• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

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The Work from Home question.

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
20,232
Points
52
As cases are once again on the rise and there has been several recent concerns with staff, there is rumblings once again about an encouragement to work from home. More so, I have heard comments about some office sectors not bringing people back into the traditional office format at all. One local engineer told me that they are discussing the possibility of selling a few of their locations and having more of a hub of conference rooms for when they need them, but otherwise most of the staff might remain in a teleworking environment.

A local home builder has really decided to capitalize on this in their marketing. Whereas it as a "Bonus Room" it is now a "Home Office" and they increased the number of phone and network ports to that space and made sure it could be closed off.

I think it is an interesting question as it pertains to society and geography. If this becomes the case, geography of office becomes less important and the geography of home becomes everything. Quality of life issues will skyrocket and you might see more mixed use neighborhoods get built as people will still want to venture out for socialization, but will no longer be dependent on a job within commuting distance.

Personally, I am not so sure that we will see this level of shift, but I know people are thinking differently regarding work environments and telecommuting.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that COVID has opened the door for more telecommuting and do you think that it will continue beyond COVID? Do you think this is something that more office based businesses will explore in the future? Do you think you will see an up-tick in co-working spaces or shared conference room spaces?
 

MD Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
2,563
Points
39
Money talks and that is what will drive a lot of long-term change. Employers are finding that their employees are actually productive working from home. I believe that was always the concern before and led to a lot of hesitation by employers. But now that they see they can just have some meeting space to accommodate those needs more people will be working from home. There are already examples of businesses breaking leases and selling office buildings. I believe it may have a huge impact on some downtowns. For example, I'm reading that the daytime downtown Washington D.C. population is about 90% less than it was pre-pandemic. That's an awful lot of restaurants that aren't doing business. It's going to be a work in progress but there will eventually be a balance. Personally I'm more of a face to face person and I think there is real value in handling many things in that way.
 

Hink

OH....IO
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
15,929
Points
52
If I own a business, I would not invest in a building in downtown at this point in time. There is no incentive to do so. Things will change, and we likely will go back to "normal", but for the next couple years, I think downtown's are going to be hit hard.

Suburban office parks are also going to be hit hard though, because they just built LOTS of office, with too few amenities.

I think the winners are going to be the communities that have already balanced the office / restaurant / placemaking components and created a place that people want to be. We are going to see a lot less chain restaurants and a lot less office space. Both of those things are probably not bad overall, but they will certainly change how we think about downtowns and buildings.

I hope working from home becomes more normal, and we can again find a work / life balance in the United States that is more reasonable.
 

Doohickie

Cyburbian
Messages
3,001
Points
42
It will be interesting. In the past at my company, they allowed a small number of people to telecommute when the worker requested it. I know they did trials of whole departments and the general consensus was that more experienced workers did fine with it, but less experienced workers did not.

I've been WFH since this started in March. I went into the office for the first time this week to get a loaner laptop while they pull the files off my regular laptop and load them to a new refresh laptop. I've actually had one of my better years. The nature of my job is largely "telecommuting" anyway since I'm in Texas and most of the people in my group are in Florida. So I'm accustomed to Skype calls, collaborating & presenting online, etc.

They were targeting late October/early November for returning to the office. Managers of people have been brought back as the first wave. But the metrics here in Texas have led to a pause in that. The managers who are going in can either continue to work in the office, go back to WFH, or split. Workers like me that don't supervise direct reports continue to work from home.

When all this started I know I had the thought that if this went on more than a few weeks that cutbacks would be made and the layoffs would come. That hasn't happened and at this point looks like it won't. The company is chugging on. As long as the cogs of the machine can mesh, be it in person or online, the company operates. But that early scare of uncertainty instilled a good work ethic in a lot of people. I think the question becomes, will that work ethic continue indefinitely? Or, once Covid is under control and we go back to some level of normal that allows in-person work without taking health measures, will the work ethic drop off? Will people take WFH for granted and even start to abuse it?

In m own case, I'm planning to ask for part time WFH once the crisis is over and I can return to the office. I won't lie, once I got into the habit I really like WFH. I also see the value in face-to-face communication though so it would probably benefit me to be in the office at least part time.

Time will tell, I guess.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
14,020
Points
58
My brother is an engineering/drafting team manager for a sizeable conveyor systems company (sale, design, manufacture, installation assistance) and his team is all WFH right now. Since most of their work is online/computer based anyway (CAD , etc), they've had great productivity. They have a system they have to log into to track time/work, but have no limits on when they do their work. One of my brother's team is most productive from 9p-2a and its fine. As long as the work is correct and on time, when and where it's done is not a concern for my brother's company.

