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Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Ombligo
Date: April 16, 2020 06:14AM
I was having a discussion yesterday and it was suggested that having employees work from home could be the new norm for many companies. The rationale being that such a scenario could be very cost-effective and profitable.

The idea was that companies could save a great deal on overhead and employee costs. This was due to several factors such as reduced office costs - companies could downsize office space as it was no longer needed to house employees during working hours (so reduced rent, utilities, maintenance, insurance, etc). The cost of workers comp would be reduced as the employees would not be on company property and would be less likely to have an injury - even then it would be far more difficult to prove it was a job-related injury. Office politics would be reduced as employees would not have the proverbial water cooler to chat at. Even health insurance may be reduced as many employees would not take sick days since they would not need to go to the office (not to mention a reduction in illness since a single sick employee would not be spreading the germ).

An employer could even make all workers independent contractors (since they would not be coming to work) and eliminate the costs of health insurance, workers comp, matching social security, 401k matches, etc). Hopefully, some of those saving would be passed along in the form of an increased salary, but not all would of course.

I can see the benefits, but it would be a fundamental thought shift that most companies are adverse too. Still the longer the current situation continues, the greater the likelihood that this could come to pass.

Thoughts?



“No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.”
-- François de La Rochefoucauld
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Sarcany
Date: April 16, 2020 06:43AM
Quote
Ombligo
An employer could even make all workers independent contractors (since they would not be coming to work) and eliminate the costs of health insurance, workers comp, matching social security, 401k matches, etc). Hopefully, some of those saving would be passed along in the form of an increased salary, but not all would of course.

Closer to none. With > 10% unemployment wages are about to tank and benefits will disappear.

BTW: Thanks for describing my nightmare.



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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Sam3
Date: April 16, 2020 06:50AM
One of our local hospital systems are evaluating this idea, specifically for the real estate savings. They could get rid of one whole office building.



The arts are not luxuries but assets that give way more than they cost.
--Ronald Tucker on YouTube

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open.
--Frank Zappa
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: deckeda
Date: April 16, 2020 07:41AM
For years many companies have taken a “not invented here” stance, requiring workers to gather unnecessarily. This has caused them not to recognize when and where it makes sense.

My new job is low man on the pole, dealing with external clients. It’s inherently a work-from-home position because it’s phone and email. But several others (staff is about 50 total including CEO) are adjusting to home life even though their jobs are also inherently phone and email.

My challenges are the same as if I were in an office: still needing to constantly tug at my supervisor’s sleeve. Being in person would make that no better.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: deckeda
Date: April 16, 2020 07:45AM
It’s funny. I’ve been at this 3 weeks almost and racing to out myself out of an essential job within the company. It’s disorganized to the extent I’m in impossible scenarios, but if in a year’s time I can “fix” it they might not need me. That’s my expectation.

We support and help professionally grow facility managers ... who have no buildings to work in today. That doesn’t bode well for OUR company, no matter where we work.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: wurm
Date: April 16, 2020 07:46AM
Interesting. I'm scheduled to "semi-retire" in a few months, and I had arranged with my employer to continue on a part-time basis. One of my stipulations was the ability to work from home most of the time. They agreed, but wanted me there two days a week. I agreed.

Let's see how all this might change things.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: bobinmurphy
Date: April 16, 2020 07:50AM
I've worked for companies during my career who really tried doing this, but in the end it never quite worked out. For some workers, some jobs and some companies it will work but it requires a lot of commitment from all levels that is pretty hard to find. The biggest problem is finding the workers who can do this and have the right work ethic and dedication to make it successful. Sadly, the various generations have different views on this and unfortunately the Millennial Generation, for the most part, just doesn't have what it takes to make this work long-term. They have too much of a need for instant gratification on their efforts and an ingrained belief that their employers are just exploiting them.

Now I could be totally wrong (and hope I am), and it may be the this pandemic is the catalyst that was needed to force a reset in thinking in our society making this possible.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: d4
Date: April 16, 2020 08:07AM
If this is the case, I need to hoard sweatpants before they sell out.



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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: bazookaman
Date: April 16, 2020 08:25AM
In my own experience, it seems like most companies would rather have a non-productive person in the office all day where they can be seen vs a super productive person at home where they cannot be seen. Even though the office worker is non-productive it is the home worker that is seen as "gaming the system" somehow.

