In 2008 I worked at Itaú in the IT for relationship with investment funds. I was part of a team responsible for fund performance reports, used by traders to guide their strategies. Our support was 24×7, especially during the night when these reports were generated. We discussed whether it would be possible for the engineer responsible for stand-by to work from home; our request was denied on the grounds that it was more productive to work in the bank’s infrastructure, where everything was available and where all the stand-by engineers were. 2020 came, Covid came and we know the result: we work very well in our homes. My experience and that of colleagues: we work better from our homes.
Zoom has grown exponentially precisely in this niche and last week we read that its CEO prefers work at the office. Eric Yuan points to speed of innovation and interaction as motivators, between the lines I read ‘our productivity needs to increase’, yeah, productivity again is the culprit. Also between the lines, I read that on Zoom the high command doesn’t trust people except when they’re around so they can see what people is doing. Microsoft showed this in the 2022 Pulse Report:
“The majority of employees (87%) report that they are productive at work (…)” but “85% of global business decision makers say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that people are being productive”.
I work in IT, this is the world that I know and about which I can give my opinion. Here, engineers are productive working from home and there are doubts in the C-level. McKinsey gave voice to this feeling and brought its idea 2 weeks ago: Yes, you can measure software developer productivity. Kent Beck wrote about this in his newsletter. Given that crisis of confidence that I mentioned, metrics are proposed to measure what I am doing. Kent is precise in his analysis, I agree: they confuse “activity” with “productivity”. Productivity is about delivering value and transforming your company.
The dichotomy of remote work vs. in-person work should not be the central discussion, trust and productivity are the central elements. And besides, do you want to go back to the office every day?