Automattic's teleworking program is so successful they're closing their San Francisco office


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/06/13/remote-workers.html


#2

I really liked it while it lasted at Boeing. The IT folk kept getting moved out by engineering and there honestly was not enough desk space at the site for IT operations and at the time my team was spread across different sites in Puget Sound so it wasn’t like we sat next to each other anyway so the move to a home office was easy. When we got outsourced and I kept doing the same job but got paid by CSC instead my coworkers were now sitting in St. Louis, Phoenix, Philadelphia, etc.

Communicating by IM and phone was just as easy as chatting ‘in person’ and if I really needed to get to working on something a do not disturb status worked wonders compared to the office where you were always hearing chatter about all kinds of things or someone just walking up and breaking my workflow.
The other bonus I could have MY MUSIC as loud as I liked.

Once we had the IM group chats figured out I always had 2 open, one for the team I was on and one cross team chat that was specifically for a heads up of we are done with our part of a multi team ticket and it was now going over to the next team. Any questions, follow up, etc was taken to regular IM sessions or phone if need be. It worked really well.

The other nice part for our customers was we could be flexible about our schedules, oh hey this came in at 10 minutes to ‘quitting time’ and while not priority the customer is impatient, we could get on it right away and just work a bit late and get the request at least solidly in work and processing and figure out the time off by starting late, taking a longer lunch, etc. and make the customer really happy. And when I was in the office it would wait till morning cause it meant adding up to an extra hour to my time to commute home.


#3

Telework automates management and middle-management right out of a job. It’s an extremely disruptive technology. Naturally, tech firms aren’t the only companies that are alarmed by the rise of the autonomous office. If timesheet signers don’t make those six-figure salaries, who’s going to buy all these luxury apartments we’re building? There are limits.


#4

If that’s the office, I can see why people would want to work from home. It is in my nature to hate open offices and counter seating with the heat of a thousand suns.
Watching someone pick their nose while getting carpal tunnel makes me want to go back to high rise window washing.


#5

I have noticed that the executives that push for the whole open office seating tend to have offices.

Our parent company is really big on that but I was really happy it never made it to my office. I would have murdered people if had to live like that or I would have made a fort out of monitors.

I also never understood the desire to do all your work on a tiny laptop with one screen. How do people LIVE like that?


#6

I hate working from home so much. One time it worked out, after I spent six months lobbying for a real office. A couple of other times, not. Turns out, if my only work companion is the fridge, it’s many kinds of unhealthy. I know some people thrive on this, but the Boing Boing is just way more fun than the work work.


#7

I have no clue, the millisecond I was able to use a 2nd monitor with the work laptop I happily did so. I have not looked back since.


#8

what you think being in the office stops me from that?


#9

I hear ya. In the photo, that place looks like it’s got all the ambience of an abandoned aircraft hangar. The echoes off that floor must be hellish.

The “open” office is a crock. It’s nothing but a ploy by cheap @%@#%s to reduce the overhead so they have more to steal during bonus season.


#10

My company’s about to move from a space with high walled cubicles (some low) to all low wall cubicles. For the first several days after moving out, the new space will still be under construction and everyone’s supposed to work from home. Given the overall flex policy, I suspect this will significantly bump the permanent WFH population (my team would still be in 1x/week).


#11

That should be “Portland ME” for Maine. MN is Minnesota.


#12

Bob Slydell: You see, what we’re actually trying to do here is, we’re trying to get a feel for how people spend their day at work… so, if you would, would you walk us through a typical day, for you?

Peter Gibbons: Yeah.

Bob Slydell: Great.

Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least fifteen minutes late, ah, I use the side door - that way Lumbergh can’t see me, heh heh - and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.

Bob Porter: Da-uh? Space out?

Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I’m working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.


#13

There’s not really anything here that indicates the program is “successful” unless getting people out of the office so that they could close it was the goal in itself. That is, we don’t know whether productivity, communication, and collaboration have improved or suffered, whether it’s ultimately good for the quality of the product or the bottom line, etc.

The telework program is successful in that many people have in fact participated in the program, yes - but all that proves is that people will generally take advantage of the option to not come into the office if you give it to them. Just saying.


#14

I don’t think people understand Automatic. It’s the first place an AI that could pass a Turing test could get a job, all hiring is done via email and text chat, you literally don’t talk, let alone meet in person. Then they give you a trial of a week or so of work at $25/h, you can do it part time over several weeks if you want (say, if you have another job), if it works out, they bring you on board. The SF office was as much a place to serve legal papers as anything else, as of a year or more ago, only 25 people came to the SF office. Or so the CEO/founder said on Tim Ferriss’s podcast a while back. If you don’t have to come into the office, why pay SF rents?


#15

Well to be fair Automattic’s policy, as far as i can understand from the article, does not allow working from home.
Co-working space or coffee shop.


#16

Meanwhile, IBM is reversing its teleworking programme and demanding that remote workers come back to the office.

Many are speculating that it’s a ploy to reduce headcount by getting employees to quit rather than resume the corporate commuter life. Given my own “never going back to that noise” attitude, I must admit it’s a clever ploy.


#17

It’s actually a nice space, though really excessive for the number of folks that work for Automattic in the Bay Area. Real desks with monitors are out of view in the photo (which is enough for the 3-5 people who go in regularly ), and there’s also a nice upstairs area. https://automattic.com/lounge/

Automattic has always been remote first. This space was also originally intended to double as an event space for example for full company meetups, or team meetups. But we quickly outgrew the space for the former, and SF is an unpopular meetup city since it’s so expensive and travel to the US can be difficult for our co-workers that don’t live here.


#18

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