Working from home

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discovolante
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Working from home

Post by discovolante » Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:07 pm

Kirstie Allsop thinks everyone who has been working from home for the last few months hasn't actually been working and also don't have any skills or experience that might be tricky to outsource, or something: https://twitter.com/KirstieMAllsopp/sta ... 89666?s=20

She may have a point that some businesses might review their HR structure but surely overegging the pudding somewhat? Seems she has a pretty poor understanding of what most jobs that aren't being a TV presenter actually are.

Boring ramble alert. I wasn't feeling too well yesterday morning so I took the morning off sick to sleep in a bit. I felt a bit better in the afternoon but still a bit sorry for myself so I got my laptop and worked in my bed. Not something I intend to make a habit of but it did suddenly make me think how absurd it was that I would spend hundreds of pounds and hours every year trekking back and forth to an office when it turns out I don't actually need to get out of bed most of the time.

Anyway the more interesting thing will probably be the mismatch over the next few months between employers who force people back and those that don't, not my bed anecdotes.
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Re: Working from home

Post by Imrael » Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:28 pm

FWIW our company (about 50 people in IT) has been perfectly productive working from home, (and I've found it great - better without a pandemic and economic meltdown of course). We'll probably never go back to everyone-in-the-office, and hopefully over time this will let us recruit without providing office space.

I'm disturbed that there seems to be a "culture wars" element creeping into the discussion.

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Re: Working from home

Post by AMS » Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:00 pm

That's not quite what she said though is it?
Kirstie Allsopp
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If your job can be done from home it can be done from abroad where wages are lower. If I had an office job I’d want to be first in the queue to get back to work and prove my worth to my employer. I am terrified by what could be on the horizon for so many.
In one of her replies she mentions home working making employees less visible to employers, and there may be is a point that some jobs will be at risk to being replaced by a cheaper substitute the other side of the world.

But yes, in most jobs it comes down to skills and experience. My employer doesn't choose people on the basis of whether they live within an easy commute of the office.

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Re: Working from home

Post by bjn » Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:57 pm

Imrael wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:28 pm
FWIW our company (about 50 people in IT) has been perfectly productive working from home, (and I've found it great - better without a pandemic and economic meltdown of course). We'll probably never go back to everyone-in-the-office, and hopefully over time this will let us recruit without providing office space.

I'm disturbed that there seems to be a "culture wars" element creeping into the discussion.
Ditto. My company is now 8 people, we've actually hired 3 more new folks since lockdown and I've not met 2 of them face to face (and I'm the CTO).

We are actually going to downsize our office space and may let the lease lapse once it comes up. I wouldn't want to be a landlord of expensive central London office property.

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Re: Working from home

Post by Aitch » Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:06 pm

What happens if WFH becomes common?

Who pays for heating/electricity?
And internet access/phone bills?
Computer/other equipment?
Will business rates be invoked by local councils?
Probably other stuff I've missed...
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Re: Working from home

Post by Woodchopper » Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:50 pm

AMS wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:00 pm
That's not quite what she said though is it?
Kirstie Allsopp
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If your job can be done from home it can be done from abroad where wages are lower. If I had an office job I’d want to be first in the queue to get back to work and prove my worth to my employer. I am terrified by what could be on the horizon for so many.
In one of her replies she mentions home working making employees less visible to employers, and there may be is a point that some jobs will be at risk to being replaced by a cheaper substitute the other side of the world.

But yes, in most jobs it comes down to skills and experience. My employer doesn't choose people on the basis of whether they live within an easy commute of the office.
That is a valid point. Large parts of the office based service sector have already been outsourced. Call centers are the example that people have most contact with, but outsourcing is also a major issue in fields like accounting, marketing and software.

If your boss doesn’t see a reason why you need to be physically present then your boss might not just give up the lease on the office space, they might go the whole hog and hire a highly qualified person based in South Asia.

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Re: Working from home

Post by bjn » Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:03 pm

Aitch wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:06 pm
What happens if WFH becomes common?

Who pays for heating/electricity?
And internet access/phone bills?
Computer/other equipment?
Will business rates be invoked by local councils?
Probably other stuff I've missed...
We currently pay for all our employee's computer equipment, and I can see that we should pay for some share of their utilities at some point. The up side for our employees they no longer need to commute and no commuting costs, saving themselves 1-2 hours a day.

