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Working from home - pros and cons

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SuperNova

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Moderator note : posts #1 - #5 originally in this thread



Many companies have found that their staff are more productive when working from home. Where this is the case I think the likely end point will be some sort of split with staff in the office 1-2 days a week. While the government may be concerned about the impact on city centre service businesses and office occupancy, I don't see what they can do to force companies to work less productively.

Really? A survey just last week said that only 1 in 10 businesses thought home working was more productive. There's been other surveys which back that up too, noting that collaborative work has been diminished. A friend of mine who's a senior manager at a business has said as much about his work too, noting it's incredibly difficult to manage his staff and ensure that they are being as productive as they would've been 8 months ago. The argument that home working is the panacea is usually made by people who've got a very comfortable home and can't be bothered making their journey into the office anymore - I know this personally from friends who've said as much. It's not about productivity, it's self-interest.

You say that office working is less productive, an unsubstantiated claim and that government can't force them. No, they can't, but they can incentivise this. If you cut tax breaks for those working from home and introduce taxes on companies of a certain employee size where staff work from home for say more than 1 day a week then suddenly there's a big incentive to get people into office spaces. Now, there's no question that Covid has shown that WFH is doable and companies should be more flexible with staff and personally I am all for it. Having worked in office jobs pre-railway I saw both sides. 1) A company that didn't allow for any home working (except senior managers) meaning I had to take days off for deliveries and once for a boiler repair 2) A company that allowed one home working day a week. All I'll say is - I much preferred Job 2, especially when I had to prepare presentations or an asos delivery was coming I could work in peace at home.

Anyway, this argument will rumble on. The economy will dictate the future of working and the railway will need to adapt. Flexi-Season Tickets are the obvious short-term solution but I'd want to see loyalty cards introduced, offering 10 journeys a month. However, that makes the railway pricing much more complicated.
 
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Deafdoggie

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I think it depends on the nature of the business. For every survey that says it’s more productive there’s one that says it’s less. It just depends which businesses you ask.
what I think the crucial factor will be, is company’s needing to save money when normal times resume & cutting office space is an easy money saver for them. For some firms this will be no office at all, for others much smaller offices as people work from home more and go into the office less, meaning less people in the building at any one time.
Certainly, a casual search on job sites shows no relenting on home working vacancies for many jobs. I can’t see the commuter demand being what it was when we go back to normal, times will certainly have changed.
 

Ianno87

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Remember that "productivity" is not just worker output, but the cost of enabling that output.

Companies might accept a slight loss of productivity if that means a significant reduction of office costs.
 

SteveM70

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I wouldn’t mind betting that the people in this survey believed they were more productive working from home, but their employers’ views may have been somewhat different
 

MotCO

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Really? A survey just last week said that only 1 in 10 businesses thought home working was more productive. There's been other surveys which back that up too, noting that collaborative work has been diminished. A friend of mine who's a senior manager at a business has said as much about his work too, noting it's incredibly difficult to manage his staff and ensure that they are being as productive as they would've been 8 months ago. The argument that home working is the panacea is usually made by people who've got a very comfortable home and can't be bothered making their journey into the office anymore - I know this personally from friends who've said as much. It's not about productivity, it's self-interest.

You say that office working is less productive, an unsubstantiated claim and that government can't force them. No, they can't, but they can incentivise this. If you cut tax breaks for those working from home and introduce taxes on companies of a certain employee size where staff work from home for say more than 1 day a week then suddenly there's a big incentive to get people into office spaces. Now, there's no question that Covid has shown that WFH is doable and companies should be more flexible with staff and personally I am all for it. Having worked in office jobs pre-railway I saw both sides. 1) A company that didn't allow for any home working (except senior managers) meaning I had to take days off for deliveries and once for a boiler repair 2) A company that allowed one home working day a week. All I'll say is - I much preferred Job 2, especially when I had to prepare presentations or an asos delivery was coming I could work in peace at home.

Anyway, this argument will rumble on. The economy will dictate the future of working and the railway will need to adapt. Flexi-Season Tickets are the obvious short-term solution but I'd want to see loyalty cards introduced, offering 10 journeys a month. However, that makes the railway pricing much more complicated.

I'm sure it's six of one and half a dozen of the other.

When I worked from home pre-Covid, I felt a bit guilty and probably worked longer hours than when I was in the office to 'compensate'. However, I also know people who 'swing the lead'.

