The office / hybrid work is dead isn’t it
Patricia Jackson 28 Nov 21 19:31
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Nearly two years on and it really hasn’t returned to what it was has it.  Even efforts at hybrid working seem to be failing all round. That doesn’t seem to work either. So are we set for remote work for the rest of our working lives? Feel for anyone 18-35 that is establishing a career, this must be knocking years of experience and promotion off and deskilling all round. What is there to look forward to in work if you’re young and starting out.  100% work is truly awful and depressing. 

Sadly not. I'm moving house on the basis that offices are pointless, yet most companies seem to think that 2 days a week at home is "flexible" and "agile".

Within 3 years from 1 April 2020, everyone will be in office. 

My work we’re having a great time in the office a few days a week combined with two super productive days at home.  We even had a big group meeting followed by drinks recently.

Coffers if that's right, it's antediluvian. And deeply depressing. 

I think the next lockdown will properly kill off commprop

sailo - the city will push on with the return all 5 days. How that will impact the regions remains to be seen. Also whether people will simply leave the City (or otherwise). 

My firm has nobody pushing to be back full time and recommended attendance isn’t even being monitored and is widely flouted.  I can see a few partners already spending the extra profits from reducing the rent bill in the future.

Most city ballers doing 3 days a week. Those days consist of breakfast meetings, long lunches and after work drinks.

Anyone not within quick commuting distance to the office is limiting their careers imo. Of course, that may be something they are happy with. Not for me to judge.

I’m not doing any of those things but doing the stuff I can only do in the office like meeting clients and sending documents to storage.

I hate commuting more than I value my career. Much, much more.

Anyone not within quick commuting distance to the office is limiting their careers imo. Of course, that may be something they are happy with. Not for me to judge.
 

I’m not convinced that many have realised that and by the time they do, their career (at least at their current employer) will have been limited.

I've taken that gamble by moving far away

But I can always mitigate it with a new nearer job so 

 

 

 

People don't realise that senior management are such alpha weirdos that they've hated WFH and need to be room dominant to get their kicks.

HR are their stooges.

Get to the office or get offered a massive pay cut to wfh past next spring.

I think they’re itching to do that RR but at the moment all their staff are fvcking off so they don’t have any leverage. It’s quite lol

Not as lol as the train companies’ latest impotent price hike but still pretty lol

Yeah agree with that FF, although I haven't seen the great resignation in my area yet. Lots of griping tho.

 

My senior management have noticed that productivity is up like this and they like that combined with the cost savings.

Lots of resignations here but not all for wfh reasons. Yes the gunners will want to be in all the time but that's not the majority of most orgs thank God. Ultimately this is something that costs nothing, even saves money, which keeps staff happy and locks them in to the org.

I've got a 10 stretch max to go in The Game , the less I spend in an office and with train cos the better.

Fair point. When the market tightens and work isn't to easily available, then firms will offer the two tier salary for those commuting and those not.

I wish. My current place insists everyone is in for a minimum of three days a week. Manger then decides to make our lives utter hell on the days we WFH (emails from 7am - midnight demanding items are actioned ASAP with periodic phone calls asking what your itinerary is for each hour of the day). And this is in-house.

It’s clear senior management do not approve of WFH or “agile” working. I had more flexible arrangements pre-Covid. 

I just can’t understand the mindset of someone who doesn’t mind sitting in a carriage next to Train Guy at 7:30am

in my opinion anyone before about 11 can fvck off. 12 on a Monday. 

Two tier salaries will absolutely not happen. Talking normally governanced companies here not law firms though.

Lots of resignations here but not all for wfh reasons

What's driving it?

Two tier salaries is the horror story some firms are putting out to scare people into presenteeism.

Umm, 2 tier salaries most certainly are happening.

ROF gets it wrong again. Basically everyone relatively senior is going into the office at the moment. Not every day, but at least half the time. If you’re not then probably time to start planning for that second tier, gruntwork salary..

I work very closely with pay and benefits at my firm. 2 tier salary is not a thing under discussion.

Umm, 2 tier salaries most certainly are happening.

 Um, no they aren't. HTH. Soz if your shop is shit.

Not in proper employers they aren't and won't.

Orwell, various reasons - pay as the market is hot at certain levels, re-evaluation of career choice and / or country location as a result of lockdown. Some internal changes that have left a few people in the cold as well.

