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Why Working Remotely Needs To Make a Comeback

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the because-commuting-sucks dept.

Businesses 455

silentbrad writes sends this excerpt from a blog post about the history of working from home: "Remote working has existed for centuries. And now is the perfect time for its comeback. ... Prior to the Industrial Revolution, goods were manufactured by contracting individual craftsmen who worked out of their homes. The merchant would drum up sales, and would coordinate the production with at-home sub-contractors. ... This all changed with the Industrial Revolution: production was centralized in factories and cities. For merchant capitalists, this made sense: it was cheaper and more efficient to produce goods in one place, with machinery. ... We've been in the Information Age for at least 25 years. We've made huge leaps in technology. Many of us would describe ourselves as Knowledge Workers: we don't work in factories, we work at desks in front of glowing screens. We don't make goods with physical materials, but rather things made out of bits. The great thing about bits + the internet is that the materials and means needed for production aren't dependent on location. But here's the funny thing: the way work is organized hasn't changed. Despite all these advances, most of us still work in central offices. Employees leave their computer-equipped homes and drive long distances to work at computer-equipped offices. ... CEOs, like Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and Apple's Steve Jobs, think that a central office fosters more innovation and productivity. I think they're wrong. We're still early in the research, but recent studies seem to dispute their claim. ... Managers have developed centuries worth of habits based on the central workplace. The hallmarks of office work (meetings, cubicle workstations, colocation) need to be seen for what they are: traditions we've kept alive since the Industrial Revolution. We need to question these institutions: are they really more innovative and efficient?"

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455 comments

Noisy annoying environment (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998037)

I certainly feel I'm much more effective in the quiet of my own home vs. the open-plan chaotic environment called "the office".

Re:Noisy annoying environment (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998091)

You must not have kids.

Re:Noisy annoying environment (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998345)

Nope. Lots of us don't. Should we be punished for not being able to work from a home office due to our having produced screaming larvae?

Re:Noisy annoying environment (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998487)

Yes, yes you should...

Re:Noisy annoying environment (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998169)

There's nothing more depressing than a cube farm. There's a reason Office Space resonates. How on earth could it be a better solution than anything else?

It seems painfully obvious to me, and I don't know why others think it's better. I just don't.

Re:Noisy annoying environment (4, Insightful)

dynamo (6127) | about a year ago | (#42998331)

Damn right. I spent a decade in various cube farm environments, they are horrible, productivity-killing and soul-killing places. Never Again.
Cubes are just a half assed attempt to pretend people have privacy when they don't. give them tables, give them offices, or admit you don't have enough space.

Teamwork (5, Insightful)

kevin_m_hickey (2663827) | about a year ago | (#42998049)

I would agree with you if not for the growing trend of collaborative spaces in the IT industry. Sitting isolated in a cubicle and only talking to other people in meetings or the water cooler is no better than working from home and Skyping or talking on the phone. But a collaborative space and pair programming do foster innovation and rapid, high-quality software development. The social aspect yields interesting ideas that the individual would not think of on his (or her) own. Pairing (or at least having extra eyes around) tends to yield higher quality both from being able to have someone check for mistakes and the social pressure of not cutting corners when someone else is looking.

Re:Teamwork (5, Insightful)

pathological liar (659969) | about a year ago | (#42998147)

It probably varies by job and by person. I find it helpful to talk with my coworkers, but a distraction to overhear them.

A mailing list, irc channel, xmpp muc etc. allows me to collaborate on my terms. I can rethink and edit my response, and if I'm in the middle of something I can read it later and respond then. Conversations typically don't work like that.

Re:Teamwork (5, Informative)

kevin_m_hickey (2663827) | about a year ago | (#42998523)

It probably varies by job and by person. I find it helpful to talk with my coworkers, but a distraction to overhear them.

A lot of people (thought granted not everybody) find that after spending some time in a collaborative environment the background conversations move from being a distraction to an undercurrent of information. It becomes possible to tune it out but still hear keywords that might be relevant and allow for better teamwork.

A mailing list, irc channel, xmpp muc etc. allows me to collaborate on my terms. I can rethink and edit my response, and if I'm in the middle of something I can read it later and respond then. Conversations typically don't work like that.

That's true but your way has high latency. Conversations happen much faster.

Re:Teamwork (3, Insightful)

pathological liar (659969) | about a year ago | (#42998591)

A lot of people (thought granted not everybody) find that after spending some time in a collaborative environment the background conversations move from being a distraction to an undercurrent of information. It becomes possible to tune it out but still hear keywords that might be relevant and allow for better teamwork.

Research doesn't bear that out. Multitasking reduces efficiency, interrupts and context switches hurt. If, for your specific workload, you find it's a net gain... well, more power to you. It's not one-size fits all.

That's true but your way has high latency. Conversations happen much faster.

That's the point. 'My way' allows my coworkers to decide when they can be interrupted. 'Your way' allows people to demand focus.

Re:Teamwork (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#42998195)

I would agree with you if not for the growing trend of collaborative spaces in the IT industry.

That works as long as everybody is actually at the same location. In my company at least it seems like every project I'm on consists of people scattered across numerous geographical locations. They just all sit in their offices and talk on the phone all day in meetings. When it is suggested that one should pick up the phone instead of calling a meeting the problem is that everybody is busy in meetings and won't pick up. When it is suggested that one should get up and talk to people, the problem is that nobody actually sits near them.

This is often the result of acquisitions, re-orgs, etc. Unless you just want to fire people and hire new ones in a central location (which means giving up a LOT of established talent), working remotely is really the only option.

Most IT companies that have one big central location just started out that way and slowly grew, and often the central location is in a place they can sort-of get away with it like Silicon Valley. Even so, how much talent do companies like Google/Apple end up losing out on because they won't hire anybody who wants to live elsewhere?