The biggest drawback from working from home is the loss of informal working relationships in the office. Meeting on-line is not the same as meeting face to face; before March, most staff would have had informal working relationships, but over time, and with new staff coming on board, those relationships will wither, and performance will probably suffer. You tend to go 'the extra mile' for people you know or like; if you don't know them so well, you may not be so cooperative.

Also I always found it useful to bump into people in the office and catch up on news or overhear conversations (not in a snooping way!) which helped with the work you were doing. Or, if you have a question and you can see the appropriate colleague in the office, you can wander over to ask. You can't do that when working from home.


Will working from home continue, or will people drift back to offices post Covid?
 
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najaB

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Will working from home continue, or will people drift back to offices post Covid?
I suspect that, for a lot of businesses, mixed working is the way forward with people in the office for fewer than five days per week.
 

pdeaves

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The biggest drawback from working from home is the loss of informal working relationships in the office. Meeting on-line is not the same as meeting face to face; before March, most staff would have had informal working relationships, but over time, and with new staff coming on board, those relationships will wither, and performance will probably suffer. You tend to go 'the extra mile' for people you know or like; if you don't know them so well, you may not be so cooperative.

Also I always found it useful to bump into people in the office and catch up on news or overhear conversations (not in a snooping way!) which helped with the work you were doing. Or, if you have a question and you can see the appropriate colleague in the office, you can wander over to ask. You can't do that when working from home.


Will working from home continue, or will people drift back to offices post Covid?
I agree with your points wholeheartedly.

I think in time, those who want to be good employees will drift back to offices and those who are not so conscientious will resist. The issue will polarise the work force in some businesses, I suspect.
 

nlogax

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Working from home is a blessing that can slowly turn into a curse if you're not self-disciplined enough to manage it. In normal times I could happily start and finish at a reasonable hour and not worry. Increasingly I see a tendency to find meetings in my calendar that can stretch to 7 or 8pm (this is an international company) and I feel that global WFH and lockdown mentality has broken some of the barriers that respect international timezones and therefore our personal lives.

My colleagues and I miss the opportunity to pop into an office once a week or see our clients in person. We live in a Zoom-centered world which is in spite of the lack of travel, absolutely exhausting.
 

SteveM70

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So after 8 months of working from home (every working day other than two days where I had to go into the office and two days at a warehouse)

Pros:
- we’ve innovated and adapted to make it as good as it can be
- generally speaking, we’re getting the job done
- loss of commuting time
- it saves quite a lot of money (train fares plus discretionary spend on coffee etc)
- better ability to concentrate on stuff like writing documents (no distractions, can turn off email/teams etc)

Cons:
- lack of social interaction. I can’t emphasise enough how bad this is for people like me who live alone
- online meetings are just not as effective as face to face for certain topics (eg for me doing detailed design work for a programme, extended teams calls are awful compared to having people in a room in front of a whiteboard)
- nobody quite realised how much got done via informal “at the desk” meetings. Most of these have been replaced by half hour online meetings meaning the calendar becomes full quickly
- it’s very easy to lose your lunchtime and end up working through
- there’s a strong perception that some people are taking it easy and others working exceptionally long hours. This may or may not be true but it leads to bad feeling
- some people don’t have access to a viable work environment at home (lack of space, noisy younger siblings when schools were off etc)
- relying on domestic internet connections isn’t great
 

najaB

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lack of social interaction. I can’t emphasise enough how bad this is for people like me who live alone
Fortunately, I've managed to avoid the worst of this but I know that several of my colleagues have been struggling. It's worth making the effort to reach out and say a quick hello to the people you'd normally interact with.
online meetings are just not as effective as face to face for certain topics (eg for me doing detailed design work for a programme, extended teams calls are awful compared to having people in a room in front of a whiteboard)
Sounds like you've not found the right tool for the job (not that I know what that tool is), but it's not likely to be Teams (mandatory Teams hate!).
 

gordonthemoron

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I think that continuous working from home is making me think about taking early retirement as I don't really like it that much. The occasional trip to the office or a client's office made the job more interesting
 

Haywain

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The OP quotes a post from another thread which suggests that we "cut tax breaks for those working from home". I have to ask what these tax beaks are, if they actually exist?
 

najaB

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The OP quotes a post from another thread which suggests that we "cut tax breaks for those working from home". I have to ask what these tax beaks are, if they actually exist?
Well, you can get £4 a month (I think) towards your additional utility costs. Not sure about any others.
 

