WW 715: A Big Gulp of Bloodies

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What are your thoughts about today’s show? We’d love to hear from you!

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I am more like you all regarding work from home. I used to live in New Jersey and commute to NYC. My company just went total permanent remote. I live in Florida now. I love working at home. I never want to go to another office again for the rest of my life. In fact, I never want set foot in another large downtown business district again.

I think the narrative about “social benefits of office work” is mostly coming from commercial real estate developers and urban planners who are talking their book (I have CNBC on all day for my job and most of the people saying those things fall into those categories).

I don’t know a single person who wants to come into the office anymore.

I used to work in a medium sized office as a software developer with a title that involved “subject matter expert”. I don’t disagree with you about working from hope having great value. I did a two week “crunch” where I chose to work from home. It helped me solve a major problem and port a lot of code in a hurry for a project that had fallen behind.

On the other side, it may have been because of my role, but I found great value in a lot of random office chat at the coffee machine, and even, heaven forbid, on my way to or from the washrooms (which, to reach, required me to walk through the entire “cubicle farm” and thus past many other employees workplaces.) I’m sure it may be possible to simulate this in a “work from home” environment, but it’s not going to be serendipitous, but something you actually work to achieve.

Having worked for a large consultancy for over 15 years, always on the road, always working at different clients, it is very difficult to “stay in touch”, when there is little or no social contact.

When, after 16 years with the company, my current contract with a customer came to an end, I was told to use my “network” with other employees to find myself another project. Up until that point, I had been sent from one project to the next. I met a few colleagues for a few months and that was that. Often, I’d go for years without actually seeing “my office”, well, I didn’t have an office, I had a notional hot-desk at my base site, but in 16 years, I’d spent less than 6 months at my desk.

My “network” was my line manager, my personnel contact and that was about it. I had met other employees every now and then, but never long enough to become friends or to keep up with them, when we moved on, we were too busy - I was travelling 4 hours a day to client sites and doing a 10-12 hour work day with the client’s team. Or I was spending months on end in hotels, travelling home on a Friday night, doing my washing, paying bills and driving back to the hotel Sunday afternoon.

I knew hardly anyone personally at work. I had a better relationship with some of the clients than I did with my company, but nobody high enough at the clients to get me another project.

It is a little different, when you are working for your employer directly in home office. But those networking opportunities - water cooler talk, going down the pub Friday lunch time or going out with colleagues in the evenings, those are the things that start to matter after a while. You might be able to do your work, but do you actually build-up friendships with your colleagues, bonding exercises or simply going for a drink? Get to know them? There are a lot of social aspects to working in an office that are important in the long run, that you just don’t get with phone calls and the odd Zoom call.

I now work for a smaller company and it is like a family. Everybody knows everybody else, but we have regular, daily contact. I’ve noticed with home office, that we speak for maybe 10 minutes a week, if that, we are too busy with projects and calls to users or suppliers. Those quick chats between calls, eating lunch together etc. are things I miss, the team is growing more distant, because we never see each other face to face.

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Hi, now you can say you know one. I will absolutely be going back to my office a few days a week specifically for the social/networking opportunities that @big_D describes. A little chit-chat here, a coffee there, the occasional lunch, comparing notes after a town hall, getting the inside scoop on something big happening in another part of the company, hearing about clients we’re winning and losing… All of that stuff comes much more naturally when you have regular contact with people. Maybe over time corporate culture will adapt to more fully to remote work and spaces will emerge for that stuff to happen organically for distributed workers. I see small sparks of that in virtual happy hours, and in G Plus/Yammer boards, but so far it is a pale imitation of the real thing. I don’t begrudge anyone who is perfectly happy to work from home and not see anyone else, or who would otherwise face a long commute (my commute is <10 minutes), but it is not for everyone-- and there are still real benefits to office spaces.

