Working from home--the good, the bad, and the ugly

I think remote work is here to stay but it seems to me it is evolving. I just don’t know what direction it’s going. My firm has gone to asking everyone to be in the office 3 days a week. We’ll see how that goes.

There are definitely some strong opinions and contradictory data on WFH.

This article does a decent job of capturing the diversity of thought & data: 4 reasons why bosses are fed up with remote work | Fortune

  • In 2020, during the pandemic, productivity shot up as organizations sent their workforces home, to the tune of 95% of office workers. There was a strong sense of “we’re in this together, this is our moment”. More recently, overall productivity has dropped 5 quarters in a row, at the macro level. (How much of this is from WFH? Hard to say.)
  • More recently, commercial real estate is closing in on pre-pandemic levels, after seeing a drop during the pandemic
  • A Salesforce exec was pretty blunt: “WFH Fridays just means Fridays off”. (The Wall Street Journal saw evidence of that, with new subscriptions dropping 30% on Fridays.)
  • Others are more bullish on WFH. Workers average 72 minutes of commute time saved per day.
  • There’s some evidence that Gen Z and new workers to an organization suffer with WFH, with the “proximity bias” leading to more promotion opportunities for on-premise staff.

We’re hybrid at my place, which I think has worked reasonably well, though a few have admitted their attention wanes on WFH days.

I’ve been working from home since COVID and have been far more productive during that time than I was before. My sales have been up nearly 12% since I made the work from home switch.

The routine of being able to go for a morning run then just walk down the stairs to start my day by 7am has - quite literally - been a lifesaver (I’ve lost around 40 lbs the last 2.5 years). If I had to mix in a 30-40 minute commute + prep time to go into an office, I don’t think any of that would have happened. TBH, if my job required me to come back to an office again, I’m not sure I’d do it. Thankfully, I don’t think it’s even a possibility, as they leased out all our office space at corporate HQ in West Valley.

That said, I’m mostly a hermit by nature so working from a basement cave has never bothered me. I can also do everything that I need to remotely. Other industries will vary significantly, I’m sure.


I know of quite a few people who share your experience.

For managers, I think the challenge is how to measure productivity without alienating employees.

Some people are 100% WFH and do well. Others seriously struggle. There is some evidence that onboarding in a total WFH scenario is a serious challenge, that WFH-only newbies report lower job satisfaction, etc. Workers who were on-premise and then moved to WFH have higher levels of work satisfaction.

How much do people need to be physically proximate to really brainstorm? There may be a benefit to being physically together for some things, though I think the technology bridges most of those gaps, and actually when I’m having a meeting with coworkers who are also onsite we’re mostly using the technology we use when dispersed, just to be consistent.

Opinions and experiences vary widely on this topic.

The whole thing reminds me of an organizational reading I did during my MPA program titled “The Hawthorne Experiment.” To sum, Hawthorne Industries tried letting their female employees design their assembly processes, work collaborations and work schedules, while the men doing the same jobs performed as status quo. In short, the women out produced the men and were generally happier…and the company rejected the results. Everyone went back to the old methods.

Generally, most of the WFH companies saw substantial productivity gains and less sick and personal time use. Again, generally the employees have been happier and more engaged than they ever were in an office. The nefarious “gamers” alluded to honestly make up what they have always made up in any workplace. For most tech jobs, WFH really does work.

This is what these “back to the office” yahoos are throwing away; and without going “full Org nerd” will trigger one of four things in their workforce- and three of them are bad.


There are so many variables that go into the WFH equation, that I don’t know that it’s possible to get a clear-cut answer on whether it’s a positive or a negative. For example, I have succeeded but I have a dedicated office with a door in my home, I have very stable broadband, I have a big desk that houses a multi-monitor setup, I have a comfy office chair, I’m an introvert who doesn’t need much human interaction, etc.

My colleague who is in the exact same sales role in a different territory is in a 2 bedroom apartment with a toddler, works from a small end table and folding chair set up in the corner of her front room, only has room for a single laptop with no external monitor, and has terrible broadband service in her area. She has been absolutely miserable during the WFH switch and would love to move back to an office.