DarloRich

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So after 8 months of working from home (every working day other than two days where I had to go into the office and two days at a warehouse)

Pros:
- we’ve innovated and adapted to make it as good as it can be
- generally speaking, we’re getting the job done
- loss of commuting time
- it saves quite a lot of money (train fares plus discretionary spend on coffee etc)
- better ability to concentrate on stuff like writing documents (no distractions, can turn off email/teams etc)

Cons:
- lack of social interaction. I can’t emphasise enough how bad this is for people like me who live alone
- online meetings are just not as effective as face to face for certain topics (eg for me doing detailed design work for a programme, extended teams calls are awful compared to having people in a room in front of a whiteboard)
- nobody quite realised how much got done via informal “at the desk” meetings. Most of these have been replaced by half hour online meetings meaning the calendar becomes full quickly
- it’s very easy to lose your lunchtime and end up working through
- there’s a strong perception that some people are taking it easy and others working exceptionally long hours. This may or may not be true but it leads to bad feeling
- some people don’t have access to a viable work environment at home (lack of space, noisy younger siblings when schools were off etc)
- relying on domestic internet connections isn’t great


This is a fair reflection of my view. I am ok being on my own but it is a bit oppressive living and working on the same place all the time
 

westv

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I'm currently saving over £1k a month in train fares and London lodging so, for me, WFH is a big benefit
 

SteveM70

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Sounds like you've not found the right tool for the job (not that I know what that tool is), but it's not likely to be Teams (mandatory Teams hate!).

Possibly, but having 12 to 15 people (necessarily) involved would make anything other than face to face very difficult. There are also other problems, such as some colleagues not having English as their first language which are exacerbated by online working, and also the sheer length of the meetings not really being conducive to being in front of a screen for so long
 

Gloster

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I have worked at home for the last twenty years, but this has been on my own account, and my experience of non-railway office working is limited. My feeling is that the situation will slowly drift back to office-based work being the norm, but it will become far more acceptable for staff to take odd days working from home. This will be both for work-related reasons, such as preparing a report or presentation where being at home allows the employee to concentrate on the work without distraction, or for domestic convenience, such as a boiler repair.
 

S&CLER

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Well, you can get £4 a month (I think) towards your additional utility costs. Not sure about any others.
As a self-employed freelancer I have been allowed to claim one-sixth of the running costs of my flat as working expenses for many years now, since one room is equipped as a home office. Of course if I sold the flat, I might be liable to pay capital gains tax on one-sixth of the gain, if it were within the taxable band, which is unlikely. But I presume there are different possibly temporary rules for those employees who find themselves working at home at the moment because of the pandemic. I still do a modest amount of work (but no more urgent deadlines!) to keep this tax relief.

It's largely a matter of temperament whether you can enjoy it or not. I have lived alone and worked at home since 1980, relying on fax before email came in, and don't mind it at all. You just need to make an effort to get a social life in the evenings and at weekends, which at the moment of course is not easy. I have felt a big difference between when I lived in a suburb up to 1995, and the last 25 years when I've been in a town centre. It's much easier when you can feel that you're in the midst of things just by going out of your front door, e.g. to meet people for lunch.
 

Galvanize

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Around roughly 8 out of 10 people I know (or Know Of) from various circles who are in a WFH situation all seem to enjoy it.

Those that didn’t...
One seemed to miss the Face to face social interaction, and they found that doing 8 hour continuous Zoom/Video call Meetings (Or one meeting quickly followed by another without a proper break) was really draining. They also thought that once the novelty of working from home wore off after a few weeks as restrictions remained in place, it was starting to get them down a bit, just being confined to the same four walls day in day out!

The other one found being at home with their Spouse (who’d been Furloughed during this unpleasantness) was getting a bit much for them and have now split up. They also found it a bit obtrusive having Home Life and Work Life suddenly fused together. That was affecting their productivity having personal stuff going on in the background.

None of the others I spoke to seemed to miss commuting to work, either a long drive sometimes sitting Bumper to Bumper in the Rush Hour traffic, then the business of parking etc, or getting on trains and Tubes and being in somebody’s lap or Armpits paying a lot of money for the privilege!
One preferred it as they would still get up at the same time they would have done to Commute into London, instead using the time to take their Dog out for a walk, and then starting work when they felt “Awake”.
One liked the idea of just staying at home and working in their Jim-Jams and a pair of slippers instead of donning a suit.

