It’s the Cost That’s the Thing

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From our Swindon Correspondent:

Jerry Seinfeld in the NYT

There’s some other stupid thing in the article about “bandwidth” and how New York is over because everybody will “remote everything.” Guess what: Everyone hates to do this. Everyone. Hates.
As someone who does a mix of remote and office work, no. I like remote. Lots of people like remote. Jerry Seinfeld is probably rich enough to live in a nice place close to the office, but lots of people working in New York live in cramped apartments that still have a commute. Tell people they can live somewhere cheaper and not waste time commuting, they’ll generally take it.
You know why? There’s no energy.

Energy, attitude and personality cannot be “remoted” through even the best fiber optic lines. That’s the whole reason many of us moved to New York in the first place.

No, they moved to New York because it was one of the 2 big entertainment places in the USA (the other being LA). Traditionally, you weren’t going to make it in comedy playing clubs in Dayton, Ohio.

This “energy and attitude” of cities is just woo. I’ve heard this dozens of times about London, and worked with companies there and they’re the same as anywhere.

And if you look at where comedy is at now, location is not so important. The physical networks that meant people discovered a comic have been replaced by YouTube and podcasting. You can be in Arizona (like Doug Stanhope is) and build an audience, publicise tours and books.
 
You ever wonder why Silicon Valley even exists? I have always wondered, why do these people all live and work in that location? They have all this insane technology; why don’t they all just spread out wherever they want to be and connect with their devices? Because it doesn’t work, that’s why.
Except that as a result of Covid, the likes of Twitter and Facebook have realised it works fine and are shifting that way permanently. Github, Atlassian and many other tech companies have been doing optional remote working for years. Making this work really well for large teams was only properly sorted out with the tools available in the past 5-10 years.
We’re going to keep going with New York City if that’s all right with you. And it will sure as hell be back.
Not in the same way, and nor will London, Paris or Rome. These places saw a lot of growth in demand (reflected in rents) as service jobs grew, and proximity mattered, but if you only go into the office once a fortnight, you can live a lot further out. You wouldn’t want to commute from Swindon to the city every day, but once a fortnight? Sure, why not.
Editor’s note – Jerry would do well to consider that point made by Karl Marx – technology determines the mode of social relations

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Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

There’s going to be some interesting social changes as well. For a lot of young people their social life is a couple of beers after work with coworkers before they all scatter off to their homes in the ‘burbs or elsewhere. They don’t have time for a social life during the week. By not losing that commuting time they can take part in social activities at home: joining clubs (when they open) drama groups etc. and they’ll develop friends nearer home. Once those benefits are added to the others of not commuting its going to be even harder to convince… Read more »

john77
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john77

How spoiled is the younger generation! – I didn’t have time for a couple of beers after work before commuting back to a converted attic when I started working in London.

Bernie G.
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Bernie G.

The thing about losing that couple of drinks after work in the City is your eclectic group of friends – who invariably live a dozen or more miles in different directions. The centre of the hub is where everyone congregates. Being restricted to socialising with the yawns in your local suburb doesn’t make for an interesting life.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

It’s not the Algonquin round table in the pubs around Reading station! They tend to be similar people to many people I live near. The other thing is that they really aren’t your friends much. You leave work, you see less than 5% of them ever again. You might strike up a friendship with a few that last longer. But I think it’s healthier to get longer term friends. It’s one reason that I think so many people can go downhill after retirement. They built their social life around work, work with people for years and within a month, those… Read more »

Bernie G.
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Bernie G.

I moved to London in the ’70s when it more resembled The Sweeney than our now glamorous first world city. I swear it was almost like a village…unbelievably, everyone seemed to know each other. Yes, drinking partners, friends, included colleagues – obviously, but it was just as likely to accommodate bus drivers and roofers as city traders and professionals. Egalitarians R-Us! My immediate circle included ex-gov Labour ministers and Conservative hereditary peers. No one seemed to give a shit where you came from. A golden age. But yes, Bloke on M4, the bar at Cannon Street station has a lot… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

The rise in services led to more demand for closer connections between offices, and at the same time, better haulage meant that breweries, markets and garages could move out.

Eastenders is bizarre. That version of east London was disappearing when it started.

Bernie G.
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Bernie G.

West Ham and Millwall still fly the flag.

Bernie G.
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Bernie G.

“…and within a month, those people don’t call them back.”

They do, even now after 20yrs. But then these relationships were forged in battle, rather than ships that pass in the night.

Chester Draws
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Chester Draws

People who are expert at their jobs can often work remotely. But how is someone new going to get to that position? If everyone else is working remotely, there will be no office to train them in. Once the supply of experts dries up, people will need to go back into offices to help train the next generation. I suspect that the number of remote workers will be limited to those that are expert, and able to make demands or go elsewhere, and also sufficiently career driven to be able to keep working at home despite the temptation to slack… Read more »

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

Work from Home is rarely 100% or even over 90%. There’s things best done face to face. I’ve done this. New guy joins, we do some induction for a few days. And if you’re training people that tends to be gradual. No-one hires smart kids with A levels and spends months training them to be programmers like they once did. The other thing here is that the jobs that are going to be most hit by this are already high value. The call centres in Peterborough, Swansea and Runcorn probably won’t change. People are already living in cheap places and… Read more »

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

There is some merit in what Seinfeld writes. I speak as a business owner who has had staff working remotely throughout this madness. And I own and run a retail financial services business. What disappears is just that esprit de corps and the energy that arises from a busy business. This latter is vital as everyone loves a truly busy (not just activity) business and it seems to generate a sort of aura that attracts more business. Most of my staff are now back in and the place is staring to buzz again. But this is not the same as… Read more »

John B
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John B

Straight line thinking. As it is now, ever it must be. Any change is just a blip which will self-correct/must be corrected. Change must be stopped!

Many people can only imagine the future within the confines of the way things are now, their own limited experience. They do not consider that the way things are now was new, was unimagined change, in previous times, or why that change came about. We have a younger population that is ahistoric.