I really do think a sizeable portion of the CEO's in the country are going to see productivity stay the same or get better while saving major $s on office rent/utilities by putting this 'cost' on the employee at home.

There is going to be a glut of superfluous office space in much of the country that will provide communities opportunities for redevelopment for the betterment and diversification of their landscapes.
 
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WSU MUP Student

Cyburbian
Messages
10,645
Points
47
Up here it's been announced by all of the Big 3 that the vast majority of their engineering and white collar staff will not be going back to the office until June 2021, at the earliest. Many of the big suppliers and related businesses have followed suit and announced similar plans. We haven't had an official announcement from our administration but I sort of expect that we'll be on the same return schedule as the Big 3.

One of my next door neighbors is the program manager for GM's full size truck program. I was talking to him a few weeks ago and he says he's gone in twice since WFH began in March and doesn't anticipate needing to go in again unless he has some sort of computer issue and needs to pick something up. He said he's also kicking himself for not buying a cottage up north a few years ago when he and his wife originally thought about doing so. They put off the purchase because they had just spent a boatload on the house next to me, were already paying tuition for two kids in private school, and were about to start paying for one of them to head off to college. Their daughter started college this year and ended up with nearly a full ride academic scholarship so they were ready to reconsider their cottage shopping... then COVID hit and the prices for cottages and vacation homes in the more desirable Up North places skyrocketed since all those automotive and other white collar folks suddenly had loads of free time.

Regarding commercial real estate and office populations, I've heard similar reports as MD Planner from friends in Seattle and Detroit about daytime pops in those places. This has got to be brutal for those small restaurants and bars that rely so heavily on the lunch crowd.

Local governments have always been hesitant to allow their staff to work from home. I sincerely hope that they (and their constituents) see that productivity and service delivery hasn't really suffered. Of course, not everybody can work from home everyday, but in most cases there's no real reason to have your accountants or HR analysts or database administrators, or planners in the office everyday. Hopefully they'll continue to allow some of these folks to keep working from home a few days a week.

If more local governments start allowing WFH permanently, they don't usually rent their office space, so they cannot really cut back and save money that way, maybe the local governments will instead start using that extra office space to add amenities for those who are in the office? Who knows, maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.

I agree with others though that the more walkable or mixed-use downtowns will likely suffer a lot less than those big sprawling office parks and the surrounding outlot restaurants.

On a more personal level, if we have the option to continue WFH, with approval, I'm going to ask to WFH 3 days a week (or 2 days, but 3 days home is my preference). I do miss being in the office and collaborating in-person with some of my co-workers, but I don't miss the in-person collaboration with all of my co-workers. My wife and I were going to finally put in a new kitchen this year but we put it off because we didn't want to deal with all of that on top of the WFH upheavals so now we're hoping to do it next summer and if I've been giving the opportunity to continue WFH, we are also considering a more substantial remodel and addition to give us a much more useful home office.
 

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
2,114
Points
21
With PeachFuzz being as young as he is, I've really appreciated being home during the day to spend more time with him. Not that I'm not working, but it's SO NICE when he busts through the door with a huge smile on his face. In reality, the timing was just really good for us. CCG had a lot of flexibility in his schedule, and it works because he's able to take care of PeachFuzz most of the day. If CCG was also working, PeachFuzz wouldn't be able to be home with us.

We're working really hard to get our finances in order, and I'm hoping that once we get into the habit of a stricter, we'll be able to continue to let CCG do school part-time even after the pandemic is over and be home with PeachFuzz as long as possible. It's not that I don't want him to be able to move forward in his career, but for us, the pandemic was kind of a blessing for our family.

I should be able to continue to WFH 2 to 3 days a week post-pandemic, and I'll probably do that. I do like being in the office, but especially with small children, it's such a gift to have more ability to spend time with them throughout the day.
 

HomerJ

Cyburbian
Messages
1,102
Points
17
If I had it my way I would WFH every day indefinitely and try to pack in "meeting days" as best I could with the intent of getting the most out of my in person meetings with colleagues. I imagine there could be some weeks where I'm in the office 4 out of five days and others where I'm working from home the entire week. I would also gladly give up my own private office space in exchange for blocking out the use of an open cube or other smaller space while I'm in the office, assuming I have the flexibility to choose when I'm going in. I will bet organizations that start to break apart from preconceived notions that specific spaces in the office need to belong to specific people will far much better in the future, certainly from a cost savings standpoint.

Just about every argument I've heard against working from home as an option tends to stem from issues that existed at the office before working from home even started. The most common argument I hear for the public sector, that employees won't work as hard without someone looking over their shoulder, clearly implies managers already suspected their employees weren't working hard enough while they're in the office anyway (not to mention what a waste of a manager's time it is to have to keep looking over an employee's shoulders).
 
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