Re:Teamwork (1)

znrt (2424692) | about a year ago | (#42998203)

i would agree with you if you didn't compare worst and best case scenarios from each approach. neither working at home necessarily isolates you, nor are current average IT work environments as facilitating as you put it. also, work in a "collaborative space" can add in a lot of overhead and noise too. another problem with working in office is that it is assumed you are always there and ready for whatever crosses the employers mind. this allows for bad/little forward planing and also wastes energy and produces loss of focus.

having worked in all those environments i can tell you it depends a lot on the people involved. also, having plenty experience with pair programmig i can also tell you that while i totally agree, it simply doesn't work with everyone. if not, it can be frustrating, stressful and clearly counterproductive.

IMHO this is best left as an individual choice. a company should allow for both methods, even mixed, and once basic requirements are met let workers choose what they deem best for themselves and the task.

Re:Teamwork (4, Interesting)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#42998273)

sorry I don't want to be programming in a room full of yammering idiocy.. I'd be canned in the first week for lack of productivity. All this 'social' bullshit is driving society to distraction. There's a reason most people don't have every TV and music player in the house turned on at full blast at the same time.

Re:Teamwork (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998535)

Must be nice to not have anything to learn from anybody else...

Re:Teamwork (1)

tibman (623933) | about a year ago | (#42998589)

Most developers want quiet, like a library. Shove them all into rooms with doors. The social aspects can't be waved away as yammering idiocy. If a developer strikes up a conversation, it will be work related and pretty brief. Longer conversation and you two/three can go to a conference room and remote in to your work-stations.

Re:Teamwork (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about a year ago | (#42998521)

Related to teamwork and historical comparisons...

The modern office better resembles the historical college than cottage industry. Cottage industry was repetitive work done at home. Other than the initial learning, there wasn't a need for knowledge sharing. Today in the office (or out of the office), we are sharing ideas constantly. We do benefit from being able to share information remotely, but cottage industry is the wrong comparison.

Re:Teamwork (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | about a year ago | (#42998593)

Not being an "expert" in the field (if one actually exists), all I can offer is an anecdote. I think people need both types of work at different times. As a technical lead for my team - I need to be available to point people in the right direction, help them with issues, and decide on some of the correct technical choices. However, when I am in the office I ALWAYS have someone from either my team or one of our other infrastructure teams in my office. My solution is to work from home one day a week. Even though I am available via phone, instant message, email, and even video call I don't get bothered much at all when home and can crank out code or documentation or even build system images without interruption. On the other days, I don't plan on getting too much of my own work done - but then my position includes facilitating the other folks on the team to get their assignments done. This has worked really well for me for over 5 years.

So ... we de-evolve to ancient ways? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998055)

Seriously? After hundreds of years of finding the most efficient way to work together and get things done, the paradigm du-jour is to go back to the old way? WTF has this world come to.

Been working remotely for years (4, Insightful)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about a year ago | (#42998061)

I love it, I can't imagine going back. I like my hammock office, and every time I am forced to work at a desk or table, and can physically feel my mind cramping up. If that is innovation and productivity, count me out!
Don't get me started about my years facing grey half-walls feeling like someone was watching what I was doing behind my back. Gave me the creeps, and again, just made me feel uncomfortable working.

Re:Been working remotely for years (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#42998227)

Yup, I've been working from home and I find myself just not caring about all the office politics as much. Who cares who rates an office vs a cube when you work from home 95% of the time? If I need to go into the office half the time I don't even go to my actual office - I'm spending my time with customers and such. I've learned to ditch all the paper and travel light - that makes me a lot more flexible. I work at a big facility and I used to spend a lot of time just walking around, to say nothing about the commute - I get a lot more done without all that. I don't care that the company cafeteria has lousy food and costs an arm and a leg, etc.

Re:Been working remotely for years (0)

Dr. Tom (23206) | about a year ago | (#42998245)

So, have you actually done anything? Sure, I believe you fail when you're forced to work in one of those horrible office/cube environments. That's you, and I understand that. Some people can function in that environment, and some people just can't hack it. Tell us of your creations, away from bosses and distractions. We don't really care about how your mind cramps up. Tell us what you've actually done. Or are you the guy who outsources his own work to India?

If you can work remotely... (5, Insightful)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | about a year ago | (#42998069)

If you can do your work from home, it's probable that someone else can do the work from the other side of the planet. For less. So be careful what you wish for.

Re:If you can work remotely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998101)

If you can do your work from home, it's probable that someone else can do the work from the other side of the planet. For less. So be careful what you wish for.

That's just asinine!

Re:If you can work remotely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998165)

But it is reality.

Re:If you can work remotely... (1)

dynamo (6127) | about a year ago | (#42998359)

Yeah but there's no reliable search engine for reliable people who can do the work from the other side of the planet, and there tend to be issues involved with international hires, including paperwork, time differences, and language/accent interpretations.

Besides what has an office got that isn't available on the other side of the planet too? They do have offices there.

Re:If you can work remotely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998289)

Sorry, you just failed. You probably don't understand why, and I'm not going to tell you, either. I can hire somebody else.

Re:If you can work remotely... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998375)

And that's just what one stay-at-home worker was just caught doing. He worked for a company, worked form home and farmed out what eh was supposed to be doing to other programming shops in India. He was paid high wages and paid other very low wages and collected the difference doing almost nothing except making sure the end points didn't find out about each other.

 

Re:If you can work remotely... (0)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#42998183)

I doubt someone on the other side of the planet can procure a security clearance. Working in a position that requires one is an excellent way to insure your position can't be easily outsourced.

Re:If you can work remotely... (1)

Grashnak (1003791) | about a year ago | (#42998269)

If you can work from home, you can't need much of a security clearance.