I'm almost certain that business rates aren't applicable if working from home, but I could be wrong.

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Re: Working from home

Post by bjn » Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:07 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:50 pm
AMS wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:00 pm
That's not quite what she said though is it?
Kirstie Allsopp
@KirstieMAllsopp
If your job can be done from home it can be done from abroad where wages are lower. If I had an office job I’d want to be first in the queue to get back to work and prove my worth to my employer. I am terrified by what could be on the horizon for so many.
In one of her replies she mentions home working making employees less visible to employers, and there may be is a point that some jobs will be at risk to being replaced by a cheaper substitute the other side of the world.

But yes, in most jobs it comes down to skills and experience. My employer doesn't choose people on the basis of whether they live within an easy commute of the office.
That is a valid point. Large parts of the office based service sector have already been outsourced. Call centers are the example that people have most contact with, but outsourcing is also a major issue in fields like accounting, marketing and software.

If your boss doesn’t see a reason why you need to be physically present then your boss might not just give up the lease on the office space, they might go the whole hog and hire a highly qualified person based in South Asia.
We just hired a person in California, but we were going to do that anyway. Having a broader talent pool is a good thing for a business. WFH also allows your employees to move somewhere cheaper/nicer/closer to family as opposed to having to rent a sh.tty flat inside the M25.

Next summer I'm tempted to up sticks and just move somewhere nice once the BJNlettes are on school holidays. Possibly rent out out our London home while doing so.

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Re: Working from home

Post by Aitch » Fri Aug 07, 2020 6:10 am

bjn wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:03 pm
Aitch wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:06 pm
What happens if WFH becomes common?

Who pays for heating/electricity?
And internet access/phone bills?
Computer/other equipment?
Will business rates be invoked by local councils?
Probably other stuff I've missed...
We currently pay for all our employee's computer equipment, and I can see that we should pay for some share of their utilities at some point. The up side for our employees they no longer need to commute and no commuting costs, saving themselves 1-2 hours a day.

I'm almost certain that business rates aren't applicable if working from home, but I could be wrong.
I think they may if you have a room set aside for work only. But I too could be wrong. It may only apply if you are running your own business from home?
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Re: Working from home

Post by bagpuss » Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:26 pm

Aitch wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 6:10 am
bjn wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:03 pm
Aitch wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:06 pm
What happens if WFH becomes common?

Who pays for heating/electricity?
And internet access/phone bills?
Computer/other equipment?
Will business rates be invoked by local councils?
Probably other stuff I've missed...
We currently pay for all our employee's computer equipment, and I can see that we should pay for some share of their utilities at some point. The up side for our employees they no longer need to commute and no commuting costs, saving themselves 1-2 hours a day.

I'm almost certain that business rates aren't applicable if working from home, but I could be wrong.
I think they may if you have a room set aside for work only. But I too could be wrong. It may only apply if you are running your own business from home?
I'm pretty sure that if you're an employee working from home, business rates don't apply. In the same vein, it doesn't count as your home being your place of work for mortgage issues either.

Mr Bagpuss has worked fully from home, apart from occasional visits to the office for company meetings, for a number of years now. I have worked from home 3 days a week since the bagkitten started school 5 years ago and 2 days a week (out of 3) for a year or two before that. For both of us, our companies pay for all necessary IT equipment, including mobile for Mr Bagpuss but nothing more. I don't have a mobile as no-one needs to call me and all virtual meetings are done via laptop so no need for phone for those. Broadband we have anyway, so no cost there, although I recognise that that won't be the case for everyone who works from home. That only leaves utilities and I'm not sure what the fairest way would be to address that - perhaps a flat rate payment per day based on estimated unit usage at an average market unit price, as I don't see how you could really claim it on expenses with any kind of valid evidence.

And both our companies use cheaper resources overseas for some things (in India in Mr Bagpuss's case, Romania in mine) but most jobs stay in the UK (and US, and Belgium, and ...) for reasons of skills and experience and, if nothing else, the possibility of actual physical meetings where needed. Having everyone in the same time zone also has huge value that should not be underestimated. It can be challenging enough fitting in regular cross team meetings involving US east coast, UK and Romania. Add in US west coast and it gets substantially harder. Chuck in India or indeed anywhere East of Romania and you can forget it.