So much of WFH success or failure depends on your industry, your job requirements, your role, your tenure, your housing setup, your personality, and a hundred other variables.


I saw you at Steiner this morning about 10 am. Playing hooky?

Also, there is a big generational divide re-remote work. Everyone in their mid-20s wants to work remotely and they will turn down jobs where they have to come in.

This is true.

Some of these folks will accumulate multiple jobs, multitasking for multiple paychecks. This phenomenon is pretty rare, but it has the potential to ruin things for a lot of people.

Managing is a little tougher in the WFH era, but you really have to know your people, be flexible, deal with the “parity” issues that may arise, etc. As much as anything, WFH involves a lot of trust, which can be really good… and sometimes not.

I would say the biggest puzzle is how to measure productivity without installing “nannyware”, which really alienates people.


I work on Pacific time. They didn’t even notice I was not present. (That may be for others reasons, too…)

My wife has been WFH since 2018 when her job eliminated the local work site offices. She has been working for her company for almost 20 years now. Needless to say COVID had zero impact on their operational capabilities. Now the company started leasing space in a local office building and expect her to go in three days a week. As her group is virtual, and only 2 others of the group are local and required to do the 3 day a week schedule (there are over 30 people in her group and the rest stayed virtual), all the change is doing is disrupting workflow. Add to it the workspace is open format and no one using it has a settled space, and…did I say things like this trigger bad things happening? Well, bad things are happening. Something tells me the Corporate Dog and Pony show coming to town next week is going to be a rather uncomfortable affair for Big Whigs if radical candor is used.


I have a Gen Z employee who specifically said this is what the kids want, to come in sit down anywhere plug in their laptop and go. This includes, bean bag chairs, sofas, and other types of “places”. I would imagine a lot of tech spaces are like this now?

For extreme introverts like me WFH has been a godsend. Once a month we all go into the office and even though I like all my co-workers the small talk is painful. There is no productivity for anyone that day.


My firm just announced return to office Mon, Wed, Thu for all, add Tue for officers and people leaders, all 5 for execs. About up to 1/8 can get an exception. Needless to say, people aren’t happy. Bias is 3x stronger for loss than a gain. Pandoras box opened and hard to go back to before the blip.

Productivity fell for queue type jobs. WFH was good for tech and data folks. Strategy probably held it’s own.

The transition back is going to be a mess and lots of people rethinking their position. Mixed thoughts myself, but the biggest piece is probably having to get a 3rd car now that i have a teen driver. Wish there was a subscription to a self driving rideshare for cheap.

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I’ve found it has a lot to do with how you work. Some jobs it’s probably fine. Management or working with people suffers. Team work and creativity suffer. If I were a programmer or did data entry or some job where I just wanted to watch tv or keep track of my kids on the side I think I’d feel different.

But in my profession I have comprehensive data and tracking showing that our staff is much less creative, effective, and productive. Most of all the clients we serve think they are getting less…but a bit faster…and most staff like not coming in to the office…

I know our staff turnover and engagement are worse. Seemed to improve with 3 days in the office but there is resistance due to an organizational desire to shrink office space…a related issue

After managing dozens of staff and talking to them about this for 3 years and through several phases of change, I honestly believe the issue isn’t solved by WFH. It’s that the 40 day work week makes no sense. Sitting at a computer or in a small office not moving much doesn’t actually make a 40 hour job better. Time to follow Iceland on this and drop to 32 hour work week. And improve childcare options.

Just my 2c



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Great insights, but this point is especially thought provoking.

The 40 hour work week was a reaction to excessive hours worked during the Industrial Revolution, when factory and mill workers sometimes worked 16 hours days.

As part of his efforts to cultivate a robust middle class, Henry Ford adopted a 8x5 workweek, the commies at the Fair Labor Standards Act limited the workweek to 44 hours, and in 1940 it was reduced to 40 hours.

