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Society/Culture Working from home vs forced back to the office

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Rotayjay

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 28, 2014
11,977
23,168
Adelaide, South Australia
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Adelaide
Bizarrely enough, the tug-of-war over working from home is becoming a culture war.

There are the bosses and generally older people saying that employees need to get back to the office, and the employees who are refusing to do so, saying they're more productive at home and it improves their quality of life.

Covid-19 is likely here to stay as a virus. But perhaps its most noticeable legacy will be working from home. Working from home is not a new idea - I remember first reading about it around the turn of the century and thinking 'that'll be the day, maybe in the far future.' But the lockdowns to stop covid spread broke through the psychological barrier where a technological barrier no longer existed.

Australia has some much more serious problems, like inflation and inequality. Yet the WFH wars are heating up and becoming a sore point between some employers and employees.

The Commonwealth Bank recently ordered its staff back to the office, causing a big backlash.

The Community and Public Sector Union has just struck a deal with the Australian Public Service to not cap WFH days or refuse WFH without a genuine reason. The Federal Government is one of the largest employers in Australia.

Lobby groups are pushing for back to the office. Jeff Kennett caused a stir by saying remote working employees should take a pay cut because they don't commute and some jobs need to be done on site.

Unemployment is at near-record lows. Will employers have more bargaining power when the labour market tide turns?

What has your experience been with working from home? Can you do your job from home? Have you moved to an organisation where they're more or less amenable to WFH? What do you prefer? Is there now a societal divide between the work from home crew and the jobs that can't be done from home?
 

campbell

Brownlow Medallist
Dec 7, 2001
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IMO wfh is a win win for both worker and employer.Covid made us all look inside ourselves, and understand what is important to us.
Work, life balance is vital for good mental health imo.

Why travel 2 hours a day to get to an office.

I now have a wfh component to my job, I would never return to the 3 hr daily commute I was doing.
 

bzparkes

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May 2, 2006
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I WFH(Cloud) and I'm definitely more productive in the office, lol. Having said that, as long as we're doing the work, they treat us like adults and don't monitor us too closely. I usually go in once every 2 weeks and find it's somewhat enjoyable to spend time with your colleagues, go out to lunch, etc.

One of my mates is an Exec at Commbank and he was saying they sacked a bunch of people this week. Said he'll find out whether he has a job or not tomorrow but didn't seem overly worried. Guess the refusal to go back to the office has had ramifications for many people at Commbank that they felt compelled to make an example.
 

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Rotayjay

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 28, 2014
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I personally like a mix, but I get bored when working from home for more than a day or two. I actually like my colleagues and enjoy spending time with them face-to-face. I have a friend who dislikes his colleagues and avoids the office if possible. He's supposed to work less from home but his employer doesn't enforce a number of days.
 

Rotayjay

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Aug 28, 2014
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When collaborating, I find that some things are very difficult to explain in writing (say, an email or Teams message) but far easier to explain face-to-face or by voice.

Sometimes you read an email and think 'this email did not help you or me one little bit - what a waste of time reading it.'
 

Rob R

Norm Smith Medallist
Aug 17, 2009
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When collaborating, I find that some things are very difficult to explain in writing (say, an email or Teams message) but far easier to explain face-to-face or by voice.

Sometimes you read an email and think 'this email did not help you or me one little bit - what a waste of time reading it.'
Same, in our workplace we are actively discouraging people from having email meetings when the other people are sitting 20 metres away.

Almost all our staff are back at work, only a few working from home were bludging and most people wfh met their due dates butt we found all the urgent unplanned work went to the people at work and when we looked at output, the people at work delivered far more and generally at a higher quality

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Harro59

Club Legend
May 14, 2013
1,560
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Port Adelaide
Generally most of us at my work will be in the office 3 - 4 days a week with most people around that 4 day mark.

I enjoy the WFH as I do get more time to get work completed without interpretations. However from a collaborative view point, the office is much better.

The CBA issue I find a bit over the top, they aren't saying come back in full time, they want 50% of your time back in the office. I had this conversation with someone who works in Melbourne and they explained the issues with the communte and gow much extra time that takes. However pre covid this was people's life, and is 50% of the time that much of an issue?

If you want a 100% remote job, then honestly I think you need to join a company that has that set up. If your employer wants you back into the office for a % during the week, then this is not unreasonable.
 

Harro59

Club Legend
May 14, 2013
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I should add our wider team is fairly old and seem to struggle with anything too new. I mean. During Covid and all the shut downs we had a Primary designer that still had to come in, WFH wasn't ab option for him. What gave it away was when he said he'll need to get the computer out and he said will be able to long in remotely if he's running Windows XP. Although he did say he night need to check his computer as its been in a box for the last 10 years.

I joked and asked if it was a 486 and said he's not sure it was that fast.

Oddly enough he was fine using AutoCad. Just don't change anything.
 