Re:If you can work remotely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998415)

If you do computer work programming for any part of the Department of Health or Indian Health Services. I do, and I have one, and it's required for my job.

Hence, I enjoy my home office very much...

Assumptions kill, Peaches... :-)

Re:If you can work remotely... (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#42998569)

If you do computer work programming for any part of the Department of Health or Indian Health Services. I do, and I have one, and it's required for my job.

Yeah, and do you work on classified documents at home? No.

Re:If you can work remotely... (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about a year ago | (#42998437)

If you can work from home, you can't need much of a security clearance.

DoD does allow most civilian workers to work from home sometimes, even those with a clearance. Can't directly access the airgapped network (or above), but not everything you do needs direct access to uber secret data.
Telework.gov [telework.gov]

Re:If you can work remotely... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998187)

Depends, obviously. If you're doing tier 1 tech support for windows (and your clients don't mind the Indian accent), you're absolutely right.

I was in a different boat. I was in charge of a group of people spread across the US, dealing IFMA/BOMA standards and implementing processes ad process changes based on (large) corporate standards, was considered an SME on the whole process. Also, worked on the corporate real estate contracts, and did a large chunk of the medium and long term strategic planning. I was in the office less than 8 hours a week, the rest of the time I was at home or (rarely) at a remote location near my office. Good money for it too, though not outstanding. And nothing but good reviews on my performance.

Only left to get married, and move out of Satan's Corner (California). Then again, the company was also pulling in home workers, so it was a good time to leave anyway.

Re:If you can work remotely... (1)

canadiannomad (1745008) | about a year ago | (#42998197)

It is kinda what I do..... Who said I had to be in a cold, foggy city to do tech work?
Quality of life over income.
If you have ever outsourced, you'd find that it is really hard to find good programmers and system administrators too far below market rates. And usually there are communication issues with those people. Me, being in a lower cost of living area, am able to accept a lower wage, and give the high quality work that most businesses have come to expect of an american professional. In exchange, I get to go scuba diving in tropical waters every weekend and enjoy a hammock office.
Yes there are tradeoffs, but from my point of view there is very little that would change my mind from my current course.

Re:If you can work remotely... (0)

SerpentMage (13390) | about a year ago | (#42998237)

Wait one moment here...

Why on earth do I need to make say 100K? or let's say 150K?

If I was to live in say rural Ontario, Quebec, or in the "fly over" part of the United States how much money do I really need? Do I really need to make 100K? 150K? I could probably live pretty well on say 50K. Sure that is still more expensive that say places like Poland, Russia, India, etc. BUT you are getting American labour. Remote labour like Poland, Russia, and India has other costs.

We are not even talking infrastructure costs, and other cost of doing business costs. So I would argue even doing remote work within North America is pretty cheap.

Re:If you can work remotely... (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | about a year ago | (#42998261)

If you're overpriced, you should be actively planning your transition strategy. This has always been true.

Re:If you can work remotely... (1)

Karganeth (1017580) | about a year ago | (#42998439)

If you can work remotely... it's probable that somewhere on the other side of the planet a potential employer will open up their work for you. Pessimism or optimism. Choose one.

Re:If you can work remotely... (2)

stretch0611 (603238) | about a year ago | (#42998563)

If you can do your work from home, it's probable that someone else can do the work from the other side of the planet. For less. So be careful what you wish for.

Actually I find it funny and sad how many employers that refuse to let people work from home, are willing to outsource that same work to someone on the other side of the planet. (And while that usually means cheaper labor; generally there is less quality control, a language barrier, and people that may not even work the same time as you.)

Contractor vs Benefits (1)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year ago | (#42998071)

We currently have this today already. If you are a contractor you can work from home almost every time, and are usually encouraged to. Just like the summary, the work was sub-contracted out.

What the writer wants is pay by the hour, benefits, and a whole list of other things that contractors don't get. Benefits can be calculated on a per hour basis. Contractors usually work on a per peice basis and for the most part the employer doesn't care what hours it takes them to do it, just as long as they can hit the agreed upon schedule. I think for this to work and be "fair" to everyone the people working at home would be on a per item work and not have benefits. Such as $10 per widget assembled, assemble as many as you like when you like.

Working Remotely (3, Insightful)

DaMattster (977781) | about a year ago | (#42998075)

Only the most anachronistic, self-absorbed, border-line sociopathic managers are against working remotely. Marissa Mayer, hint hint. It is a win, win for companies. Companies save money on expensive office space and employes have more job satisfaction resulting in less turnover further saving money for the company. Those managers concerned with "face time" are micromanaging, control freaks.

Re:Working Remotely (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998177)

Only the most anachronistic, self-absorbed, border-line sociopathic managers are against working remotely

In other words, all of them.

Re:Working Remotely (2)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#42998287)

Not all. My wife worked for the Department of Defense years back and they contracted to have a financial system programmed for the Air Force to a company in California. The guy who ran the company ran it out of his house and all his programmers worked from home. Meetings were conducted over the phone mostly although he did visit her office a few times. It was a very sweet contract and this guy's overhead was almost nothing. That was back in the late 90's.

Re:Working Remotely (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998305)

The majority of remote workers are slackers doing just enough to keep their current income and benefits.

Re:Working Remotely (5, Insightful)

Guido von Guido II (2712421) | about a year ago | (#42998321)

The majority of remote workers are slackers doing just enough to keep their current income and benefits.

The majority of office workers are slackers doing just enough to keep their current income and benefits.