Personally I get WAY more work done at home. To the point that I work MORE. Which is unfair to me. But my current job is such that I have to be on-site a lot so working from home is great for now, but I'm itching for some hands-on projects in the office that I'm missing.

In the past, its been super difficult for me to get my company to let me work from home. We have certain roles that are work from home. But they are specialists and account managers. The rest of the company suffers from a "me too" attitude. So if so and so can work from home, then so should I. The fact is that people in the warehouse simply cannot work from home and certain other roles do not lend themselves to working from home. But the company maintains this policy. It's frustrating when I have to take vacation days on a snow day b/c I'm not allowed to work from home. They'd rather me do nothing than do something working from home.

I'm hoping this will all change that attitude.




__________________________________
Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: dk62
Date: April 16, 2020 08:49AM
There are legal actions in many states that would make classifying long-term workers as independent contractors without benefits illegal. Otherwise, yes, this may or may not work depending on people involved. I have remote employees that work from home full time in normal times, and some are star performers, while for some of the others I sometimes wonder how they spend their days.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: mattkime
Date: April 16, 2020 09:05AM
In so far as this offers more flexible working arrangements its good. BUT IT TAKES BOTH EMPLOYEES AND MANAGEMENT to do it.

In so far as its another way to reduce employment expenses its a bad idea.

I've been full time remote for three years. There are tradeoffs but IMO the good very much outweighs the bad.

Also, IMO, the place where it gets much more interesting is when highly paid jobs are more evenly distributed across the country. Imagine the tech centers evenly spread across the US.



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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: NewtonMP2100
Date: April 16, 2020 09:20AM
....one can 'work it'.....at home.....in the office....anywhere......



_____________________________________

I reject your reality and substitute my own!
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: raz
Date: April 16, 2020 09:21AM
When they moved my office from 10 minutes from home to 1 hour away, I lasted two years before I told my manager I needed to work from him one day each week. The 20% reduction in commute time really lowered my stress level.

I develop very complicated software. There is nothing I can't do just as easily from home (given a decent VPN and the occasionally teleconference) - except that I'm limited to a single screen.

I have no issue working from home full time. I even spend a good chunk of the wasted drive time at the keyboard. I'm really enjoying this whole Social Distancing thing.



--------------

Embarassing myself on the Internet since 1978.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: NewtonMP2100
Date: April 16, 2020 09:39AM
.....just don't 'social distance'......your heart......



_____________________________________

I reject your reality and substitute my own!
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Gareth
Date: April 16, 2020 10:01AM
Quote
Ombligo
An employer could even make all workers independent contractors (since they would not be coming to work) and eliminate the costs of health insurance, workers comp, matching social security, 401k matches, etc). Hopefully, some of those saving would be passed along in the form of an increased salary, but not all would of course.

Hopefully that would not happen. Given recent laws in CA, I can’t see that happening here. With millions filing for unemployment now, many of which are “independent contractors” that aren’t normally eligible for unemployment, there may be a crackdown/re-evaluation of who can be an independent contractor vs employee.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Zoidberg
Date: April 16, 2020 10:20AM
FWIW, I've been working from home since Katrina in 2005. I work as a writer/marketing (page layout: RFQ response & forms) person for the engineering industry (specifically last several years: geotechnical engineering, CMT, and surveying).

FWIW, converting everyone to independent contractors is not something that is likely to happen; when I first started my one-man shop, I worked almost exclusively for one engineering firm. They sent out a memo at some point reminding local VPs that all independent consultants/contractors must have other clients or the company would be hit with back taxes, penalties, social security fees, etc. Of course, that's under old tax laws so things have changed but I'm still occasionally asked by new clients if I'm actively working for other firms when the FO asks for my tax ID.



(BTW, it's spelled < y'all >.)
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: N-OS X-tasy!
Date: April 16, 2020 10:46AM
Quote
Ombligo
An employer could even make all workers independent contractors (since they would not be coming to work) and eliminate the costs of health insurance, workers comp, matching social security, 401k matches, etc). Hopefully, some of those saving would be passed along in the form of an increased salary, but not all would of course.

That may be the worst idea I've ever heard.



It is what it is.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Steve G.
Date: April 16, 2020 11:03AM
I think Bazookaman has a good point.

It's more than how productively people work. The rethinking of management must take place. The incompetents, power-tripping, biased middle managers will make a remote system not work. Consider the things you have seen performed in offices over the years. The detachment will only bring this to screaming levels of mis-judgements, favoritism, conscious and unconscious bias and just plain, 'how do you get rid of this idiot?'

