Author Topic: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?  (Read 450 times)

LetterRip

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Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« on: August 03, 2021, 01:14:55 PM »
It seems like managers at many companies are pushing to have people back in offices, even though productivity has significantly increased, and thus eliminating office space would offer many companies huge savings.

Is it due to middle managers fearing being eliminated due being shown to not be contributing much?

TheDrake

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2021, 01:33:23 PM »
Well, I'm not sure that it can be shown in my R&D industry that we saw an increase in productivity. I haven't seen that claim. We definitely did not see a measurable decrease.

Our company is going to mandatory two days in office in October, or at least that is the current plan. Among our reasons are informal information transfer, ability to draw diagrams on the fly, contact with executives via hallway and break room. Need for at least some employees to enter lab areas. Mentoring of interns and other less experienced individuals.

msquared

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2021, 01:34:35 PM »
I think it would be interesting to do an age study. Our about to retire VP who is in charge of such things is not a fan of work from home.  Our new Controller is.  Unfortunatly the higher ups in the parent company are also of the age where they think people will goof off if they work from home.

yossarian22c

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2021, 02:04:36 PM »
There is lots of informal data exchange and relationships that form in an office that can be beneficial for the employee and company. The rush probably is associated with expecting COVID to be winding down right now combined with the empty office expense beginning to rack up.

TheDrake

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2021, 02:42:46 PM »
Let's also not ignore zoom background noise, poor connection, etc. And non verbal communication. If I'm talking to my team in a conference room, I can read boredom, disagreement, agreement, etc.

I think it's lazy to assume that the reasoning of most individuals is that they are scared people will be goofing off. That's not what I'm reading in hbr, Forbes, etc.

Ouija Nightmare

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2021, 04:35:28 PM »
A lot of it is loss of control of the employees.

Workplaces like having employees tied into routines,places, social structures,

It’s makes assets easier to manage and salaries easier to control. The breakdown of the office social structures alone are causing employee retention problems for many companies.


Places in more “low rent districts” are losing employees to employers coming from zones where employees get paid two or three times the salary and those employers are picking up bargains.

Then there’s a legal and taxation aspect. When an employee suddenly admits they’ve been telecommuting from Italy for the past year it can make taxation very hairy.

fizz

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2021, 05:47:59 PM »
Talking about my company, the one I've direct experience about, the problem is not so much about the existing employees, but about the new hires.
Being a technological company, and having already had (due to quality certifications requirements for our type of activity) a full plan to remain fully operative even in complete absence of the office, at the start of the pandemic we simply had to implement it. Also, some of our employees living more distant already were used to work at least part of the week from home.

In the past two years the only employees that make regular use of the offices are the technicians that need to use the laboratory and the storage of components for our customers, and we had absolutely no problem keeping our work efficient, in many way even improving it (as an example, by the use of teleconferencing we can start an impromptu meeting without having to reserve a room, wait for everybody to reach it, lose time coming and going etc. etc.).
But we could do that because we already know each other well, everybody know their job as well, and we are generally at the moment a quite selected and reliable team.

Introducing new employees in the existing teams is instead quite harder: sitting side-by-side on a computer and doing a spot of pair programming is quite different than doing a remote collaboration session, for a new customer service operator having some of the more experienced personnel listening with at least one ear to all their calls for the first months is very helpful, and for all technicians the coffee breaks were usually invaluable opportunities to talk shop, brainstorm about the latest technologies and share stories, and generally getting to know each other.

We have a couple of new employees that we had to hire even in this period, but we are really struggling bringing them up to speed.

And it's hard for at least some of the employees too... most of us have perfectly fine home setup for work, but especially some of the younger ones would much prefer our office comfortable ergonomic chairs, multiple large monitors, high-speed fiber, ac, swimming pool, park, table tennis, etc. etc. to having to work from their bedroom.

I don't think we are ever going completely back to pre-pandemic work setup, but I also think that as soon as it is possible, we will go back to at least an hybrid system.

And by the way, we have already seen that even simply for diplomatic/commercial purpose, we have to start to go in person to meet customers: simply, "smothering fires" or closing contracts does not work nearly as well in teleconference.