Re:Working Remotely (5, Interesting)

xystren (522982) | about a year ago | (#42998441)

I personally prefer having that "divide" between work and home. I dislike the idea of working at home - that's not what it is for. Yeah, can I? Sure, but I absolutely hate it. The travel time to/from the office I also appreciate. It gives me that time to decompress from work - I turn up the radio, sing like a madman that doesn't care that they are out of tune, and by the time I get home, any of the days of "work stress" is gone. I can enjoy the time with my wife, children, grandchild unimpeded.

When working remotely at home, the stresses of work become integrated as part of your home. The wife, the kids, extended family and friends pick up on that. You have a @#$%@ day at the remote home office and that @#$%@ day sits at dinner with you and your family - your mind and thoughts are at work, not with your family. There is something to be said to have that clear delineation between work and home.

Now if your traveling all over the place, as a part of your employment, the remote office makes sense. But I don't want my boss's or corporate lack of planning to constitute and emergency in my own home with the stress felt within my whole family system.

To me, it looks like a corporate grab to save money on the facilities. If already maximizing the number of people in a building by reducing the size of a cubical isn't doing enough for the bottom line, let's kick our workers out our space, and we can invade theirs. This works for corporate and sounds great to them. For me? Not so much. Am I getting compensated for the space that corporate is taking up in my home, my bandwidth, power, utilities, and the intrusion into my family's space? I'm sorry, saving 2 hours of travel time isn't enough to compensate for that. Many view travel time as time wasted - for me it is my stress decompression time, self-care, or me time.

I completely disagree with the win/win which is in short, a collaborative process (Our way). For some, yeah, it may be win/win. For me, it is coercion (Their way) - a win/lose; corporate wins, I lose.

How accommodation with the flexibility to work with both styles?

Re:Working Remotely (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#42998489)

I think there are two reasons why this is right and wrong.

First, this is right because management always has to cut costs, and one way to cut costs is to push for more productivity. This can be done by have employes in house so they can be pushed. Otherwise one is just paying a sum for a fixed amount of work. For instance a sysadmin will do everything they have to do, but aren't going to be pushed to do extra work if not in the office.

OTOH, as has been said, if work can be done remotely it can be done very remotely. That is we do have piecework or assembly in the US. Such work is easy for others to do because you pay by the part, don't pay if you don't like the piece, and even can penalize for bad work. Therefore all the work is done in Asia. Cars are expensive to ship, so the work is done in Mexico or states that might as well be Mexico.

PBH like face time / overuse of mettinges & ti (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42998107)

PBH like face time / overuse of mettinges & time tracking to the point of where 30mins a day is just time tracking paper work.

PHB's like face time / overuse of meetings & (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42998117)

PHB's like face time / overuse of meetings & time tracking to the point of where 30mins a day is just time tracking paper work.

Depends on culture (2)

mariasama16 (1895136) | about a year ago | (#42998109)

I think it depends on your office culture. I do phone tech support and can work remotely. Several of my coworkers don't ever drive into the office, several other coworkers work in other parts of the state and when we finish our transitional/expansion period (next 2 months or so), the goal is to have 10-15 people working remotely every day. I actually just had an email needing information to make sure our new VOIP setup will be compatible with everyone's home setups.

Not again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998141)

Bring on the anecdotes!

And Then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998143)

If we get into a work at home mode you will quickly find that there are more crooks in business than honest owners. The will want supposedly performance based pay and they will find ten thousand ways to claim they must have more product for less money and deny completion and even hand out projects that simply can not be completed in the time allotted. Frankly crime and immorality control us a lot more than we admit. A simple example rests in how much energy would be saved if more people road bicycles to work and how much healthier they would be. Yet the hassle of locking and carrying locks and chains perpetually limits the use of bicycles. And industry simply drags on without making inner tubes that really are of any quality. Apparently we can not make a better inner tube than back in 1920 and forget about punishing bicycle thieves.
                    The point being that even a lousy system tends to perpetuate and crime is behind a lot of the reason that things are the way they are.

As a manager I'm all for people working remotely.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998155)

...from India!

I agree but... (3, Interesting)

Itsik (191227) | about a year ago | (#42998167)

I recall over the summer reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal (http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2012/07/13/working-from-home-beware-a-career-hit/?mod=e2tw)
Pointing to the fact that telecommuters aka people that work remotely are less likely to get promoted regardless of their productivity and work ethic.

Quite alarming

Re:I agree but... (3, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#42998311)

I find that it matters not where you work. If you keep your mind on your work instead of kissing ass and politicking then you are likely to find yourself getting overlooked. The exception is the small shops usually where the manager is also the owner. Things that directly hit his wallet tend to get noticed more.

Re:I agree but... (1)

MangoCats (2757129) | about a year ago | (#42998323)

It only makes sense that those with face-time with management would get preferential treatment and promotions.

However, if you've achieved a comfortable level in your career and just want to maintain that level for the next decade or two, who cares about promotions?

Re:I agree but... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998511)

As a developer working on healthcare integration projects - 100% of my work is remote. I know the business, have worked with hospitals and in the medical field for 20+ years, know most of the most common EMR packages and integration engines. I'm both a contract and freelance consultant depending on the contract. I could give two shits about "promotion". My desire to be absorbed by the "Cubical Mentality" is non-existent. Been there, done that, burned the T-Shirt. The PHB's can micro-manage their own flock without worrying about the pasture I work in.

My office is a MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM, dual SSD's and a backup storage array. I keep all the various POS laptops I'm given by the various hospitals on the shelf in my home office because I've converted all of their machines to Fusion VM's and can all be run concurrently on the laptop. The laptop is encrypted at the hard-drive level and all the VM's live in TrueCrypt containers - so even in the case of loss, the protected health info on there is safe from prying eyes.

H1B's don't usually have the deep domain knowledge, my expertise of various EDI tools, and every time they brought one in? They failed and the client called me in for good money to clean up their "Oracle is the answer to everything" bullshit.