Let's get real, the inequities you've seen before will explode all over the place into bitterness and heavy-handed (unpunished) greed and stupidity.

ps- historically, that's what unions were meant to prevent.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/16/2020 11:04AM by Steve G..
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: cbelt3
Date: April 16, 2020 11:16AM
Quote
d4
If this is the case, I need to hoard sweatpants before they sell out.
PANTS ? Where we're going, we don't need pants !!!
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Robert M
Date: April 16, 2020 11:33AM
Ombligo,

Working from home isn't going to be the new norm. It will become a much greater part of the new norm and I bet it will be a bargaining point just like other benefits when people are hunting for a new job. And, like the other forumites have said, it's going to take changes on both the employee and management levels.

Robert
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Ammo
Date: April 16, 2020 11:42AM
Quote
N-OS X-tasy!
Quote
Ombligo
An employer could even make all workers independent contractors (since they would not be coming to work) and eliminate the costs of health insurance, workers comp, matching social security, 401k matches, etc). Hopefully, some of those saving would be passed along in the form of an increased salary, but not all would of course.

That may be the worst idea I've ever heard.

Sorry to say, but I think it’s more likely that benefits packages offered to most contractors will not even come close to meeting these requirements. I also wonder if independent contractors will eventually wind up competing with contractors from around the globe who wouldn’t dream of asking for benefits at all.



Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. —Wendy Mass

Until you make your unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. - Carl Jung
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: vision63
Date: April 16, 2020 11:47AM
Not having everyone in the office is painful for my kind of work. Having all the decision-makers in the same room is not only efficient but saves a ton of back and forth.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: davester
Date: April 16, 2020 12:43PM
Commuting to a workplace to work 8 to 5 is a leftover from the days when most work was manufacturing and the boss on the factory floor needed to keep an eye on everyone to make sure that the entire operation was running smoothly. This no longer applies to a huge fraction of American workers. Continuing this methodology is an incredible waste of resources and creates huge environmental and other impacts. People commute long distances in cars burning fossil fuels, enduring commute stress, getting in automobile accidents and polluting the air, not to mention the huge cost of owning, maintaining, and operating vehicles to support that. Then they sit in big buildings that have to be built, heated, air conditioned, and lit (though this is partially offset if their home is empty during that time). I'm hopeful that this crisis will force a big rethink of this wasteful 18th century pattern.

That said, I realize that working from home doesn't work for everybody. I think however that if everybody who could reasonably work from home either full or part time could do so, there would be massive benefits to our society, and especially to the few who still needed to go to work every day and could do so without fighting against all those unnecessary other commuters.

On workers losing benefits, the biggest problem is that the US has employment-based health insurance, the only country in the developed world to do it this way. This crazy setup started just after WWII and was the result of strong unions. It worked more or less OK for a number of years when giant companies with union workforces employed most Americans and before the medical-industrial complex went into full profiteering mode. This system always left out those who were non-union workers for small companies or self-employed, so was never perfect. Now, it is a complete disaster, with insanely high prices and unions relegated to the dustbin of history. Also, this is a massive tax on employers that have to compete unfairly against foreign companies that don't provide health coverage in countries with nationalized health systems. We need to get away from a system where benefits are of such critical importance.



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/16/2020 12:46PM by davester.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: d4
Date: April 16, 2020 12:51PM
Some managers feel there is the worry that if "you give an inch, they'll take a mile". Conference calls will sometimes be taken in cars on headsets. Unusually long breaks to run errands. Picking up the kids from bus stop after school, then a snack. Then another break. Someone's at the door. Normal household distractions.

No one ever got fired for insisting people work at the office as usual instead of from home.



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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: Acer
Date: April 16, 2020 03:07PM
Working at home is not sufficient to change us all into independent contractors, IMHO.

"The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done."

[www.irs.gov]

Working at home only changes the place where the work is performed, and that is still at the discretion of the employer. Working from home does stop the employer from defining what will be done and how it will be done.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: davester
Date: April 16, 2020 03:10PM
Quote
d4
Some managers feel there is the worry that if "you give an inch, they'll take a mile". Conference calls will sometimes be taken in cars on headsets. Unusually long breaks to run errands. Picking up the kids from bus stop after school, then a snack. Then another break. Someone's at the door. Normal household distractions.

No one ever got fired for insisting people work at the office as usual instead of from home.

