Back To The Commute

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From our Swindon Correspondent:

This really isn’t going to work:-

Boris Johnson is launching a campaign to get Brits back into office as ministers warn working from home will make them more ‘vulnerable’ to being sacked.

This is generally known as presenteeism. If your boss is an idiot, he doesn’t measure you by how much work you get done but whether you’re at your desk when he walks past.

Maybe your boss is such an idiot. Maybe you are stuck with that in the current climate. But I don’t think most people are in that situation. For many companies, this has been a learning experience. I can confirm this looking at the job requests sent to me a year ago vs today. 20 job ads. A year ago, 15% fully remote. The last 20 job ads I had? 60% fully remote (by the way, this never means 100% remote, but more like 80+% remote).

Companies that start demanding their staff waste an hour on a crappy, unreliable, disease-ridden commuter train every day, at the price of £6K/year (from Reading) are going to find people leaving at the earliest opportunity. What’s the gross cost of that to someone? £10K/annum?

There’s also going to be companies out there using this as an opportunity. Find companies insisting on work from home and start offering their people the same salary but with WFH benefits.

It will include reassurances on the safety of workplaces and make the ’emotional case’ for going back, including the mental health benefits of being around colleagues in person.

There’s also the mental health downsides of being on a commuter train that’s rammed because the last one was cancelled with one of the following:trying your patience- chavs who don’t control their kids, drunks, people playing techno too loudly. And you’re running late, and wondering if you can get home to read the kids a bedtime story.

It’s good to be around people, but if you want to do that, go and find a friendly pub or a hotel near where you live to sit in. Your colleagues are rarely your friends. Leave a company and you almost never keep in touch. They’re strangers that you work with. You might as well go to the local cafe and chat to the two lovely Spanish girls behind the counter, or people at the next table.

As the UK tried to kickstart its economy following the coronavirus lockdown, the Prime Minister worries empty office buildings could slow down the nation’s recovery.

To paraphrase our host: office buildings are a cost, not a benefit. If people aren’t using them because they found a more efficient way to operate, that makes us richer. It’s a problem for landlords in London, but I have a tiny violin for the London landlords.

A Government source told the Telegraph: ‘People need to understand that working from home isn’t the benign option it seems. We need workers to be alert to what decisions their bosses may take in the weeks ahead. ‘If they are only seeing workers once a fortnight then that could prove problematic for some employees in the future. We want employees to be careful what working arrangements they accept. ‘Suddenly the word “restricted” is bandied about and people who have been working from home find themselves in the most vulnerable position.’

So says people who mostly work in a fossil of a building whose processes seem to be mostly pre-war, are mostly a chumocracy. These people have no clue at all about modern business. I’ve done office and remote work for people for over a decade and you have no more clue what decisions your bosses are taking just because they’re in the next room.

If you’ve got good management, work from home is just fine. If they’re nervous about what you’re producing, they talk to you. You address the problem. Doesn’t apply if you’re working for idiots, but if you are, you should probably quit anyway as you’ll be out of a job in a year or two anyway.

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Barks
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Barks

Life ain’t nearly as binary as this article posits. And much work, beyond doing mindless coding of credit applications on the machine, is more nuanced than the article assumes.

Boganboy
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Boganboy

I’d agree. And I’d also argue that some people’d be more productive at home, and some more productive in the office. But since it’s cheaper for the boss to use home workers, the officites will be dumped.

Spike
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Spike

Agreed. Boris would like everyone back in London so that the support businesses prosper. Apart from debating the advantages of work-from-home versus commuting and working in person, how is Boris to know how best to work? All he has done is win a popularity contest, and the only information he has is lobbying. As with our perennial disdain for programs to save “jobs”: Institutions, including London eateries, should adapt to fit the people, not the other way around.

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

At the start of this I would have agreed but I’m starting to have second thoughts about the medium term. I was thinking about management fads and the centralise/decentralise reorganisations companies have been going through since what seems like time began. This set of company managers will be comfortable with the working from home situation, they know their staff and the company’s roles, process and procedures are clearly understood. As memories of the virus wane and new managers come in they will find it more difficult to manage, they’ll also have younger workers who aren’t as experienced because they’ve had… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

This is mostly about some large places, especially London, Manchester, Bristol, possibly Reading. Places that have a lot of people travelling into a small space. Places that tend to be expensive to live and have high office rents.

The call centres I know on the outskirts of Swansea, Peterborough and Runcorn will go back because they’re cheap places to rent and the staff all live nearby. If people only have a 10 minute drive in light traffic, they’d probably rather go into the office.

Pat
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Pat

If people are to return to the office they need to be persuaded that it’s safe.
Publish all daily deaths, not just Covid, so people can see.how insignificant they are.
Point out that the deaths are falling all the time.
Point out that well people under 65 are at negligible risk.
Point out that the percentage of positive tests is pretty close to the percentage of false positives.
Then remove all restrictions as superfluous now it’s over.
And long term, I’ve no doubt many of the practices introduced in response to Covid will have benefits generally, and these will be retained.

Ahem
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Ahem

Also, commuting with a mask, as we are currently expected to do, is unpleasant. With a mask, my glasses fog up so I can’t read anything unless I take them off.

jgh
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jgh

With a mask my glasses fall off as the mask straps seem to prevent the arms holding onto my face. Already half a dozen times I’ve just managed to avoid having the damn things smash as they fall off me while loading or unloading – which would leave me stranded unable to drive home.

Spike
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Spike

Locally, we are coming up on 11 weeks past epidemic. I’ve heard that Covid in Florida is now so minor that it is 1 week past outbreak. You write, “many of the practices introduced in response to Covid will have benefits generally, and these will be retained.” Unfortunately, this will be decided by politicians, which means that practices that have no benefit at all will also be retained. The suggestion of universal mask-wearing spread after the virus was waning, and the current State of Emergency is merely that Covid might come back!

MrYan
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MrYan

Wouldn’t that be tantamount to admitting the government got the whole pandemic response wrong? So won’t happen.

Matt
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Matt

If your “regular place of work” is home — I believe where you spend the plurality of your working time and at least 40% of total: I’ve met this comfortably for a long time so the exact details are a bit :shrug: — then working from somewhere else is a business expense and tax deductible; commuting costs come out of taxed income, so switching a contract from office-based to home-based is a very tax-efficient way of giving someone a pay rise!

John Galt
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It’s all very well BoJo saying the eateries and other support services to city offices are failing due to the absence of commuting office workers, but as those offices are a cost, so are the costs of commuting and buying that coffee and sandwich on the way to the office and so on and so forth. All of these costs come out of tax paid income for your average pleb, not some expense account like BoJo as a Journalist or BoJo as an MP. These idiots really have no idea how the other half lives. Saving an hour each way… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

Hear hear! Gov’t is now “managing” the recovery with the same incompetence with which it managed the virus. In the US, the current mania is to try to figure out who lost a paycheck in the lockdown and send them a paycheck (with dollars created out of thin air). Economy to be restored by gov’t pointing to what resources should go where. Though Congress’s real desire is to keep cranking out big “must-pass” bills in which to hide favors.

Itellyounothing
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Itellyounothing

Guess what Blojo, you (or any other mindless vandal) can break the economy.
Even bring it to a complete halt if you are that stupid.

You don’t get to decide what grows back in it’s place.

The Ecksian Solution looks better and better!

John Galt
Guest

I wouldn’t say “better and better”, since the Ecksian solution requires bloodshed a plenty and we would have to dip our hands in the blood, each and every one of us.

It is however looking increasingly necessary, if unlikely…