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I am surprised about these responses. I honestly don’t value any of that water cooler stuff at all

There are people who have and always will thrive on companionship and fellowship, where others just want to go to work do their job, and go home.
Of course, we need both types of people as they each have their own attributes that make them excel at different types of work. Just sometimes 1 has a hard time understanding why the other is the way they are is all.

That may say more about you than it. :wink:

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Yeah, there’s a purely social component to it, but as @big_D noted there are legitimate professional benefits. This may vary by industry, and by size of company, but I can give you some immediate examples:

  • We got a new IT guy years ago. I met him at the coffee machine and struck up a conversation about his Pebble watch. Since then we chit chat a few times a week when we see each other in the cafe. Now when I have an issue I send him a message and gets resolved, quickly. I still fill out the appropriate forms, but I’m not routed through a lengthy off-shore process.
  • I occasionally participate in an office walking group and got to know some of the executive assistants. I would then see them regularly in the office when I’d have my afternoon tea and take a loop around the office. We chat about the kids and the execs travels and big meetings and whatnot. Now, I can get last-minute space accommodation at our downtown NYC office without the one-week notice, and I get access to our limited-access office in Chelsea too.
  • I got to talking with the facilities manager years ago when he was installing the new common room monitors and we got to talking about A/V stuff and basketball. Now we chat whenever we see each other and get the occasional beer after work. The vending machines now carry my favorite soda and my favorite snack. I got access to the Executive meeting room with the fancy video calling setup when we wanted to have a fantasy football draft. When there was a big reorg and space re-allocation, I got my preferred location. When I want to have outdoor movie night in the summer I can bring home a projector.
  • Through happy hours I got to know a bunch of our people who normally work on-site at clients. They come to the office maybe two or three times a month, and when they do I will stop by and see how things are going. When my team was short on revenue last year, I was able to use that network to find two opportunities. A few years ago I learned that one of their husbands was entertaining job offers in another city. I was able to connect her with someone on my team that I knew was looking for a client-facing role. She is now working for one of our clients and referred them to me for business. And the person I referred to her is still at the other client and has gotten me new business there.

These are the kinds of little things that simple social exchanges generate, and it can add up over time. And this is all with people outside my area of operation that I would not otherwise have any contact with beyond some perfunctory transaction. Like I said, maybe over time we will build up digital equivalents that allow for these kinds of things.

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HA well. Even there was value to it, it certainty is not worth the higher cost of living of living in the Northeast, the higher taxes, commuting, and overcrowding and all the other problems in NYC.

@MaryJo Regarding vertical tabs, I agree with you-- it took me about a week to break the muscle memory and get used to vertical tabs. Now I love it, and I’m annoyed I don’t have it in Chrome, which we use at work. Yes, I know there are extensions that can do it but IT routinely blows away non-approved extensions on our machines.

Absolutely. If you don’t like where you live, then all the in-office perks in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans. My folks retired and left Jersey twenty years ago because they were fed up with the taxes and the traffic. In a mildly ironic twist, the small Missouri city they moved to just kept growing and growing and now the traffic is worse than it was in Ocean County. The taxes are still low, so I guess there’s that.

I tried vertical tabs on edge and just couldn’t get use to it. :frowning: I wanted to love it but it was too weird for me.

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@MaryJo I may have mentioned this before but noticed in your closing of the beer pick up the week you were mentioning it’s hard to find women owner or partially owned. I have a friend that owns a brewery with her life partner in Michigan. The name is Guarding Brewing Company and located in Saugatuk, Mi.


I’m retired now and worked in a hospital laboratory that will never be done from home. My husband has been able to home office for a few years. Right now, the company has employees come in on Mon Tue or on Thurs Fri. So the offices always have half the number for social distancing. He really likes this arrangement as two days a week he can see and talk to clients or quickly ask a question when he has a software problem yet also works from home three days a week where he gets much more done without the interruptions. He agrees that he can concentrate and accomplish more at home but enjoys the face to face contacts two days a week. He’s hoping this is what they stick with as most of them like it best!

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Nice! Thanks for the info!

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