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Re: Working from home

Post by bagpuss » Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:27 pm


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Re: Working from home

Post by science_fox » Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:35 pm

It is of course a global pandemic, and hence an appropriately skilled you could WFH and apply for jobs in the US/NZ?india that you wouldn't currently consider. It cuts both ways. Salary may be an issue, but if that trends London to cheaper than it's a win for everyone apart from landlords.

I'm Week WFH, week in the laboratory to get all our staff lab time and manage building occupancy levels. It's odd, but generally getting there. It's taken a few shifts to get to this point, but science is happening again.

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Re: Working from home

Post by Aitch » Fri Aug 07, 2020 2:09 pm

bagpuss wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:27 pm
And rather than just speculating, here is evidence from the horse's mouth.

So yeah, business rates do not apply.
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Re: Working from home

Post by Woodchopper » Fri Aug 07, 2020 2:31 pm

science_fox wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:35 pm
It is of course a global pandemic, and hence an appropriately skilled you could WFH and apply for jobs in the US/NZ?india that you wouldn't currently consider. It cuts both ways. Salary may be an issue, but if that trends London to cheaper than it's a win for everyone apart from landlords.
Yes, salary is the issue. For example, there are tens of millions of graduates in South Asia who have much lower living costs than people who live in London. In certain fields they'll be as qualified as their British counterpart (eg its already the case that a lot of software is being written in South Asia for companies based in Europe or North America). If there is no need to be physically present then why not employ someone in Lahore rather than London? I don't think that's a bad thing in principle, though worth noting that trending London to be cheaper would involve a lot of people becoming unemployed.

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Re: Working from home

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Aug 07, 2020 7:51 pm

Why on earth would employers start paying employees for WFH expenses?

Obviously the costs will be borne fully by workers. Note how Uber's drivers are responsible for buying, maintaining and cleaning their own cars, for example.

Increased WFH will result in further giggifying of the economy, expanding the precariat to include a lot of qualified and experienced workers who could previously expect some measure of job security.

And once that's happened, of course jobs will be outsourced to cheaper locations, which should help to stymie the brain drain from countries with decent education but low wages.
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Re: Working from home

Post by FlammableFlower » Fri Aug 07, 2020 10:23 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 7:51 pm
Why on earth would employers start paying employees for WFH expenses?

Obviously the costs will be borne fully by workers. Note how Uber's drivers are responsible for buying, maintaining and cleaning their own cars, for example.

Increased WFH will result in further giggifying of the economy, expanding the precariat to include a lot of qualified and experienced workers who could previously expect some measure of job security.

And once that's happened, of course jobs will be outsourced to cheaper locations, which should help to stymie the brain drain from countries with decent education but low wages.
Indeed. We had the first of our "Q&A about teaching next academic year" and one of my academic colleagues from physics pointed out that in order to be able to upload all the videos and other media that we are now expected to do from home he's had to upgrade his broadband connection... and would the uni be paying for things like that?

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Re: Working from home

Post by lpm » Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:01 am

Why didn't he ask his line manager, instead of a general group? Sounds moany. Nothing wrong with asking in a professional way. At my company, if they ask people can get office chairs, PC monitors, phones, headsets and special requirements. I bet some people will have been compensated for needing better broadband.

It's not odd there are costs to working/travelling to work, such as a couple of ounces of electricity to run a laptop.

In the olden days, men were expected to purchase expensive clothing to attend office work, without an employer contribution to the cost. The clothing was a jacket of the same material as the trousers, plus shiny shoes, plus a weird coloured strip of material to restrict the neck. Women had to wear a strange imitation of this with skirt instead of trousers, and with more variation hence even higher cost. There was magical thinking about these costumes - most people genuinely believed they imbued special powers that made performance better. We look back and laugh at the absurdities of the olden days but we probably have irrational beliefs of our own. Still, we now know enough to realise wearing jeans and a t-shirt makes no difference to job performance.
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Re: Working from home

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:46 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 7:51 pm
Why on earth would employers start paying employees for WFH expenses?
I expect it’ll be a new form of inequality. Workers who are easily replaced will have to provide their own home office equipment (probably laptop on the kitchen table).