I actually don't think we are bad for WFH in our sector but people want more flexibility still and no reasons other than "because" have been put forward to counter this. As I said above, most people in an org aren't rock stars and just want their job to be more bearable. Their voice will be heeded.

Havent read this thread beyond first post

Own it. Your turn.
 

what are  going to do to make the world work right?

Haha amazing. The blind stupidity on here is actually rather touching. Yes, firms will let you live in Derbyshire and pay you London rates.

Doesnt affect me as don’t work for a law firm but know plenty affected.

It will depend on the type of work you do and how much you bill as it does now.

Heh @ claims of blind stupidity from a chap who has been royally conned by his bosses.

‘Yes, firms will let you live in Derbyshire and pay you London rates’

Depends if they are setting London targets. If they are then why shouldn’t they pay London rates?

they could cut the targets of course (😂)

I get paid because of the (niche, specialist) work I do, not because of my postal code. HTH

My firm were literally : come back to the office or we will replace you with 5 people in jurisdiction X 

(In certain job roles and the head of dept was loudly recruiting on this basis)

Agree with Orwell on this one - no two tier salary at my place in discussion- some vague noises trying to get people in 2 or 3 days a week but floor is pretty dead most days.

The desks I service are global anyway and I spend most of my time on webex/teams even in the office not in face to face meetings so covid didn’t really impact my bau at all anyway.

Job I do is fairly technical and they deliberately hire from top law firms to get a good service - not really ripe for outsourcing 2bh 

Over 50% of employed people do not have a job that can accommodate home working (you can guess the type of work involved)... ...they are happy for the remainder to stay off the road/bus/train.

Agree with the point made above that newly qualified people in the 'professional' sector are the group most likely to suffer...

...it will take a while to settle down but there are no significant reasons why employers will not outsource home working out of the UK to regions with lower salary expectations. 

Long live globalism sisters and brothers.

Yeah I can't believe it won't impact negotiating power. Some people have specialist skills but hardly anyone is truly irreplaceable.

office life will be back to full swing in 2022

Id expect home working levels to settle at less than they were before the pandemic tbh

40+ hours a week at some rank central office or other is dead for all time. 

Sorry mate, I’ve called how it gon be

ps you been watching Asian ‘cuties this morning, unkz? I refer ofc to the Nikkei and the Hang Seng.

There are no significant reasons why employers will not outsource home working out of the UK to regions with lower salary expectations

For some roles, yes, but not for most solicitors roles in London. 

Law firms are in a different position to many businesses in that the people who make the money have a very measurable output i.e. how much have you billed and how of that bill has the client paid.

 

If an associate paid, for ease of maths, £100,000 per year, says “I will bill £500,000 per year which the client will pay immediately, but I want to work from home” his/her/its supervising partner will say with alacrity “That is a great idea. Please go home now and start billing”.

 

If you can bill (and get paid) heavily then you can work from where you like.

 

It gets much more difficult in jobs where the output (although no less valuable) is harder to quantify. Someone who works in marketing will have a much harder job measuring their output (in pure cash terms notwithstanding it is a key part of the business and no less valuable) and there will be more pressure to be in the office (although, presumably, pressure to cut the office rent will counter balance that).

 

I have come across a few businesses who were completely remote before the (non)plague hit us. They devoted a huge amount of resource and energy to very regular mandatory get togthers. I think the hybrid model is a bit wrong because it has sort of arisen because it is what workers want rather than what is good for increasing profits for the owners/shareholders. In time the owners/will put the pressure on with what ever makes the most money.

 

I have no idea where it will end up, but I do think attracting good talent means the Rubicon has been crossed and, certainly over the next few years good people will insist on some “work from home”. Also, although many bosses will want people back in the office they will also want to work from home themselves and even the most David Brent of leaders will realize this “do as I say not as I do” position is a difficult sell.

Lol, I'll take the other side of that Laz trade. The man who predicted COVID to be a distant memory by August. 2020.

Agreed Ooffer it's nowhere near settled yet one way or the other.

Taking the associate in Derbyshire example - there are obvious career drawbacks from WFH which will impact earnings over a longer period.

So effectively ending up with a two tier system. 

My firm is hinting at a two tier system next year. Especially given number of offices around the world all with different pay structures.

The problem is that the hybrid model is neither fish nor fowl, allowing people to choose which days they come in just means either everyone chooses different days so there’s no benefit as everyone is on teams anyway, or everyone chooses the same days and you can’t cut your office costs/ there’s nowhere for everyone to sit. 

