Everyone in the office! Why? Because I said so • The Register


Something for the weekend A mouse pad makes a speech. “I want to thank my mom and dad, my trainer Brian, and my silky recycled polyester surface that ensures unimpeded mouse movement.”

Sporadic applause and shouts punctuate the silence of the auditorium.

But above all, I would like to thank you. I love you all!”

And with that, the crowd jumps to their feet and erupts in loud, sustained applause. The mouse pad tilts once more, then dances across the stage and hops lightly on the steps – it knows its rubber base will prevent any slipping – before resuming its seat, waving to the adoration of its fans.

At least, that’s how I imagined the show played when Expert Reviews announced its annual remote work awards this week.

These awards celebrate working from home, whose status was elevated by the first lockdown of 2020 and has risen with determination ever since. “Best Mouse Pad” was just one of many exciting prizes handed out that night, including many more for the likes of “Best Office Chair”, “Best Laptop Stand” and that undeniable essential company for every home office, “Best Paper Shredder”. .

That’s a far cry from the pre-pandemic awards, which I suspect must have had categories like “Weakest Wi-Fi Signal”, “Wobbest Kitchen Stool”, “Weakest Spare Bedroom Wallpaper”. ugly” and “Worst neighbor for relentless drilling, hammering and using the circular saw every day”.

At the start of the telecommuting phenomenon, remote workers complained that their employers were not compensating them for electricity, lighting, heating, etc. Hipsters who previously enjoyed workplace benefits have lamented the loss of their free coffee and snack allowance, and suffered permanent emotional damage from the shock of being forced to work in a scantily chrome-decorated environment. and stressed wood.

They were told to “shut up and carry on”, they did. They cleared out a corner of the apartment, bought a fancy gaming chair and a sleek new laptop. They pestered their ISPs to upgrade their fiber. They were pestering their mobile providers for better contracts and more data.

At this point, they discovered a secret that Register readers know it throughout their career: the best computer kit is yours. They realized that the equipment their bosses had been providing in their workplaces all this time was crap. The office network connection was disastrous. The mobile signal in the depths of open hell had definitely been a bar. And though they missed all that coffee and chips/chips, they learned not to suffer from migraines anymore by spending 10 hours a day inhaling the ungodly stench of everyone’s beard oil.

Now their employers want them back in the office, many are clinging to it. They bought this whole kit and it’s fantastic. The last thing they want is to be sent back to slavery on a pre-Lenovo-era ThinkPad covered in finger grease on a 1Mbit connection, tottering on a broken swivel chair that Buildings Management rescued from a dead end. a dumpster, while rubbing elbows with that jerk with the annoying voice and that other bastard who sniffles all day.

I am only an observer. There is no real answer to the debate between working from home and returning to the office. If there is an answer, it is this: “It depends.” Some jobs require you to be on site; Others don’t.

I have worked from home since 1993. But I often allow myself to be subcontracted to work on site for a client because the task requires it. And each time, the experience is the same: I spend most of the first day on my feet because there is no desk or chair available for me. Those who already have a bench always seem to get pissed that I park my butt on the corner of their desk, so I hang out and ride on everyone’s tits that way instead.

Now we read of Elon Musk’s dictate that Tesla’s FMH employees must trudge back to the office — and the chaotic results. No room in the office, no room in the parking lot, no room on the bandwidth and, come Christmas, probably no room in the hostel.

Similar stories of doom can be heard across the Atlantic. In the UK, the government minister, nominally in charge of the entire civil service, spent his seemingly endless free time in April dropping passive-aggressive notes on empty desks, reading: “Sorry, you were absent during my visit. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon. With all the best wishes, Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Jacob Rees-Mogg, imagine someone dressed like Bertie Wooster, with a diction like Sir Percy Blakeney and speaking convoluted bullshit anachronistically like an over-the-top steampunk cosplayer after three pints of Old Peculier de Theakston.

But that’s beside the point: if every civil servant working remotely returned to the official seat of public administration, there wouldn’t be enough seats to accommodate them. There would be hundreds of people hanging around, looking bewildered and suffering from burns in the corner of the office on their backs.

What Jacob and Elon have in common, besides never mixing their gym clothes with anyone else at school, is the penchant for all bosses to think theirs is the floor. of God. Not that they really believe they are gods, but they feel like making a decision is like executing it.

“Come back to the office,” they say…and walk off, leaving another poor asshole running around trying to locate floor space, desks, chairs, computers, network connections, etc. for the crowd that has just arrived at the reception.

The most surprising aspect of this God Syndrome – the inability to understand the difference between thinking and doing – is that it hasn’t improved one iota over the years. At the turn of the 1990s, I was working in the smallest cramped space you could imagine: in fact, totally unimaginable in these times of social distancing.

We had mini-offices to allow more staff to fit on each floor, stuck together like ill-fitting jigsaw pieces. We shared phones, not because we didn’t have enough, but because there wasn’t enough office space for everyone. Sometimes there were fights over who should use their desk to host the phone.

Then my immediate superior leans in one day and announces that he is going to hire a secretary. OK, we said, where are they going to sit?

“Retail,” he replied dismissively.

What? No, really, where are they going to sit? There is no spare furniture and even if we had some, there is nowhere to put them. Would they be sitting on the windowsill, perhaps?

“Retail,” he insisted – and we left it at that.

I left the company shortly after this exchange. But I was told later that the desperate young secretary had spent not just her first day, but the entire first week on her feet and loitering, sometimes resting on the windowsill when no one else was in it.

Most memorable in this endeavor was a superb comedy-drama moment when the General Manager came downstairs and demanded to know when our glossy magazine supplement would be back from the printers. “What glossy magazine supplement? ” we asked. None of us had a clue what he was talking about.

It turned out that several months before he had held a meeting on the top floor with the various other senior executives and they had come up with the idea of ​​producing a glossy magazine supplement. They then all left the meeting feeling – again God syndrome – that deciding was doing. None of them thought to mention the idea to the team; instead, they assumed that since they had decided it would happen, it would definitely happen. The whole project only ever existed in their tiny pea brains.

Ordering vast swathes of personnel into the IRL without regard to necessity or consequences is no different. The decision is made, let it be done!

The one thing I will say about the whole remote work argument is this: Paul McCartney and John Lennon went off the rails once they started WFH. If only they could have been persuaded to return to the office…

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Alistair Dabbs

Alistair Dabbs is a freelance tech enthusiast, juggling tech journalism, training, and digital publishing. He apologizes to those whose desks he has sat on over the years. He considered bringing a collapsible camping stool with him for contract work, but that would make it look like a sad bag. More to Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.


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