Mynnion

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2021, 07:17:36 AM »
It will be interesting to see how the expense associated with maintaining large commercial office space will play in to this.  This would especially be true in high rent cities.  If I as a corporation currently maintain 100K office space and can cut it down to 50K by allowing more remote work that could become a major incentive.  My guess is that there will end up being some form of hybrid in the future.  For high demand jobs this might mean flying someone in for a week a month. 

The other unknown is the impact on employee recruitment.  Full or part-time remote work certainly provides a substantial carrot to some people.  It also provides companies in high cost regions to attract top employees who don't want to deal with the high cost of living in cities like San Francisco and Seattle.

msquared

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2021, 07:57:02 AM »
The engineering firm my wife works for found out that productivity went up when they went work from home.  People did not have long commutes, and often spent that time working.  When my wife had a deadline project due, she was able to take a few hours off for a walk and some dinner and then get right back to it instead of a half hour drive each way that would have been unproductive. 

They are now in the office 3 days a week and work from home 2, but with the spread of Delta that may change.

Of course we are lucky. Our kids are all out of the house and our dogs are very quiet potatos.

She loves working from home.

Mynnion

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2021, 08:11:45 AM »
One downside for the employee is that boundaries between work and home start to break down if your not careful.  I have traveled for work and have basically always been available 24/7 however individuals working from home will need to be very clear about available hours or they will get totally abused.

TheDrake

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2021, 08:37:57 AM »
The engineering firm my wife works for found out that productivity went up when they went work from home.  People did not have long commutes, and often spent that time working.  When my wife had a deadline project due, she was able to take a few hours off for a walk and some dinner and then get right back to it instead of a half hour drive each way that would have been unproductive. 

They are now in the office 3 days a week and work from home 2, but with the spread of Delta that may change.

Of course we are lucky. Our kids are all out of the house and our dogs are very quiet potatos.

She loves working from home.

I wonder, do you know how they measure productivity? I've never found any metric worth beans in project work. Commute time removed is an obvious plus for the individual, but might not mean more productivity for the company if the extra time is spent on gardening.

Motivation can certainly be higher as an intangible.

Personally, I'm hard pressed to really see much difference for me in self evaluation. I don't think I have better ideas, work more swiftly, or get more done. Others may have very different experiences, naturally, that's just my take on my own self.

msquared

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2021, 08:39:51 AM »
Well their billable hours went up.

TheDrake

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2021, 08:42:14 AM »
Well their billable hours went up.

Aha, a services firm does have clear metrics. So people were willing to work more hours because of the flexibility. I'm not sure I would call that productivity, which is usually used to mean efficiency, but it was clearly positive for the company.

TheDrake

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2021, 08:43:38 AM »
Or if you're cynical you could attribute the increase in billable hours to fraud, charging clients while you're doing laundry.

msquared

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2021, 08:46:25 AM »
I mean I guess that is true. But as far as they are concerned if they billed more hours it was better for the company. 

For example, on a normal day my wife leaves at 8:00AM and gets to the office at 8:30.  When she works from home, she is in her office a 8AM. So she gets an extra half hour in. the same with leaving work.  When she works from home she can work through what would normally be her commute. She is able to work on complex projects with out being interrupted by her office mates. She can eat lunch at her desk but still take a short walk with the dogs on her break.
My wife is an introvert, so working from home is something she really likes.

msquared

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2021, 08:46:41 AM »
TheDrake,


I do the laundry. :)

TheDrake

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #16 on: August 04, 2021, 10:12:30 AM »
I'm not saying it isn't better personally, I know it is for me. What used to be my commute time has become exercise and good breakfast time. So I'm not starting work earlier, but it is possible that I have a better attitude and make better decisions by improving my physical and mental health.

oldbrian

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #17 on: August 04, 2021, 10:15:18 AM »
M^2,
   Is M^3 getting paid more for the extra hour she is putting in every day?
If so, her productivity did not go up - she is simply working more.
If not, her company is getting free labor from her.

msquared

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Re: Why are many managers pushing to reopen offices?
« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2021, 10:17:56 AM »
Well she does earn PTO and comp time for hours a week over 40, and when she has billed high hours for certain dead line project she has gotten decent sized bonuses to reflect that (upwards of $1,000 per bonus, at least twice).  This is on top of the normal company wide bonuses that happen at the end of the year.

So basically yes?