And if you insist on everyone in the office you will ultimately not be able to hire the best people  unless you pay them more, which I suppose is how two tier might creep in but it’s not saving the employer any money. 

Orwell I haven’t been ‘royally conned’ by my bosses. As I said, I’m don’t work for a law firm. I work for a company where mgt team tend to go in 3/4/5 days a week. Plodders stay at home. Plodders unlikely to get promotions, bigger bonuses etc.

The office is absolutely back, save for law firms many of which by next year will have gone down the two salary route. 

Funny but my friends outside law are spending even less time in the office than I am.

I think one aspect of the 2 tier system that has not been addressed is that while London hours targets have been mentioned (like there aren't high targets outside of London?) but what hasn't been mentioned is that from the client perspective they will start to ask why they are paying City rates when the work is being done by a lawyer wfh in Derbyshire, and they will have a valid point.

For myself I have been working full time in the office since June last year.

When lockdown first lifted our senior management team were in the office regularly, but since then that has fallen away hard. They go in a couple of days a week like most other people. 

Tbh I thought when things reopened it would swing quickly towards people being in the office, but it just hasn't happened to nearly the extent I expected.

I'd guess trains are the biggest issue. Putting prices up is hilarious. Reality is anyone outside London has enormous financial incentive to stay away. And that doesn't mean people in Derbyshire, it means people in Surrey or Kent - where actually most of senior management tends to live. 

These threads are quite funny for picking out the presenteeism addicts desperately yelling about how everyone needs to be in the office right now and two tier salaries are coming down the pipe at any second. 

I save about 50 quid per day by not going into the office. There needs to be a very good reason for me to go in.  Usually lunch/beers

Pancakes the reason I am in the office all the time is that the majority of my work is on a computer system I can't use at home.

‘why they are paying City rates when the work is being done by a lawyer wfh in Derbyshire, and they will have a valid point.‘

‘City’ doesn’t mean you actually have to be in the square mile though, it is a term for leading law firms who have the pick of the best staff and are perceived (rightly or wrongly) as having the highest standards. Doesn’t matter where that lawyer is actually working from on any given day.

What FF said, you’re paying a premium because you’re getting top notch advice from the best in the field (heh) not because you’re getting it from someone who lives in Clapham. 

Also BT afaiaa your role is litterally unique on rof and not really comparable to the rest of us drones. 

My clients know I'm often working over a garage in Sussex but they happily agreed to pay my rates because they want to use my services and because it will cost them the same or more to get advice from a similar firm.  Nobody has asked for a discount because I'm not physically in Holborn.

"Pancakes the reason I am in the office all the time is that the majority of my work is on a computer system I can't use at home."

Good thing too! It would be worrying if we could all log on to our PCs, press a red button and blow up Johnny Foreigner with a drone.

I do 2 or 3 days a week and sometimes 4.  I have good WFH facilities and it means no commute but being stuck there means a narrower life- like retirement but with work to do.  So I play one off against the other. When I am tired of commuting I WFH, when I am bored of my own company I inflict it on others. 

I think the key is identifying what office life and zoom life are for. 

Zoom is for execution and presentation.  It is efficient for achievement of previously identified and defined activity. It is no good whatsoever for many creative, discursive and ad hoc activities. 

WFH is good for zoom and good for quiet contemplation (e.g. a draft, a structure, an argument) which needs no interruption. It is thinking time. But too much thinking time is lonely time and lonely thoughts are not good long term. They are either negative or, if constructive, limited because they are only one point of view.  Emails don't solve that.

Office life is no good for quiet contemplation or drafting. It is good for seeing people (colleagues, clients).  I go into the office to engage - talk to people, have a lucky chance meeting in a corridor,  solve problems with people's input that might never have been tackled because nobody identified the problem or scheduled the zoom meeting. I go in to meet clients for existing and future business,  have coffees and lunches with them and with colleagues. By a zoom measure this is wasted time but by normal measures of how humans should interact it is critical to business.  From all of that comes the invitation pitch, the optimised team, the  solved problem, the new ideas and the won work.  Some of that may happen on zoom but despite it, not because of it. 

If we kill office interaction we close off the part of life that is enhanced through emotional intelligence. We cannot so easily be aware of, empathise with or solve a personal problem. We cannot tell who is up and who is down. Management becomes a spreadsheet thing. Talent won't stay around for that. We slowly kill our asset value.

