Missing the Office

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Missing the Office

  • The company I work for has about 120 employees but desks for only 80 or so. We moved to a hot-desk office model during the pandemic and kept it ever since.

    The hot-desk office model is one of the reasons some employees would rather work from home. There they can personalise their desk and make it feel as if it is a part of them — it is their personal space within the working world. Some have invested in expansive monitors, nice work chairs and so on. They may leave photos of loved on their desks. They feel a deeper connection with their job.

    They are spared the indignity of having to put away all of their stuff at the end of the day, an act which says, you only work here. They are spared the hassle of setting up their desk each morning.

    I would prefer a quasi hot-desk model, that is, one moves as the work requires it. If you are in a new project with a new combination of co-workers, then it makes sense to sit down beside them so that the team benefits from proximity. If somebody else would like the desk that you are sitting in, then let them reserve it and they have it next week.

  • I'm sure there are some people who miss being in the office and for some reason, there are people who love that "open floor plan" idea. I could deal with being in an office, but the commute time was definitely a factor against it. The open floor plan was something I absolutely detested - noise and distractions everywhere, sound bouncing off everything, no place to go to actually focus. Add in a commute to a busy downtown with lots of traffic and hard to find parking and I don't ever want a return to that sort of office.

    I know some companies have a policy now of reserving desk space / cubicles for people who will be in the office 3+ days/week. Anyone else gets a first available slot if/when they come in. One company I work with gave their people an option of staying remote and getting that random assignment if they came in or signing up for an office. My co-workers there all opted to stay remote and have regular checkpoints to handle banter and chats and such. It works well for them.  Being remote hasn't stopped the "walk-by" work/conversations too much, either, though they _are_ a bit more work-focused.

    For me, I far prefer the remote work option. I can still communicate with co-workers and get my work done, but have some flexibility to be there for the family or run an errand that's close to home without taking PTO and dealing with a crazy commute to handle all of those. There are some benefits to that office work, but it seems that a lot of the "return to office" push is either from managers who don't think work is getting done because they can't see people or higher-ups looking at their expensive business leases not being used.

  • I am not a fan of open workspaces. When I am working, I do not want to be able to see anyone nor do I want to be seen. I am too easily distracted.

    I think one needs to be intentional about interacting with their coworkers. This applies to both in-person and remote work. It is certainly easier for that to happen when everyone is in an office but its not guaranteed.

    I found this article about cubes rather interesting:

    Bring Office Cubicles Back; Improve Employee Productivity, Hybrid Work (businessinsider.com)

  • The office environment you described, Steve, would be a nightmare for me. I've been forced back to the office, with no reason given. It was an order. I now work in a cube farm that is loud, noisy, and highly disruptive. There's a manager in a cube nearby who stands almost all day. He's on the phone most of the day, talking very loudly as if he thinks it requires him to shout at whoever he's talking to for them to hear him. I'm ruining my hearing because I wear a headset playing music as loudly as I can handle, trying to drown out the noise and distractions around me.

    Furthermore, as it just so happens the culture here, at least among the developers, is we all work alone. All collaboration is done via MS Teams or email. As my colleagues say, I'm doing at the office what I would do at home.

    In March 2020, when we were all ordered to work from home (WFH), it was the first experience I'd ever had WFH. I'd never heard of WFH, until the COVID pandemic. I fell in love with WFH, because of the hours I gained not having to commute!! I was able to re-engage with my wife and family. I was able to have a life, again. For two years I felt that WFH was the only way to work. But as I read online of how some people missed the in-office experience, I realized that my insisting everyone WFH, is wrong. I now know that WFH, especially full time as I'd like to, isn't for everyone. It is for me, but I'm not going to force it on others. Unfortunately, there are employers who feel that the only way of working is everyone in the office, all the time, and they refuse to discuss it with their employees.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • Teams might be close in some places I've worked, but the entire company at JD Edwards felt like a family of people who were working together.

    I'm not a fan of comparisons made between family and the people you work with.  I absolutely detest when management insists on referring to employees as family. "We are all part of the company xyz family." *puke* I understand most of us spend just as much time with our co-workers as our family, but family is so much more than the time you spend with people.

    Whenever I read accounts from people who prefer in-office, my mind always wonders two things: 1. Are they management types who believe people would be more efficient if they worked together in an office? 2. Are they especially lonely and crave contact with other people?  (This is reinforced by the coworkers who corner you in your cube and won't stop talking for half an hour or longer.) I say "especially lonely" on purpose, because in today's screen-oriented and hyper-individualized world, most people are lonely on some level, and many may not even realize it.  Everyone needs community of some sort and I suspect many don't know how to find it.  Falling back on employers to provide community seems dangerous.  That isn't when employment is for. What happens if your employment is terminated? What happens if you get a new boss who is awful?  What happens if your coworkers move on? Seems like a recipe for depression.