I do damn good work, deliver what I say I am going to deliver - and I have had NO complaints by anyone - only repeat business. I can do it from my courtyard hammock, or the local coffee shop across from the University where the view is exemplary... or the top of a nearby mountain in the picnic area when I want some peace and quiet during the day.

Re:I agree but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998493)

Here's what's quite alarming.

Why in gods good name would I want to, in this environment, ever invest in a company?

Every company I've ever worked for has a new batch of Executive Managers and Investors every 3 to 6 years; Inflation and Interest Rates are high, thus the return they must make must also be high. In most organizations the only possible way to accomplish this is to asset strip the company and the employee's and they will do this to you by cutting pay and benefits, by demanding >40hrs per week, by threatening you with H1B if you don't follow along. You've got 3 options when that BS starts; Let management know where your line in the sand is, Start looking elsewhere for a job while pitching in the bare minimum, or go scorched earth and trash everything you can legally with "accidents", "mistakes" making them think you are truly incompetent. BTW, that last one can be a fantastic way to get everyone including yourself fired, especially if you cost them some serious cash.

There are two reasons companies let employee's work from home;

1: Mileage. I can save $1-2/hr if you don't have to spend $100-$200/Month on gas.

2: Time: If you don't have to spend 1-2hrs per day in traffic, you'll be more willing to work 10hrs per day.

That's it. Those are the only two reasons.

Re:I agree but... (3, Insightful)

stretch0611 (603238) | about a year ago | (#42998601)

...people that work remotely are less likely to get promoted regardless of their productivity and work ethic.

Chances are that if you are a technical person, your likelihood of getting promoted are pretty limited already.

There are only so many PM's and middle management positions available, and chances are even if you do get promoted to management, you will never leave the technical side of the business and have a snowball's chance in hell of reaching upper management.

Hello, its the 21st century (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year ago | (#42998171)

Work from home jobs are available all over the place. What planet are you on?

Re:Hello, its the 21st century (1)

MangoCats (2757129) | about a year ago | (#42998333)

Planet: I want to make more than $16 per hour.

I did interview for a $60/hr work from home gig, but the competition is outrageous, and I see signs on the job boards that whoever they hired didn't last even a month.

... ... Wuuuut (2)

Rurik (113882) | about a year ago | (#42998181)

What is this, a Japanese RPG? Can you possibly squeeze any more ellipses into that summary?

Apple and Yahoo don't have the right jobs (2)

bhcompy (1877290) | about a year ago | (#42998193)

I've worked for 3 massive software companies that hire 10s of thousands directly or contractually, and they all have allowed remote workers for about 15 years. It doesn't matter if Apple and Yahoo don't, many companies that hire more in roles that allow you to work remotely(application development, support, implementation, training, marketing, etc) do allow the practices.

Apple wants to look cool with its giant campus and onsite amenities because it's fostering an image of oneness. It's also a company that people use as a stepping stool, like Google, Yahoo, SpaceX,etc. Your average company doesn't care and wants their employees to be happy enough to stay there for a while, and working from home is a huge benefit that fosters long term loyalty.

Re:Apple and Yahoo don't have the right jobs (3, Informative)

DaMattster (977781) | about a year ago | (#42998243)

My friend works for an insurance company that moved all of the senior claims adjusters to work from home positions. Only the junior level ones work out of the office and it is just so they can become experienced. My friend has no plans whatsoever to leave the company unless forced to. That's pretty telling....

Re:Apple and Yahoo don't have the right jobs (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | about a year ago | (#42998573)

Exactly. They benefit because you're cheaper(ancillary things like facilities), you benefit because you get to work in your undies and save on everything that goes with a commute. Win win that most people don't voluntarily give up.

Can't tell if whore or I threw was my pen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998199)

This is just a ploy by a bean counter to drive profitability. Milk that dead Yahoo cow for a few more milliliters, Collect big bonus from grateful faceless whoever's for the one last chance to sell this pig off, then on to her next gig raping honest workers for rich asshats who can't stand to lose their 15% projected gains.

Tell it to that Yahoo CEO ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998239)

Productivity is not based on location of the workplace
as much as it is based on the person doing the work.

Only ignorant paranoid idiots want workers "where they can
be watched". I won't work for such fools.

God wants to see us once a week (2, Insightful)

MBAslug (184293) | about a year ago | (#42998241)

As a manager, I can tell you that I need to spend some hi-bandwidth time with my people on a regular basis. I need that interpersonal time to interact with them, make sure they have what they need and the barriers to their work are pushed out of the way. There's no substitute for eating lunch with someone to really understand where they are.

Can I imagine a corner case where work can easily be done from home and the person doesn't need that time?

Sure, but this isn't how the team works as a whole and I need the team working, as a whole.

Even God says we should get together with him once a week face to face

Re:God wants to see us once a week (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998357)

As a manager, I can tell you that I need to spend some hi-bandwidth time with my people on a regular basis. I need that interpersonal time to interact with them, make sure they have what they need and the barriers to their work are pushed out of the way. There's no substitute for eating lunch with someone to really understand where they are.

+1

Eating lunch with members of my team is the best way to check on the current state of affairs. I haven't found a way to replicate this with e-mail / IM / phone.

I have the option to work remotely some days but I usually prefer to head into the office. I'm typically way more productive when I'm in the office (e.g. less distractions). Additionally, I can usually accomplish more with a 30 minute e-mail thread / IM session / conference call.

Remote Office will not succeed -- sociopath mgrs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998247)

There is a reason why working from home will not work. It is not costs, it is not any logical reason. Working from home removes that sociopathic control of managers to stand over your shoulder and monitor every minute of your day. Have worked in way too many places where that is the rule and not the exception. I have seen where control was more important than doing the job. Over the years I have seen more sociopaths in management more than ever before. These sociopaths need that direct measure of control over their people. Thus they will kill any initiatives to work from home.