Cap

TheBrownDog
Jul 27, 2004
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It's funny, the anti WFH people are exactly who you think they'd be.

It's not even surprising anymore. I think it also says a lot more about these people that they can't work from home, what type of person can't work without oversight?

I have to admit I get biggest laugh from one of the reasons being supporting CBD businesses, it usually comes from wealthy land owners who say this with no irony at all.

Mind you, I have no issue if you want to go in, just don't expect me to because you need other people there to make you work.
 

The Passenger

The passenger, I am...
Mar 25, 2003
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Massive mask-off moment for the conservative movement and how much their MO is to dick over the average Joe.

"because they don't have to go through the trauma of driving to and from work, or (taking) the train or something – they save money and it saves them all that stress'."

Somewhere around 99% of workers don't get paid for their commute in the first place so this justification will be interesting.

I also like how he didn't note the savings businesses will make by leasing smaller office space...

What a wankstain.
 

bourbons

Brownlow Medallist
Mar 1, 2007
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Carlton
The only good thing about covid imo, broke through that psychological/expectation barrier as the OP said and proved that it could be done without the joint falling in a heap. Prior to that WFH days were pretty much a no go in my job, now everyone gets 2 WFH days per week if they want them (which practically everyone does). Its great just from a commute/time saving perspective, good mental health initiative too as someone has already said.

The most essential benefit boils down to family life imo. We were lucky in that my little guy started prep last year - I've actually got no idea how parents with school age kids who both work and have no WFH option do it (getting kids to/from school, sport and activities). After school care 5 days a weeks I guess and too bad they have to miss out if basketball training starts at 4.30, much more expensive but also hard on the kid/family life too. I'd definitely be looking for another job offering WFH options if they happened to put an end to it at my current gig.

Having said that, as long as we're doing the work, they treat us like adults and don't monitor us too closely. I usually go in once every 2 weeks and find it's somewhat enjoyable to spend time with your colleagues, go out to lunch, etc.
This is it, as long as you're getting the work done I don't see an issue and suspect most employers wouldn't either. I don't think WFH is the differentiator its sometimes made out to be - there's useless campaigners at every company, granted it would be easier to slack off at home but they'll still find ways to do it if they're on site too.
 

bourbons

Brownlow Medallist
Mar 1, 2007
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I personally like a mix, but I get bored when working from home for more than a day or two. I actually like my colleagues and enjoy spending time with them face-to-face. I have a friend who dislikes his colleagues and avoids the office if possible. He's supposed to work less from home but his employer doesn't enforce a number of days.
Yeah same, after 18 straight months of it I'd never want to WFH full time again and enjoy some socialisation with the people I work with for the most part.
 

owen87

Hall of Famer
Apr 23, 2016
30,132
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Essendon
The only good thing about covid imo, broke through that psychological/expectation barrier as the OP said and proved that it could be done without the joint falling in a heap. Prior to that WFH days were pretty much a no go in my job, now everyone gets 2 WFH days per week if they want them (which practically everyone does). Its great just from a commute/time saving perspective, good mental health initiative too as someone has already said.

The most essential benefit boils down to family life imo. We were lucky in that my little guy started prep last year - I've actually got no idea how parents with school age kids who both work and have no WFH option do it (getting kids to/from school, sport and activities). After school care 5 days a weeks I guess and too bad they have to miss out if basketball training starts at 4.30, much more expensive but also hard on the kid/family life too. I'd definitely be looking for another job offering WFH options if they happened to put an end to it at my current gig.


This is it, as long as you're getting the work done I don't see an issue and suspect most employers wouldn't either. I don't think WFH is the differentiator its sometimes made out to be - there's useless campaigners at every company, granted it would be easier to slack off at home but they'll still find ways to do it if they're on site too.

Monday / Friday traffic is noticeably less these days, I assume most people are WFH those two days for the long weekend factor. Also imagine Friday post-work drinks in the CBD are way down.
 

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Mofra

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Dec 6, 2005
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IMO wfh is a win win for both worker and employer.Covid made us all look inside ourselves, and understand what is important to us.
Work, life balance is vital for good mental health imo.

Why travel 2 hours a day to get to an office.

I now have a wfh component to my job, I would never return to the 3 hr daily commute I was doing.
Ditto. I WFH 2 days per week and the rate of burnout during busy periods is much much less. It will more likely become the norm to have a WFH component for many employees.
It's also reducing the burden on transport infrastructure too
 

Gigantic

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Aug 31, 2014
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Working from home works for me - I'm at a big ASX50 organisation but my role is pretty independent and I largely work autonomously on projects. That said, I couldn't tell you a thing about most of my colleague's lives outside of work because of that.

I'm starting a new role soon and it's on me to decide how I want to work - they've had hybrid working arrangements well before COVID times too. That said, after working the good part of 3 years entirely from home, I'm looking forward to being back in the office for one or two days a week to actually get to connect socially with team members and colleagues.
 

