I’ve been working from home since long before the pandemic. It’s been almost 10 years of partial ‘wfh’ and 6 years of full time ‘wfh’ for me, and frankly I don’t see it ever changing on my end, without threats of physical violence or bags of money.
Some folks really missed the office social club when the shutdown happened, and I get that. But being a ‘tech person’ who needs to focus on things in a deep way, and having to share some open plan office space with a hundred other people every day… The two things just don’t mix well. In addition, being in the DevOps/SRE space means that I often need space to bang my head against the wall (figuratively of course) or yell out about the injustice of yet another bug in a Terraform provider that I don’t have the time to upgrade from.
There’s just no way the tradeoff of going back to an office would work for me. Lets look at the two sides here from my perspective and see how it might compare to yours:
- Noisy, tends to be either a ghost town or crowded, depending on the day.
- Some distance away, requiring anywhere from 30-90 minutes a day on average commute. You will never get this time back. Lets not talk about climate change, either.
- Vehicle and toll road costs can add up. In my area I would spend $200/mo on tolls just to drive to an office.
- Just when I am deep in some twisted train of thought involving a failing JS callback or missing network packets in Kubernetes someone ambles over to my cubicle to ask me some random question about helm that they could have answered in 2 seconds using the search function of their web browser. Train derailed.
- Ever have a bad boss that you are certain will be a later source of your soon to happen PTSD? Good luck getting away from this person at the office.
- The coffee. Honestly folks, don’t cheap out on the coffee at the office. Sometimes office coffee can be good, but after a round of budget cuts or layoffs it tends to end up as collateral damage.
- Child emergency? Parent in the hospital? It’s tough to deal with these at an office. If only there was a way you could just go somewhere else more convenient to get both things done without endangering your next promotion or performance review…
- As noisy or quiet as I darn well want it to be.
- My cats may or may not be allowed to attend standup, depending on who is present that day
- If I feel like a nice cool Bernie 60 degrees or a sunny so-cal 78, I walk over to the temp control and make it so. Try that at the office and see what happens.
- My office at home is a dedicated space to my work. Once you add in the 4 monitors, personal artwork, extra large desk, soft couch, exercise equipment and drink fridge – it’s clear that I would have to be in the C suite to normally afford such luxury at ‘the office’.
- That 30-90 minutes of time wasted every day commuting to an office? I exercise, meditate, or do other important things that otherwise would be blocked by excuses or general end of day lethargy. If something breaks in prod – hey I’m right there to fix it anyway, without fuss, after hours if needed.
- Why would I take a sick day if I can still sit at my chair and work? No need to wear a mask during standup either, unless I catch some wild new zoom-transmitted virus. If I feel tired – hey look, there’s a nice couch right there and I can still get some work done.
Management’s arguments against WFH:
- “Workers aren’t as productive at home” – Some workers. Probably the same workers who weren’t productive at the office either, but since there wasn’t anything in place to measure that anyway other than the ‘butt in seat’ metric, now they seem to be AWOL. If you can’t measure your employee’s productivity and hold them accountable to that outside of an office, then what are you managing?
- “People need to collaborate more to be innovative” – Don’t talk to me about collaboration when I sometimes have to turn off slack to be able to hear myself think. Yes I agree in principle that it may be easier to randomly chat about technical subjects walking around the office but in that case am I getting work done? Could I have just messaged someone instead and gotten the same answer, allowing them to respond when they had the mental bandwidth to do so? Brainstorming also works better from the couch, just saying.
- “People need to be in the office to be a part of the TEAM” – This may actually be somewhat true. I don’t feel as much a part of the company, the team when I work from my home office. I feel more like a lone agent, fulfilling my own need to have a work ethic and trying to do what ‘s right for our customers. Of course I’m on a team, but I wouldn’t be that upset if a new job showed up and I decided to take it. After all, my office doesn’t even change. I would probably miss the corporate culture of course, if I already like my job, but I certainly won’t feel guilty about getting a better job if I am unhappy. I suspect that many people who aren’t happy with their jobs stay with them out of a sense of attachment to the social nature of the office and the familiarity of the office workplace – and on some level, management knows this.
This gets at a much deeper issue, however. Should we be loyal to companies who would lay us off at the drop of a hat to pad their quarterly earnings? Companies who decide the projects we work on have no merit but can’t be bothered to reassign us to more critical work after spending the time and money to get us in the door? Many of us feel the need to be loyal but what are we getting in return?
In tech, you can also hurt your career if you stay with a legacy stack for too long, and your skillset no longer matches the needs of the marketplace. Don’t want to get caught out on the next round of layoffs without being good at some new technology? Better start looking now for a company willing to use your skillset to help them move to that new technology from the old one.
When it comes time for a possible raise, how many companies still give them out, and when they do are they enough to mitigate the cost of living increases due to inflation?
In a way, companies in today’s market by their behavior drive employees to look for other jobs to get a raise or improve their skillset. There is little investment in employees or their future beyond the HR skill training website and generally you are considered a ‘cog in the machine’ – I don’t think we should be loyal to that sort of setup or treatment. I don’t really know why or how things got this way, but if you work for a company that is not like this – consider yourself lucky (I know I do).