And here we are, for the past 80 years. It’s no secret that a sizable percentage of people could get the same work done in 32 hours or so - people find a way to stretch the work out until the week is done. Others stay busy and productive 40 hours and some naturally are 45-50 hour week people, depending on how stimulating and demanding their job is, how healthy they are… and how motivated, how engaged. Or how fast they want to invest in themselves, diversify future job options. (That was my path)

In some jobs moving to a 32 hour week would be inflationary - truck drivers, pharmacy technicians, etc. In those contexts, entrepreneurs look to technology to address the underlying productivity challenges, keep costs down, make the customers and C-class officers happy. Free enterprise.

We’re getting a front row seat into a new, disruptive revolution. Technology.

I had one of our senior leadership stop me in the hall this week to ask my opinion about AI. I use GPT and Bing, they’re impressive tools, productivity enhancers. But like sifting through Google search results, you can’t just take the first response. They can crank out code quickly… which then has to be debugged. But it accelerates the overall process, quite a bit, in my experience. But I’m not a coder, all day.

“But they could help lots of people code, right?” (He could see great organizational accomplishments on the horizon, if only… ) The Sr. Director told me he’s really struggling to get his knowledge workers enthused about even trying AI. Understandably.

News stories about GPT scoring in the 90% percentile on the LSAT send a broad chill through the population of knowledge workers. Other news stories about the LMM AI going off the rails in hallucinating provides the pushback professionals use to slow things down.

A colleague who does a lot of writing, is organizationally under the Sr. Director trying to push AI, had a very strong reaction, in another hallway conversation. “They want us to use AI, but I can write more quickly than having AI provide some text I then need to check and edit. Is there some way you can block it at the network level?” I sensed a deeper anxiety than just editing.

Nobody (with any kind of voice) cares much when McDonalds puts in kiosks for ordering, but when AI joins the workgroup in writing, statistical analysis, coding… the equilibrium between work and the social contract, predictable compensation, the implied stability of a career.… all of that is threatened like a fast-moving twister on the outskirts of town.

People who companies are willing to pay big bucks to as “AI prompters”, and those in existing workgroups who make AI really sing are viewed a bit like 21st century “scabs”, a term from back in the union days.

(Sorry about changing the topic, here. WFH and AI are blended in this dynamic period we’re in.)


AI is like so many other technologies. It will be fantastic for 1 out if 10 but automation doesn’t create a robust and growing middle class at this point. It concentrates information and wealth. Great for the use but we shifted to a service economy under Clinton (not because of Clinton just the timing) and we have see corporate profits go up but real wages and the middle class haven’t. So I wonder where we go when we “can” automate 25% more of our jobs. What maintains or restores a healthy working and middle class. I remember reading the word is flat and the straw on the plate analogy. Where does it go when AI is introduced l.

I have a dystopian view of where things are going to end up. And while it’s happening people will be content because they have TikTok and Instargram with cat videos to keep them entertained.

Anyone else glad they’re old and won’t have to an extra 40 years of what’s coming?

Oh that got way off topic :thinking:

We’ve been here, before. The Industrial Revolution was brutal. Using an ox and a plow on the farm morphed into competition with the farmer who had a tractor. So, uncompetitive farmers streamed into the cities and worked in the factories. 60 hour weeks, manufacturing machines that ate people, child labor, Oliver Twist wanting more porridge. I have an ancestor who died in an industrial accident in SFO in the early 1900s, which was pretty common.

We need visionary leadership, ala Teddy Roosevelt. If we don’t do anything, it will be really tough. Teddy saw what was happening in Russia with violent rejection of capitalism and came up with the Square Deal. 30 years later his cousin came up with the New Deal as the Great Depression wreaked havoc. That notion of the government stepping in has resulted in a family name all over buildings throughout the U campus: Eccles. Spence Eccles’s uncle Marinner was a banking savant who helped show the way as the economy was a bucking bronco of boom & bust.

The tax code can incentivize employment, though what those jobs are is up to the private sector to figure out. AI and Tech doesn’t stimulate the economy through consumption. Technology has a serious productive advantage and doesn’t consume like a family. Tax technology.

Who is the 21st Century leader to help make this transition less traumatic?


Wish I knew. I fear in our divided culture we won’t see a visionary unifier who can do it in my lifetime.

Pretty sure it ain’t Elon.

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