Taylor

Community Leader
Jul 16, 2009
70,451
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Fremantle
I think the solution for all parties involved is to have clear performance expectations and remuneration benefits for exceeding them - regardless of location. Obviously not every role will have as easily defined KPIs like total words written or claims processed etc but transitioning into a more paid for gig style of rewarding workers while still retaining their security and benefits is the best outcome for employees who go beyond the regular effort.

It will also require employers to quantify the expectations of the role clearly such that the employee exceeding them is clearly and rightly able to claim more money in pay for it.

I prefer the idea that if I row really hard I get paid accordingly. If I do 40 hours worth of work in one day, I want to get paid the 40 hours worth of work - if it takes me three weeks to get 40 hours worth of work done then I don't get 120 hours of pay for it.

It goes both ways obviously but clear expectations and requirements for the role to facilitate working from home would only be a benefit for all parties, in my opinion.

Someone please argue with me on this as I would like a more rounded view on the issue.
 

Rotayjay

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 28, 2014
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Adelaide, South Australia
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Adelaide
Monday / Friday traffic is noticeably less these days, I assume most people are WFH those two days for the long weekend factor. Also imagine Friday post-work drinks in the CBD are way down.
I use how many cars I see on a particular underpass as a proxy for how bad traffic is on any given morning. Here in Adelaide I find that Friday mornings are noticeably quieter, and during school holidays it's also noticeably quieter (I think that's parents working from home as well as lack of school drop offs).
 

owen87

Hall of Famer
Apr 23, 2016
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I use how many cars I see on a particular underpass as a proxy for how bad traffic is on any given morning. Here in Adelaide I find that Friday mornings are noticeably quieter, and during school holidays it's also noticeably quieter (I think that's parents working from home as well as lack of school drop offs).

School holidays definitely quieter, but I also find Monday / Friday to be the quietest days on the road now whereas pre covid Friday was hectic
 

dav3

Brownlow Medallist
May 1, 2009
20,767
26,643
Adelaide
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Port Adelaide
The CBA outrage is hilarious, from the peasantry in social media commentary, to the tears from CBA clowns, and the media stoking the fire. CBA want staff to spend at least 50% of their time in the office, it's not a full return to the office mandate, I'm not sure why their staff think this is some massive human rights abuse.

Meanwhile Federal Government employees just won the right to WFH full time if they want which personally I'm not a fan of, if that filters down to state level things will go downhill quick. It's also a great way of making your workplace switch to an "activity based workstation" model, meaning you have to pack your

Personally I can WFH when I want but generally keep it to 1-2 times a week, most of my team are the same. Plenty of people around the office abuse it though, and use the perk to get out of paying for child care, etc....... if you're looking after young kids you can't exactly say you're working. Some people turn up once a month, and there's probably an average of 30% of total staff in our office at any one time. Sure...... when I WFH I * around a bit during the day, but I'm also online and doing work stuff over 10 or so hours a day so it evens out.
 

Rotayjay

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 28, 2014
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The interesting thing is that people on both sides of the debate are becoming very passionate about it. Some seem adamant that you need to spend a certain amount of time on site. I'm pretty sure one of the big 4 banks said that we are a relationship bank and relationships are best built face-to-face. I agree with that last statement, but that doesn't mean a particular number of days in the office.

Others are very upset about being told when to be in the office and yes, some seem to make it sound like a human rights issue. In my view, adults should be trusted to behave as such, and if they don't, they can find other work.

It's very hard to claw back a beneficial thing from someone once it's been given to them. I'm not exactly a fan of unrestrained markets, but I think markets can still be very beneficial when regulated well. The jobs market is heavily regulated by IR laws. I reckon in the next 5-20 years the WFH wars will naturally sort themselves out when employees move to firms that match how much they want to work from home, and the ones who expect a licence to be lazy will find it harder to get or keep a job.

I'd like to know the effect on workplace culture in (say) a government department that was primarily work from the office going to mainly working from home (due to that big deal with the union above). In (say) 2035 will we see a bunch of private and public sector offices filled primarily with older people, those without young children and those without good home offices?
 

Rotayjay

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 28, 2014
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Rotayjay

Brownlow Medallist
Aug 28, 2014
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Adelaide, South Australia
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Mods can I post this if I redact the identities of the commenters? Please remove if not allowed.
 

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Blue1980

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Jun 9, 2011
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With unemployment so low, it doesn’t appear that employers are making demands from a position of strength here.

If companies don’t offer WFH or want to pay people less, people will look for comparable jobs that allow WFH and don’t pay people less for it.

It is a big mask off moment for conservatives though, somehow making out poor big business is the victim, when it’s all about trying to stop wages going up to match inflation.

They can all go * themselves.
 

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