Sunday, June 05, 2022

Remotely Interesting

      Elon Musk has made the sentiment famous (or infamous), but I do find it interesting that the same CEOs and high-level managers who are growling, "People need to start working at their offices, in person!" are often the very same ones who bemoan that they can't find anyone for their midlevel and lower "knowledge worker" jobs -- like IT types, who spend their entire day on the phone and online, resetting passwords for forgetful users and helping find lost files or figuring our where data is getting jammed up between one machine and another.

      It's one thing if your job involves manipulating the physical world, but those workers, everyone from fry cooks to spacecraft assemblers, farmers to butchers to chemical engineers, were the last to go home during the pandemic and the first to return to work (if they ever left).  What do I care if Customer Support is in the office in Duluth, home laying on their couch, or some cubicle warren in Mumbai? What does their boss care?  He sure didn't when Mumbai was cheaper!  (And hey, that lovely VOIP phone app?  It's keeping track of their work, no matter where they are.)

      Some jobs don't need to go back to the office.  So why should they?  So everyone can compare body odors?  To line up every morning and sing the corporate song under the watchful eye of their ever-lovin' boss?  --Small wonder a lot of the minions are saying Screw That.

      Things change.  Jobs change.  The nature of work changes, and it's not only the workers who must scramble to keep up.  Yeah, hey, Mister Boss Man, it's right painful at times, ain't it?

      Tough.  I've been told that from above often enough; now the cry comes from below. It's still valid.


Cop Car said...

Of the five people in our family, four people (Elder Daughter, Younger Daughter, GrandDaughter, and GrandDaughter's wife) are working from home and expect to continue to do so. The fourth (Son-in-Law) is required to be onsite but spends most of his time in his office. Having, myself worked from home for three years (2016-2019) as a volunteer doing (mostly) database inputs, I observed the differences between that effort and working in an office as an engineer for 30 years.

As you pointed out, there are advantages to either siting of one's workplace. To me, the big advantage of working onsite is the informal information that one picks up through overhearing other people's casual conversations. For instance: If I overheard an engineer talking about a design change that they perceived to be "no big deal" but which I perceived to require analysis/test/documentation to preserve FAA certification, I had a chance to implement the required actions.

When I, mostly because of my need to stay in town at home (Hunky Husband's dementia) changed roles in my volunteer work it was great being able to contribute my bit via phone and computer.

Matt said...

Brother works for a major medical company as a sysadmin, and he's been told his job is being outsourced to India, where they already do a lot of overnight IT stuff for the company.

He sees doom and gloom, which isn't likely wrong, and he's already been working from home a lot, but given his salary, I just hope he can get out before it implodes, and maybe get a boffo contract to fix it after. Remotely, if his moving plans out of the city succeed.

Mike-SMO said...

I agree with " cop car". Part of my job was "paper shuffling" that could have been done anywhere. But part of my job was to look out for things that scared the s___ out of me. Like the drums with cyanide compounds that would have killed techs and production people. The "trade name" was close. I could not have seen that from the home office. For "real" jobs, you have to be there. "Bit Wranglers" can just blow it out their ____.

Anonymous said...

I’ve been amazed at the number of bosses who want to force their work-from-home employees to use invasive tech such as keystroke loggers, always-on cameras, etc. because “How do I know they’re actually working?” Well, is the work getting done? If managers can’t figure that out without spying on their workers they’ve got far bigger problems.

ORWoody said...

Cop Car mentioned the one big thing that I found good about working on site. It was that there was an informal and sometimes no more than accidental interchange of information. I personally got a perfect example of that on the day before I went to take my registration exam to become an architect. A couple of our firm's architects were standing at a layout table next to my cubicle as they discussed the numerous code violations that they saw in a set of plans (as done at a different firm). We had been hired by the client to document those deficiencies for an anticipated lawsuit so they were going into some detail about each one that they found.

On the third and final day of my registration exam when everyone was exhausted, the afternoon session's exam was handed out. The entire afternoon session was devoted to "codes and ordinances". It was as if I had been given a freebee with an added shot of adrenaline. What would normally have been a truly stressful portion of a pass-fail exam went almost too easily to be believed. Those two architects had discussed and elaborated on virtually everything in that section.

Without that office interchange, I sometimes wondered if I would have ever passed the exam on the first try.

Dishwasher Philosopher said...

One thing I remember when researching freelancing and working from home years ago that came back to me during the 'Rona and such was that it is important to have a "work space" even when you are working from home. For me personally it was easier to shift gears to "work mode" even as a bit wrangler being in the office rather than at home.