Another one liked it so much being at home
“You’d literally have to drag me kicking and screaming if I have to return to the office anytime soon!”
 

WelshBluebird

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Its a complex one because:
  • Different people prefer different things. There isn't a one size fits all solution for all people.
  • Different jobs / companies / individuals perform differently remotely vs in an office. There isn't a one size fits all solution for all roles.
  • This really isn't just a question of individual jobs - its also a question of the wider economy and what we should be incentivising.
  • The social side of it is important and something is lost there WFH.
  • Much of what we have seen this year has been existing work relationships shifting online. In a true remote working world, you also have to consider onboarding / switching jobs remotely etc too.
  • Working from home / remotely in the future isn't just going to look like what it has during COVID. People are going to be able to support business's like cafes / coffee shops etc closer to where they live if they want to, and because leisure activities will be a thing again, it won't feel as drab as it has done for many this year. This also can solve the social and face to face side of it too. I work in an industry (software dev) that has done remote working for ages - some of my colleagues have done fully remote roles before where they would have regular local get togethers and less regular nationwide get togethers.
Personally - I've been more than happy working from home since March, and have been about as productive as I would have been anyway - probably because of the nature of my work (again - software dev, working with a remote client so would have had plenty of Teams meetings etc even if I was in the office). However even then, I'd probably say when the office reopens properly I'd probably be wanting to do half and half. So maybe 2 days one week and 3 days the next etc. If I'll be able to or not - we are yet to be told!
 

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Prefer working from home, 3 hours and £160 a month saved through not travelling, if I got the option to WFH except for meetings then I'd be quite happy (Boss and Bosses Boss are also happy with me and my teammates' performance, when they were looking at getting people back in over the Summer they were happy with us to keep working from home - I've found in particular it's a lot easier getting things done without getting disturbed).

Seems that among the rest of the department I work in there's a mix of opinions; some people who've gone back to the office ASAP, some who are Ok at home but would prefer being in the office, and some who'd be happy working from home permanently. Hopefully the company will look at that when we're getting back to normal, I'm not 100% sure how long I'd stay if I was back in the office all the time :|
 

Mag_seven

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When one of my former bosses worked from home I always thought it strange that it nearly always coincided with a test match on TV. ;)
 

Ianno87

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One thing that I find consistently tricky about working from home is the lack of "switch off" time between shutting the laptop and home life - it's straight into keeping the kids happy with no mental break between the two, no matter how disciplined I am about ending the working day.
 

nlogax

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Much of what we have seen this year has been existing work relationships shifting online. In a true remote working world, you also have to consider onboarding / switching jobs remotely etc too.

Onboarding new starters to our teams has been hugely difficult this year. None of them have physically met any of their colleagues so far. Don't know about you but I can't imagine starting in a new company and not physically meeting anyone I'm working with for potentially the first full year of employment.

One thing that I find consistently tricky about working from home is the lack of "switch off" time between shutting the laptop and home life - it's straight into keeping the kids happy with no mental break between the two, no matter how disciplined I am about ending the working day.

It's true. Working hours morph into personal time so seamlessly that the blur between the two can last til bedtime. It helps to have a separate office / spare room to keep my work setup but when I'm sitting on the sofa eating my dinner while prodding away at the work laptop because of those random urgent things that have come in then all hope of personal boundaries evaporates.
 

WelshBluebird

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One thing that I find consistently tricky about working from home is the lack of "switch off" time between shutting the laptop and home life - it's straight into keeping the kids happy with no mental break between the two, no matter how disciplined I am about ending the working day.
Have a different room has helped me immensely.
And in terms of the mental break - even without a family (its just me and my partner) - sometimes I'll stay in the spare room where my office set up now is and just nose at this like this forum or Facebook etc for 10 / 15 mins haha.
Onboarding new starters to our teams has been hugely difficult this year. None of them have physically met any of their colleagues so far. Don't know about you but I can't imagine starting in a new company and not physically meeting anyone I'm working with for potentially the first full year of employment.
We've not had to onboard anyone totally new yet. Some people who were on different projects have joined but those are people we already know. Although we have had a few people leave and start new jobs and from talking with them it has all gone fine so who knows! Not something I'd like to be doing right now though!
 

westv

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When one of my former bosses worked from home I always thought it strange that it nearly always coincided with a test match on TV. ;)
Better that then coinciding with the test card on tv. :D:D
 
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