If a worker is needed and hard to replace employers will fund some or all of the costs - for example proper desks and chairs to reduce absences from sick leave or paying for things like broadband as a perk. Wait for articles in the papers about the tax implications of someone’s employer paying them rent for home office space.

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Re: Working from home

Post by lpm » Sat Aug 08, 2020 9:57 am

Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:46 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 7:51 pm
Why on earth would employers start paying employees for WFH expenses?
I expect it’ll be a new form of inequality. Workers who are easily replaced will have to provide their own home office equipment (probably laptop on the kitchen table).

If a worker is needed and hard to replace employers will fund some or all of the costs - for example proper desks and chairs to reduce absences from sick leave or paying for things like broadband as a perk. Wait for articles in the papers about the tax implications of someone’s employer paying them rent for home office space.
There are very very few office workers who are easily replaced. Recruitment is expensive. Induction is expensive. Training even for basic tasks is very expensive. Getting company culture and loyalty and reliability all takes time and money. Simply knowing people, having modest experience of the job, gives an employee value. If the employer wants to keep staff, chucking an extra £20 a month for faster broadband is trivial compared to the retention value.

The problem is that many employers will want to cut employee numbers, rather than replace employees, so will be happy to see some natural attrition. Even so, being an office worker automatically gives advantages that other industries don't have.

The fundamental inequality is office workers vs the rest. Some jobs are the reverse - employers deliberately accept high turnover in order to crush worker power. Retail pay is very low because a brand new employee is similar in value to a loyal employee with 5 years in the job. Anything where there is a zero/low training requirement. McDonalds has processes designed not to improve efficiency in their "restaurants" but to reduce training hours - a newcomer can slot in within an hour. It's particularly good when you have employees who self train - e.g. learn to drive at their own expense - because you can treat them like sh.t and replace at low cost

You can often see this played out in job recruitment adverts. If the only job requirement is "Diploma in wearing high vis required", it's likely you'll be screwed. If you see "Ideally candidate will be experienced in Hyperion Planning version 4.1, NetSuite 2.0 with CRM functionality and CloudSuite interface, plus an understanding of the AICPA's Code of Professional Ethics" it's likely the job carries very high insider value.

A good tip in uncertain times is to consider your own insider advantages and consider how to enhance. Being the only person in the company capable of dealing with a vital niche is protective. Even better is being the only node for your section's information flow - monopolise a valuable flow for your company, then ask for a pay rise. In a world of rising inequality and deep recession (particularly the UK in 2021), it's necessary to be pretty ruthless in exploiting your own position, to the point of deliberately excluding colleagues from information sources/flows, requesting to take over some boring but vital task, and designing processes that cut out others and transfer control to you.
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Re: Working from home

Post by Matatouille » Sat Aug 08, 2020 10:40 am

lpm wrote:
Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:01 am
Why didn't he ask his line manager, instead of a general group? Sounds moany. Nothing wrong with asking in a professional way. At my company, if they ask people can get office chairs, PC monitors, phones, headsets and special requirements. I bet some people will have been compensated for needing better broadband.
In the UK, all of the above comes under the employer's legal H&S responsibility to enable the worker to do their job in a safe workspace, wherever that may be. This ranges from appropriate lighting and a suitably large desk for their tasks of appropriate height, to seats that support their body shapes comfortably for the duration of a working day under ergonomically suitable conditions, monitors big or bright enough and at an appropriate height. Working from home doesn't change the obligation, and expecting someone to sit hunched at a laptop on their kitchen table (if they are fortunate enough to have such a thing) in a dining chair for 8 hours a day over 4 months unequivocally doesn't cut it.

That doesn't seem like the best way to raise the topic though, though i know nothing of FF's work dynamic for such things.

It gets somewhat more woolly for expenses. I've been working from home for 2 years now, and the only bill my employer pays is a landline rental and the associated call charge, because it is 100% used for my work. We make sure to get a fast, unlimited internet connection anyway, so that was by default more than enough for my work in the day too so no need to bill the employer. The extra electrons I need for running 2 computers, 3 monitors, and heat in the winter is on me, because it's a bastard to parse out. Plus I'm certain that I'm saving overall from no commuting costs.