 

Yeh, but it's heading that way anyway irrespective of office or not.

These discussions are also (inevitably) very London centric. 

Half the country works in offices that are essentially large barns on business parks surrounded by absolutely nothing but a car park. 

When I go into the office it's a pleasant day out in town, but if I was working somewhere like that you'd have to put a gun to my head to get me back in. 

Done more BD and brought in more work as a result in the past year WFH than in my career to date. Obviously prior in person efforts will have helped that but the fact remains I'm 'seeing' more people and bringing in more work as a result WFH. fooking love it. PermWFH now and will never change it. When world opens up again proper I'll be spending half my year WFaround the world as well. 

 

But yeah, keep pining for the tube. 

 

I have just flown to another country for a twenty minute meeting. Because of flight timings it takes two and half days plus several PCR tests. However it just will not work over Zoom. That is the exception I accept.

 

I think the successful businesses in the UK will have a hybrid which they enforce e.g. you have to come and work 2 days every two weeks all together at X location with clear objectives of team meetings, people presenting what they are doing, communication from senior management about wtf is going in etc. etc. Anyone who does not attend will blight their job prospects (no promotion + first in line for redundancy). The idea that everyone just waltzes in whenever they want will not be accepted once things settle down (unless you are in a very measurable job where you can show your money worth e.g. private practice lawyer who is billing a lot).

’with clear objectives of team meetings, people presenting what they are doing, communication from senior management about wtf is going in‘

If the last 2 years have taught us anything it’s that those meetings don’t actually matter and the people running them can be safely made redundant

I shall get by on the fact that my recovery rate has gone up because stuff doesn't take me as long when I'm not being interrupted and distracted.

Hey hey FF. You are totally right. I just remembered why I left corporate life. 

I think the successful businesses in the UK will have a hybrid which they enforce e.g. you have to come and work 2 days every two weeks all together at X location with clear objectives of team meetings, people presenting what they are doing, communication from senior management about wtf is going in etc. etc. Anyone who does not attend will blight their job prospects (no promotion + first in line for redundancy). The idea that everyone just waltzes in whenever they want will not be accepted once things settle down (unless you are in a very measurable job where you can show your money worth e.g. private practice lawyer who is billing a lot).

 

 

I understand why you say this but I am not sure this works unless the outfit you work in is a command and control organisation where people don't feel entitled to push back, but one of the many changes in the past couple of years has been a greater degree of listening and "hearts and minds" management rather than traditional law firm dictatorships. What we achieved by running a business remotely was to prove that it was not "necessary" to be in the office to execute business (but nb the difference between execution and growth above). Therefore some mandatory arrangement will just get the universal bird in many organisations which have empowered the voice of the whole business (not just its partner group). Those who think it is important to careers will lean in, but those who don't won't. And one of the disadvantages with completely ad hoc flexibility is that even if you lean in and rock up to the office there are fewer people around and that makes it function less well. There is less osmotic learning for junior lawyers and more time in a ghost town office.  

People will see the value of a more orderly arrangement to ensure presence but it is now much harder to "tell" people how it is going to be.   This is a couple of generations whose presence needs to be proposed and negotiated not commanded. 

Our firm is going to be in trouble if OP is right because we have just moved to an new office with 60 per cent capacity only on basis of 2 days a week in office for most.

everything I’ve said on this subject has been exactly correct filthers, not counting stuff you made up of course

at least one other data point suggests that your firm isn’t possessed of the best business judgement, tbh Guy

Mutters. I do not work in the UK and people do what they are told and you can fire anyone whenever you like so my perspective is different.

 

I applaud the UK workers for pushing back. I was horribly exploited as a trainee and young associate. Well done them for not taking it.

 

If the worst happens and I have to get a proper job there is no way I am going in to the office full time!

There was at least one firm in the pandemic that made people redundant to reemploy them on WFH contracts. Lots of firms now employ solicitors in their near shore centres as it's a waste of time having support depts on City salaries. 

Process efficiency and tech will mean at least a quarter of work currently done by solicitors can be done by near-shore/offshore centres or machines. If IBs can operate back offices in regional locations and India no reason why law firms can't. Lots of lawyers run around like headless chickens overseen by people with 0 formal training in project management and a bizarre fetish for replicating the shit project management they were subject to as juniors. 