    Especially for us white-collar workers, we need a healthy view that sees work as a means to an end. It's great to make friends with coworkers, but we need deeper relationships outside of that.  I think Steve has done a good job of pointing that out in some of his other articles, the ones where he suggests making time for yourself, your hobbies, your family, outside of work.


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  • There's a small image that has been going around on social media that sums up a lot of the "worker" perspective.  Some people are excited to get back in the office to catch up with everyone, get the local gossip, share life. Others indicate "you're the reason we don't want to go back to the office".  🙂

    There are definitely some benefits to being able to collaborate in person, but I'm in the "please let me work" camp. I know I can get sucked in to just chatting but that doesn't help anyone. And then we get the great "team building" exercises outside of work hours. I remember a couple of those and I just said "I have a family I want to see and they'll be around long after I've left here".  If you want to build teams - do it during business hours.  And I generally like my co-workers, but we're not at the "spend hours outside of work together" level. We're at the "we're in this together to get a job done and I respect your skills" level.

  • I get Steve's point of view.  I'm an introvert but I have discovered that I have limits.  It doesn't do me good to be WFH 100%.

    My team tend to arrange to get together in the office on a particular day or two.  We find the amount of communication and collaboration we need requires us to get together to clear up any ambiguity in what we are doing.

  • Peter Schott wrote:

    There's a small image that has been going around on social media that sums up a lot of the "worker" perspective.  Some people are excited to get back in the office to catch up with everyone, get the local gossip, share life. Others indicate "you're the reason we don't want to go back to the office".  🙂

    There are definitely some benefits to being able to collaborate in person, but I'm in the "please let me work" camp. I know I can get sucked in to just chatting but that doesn't help anyone. And then we get the great "team building" exercises outside of work hours. I remember a couple of those and I just said "I have a family I want to see and they'll be around long after I've left here".  If you want to build teams - do it during business hours.  And I generally like my co-workers, but we're not at the "spend hours outside of work together" level. We're at the "we're in this together to get a job done and I respect your skills" level.

    I like what you said here, Peter. I'll add that in my work environment, there's a LOT of pressure to not socialize. I feel guilty just going to the  bathroom, if a manager sees me not at my cubicle.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • My opinion - where I work we started with the development team being in a room on their own with low noise (little bit of chats between the 20-ish developers and IT team, but usually was pretty quiet). I enjoyed this as people could come in if they had urgent issues and talk to us, but for the most part, we were left to work on support issues and application development. If we had problems, it was easy to reach out to the team to get help or book a meeting to get more details and solve problems. Downside was we worked on the main floor beside an emergency exit that had a poor seal on the door. So every fall we would get TONS of bugs coming into the building in our area and not the type of bugs we could fix with code changes. One day, the boss had enough of the bugs so we moved.

    We moved from that to the second floor and went with an "open concept" apart from the boss's office who got an office in the corner of the building with a nice view of the outside as there were windows on 2 of the walls in their office! Lucky bugger, eh? The rest of us got an open concept for the team with a partial temporary wall set up between the team and the rest of the business. This resulted in a LOT more of the business coming in and interrupting us with both work and non-work things. I can't count the number of times I was eating at my lunch at my desk and reading jokes online or checking my personal email and someone would come up to me and say "I see you are eating lunch, but can you help me with ...". That drove me nuts. You can obviously see I am on a break and you choose to interrupt it? My bad for not running off to the lunch room to eat, but I get the same thing in there - "I see you are eating lunch but can you come to my desk to help me with XYZ?". Basically, if I didn't go "out" to eat my lunch, there was a good chance I'd be interrupted. Plus, I can't count the number of times I'd be focused on a problem, tracing through a program with 1000's of lines of code, and have tons of stuff in my brain for tracing stuff back and remembering variables and such and someone would interrupt me. Later we got rid of the walls and concentration was hard to do. I ended up making TONS of notes instead of trying to remember things and I'd have 100's of notepad windows open so I'd remember what was going on and interruptions meant I'd only need to spend 15 minutes reviewing notepad rather than 30+ basically restarting the debugger.

    Now, I am fully work from home (covid hit, got short term work from home, year passed and still work from home, so the business reallocated my workspace, so I have no place to work on site anymore so I'm fully work from home). Concentration is TONS easier. Someone needs to get a hold of me, it's on MY time. Email, teams, phone calls - I reply IF I am not in the middle of something. I can spend hours reading some code to fix an issue and no interruptions! It is SOOOO much nicer. I miss the socializing a bit, but I am a LOT more productive. Plus I actually get my breaks now! I can walk away from my computer and nobody is coming to me with work problems.