I recommend "Snakes in Suits" as good reading material for the workplace.

It requires... (5, Interesting)

madmarcel (610409) | about a year ago | (#42998259)

Working from home requires a certain work ethic.
Not all of us possess this.

I've also heard from friends who do work from home that they struggle to distinguish between work/home and personal/business. It seems that the physical acts of leaving for work and coming home from work are required for some people to be able to keep the two (mindsets?) separated.

Re:It requires... (2)

Zargg (1596625) | about a year ago | (#42998527)

This would be part of it for me...I need the physical separation from the beer in the fridge!

The perspective issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998263)

I fancy the idea!
But the term 'returning' is like being trapped into a circle.

So, let's change the terms of what work defines...

If it only means to reduce the number of humans in the society.
And apply new enslaved labor forces by making a tough match of offer and demand...
Then, yes, we are returning.

But if you change the parameters... And imagine for example, people in the future working just for fun.
And having their needs available, working just to relate with others.
Then, to work at home would have a different meaning.
It would mean that those people have some sort of illness.
Mental or physical.

It is similar to going to the movies.
Who would go if one could have the same films at home?
So, money comes as an obstacle.
We should deal with it until a solution could pop up.
(I believe on that) Things happen.

CAUGHT MARISSA MAYER ON BLOOMING BERG !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998271)

She is a (be nice) dunderhead !! Talks like Denise Austin, but more valley girl who is trying to work her way out of ending all sentences in a question ?? This is not a leader !! How many couches did the board go through when it picked her ?? !!

The kind of centrallization matters (2)

Livius (318358) | about a year ago | (#42998283)

I think the problem with centralizing knowledge work, especially something like software development which has a creative element, is not so much the remote versus centralized issue, as the kind of environment centralized workers find themselves in. There are definite advantages to bringing a team together to work face to face, even if the benefits are difficult to quantify. Where it goes wrong is a cube-farm office, which has all the disadvantages but few advantages, for example being an environment which is both isolating and impersonal and at the same time full of distractions from the nearby presence of your co-workers. What's needed is a better balance of interaction and isolation.

What kind of productivity? (4, Insightful)

lars (72) | about a year ago | (#42998291)

One big flaw in your argument is that the linked studies seem to focus on individual productivity. What about team productivity? I can definitely see myself producing more code if I worked in a more isolated environment, or whatever other metric you'd like to use, but I think my team's overall effectiveness would suffer. Note that we don't work alone in cubicles or closed offices, but at desks in an open environment as is common these days. It's hard for me to imagine a remote work environment -- even with chat and Google video hangouts constantly running -- that could match the free flow of ideas and information that we get from working right next to one another. The distractions to individual productivity are more than compensated for by being more plugged in to what other people are doing, which lets everyone make better decisions that save time in the long run.

I'm not sure why so many people are reacting as though there's a universally superior approach here. All teams and organizations are different. Having employees present at the office seems to work for Google, and presumably Mayer has good reason to think it will work at Yahoo as well. I'm sure there are also lots of big organizations where the opposite is true.

Like a horse with blinders... (1)

Kreplock (1088483) | about a year ago | (#42998295)

I just focus better in my tiny, half-walled cell at the office. There are a lot of people parading to my office for help with various issues and it's a fine thing for my boss to see that, too. I get lots of chances to work at home, sometimes without the kids, but there are many distractions. Who wants to tune a query or troubleshoot PL/SQL when there's an XBox sitting 10 feet away?

The Zen of balance in all things (2)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | about a year ago | (#42998309)

I worked for a year remotely from a new country, and by that time I was about stir-crazy from isolation, even as my day ended promptly at 3pm and I had so much time to have a good home balance. If you have flexibility, you should go into the office at least once a week to get that invaluable face-to-face interaction, and during crunch time switch to 80% in-office. Impromptu five-minute stand-ups with a project group are often essential.

Re:The Zen of balance in all things (1)

archer, the (887288) | about a year ago | (#42998513)

I agree with Balance. There are times when you need face-to-face meetings in a room with a whiteboard or other doodling device to figure out the big picture. Once you have your assignment, it may be one that can be done better and/or more quickly in isolation.

This'll do wonders for my career (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year ago | (#42998317)

because I certainly have no use whatsoever for networking. Nope. None. And getting pinged by 500 ppl per minute in IM because that's the only way to get ahold of me will never get old.

Amazon works from home (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998337)

https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome

see it here at work.

Depends (1)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#42998361)

Mayer had to do what is right for Yahoo! They have been stagnant for awhile, so - perhaps it is a proper change in management. I guess time will tell.

I work remotely (for the last year and a half) and it definitely has benefits but it also has drawbacks. There *is* something to working in an office with coworkers, but there is something to be said about working remotely (being out of stupid meetings, getting drawn into things, etc).

Working from home is not the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998391)

As a student with a freelance job at a mobile games company I regularly work from home in my spare time. It's convenient in periods where my schedule and educational work is hard to predict. But let me tell you - it's defenetly not the same as actually being present at the office. The reason is often "communication". Discussing hard-to-understand issues over a messaging service will never beat actually being next to colleagues who can talk, point and illustrate issues no text message never could.
This is even made worse when texting with people who has minor difficulties expressing them selfs via english. It's not that these people are bad at english at all, however minor typing issues is for me far harder to correct in my head than actually hearing them speak. Skype is sometimes used for larger meetings, however this is no optimal solution either as someone will always have connection issues, hick ups or simply hard to hear clearly.
So all in all even though it's entirely manageable working from home it just isn't the same and I prefer working at the office. Also I'm not sure I feel more creative and efficient at home? I guess it depends on the environment at the workplace.

