We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“The evangelists for WFH and flexi-working keep telling us that it will create a happier, more productive workforce. But if that were true, then output per person should have soared over the last two years. Of course, it hasn’t. Instead, it has stagnated – and in many cases gone down. The UK’s miserable record on productivity is a long and complex story, but one certainty is that flexi-working won’t fix it.”

Matthew Lynn, taking aim at the whole “working from home” demands from certain quarters. (In many cases, the WFH phenomenon is a preoccupation of those in white-collar areas. One suspects that industrial welders, lorry drivers, supermarket inventory managers, farmers, lab technicians, car mechanics and power station maintenance workers don’t work from home. Mind you, my father, a farmer, likes to joke that he worked “from home”. It was a field.)

12 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    At the very least, it has come up with some new words, like ‘chair-out’- taking some time out from sitting at the chair whilst using zoom to work over the internet! Heard it last week. Any others?

  • john in cheshire

    My opinion is that if a job can be done from home then it’s an unnecessary job.
    Maybe productivity of companies would increase of all the home workers were fired. The same goes for the Civil Service and all the others sucking on the taxpayers teat while producing absolutely nothing.

  • William O. B'Livion.

    That’s funny because there’s some studies out there that are claiming increases in productivity from remote/work from home jobs.

    I can’t check out this blokes claim because I’m not going to bother with the paywall, but he’s claiming that productivity has ‘stagnated’.

    He starts off by saying that people like me are claiming that remote/tele-work “will create a happier, more productive workforce.” then says that SHOULD have lead to “soaring productivity”, and never goes back to address the happier part.

    Probably because he doesn’t care how happy the serfs are as long as they’re producing his widgets.

    He also only looks at the last 2 years–a time when a lot of companies were forced to either go remote, or shut down.

    For the last 8 years, every job I’ve had has been “remote” in the sense that at least 1/2 of my coworkers have been in another part of the world. In fact since 2000 *most* of the jobs I’ve had have had a multi-continental component.

    This takes thought and preparation, there has to be a culture that encourages being a self-starter and your employees have to be the sort that will do their job without someone looking over their shoulder.

    This means your leadership (not managers, LEADERS) have to be the sort that encourages the characteristics that lead to the behaviors you want. People have to believe that what they do matters. They have to have agency and want to ‘win’, whatever that means in their context, and (and this is important) they have to feel like what they are doing is going to matter TO THEM.

    It also means that you have to get the right tools for remote workers, the right processes and have reasonable expectations.

    Most companies are horrible to their individual contributors, they’re not far removed from the model of serfs and overseers with whips.

    Which is completely fair, because our educational institutions, filled with marxist drivel, turn out serfs with the attitude that any employer is >< that far short of being a rapist, and that in a fair world one should be able to sit home, smoke dope, play video games and still drive a Bugatti and eat Wagu vegetarian beef.

    Frankly most of my teammates–who are almost all leftwingers–are the sort of high performance types who would get after it in the office or at home, and it's WAY better for society to let them work where they want to.

    I suspect there are lots of jobs, aside from the obvious ones, where having people in a room talking to each other works better than being miles apart. Graphic designers and other artists, for example.

    Honestly though I really couldn't care less about "productivity" numbers. That is more of the corporate overseer whipping the slaves to cut more sugar cane. Trying to lash every last drop of profit out of your employees is sociopathic behavior. Note, *making a profit* is not what I'm talking about. Making a profit is necessary. Making a healthy profit is good. Focusing ONLY on profit and not on the long term health and sanity of your employees is being a dick.

    If you'll excuse me, I am going to take Dog for his morning walk, then log in to work.

  • Loud Light

    I hear that Matthew Lynn’s dad not only works from home – he is outstanding in his field!

  • Alex

    I work from home, 4/5ths or so of the time. During 2020 and 2021 it was 100% of the working week.

    Some things I have observed. Most of my office based colleagues log in after the home based ones, reply to messages more slowly, tend not to be reactive to urgent situations. When I commute to the office I start my work day 2 hours later, and finish 2 hours earlier. I then have to catch up hours on my from home days.

    In the office a coffee from the very expensive coffee machine is a 15 minute process. The thing always needs attention, the drip tray emptying, the milk filling (often necessitating a trip to the nearest supermarket first), the milk container emptying of the cheese-like sludge that has developed in it, the water tank filling. A coffee at home takes 2 minutes, and that’s including a quick run around the garden with the dog. The coffee machine problem has been true in at least the last 4 offices that I have worked in. I suspect that the coffee machine could well be the prime suspect in UK productivity woes, it’s industrial sabotage by Siemens and the other various vendors I tell ya.

    Some other things that I have observed: what passes for work in the UK is laughable. 3 of the devs in my team spent collectively a whole week on an issue last week. I finally took it off their hands reluctantly yesterday evening and found the issue in 5 minutes. My fault for not doing their job sooner, I guess. We contract a team in Asia, they produce code at a prolific rate but the QA consumes much time on our end. Probably questionable cost-benefit ratio. Then again my local guys might take a year to produce what the Asians produce in a week.