    Now, some departments I think it makes more sense to have on site and some app development/support it makes sense to have on site. My department though we have people all over NA (Canada and USA), so it would be hard to have everyone "on site" unless we forced people to move which would not go over well. Overall, I find it MUCH easier to focus on coding (fixing bugs, developing new small apps, etc.) working from home than working in the office.

    The above is all just my opinion on what you should do. 
    As with all advice you find on a random internet forum - you shouldn't blindly follow it.  Always test on a test server to see if there is negative side effects before making changes to live!
    I recommend you NEVER run "random code" you found online on any system you care about UNLESS you understand and can verify the code OR you don't care if the code trashes your system.

  • Rod at work wrote:

    I like what you said here, Peter. I'll add that in my work environment, there's a LOT of pressure to not socialize. I feel guilty just going to the  bathroom, if a manager sees me not at my cubicle.

    We had a C-level who made it a point to count "bottoms in chairs" twice a day at the last office I was in. That was in a downtown area where traffic was a nightmare so I got in crazy early and left just as early to "go to lunch". I'm sure that counted against me. I had enjoyed that job before that, but the acquisitions and the open floor craziness made it into a job I really didn't enjoy. It didn't help that the co-workers who all had gotten along pretty well were jumping ship and the new owners intentionally instituted departmental silos again.  But the whole "we made a deal with the city to get ### employees into this space" counting was a big part of not enjoying the job.

    To be fair, they didn't care as much if we socialized some as long as we were visible doing so in order to be counted. :/

  • An open concept would be a deal breaker for me.  To loud and to much distraction.  To many eyes on me, I wouldn't be able to slip out to SQL Server Central several times a day. 🙂

    -------------------------------------------------------------
    we travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us
    Don't fear failure, fear regret.

  • Regardless of how employees feel about working at an office versus from home, the reality is that many companies sold off their non-C level realestate or terminated their office space lease. It would be a huge investment to transition back again, and they will approach any such decision from a cost / benefit analysis.

    I find the concept of small scale multi-tenant office space rental as an investment opportunity intriguing. While residential property is inflated, there is still a lot of vacant office building and strip mall space.

    That startup company, WeWork, was doing that on a large scale. Ironically, mismanagement and bad timing has left their stock (once as high as $600 / share) at $0.14 per share now.

    https://bigcharts.marketwatch.com/quickchart/quickchart.asp?symb=WEWKQ&insttype=&freq=2&show=&time=13

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • Rod at work wrote:

    The office environment you described, Steve, would be a nightmare for me. I've been forced back to the office, with no reason given. It was an order. I now work in a cube farm that is loud, noisy, and highly disruptive. There's a manager in a cube nearby who stands almost all day. He's on the phone most of the day, talking very loudly as if he thinks it requires him to shout at whoever he's talking to for them to hear him. I'm ruining my hearing because I wear a headset playing music as loudly as I can handle, trying to drown out the noise and distractions around me.

    I would try just getting some noise cancelling headphones.  I did exactly what you are doing back in the late 90's.  I had a coworker making all kinds of loud noises clearing their throat and nose all day long.

    I'm now dealing with Tinnitus in both ears.  Wish I could have had noise cancelling headphones back then.

    Also back in the late 90's the company I worked for had the IT department in the basement.  I know shocking, not.  We had a pipe burst and flood the basement.  They had to get rid of all the carpet and cubicle walls.  It was horrible for everyone and productivity plummeted.

    -------------------------------------------------------------
    we travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us
    Don't fear failure, fear regret.

  • Peter Schott wrote:

    Rod at work wrote:

    I like what you said here, Peter. I'll add that in my work environment, there's a LOT of pressure to not socialize. I feel guilty just going to the  bathroom, if a manager sees me not at my cubicle.

    We had a C-level who made it a point to count "bottoms in chairs" twice a day at the last office I was in. That was in a downtown area where traffic was a nightmare so I got in crazy early and left just as early to "go to lunch". I'm sure that counted against me. I had enjoyed that job before that, but the acquisitions and the open floor craziness made it into a job I really didn't enjoy. It didn't help that the co-workers who all had gotten along pretty well were jumping ship and the new owners intentionally instituted departmental silos again.  But the whole "we made a deal with the city to get ### employees into this space" counting was a big part of not enjoying the job.

    To be fair, they didn't care as much if we socialized some as long as we were visible doing so in order to be counted. :/

    Dang, Peter, that sounds awful! However, I can relate to new owners having a devastating effect on everyone.

    Rod

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