Don't expect to be noticed (2)

razorshark (2843829) | about a year ago | (#42998393)

If you spend most of your working days at home, you WILL be forgotten. There is definitely value in having a physical presence at your workplace, even if you spend the majority of your time at your desk. You'll still be seen in the hallways, you'll be physically there at meetings, if you need to talk to someone about an issue it's easy enough to do it in person with the subtle benefits of having your physical presence there as opposed to being on the phone/communicator.

People remember faces better if they seem them regularly. Work at home (at least regularly) and you run the risk of being forgotten for various benefits such as being picked for a promotion, or to go on a field trip (if you aren't sick of travel yet), and heck, people will like you more if you're actually there (people being the social creatures that they are), which has its own benefits.

The only exception would be if everyone else at your workplace works from home, and there's only a handful of people who need to physicall go somewhere to work. I know the writers on Ars Technica fit that description quite well. Otherwise you might be better off dealing with the drudgery of dragging yourself into work for its career benefits.

You need the right attitude (2)

dindi (78034) | about a year ago | (#42998423)

You know those guys who start the day on youtube/facebook/ and only start to work when you nag them to death. If you don't they might do some "proof that I worked" BS at the end of the day? These are the guys who have to obey one rule and they cannot: be available between 9-5. Then you call, message, mail, call all numbers, all messengers, and the guy is no-where.

I have seen a complete telecommuting department of 30+ people ordered permanently to the office because a couple of these assholes.

That said: I work at 2 places at the same time. Since I don't have to prepare, make food (special diet, no take-out and soda machine for me), drive, socialise and all that, I can comfortably put 10 hours a day of coding/planning (infrastructure design, consulting with coders) on the table. I have an elliptical trainer and a garden. If my head is about to explode and I "only" have to read some specs or make a call, I walk/sit outside in the garden in natural light (tropics rule).

Now that is the good part. At one place my colleagues just don't get it. Communication is freakin' impossible with them. Even though the policy: code when you want/can, be available in business hours (US eastern 8-4). Guys don't answer mails, forget if you Skype/call instead, not on Skype sometimes for hours without notice (and messing up everything the night before in the GIT repos). It is just a mess...

So I think it is possible, it is good, but you simply have to screen the people and remove their rights if they fail to deliver/communicate.

If you are in software development an need to participate in planning/design (not just e.g. work on tickets on a ready product), then probably it makes sense to go to the office once a week to do some joint brainstorming. Maybe more. Depending. When people talk tech in the elevator, at the cafeteria, smoking area, gym, or etc ... good things happen. Ideas are born. When you just have a Skype call without using any presentation tool (whiteboard), then you feel the difference: it is not as effective.
The ADD ridden ones at least are (somewhat) forced to pay attention at meetings and at best can play with their phones, but if it is Skype, who knows what is on the other 4 screens. Worst experience : my colleague has his whole family screaming at the same time while we are having meetings. I am not talking a noise once in a while, or family arriving/leaving, but full time lunch serving and baby screaming all the way.

Most hated office things: 1. Half the room is cold, half the room is hot. Always, everywhere. 2. Morning chatter of yesterday's game, movie, news .. etc - fine, just do it outside if you see someone trying to work. 3. Asshole on speakerphone or asshole on personal call, calling 10th place to get new tires.... 4. food smell.. New rule: next time I have to smell your packaged paprika bacon-pork skin chips I can throw up into your hair..... If you touch my screen with the finger, I get to chop it off with a blunt cheese-knife.

Re:You need the right attitude (3, Interesting)

JeanCroix (99825) | about a year ago | (#42998467)

Asshole on speakerphone

Holy hell yes THIS. Who the fuck ever thought it was a good idea to equip every desk in a cube farm with a fucking SPEAKER PHONE?

It's ok on occasion (1)

MNNorske (2651341) | about a year ago | (#42998429)

I have to say I have severely mixed feelings on working from home. It's definitely nice on occasion, but as I see more and more of my coworkers working remotely and we're forced to use more workers in India it creates an environment where the entire feeling of teamwork is breaking down. Plus as an engineer I feel my single best tool for communicating many technical issues and designs is a marker board. Which cannot be used remotely. Even the engineers I have "locally" tend to be very green and need a lot of guidance, trying to lead them remotely just gives me a headache and things take far longer than they should.

Yes, remote work works, but it's not easy (5, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#42998443)

This is an issue that's very important to me, personally.

I've relocated my immediate family far from all of our extended family for a job. It's a great job (Google), but the relocation has imposed some real hardships on us, and I'd very, very much like to be able to move back "home" but keep the job, working remotely. I came to Google from IBM, a company which has gone largely distributed, and I spent the ten years prior to joining Google working from home.

So I have both motivation to convince Google that I can work remotely with great effectiveness and experience to show that I have, in fact, done it. Further, Google has outstanding tools for facilitated distributed work... not only do we use Google Docs and Google+ Hangouts extensively, they're also integrated with each other and with Gmail, and Google Chat, and Google Voice. Plus, of course, all of our source control tools are well-suited to remote work, our code review and systems management interfaces are all either command-line or web-based (either works great remotely). It really is a world-class remote collaboration suite.

However, I've had to grudgingly admit that Google is right in its assertion that distributed work is less efficient, that remote teams move slower and accomplish less than co-located teams. I'm in the Boulder office, but much of my work has reached across site boundaries to include teams in Mountain View, San Francisco, Boston, New York and Zurich. And, as a result, I've ended up spending a lot of time in those cities (I'm in Zurich now) because it is so much more effective to communicate with people in person.