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Re: Working from home

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Aug 08, 2020 11:06 am

lpm wrote:
Sat Aug 08, 2020 9:57 am
Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:46 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Aug 07, 2020 7:51 pm
Why on earth would employers start paying employees for WFH expenses?
I expect it’ll be a new form of inequality. Workers who are easily replaced will have to provide their own home office equipment (probably laptop on the kitchen table).

If a worker is needed and hard to replace employers will fund some or all of the costs - for example proper desks and chairs to reduce absences from sick leave or paying for things like broadband as a perk. Wait for articles in the papers about the tax implications of someone’s employer paying them rent for home office space.
There are very very few office workers who are easily replaced. Recruitment is expensive. Induction is expensive. Training even for basic tasks is very expensive. Getting company culture and loyalty and reliability all takes time and money. Simply knowing people, having modest experience of the job, gives an employee value. If the employer wants to keep staff, chucking an extra £20 a month for faster broadband is trivial compared to the retention value.
Depends what you mean by an 'office job'. There is low pay and high turnover in call centers where people work on things like customer service, sales or market research.

You are probably correct about jobs that require more skills or experience. But not every office worker has a Masters Degree.

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Re: Working from home

Post by lpm » Sat Aug 08, 2020 1:19 pm

There's a lot of training for call centres these days. Doing it on the cheap - scripts to follow - is now considered a false economy and it's swung back to committed employees steeped in the company culture.

The bad news for UK employees is that Philippines employees can be trained to this standard and still be cheaper. The good news for UK employees is virtual switchboards mean this is now a "from home" job - while the Philippines have just locked down again and shut all offices and aren't set up for working from home. The bad news is that it's also accelerated online self-serve. Sales over the phone seems odd to me, who these days buys stuff over the phone?
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Re: Working from home

Post by discovolante » Sat Aug 08, 2020 1:30 pm

I wonder how a company that decides to set up call centres in say Mumbai would feel about the recent flooding?
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Re: Working from home

Post by bagpuss » Sat Aug 08, 2020 2:49 pm

lpm wrote:
Sat Aug 08, 2020 1:19 pm
There's a lot of training for call centres these days. Doing it on the cheap - scripts to follow - is now considered a false economy and it's swung back to committed employees steeped in the company culture.

The bad news for UK employees is that Philippines employees can be trained to this standard and still be cheaper. The good news for UK employees is virtual switchboards mean this is now a "from home" job - while the Philippines have just locked down again and shut all offices and aren't set up for working from home. The bad news is that it's also accelerated online self-serve. Sales over the phone seems odd to me, who these days buys stuff over the phone?
Our Philippines call centre staff are, I believe, all working from home - they got set up astonishingly quickly at the start of their lockdown and they're operating close to normally, but from home.

And most of our call centres (US and Philippines) are now almost entirely, if not entirely, inbound customer support rather than sales, but we do still have an outbound call centre in Europe which is mostly doing lead qualification for B2B sales. So not selling over the phone but finding out if there's a need for product X in the business and getting info on who might be responsible for the purchase, to then pass to the sales teams to follow up.

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Re: Working from home

Post by Squeak » Sat Aug 08, 2020 10:58 pm

It's the real estate costs that worry me. Calliope and I live in a two bedroom flat that's pretty pinchy by Australian standards but massive by most other standards. She's always worked part-time from home and works from the couch because the second bedroom is too dark and cold to be a functional office for most of the year. So now I work from the second couch. If we were to buy a new home now, there'd be a fair bit of pressure to buy a bigger home in which we can have a cosy two person office so that we can work ergonomically and not be surrounded by work stuff in the evenings. And we're lucky that were not sharing our living room/office with small humans or other major noise sources. Meanwhile, my employer no longer needs to pay for my few m² of office space down on the waterfront. (Well, they do at the moment but they're rubbing their hands at the opportunity to reduce the number of people in the building.)

That strikes me as a substantial cost transfer over time, and one that will fall hardest on people whose homes aren't large and quiet and comfortable.

My savings on commuting are almost entirely about doing my exercise in the lunchtime sun rather than in the chilly morning, though I recognise that that's not exactly typical.

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