Trainees and juniors will need to come in for specific training, but ultimately even they will not be expected in the office more than 3 days a week. Supervisors will just be told to get better at supervising them remotely. There's probably 10% of solicitors that actually need to be in the office at a given time, either as point people for remote teams that need the best facilities to manage them, or marketers.

This FT article suggests that only 22% of office workers came back before the new variant shrieking, despite places suggesting getting back to work. Vacancy rates for old offices are ticking up and there are massive costs associated with making those buildings energy efficient. 

I got a moderate ticking off for skipping one of my two "optional" office days last week,

I responded with a "well tbh, the last few times I've come in, there's been tumbleweeds.  Oh, and by the way, the guys that I actually work with come in on a different day, so I'm planning to blow off one of your "optional" mandatory days.

I haven't been fired yet, but doubtless it's coming. 

It is not so much workers rising up and pushing back, m8. You are measuring this by reference to your own command and control/ us v them working culture.  A lot is changing and it is not about an oppressed group finally rising up to depose the despotic leaders.   It is a combination of mature views from the management and the managed. We as leaders have no interest in perpetuating some shitty Victorian workhouse culture. Some of us don't want to enrich ourselves through the hardships of those with less power. It's not just a question of people complaining and management listening for once, but actually people at all levels in the workplace wanting a better life, more balance. Some of it comes from listening and delivering on expectations but other changes are led by management / leadership. We want a better profession than the one we grew up in.  Some of the partner behaviour I encountered in the 90s and early 2000s would make your blood run cold. 

I have been pushing our own global leadership to dump the hours-threshold bonus arrangement and to introduce a  profit share structure for associates and non-lawyer colleagues - performance reward and recognition based not on hours recorded but contribution to quality of business performance. Creating this culture is a change that enables a more informed discussion about how we operate (as opposed to diktat as to how we must). 

 

As I said earlier no monitoring here and we're trusted to be sensible adults.  Meant to be in 50% of the time so I'm doing 3 days in for a few weeks then having a week fully at home.

I like a change of scene and a routine, personally. I’d like some flex, ideally, but I’d prefer a job that mandated I be in the office five days a week than one that required me to WFH more than 2 days a week.

"A lot is changing and it is not about an oppressed group finally rising up to depose the despotic leaders.   It is a combination of mature views from the management and the managed."

Sounds like someone's been drinking the Management Speak Kool Aid. 

In the meantime, my Union is pressing for proper workers' rights. 

People who work in HK and the Gulf seem obsessed by hierarchy and obligation. 

 

The answer to wanting a change of scene and routine is to adopt a working pattern that accommodates that and then carry on, be successful and say a polite fcuk you to anyone telling you how you should do it differently, go elsewhere or run your own business if you are that out of sync. But don't wait about to be told what you may or may not do. 

 

I don't drink any cool aid but I have been in leadership and management for some time and I have a pretty clear idea, based on a lot of experience, as to how people should be treated and how to develop a high performing group of people ducks. 

It is gratifying to hear that the Cavalry Twill Plus Four and Bow Tie Bearers Cooperative is still pressing for justice though. 

I'm not sure there are any other "takeaways", are there? Other than you clearly have a more deferential view of management than I do. 

keep fighting brother.

I suppose it turns on the culture of the organisation you are a part of and the approach you take to hierarchy

 

My view is that people have been coining it off the back of presenteeism and post-GFC job insecurity for decades. Imposter complexes and management who genuinely managed nothing feared the golden goose would be killed by WFH. Now enough enlightened managers have the stats to back up not forcing people in, and people that in times gone by might have had the benefits of leaving the office at 6 to go to the theatre, a fancy restaurant or other attraction that London had now don't see any point to trekking in.  London will become the business trip to head office for everyone once all the crying over the spilled milk of a recently leased flash office and the tide going out on those that just enjoyed bullying people in person as a substitute for organisation has passed.  

My approach to hierarchy could politely be described as destructive. 

You are developing high performing people ducks?!?! Are you using a Magic Finger?

Muttley is onto something. There's a lot more caring about employees now and being a "good" employer. Of course most of it is bollocks and virtue signalling but it opens the door to more dialogue. We have regular surveys and if they are strong enough they can change things because there is then a record of the org saying one thing but clearly doing another.

Management becomes a spreadsheet thing. Talent won't stay around for that. We slowly kill our asset value.

We certainly wouldn’t want that!

Now excuse me while I complete my end of year appraisal. Shall I give myself a 3 out of 5 for integrity this year, or shall I try to justify a 3.5….