How do I reconcile the conflict? Was I just ineffective at IBM? I mean, there I was e-mailing Office docs and talking on conference calls. That had to have been even worse than at Google, right? No. Remote work can work, and very well, but it requires a massive cultural shift. The technology is there, and has been for a while, but what's lacking is the motivation to be willing to suffer the large cost of essentially re-training your entire company on how to communicate.

IBM made this shift because it was drowning in red ink and Gerstner decided a first step to fixing that problem was to eliminate most of IBM's real estate, and the resulting lack of office space led the company scrambling for solutions. IBM had decades-long task forces focused only on finding and addressing obstacles to remote work. There's no doubt that IBM's productivity did take a big hit during the transition, and it lasted for a long time. But IBM was at the same time fighting its way out from under massive internal bureaucracy, and the improvements from eliminating the bureaucracy papered over the problems caused by retraining. Another source of improvement was the fact that IBM built, at the same time, a whole new -- and very large -- services business, which was inherently distributed.

A key to IBM's success, though, was that almost everyone was pushed out of the office. The people who couldn't be productive working remotely ended up being slid out of the company, many in the course of a few layoffs. If you want to make remote work effective, everyone needs to be comfortable dealing with remote collaborators all the time, and by sending nearly everyone home, IBM achieved that.

Google, on the other hand, is already a highly productive, efficient company, one which doesn't really have massive layers of bureaucracy to clear out. As a result, any widespread transition to remote work would cause the company's performance to take a large hit, and not briefly. 5+ years, I estimate. I think Google could make the transition faster than IBM did, partly due to better tools, mostly due to better people -- not everyone, mind you, there were lots of highly capable IBMers, but there's hardly anyone at Google who is not highly capable. But it would take years and Google's apparent dominance notwithstanding, Google can't afford that.

IBM's market position was built primarily on long-term, solid customer relationships which degrade faster than they're built but still don't degrade too quickly. IBM's products may or may not be the best, but IBMs customers have confidence that IBM will do what it takes to keep them. Google's market position is built upon user inertia and product excellence. Google's users can abandon it with a click or two, so if Google doesn't keep innovating, keep pushing the edges, competitors can and will produce better products and users will jump. At least, that's the case for the major revenue source at present (ads); some of the up-and-comers are less volatile.

And one thing that absolutely does not work is a low level of remote work. Having a handful of employees who are remote will just produce a handful of people who can't coordinate well with others. That's fine if their work doesn't require coordination, but that description fits very few. And it really doesn't matter if that handful is very good at working remotely... no one else knows how to work with them.

I can see a gradual transition to remote work, driven primarily by small, distributed startups who grow their distributed culture along with their businesses. I think very few established corporations will be able to make the transition until much of the rest of the world already has, though.

Re:Yes, remote work works, but it's not easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42998543)

Ah - there you have it. I suspect that Google doesn't have a shabby work space that houses 3 engineers to a single table ... Where support calls are king, interrupting everyone else that might also have work to get done. Did I mention there were multiple tables in one room?

Any wonder that my productivity and then pay increased when I moved across the country and started working remotely?

The reason why remote workers can be measured to be more productive is that they CAN have productive work spaces; companies are too narrow minded to fix their spaces to easily increase productivity. Penny wise and pound foolish.

Innacuracy (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year ago | (#42998485)

... cubicle workstations ... are traditions we've kept alive since the Industrial Revolution.

Cubicles became popular starting in the 1970s, seen as an improvement over the bullpen (open office) and cheaper than individual offices.

Here's why Yahoo canned remote working (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#42998537)

This article is obviously a reaction to Yahoo's actions, stopping the ability to work remotely.

But it's ignoring the real reason why Yahoo did so. Over time, Yahoo has grown vast and has accumulated a number of freeloaders who possibly were not even working, but were still being paid.

By pulling everyone in to work for a year or so, Yahoo can evaluate who they really have working. In technical terms, you can think of it like a garbage collector spinning up and cleaning out useless nodes...

In about a year after Yahoo has everything settled up, they'll probably re-introduce remote working.

More details on Yahoo here [businessinsider.com] (my apologies for linking to a BusinessInsider article, a website that usually has little to do with business).

offices are full of distractions (1)

ferret4 (459105) | about a year ago | (#42998567)

When I used to work in-office, when anyone was under pressure to hit a deadline they'd tend to come in early - not for the extra hours but because they could achieve so much more without people coming up to their desks to ask them questions they should have sent in an email or filed a bug (so as not to arbitrarily distract the coder, who after politely listening would always say "file a bug" - but they never learn).

Eventually I began working from my new home 400kms from the office - and I found my productivity at an all-time high. As part of the deal (to placate my managers manager) I had to be in-office for a week out of every calendar month at my own expense (easily offset by cheaper cost of living 400kms from the city). While it was fun to catch up with people my productivity would always nose-dive. I would attend dozens more meetings than I would ordinarily be phone-conferenced in on, none of them particularly relevant to my work and they'd drag on forever. People would constantly be at my desk asking questions they somehow managed to file a bug for or hit me up on Messenger when I wasn't in the office. Office life seemed completely unproductive for anyone who was there to write code.

Now it looks like I may have to quit my job, as my managers managers managers manager has decided everyone needs to work in the office all the time, and I'm not relocating my family 400kms from the countryside to the city. You may have heard of the company. Her loss. Sadly, my loss too.

Not a chance (0)

Billly Gates (198444) | about a year ago | (#42998605)

If it can be done remotely, then it can be done in a cheaper country for pennies on the dollar.

I am not defending the practice by the way. Just stating how it is and what the MBAs think. Why would I want to play something that does not need to be done here when I can get it done in India for 1/6th the price?

Things likes Sales that can not be outsourced easily can be done at the office anyway.

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