    I have worked in various teams and had management responsibilities in several. I can count on one hand the number of people who were properly effective employees. But upper management dislikes firing people, I have only let go one person in my career so far and he probably didn’t deserve it when compared to the ones that I have unfortunately not been able to sack.

    In office or from home matters much less than hiring the right person, and having the cojones to fire the wrong ones (I am of the opinion that it is a disservice to the bad employee to keep them in a job that they are bad at, they would be better off finding out they are no good at their stated occupation when times are comparatively better than to find out when times are tough). Productivity isn’t only for the company benefit, a productive employee could and should benefit from being effective at their job. Another reason to let go the lazy or useless so they don’t drag down the company and their useful colleagues.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    “he’s claiming that productivity has ‘stagnated’.”

    Productivity data on the UK

  • bobby b

    I’m with William O. B’Livion on this one. Happiness is way up, if my WFH friends can be believed, while “productivity” is all over the place, primarily because people think they’re measuring productivity but their metric choices are mis-aimed and they’re really measuring something else.

  • Paul Marks

    We have conducted an incredibly expensive experiment – and it has failed.

    The horrible thing is, even if they did not know it would it fail (and I believe that they DID know) the international establishment have decided to follow such policies in future – that was made clear at the recent G20 meeting, with governments (including the government of the United Kingdom) agreeing to carry on the madness of following World Health Organisation dictats.

    How to explain this? Well, there is the “Climate Emergency” argument – which holds, for example, that it does not matter than people are less productive at home than going to work, as allowing people to travel about will destroy the world.

    If one accepts their (the international establishment) premise, that allowing people to travel about (or allowing any other basic liberty), will destroy-the-world, then their policies make sense.

    Election rigging in the United States also makes sense – it is not about banning Republicans from winning, “responsible” Republicans can be allowed win elections, but not ones that might be a threat to the Climate, not if that means the “end of the world”.

    Mr Gates, Mr Zuckerberg, and so on (there are quite a few of these billionaire leftists), are doing it all for our own good.

    Trying to save our lives, justifies what they do – this is their position.

    Although it is odd that the Dr Schwab and the other international establishment types were advocating the various policies of international totalitarianism in the 1960s and 1970s, without any reference to a Global Warming theory. Almost as if the aim, power and control, was what mattered – not any particular justification.

    But I must not be too cynical.

  • Chester Draws

    It will take the long run to decide if working from home makes people happier. It probably does in the short term. But then so does eating only cake, until eventually you get sick of cake and need real food.

    In the long run social isolation is not good for most people.

  • Paul Marks

    I just heard the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Sunak, say in the House of Commons that the Covid injections are “safe and effective” – this was just after a Conservative Member of Parliament had told him (in the House of Commons) of some of the damage that the injections had done.

    For the Prime Minister, at some later time, to say “the regulatory officials told me to say this” (which is really “the corporations told me to say this” – as the regulatory bodies are part funded by the drug companies, which is, in itself, an outrage) is not good enough. The Prime Minister had just been told, moments before – live in the House of Commons, of some of the damage the injections have done – and then said the injections are “safe and effective”.

    This line that the injections are “safe and effective” said on the 7th December 2022 – how is this not an effort to mislead the House?

  • Katy Hibbert

    It depends what the job is. In the private sector, if employees don’t work hard, the firm will lose business to competitors and eventually fail, putting the employees on the scrap heap. If you “work” in the public sector (with honorable exceptions), “working” from home just means you don’t have to pretend to work, as you would if you came into the office.

  • Fraser Orr

    FWIW, the problem is a measurement problem. I don’t know how this guy made that assessment but the simple fact is that the large majority of stuff done in offices is bullshit busy work, and the large majority of people in offices do almost nothing productive. So if you measure all that pointless busy work, yup WFH does reduce that a lot. Managers don’t want people WFH simply because it exposes how utterly useless and pointless most of their contribution to the end product actually is, and how much of their little mini empire is of little value.

    Of course there are some things that need access to expensive equipment that need to be done at a central facility, but most office work can easily be done from home or remotely, and it is a 1950s anachronism to have hoards of suit and tie guys jumping on the train tramping through the snow for two hours each way to do the same work, in worse conditions at a slower rate.

    It is a fundamental challenge to some underlying assumptions of why things are done in “the firm” and the concern for many is that if it can be done in my basement in Chicago it can also be done in some apartment in Bangalore. But how about we get away from those narrow nationalistic ways of thinking and have me explain why the value I bring over the guy in Bangalore more than justifies the extra price?

    Of course, since most people are crap at what they do, too lazy to try harder, and used to their little featherbedded easy street lifestyle that is a terrifying prospect. I know the computer business, and there that is true for sure. I totally related Alex’s comment above about some bunch of corporate droids meeting for days, talking over fancy coffee, drawing shit on the whiteboard for three days, until somebody competent comes and fixes the whole thing in ten minutes.

    Consider this — Twitter just evicerated their workforce. What did they do? Lay off more than half of it? And apparently Twitter still works, and in fact volumes are way up. What does that say about they people who got cut? I don’t agree with Elon on his WFH policy, but that is a guy who understands engineering and what it is all about. Nearly all the work is done by 20% of the people, so why even bother with the remaining 80%?