What does it matter if a conference call is taken in a car, or at the beach for that matter? Why does it matter whether breaks are taken, as long as the workload assigned is completed. US labor rules are that professional employees do not receive overtime work because their work is self-directed and not based on any specific number of hours per week. I agree that this is somewhat of a polite fiction that is done to allow employers to get out of paying overtime, though this has always seemed unethical to me.

There are other ways of ensuring that workers produce what is needed than forcing someone to sit at a desk in an office for 8 hours between 8 am and 5 pm with 1/2 hour lunch break. In fact, that method doesn't necessarily ensure production at all. The most important measure is tracking the quality and volume of work produced, which has little to do with forcing workers to sit still. Time and location limits are based on factory work and widget production and are outmoded in the information age.



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: d4
Date: April 16, 2020 04:14PM
Quote
davester
Quote
d4
Some managers feel there is the worry that if "you give an inch, they'll take a mile". Conference calls will sometimes be taken in cars on headsets. Unusually long breaks to run errands. Picking up the kids from bus stop after school, then a snack. Then another break. Someone's at the door. Normal household distractions.

No one ever got fired for insisting people work at the office as usual instead of from home.

What does it matter if a conference call is taken in a car, or at the beach for that matter? Why does it matter whether breaks are taken, as long as the workload assigned is completed. US labor rules are that professional employees do not receive overtime work because their work is self-directed and not based on any specific number of hours per week. I agree that this is somewhat of a polite fiction that is done to allow employers to get out of paying overtime, though this has always seemed unethical to me.

There are other ways of ensuring that workers produce what is needed than forcing someone to sit at a desk in an office for 8 hours between 8 am and 5 pm with 1/2 hour lunch break. In fact, that method doesn't necessarily ensure production at all. The most important measure is tracking the quality and volume of work produced, which has little to do with forcing workers to sit still. Time and location limits are based on factory work and widget production and are outmoded in the information age.

Why don't you just chill out. Geezus.



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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: davester
Date: April 16, 2020 04:55PM
Quote
d4
Why don't you just chill out. Geezus.

I'm totally chill. This topic is just very interesting to me. What's your problem?



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: jdc
Date: April 16, 2020 06:01PM
Sadly, Im a bad example. I have owned my own design studio for close to 30 years now... since about 95. And the years before that as a freelancer.

Im in CA, and have/had clients from Miami to Michigan, to Dallas to Seattle to LA -- all done remote via email or phone calls. Some not even with phone calls, email only.

its always been the norm. =)



----


Edited 999 time(s). Last edit at 12:08PM by jdc.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: sekker
Date: April 16, 2020 09:10PM
My job will never be the same. I can honestly do at least 2 days a week at home indefinitely, and up to 4 days a week out of the office.

I'm sure there are others like me all around the country.

Sharing office space at work, having a home office saves real estate $$ for businesses...

But just because I CAN work from home doesn't mean I think I'm BETTER off working from home.
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: bazookaman
Date: April 17, 2020 12:31PM
Quote
davester
What does it matter if a conference call is taken in a car, or at the beach for that matter? Why does it matter whether breaks are taken, as long as the workload assigned is completed.

THIS! And that's been my strongest argument for YEARS to justify letting me work from home. It should become fairly obvious fairly quickly who is and who is not doing the work. Doesn't matter what your job is. If you are producing, then the work is being done. So what if you are producing sitting on your deck getting a tan. You are doing the work that is required of you. It's easier to just count heads than it is to count production.

I guess its like school. You are forced to attend but not forced to learn. You HAVE to go to the office but the only thing anyone cares about is that you are IN THE OFFICE. Production is secondary.




__________________________________
Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity
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Re: Work from home to be the new norm?
Posted by: August West
Date: April 17, 2020 04:59PM
davester has a very good perspective on the future of employment. In time, the labor market will contain a majority of independent contractors with the agency to sell their skills to the highest bidder.

My boss doesn't care where I am working from as long as I am moving forward productively. Our small, highly-productive team has had barely a blip in this current circumstance. All our meetings seamlessly moved online and all our projects are moving forward, including the integration of new clients and vendors. We will have to see about a large construction project, but it is in the planning stages and won't break ground for 1 - 2 years.

Get skills, prepare for a world of micro credentials, and welcome to the new world of wage slaves! I think this circumstance has accelerated a future that we already could analyze as trending toward us.



Picasso in his studio after the liberation of Paris, taken by my friend and mentor.

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