, got the grades and kissed the asses to get into Duke and feel good about himself getting a worthless degree in Political Science. I know some people that went to law school (Dad included) and most of them are flaming train wrecks that are terrible with money and in love with the “status” that being a lawyer is supposed to bring. I’m sure David Stern was the exception to this lol.
Another thing that makes me think dear Adam is a pie-in-the-sky idealist is how he waited until he was fifty-five to start having his family. Unfair, maybe, but also probably something that would only happen with someone who chose to implement more official replay review.
Anyways, no one else is going to write a reasonable, well thought out article about what an awful, feckless person Adam Silver is and I would enjoy it if you wrote something like that. It would seem to follow your preference for writing about things that you can’t find anywhere else but I understand if this is a bit much since it would probably make A LOT of powerful people upset with you for pointing out what a puppet the commissioner of the NBA is.
Is dear Adam going to run the NBA into being less popular than hockey?