One year ago today we arrived in Australia. We had been planning and preparing for this for years. Moving countries is not a new experience for me: the move to Australia was the seventh intercontinental transfer of my life to date. I know how to do it and pretty much what to expect in creating a new life in a new place.
Except… pandemic. Not much went as expected. We packed up our entire household ourselves, and Brendan moved it all into the garage for the movers to take, to minimize potential exposure. We flew to Australia with relatively little bother, counting ourselves very fortunate because many others were having a much harder time getting home. Upon arrival, we were quarantined for two weeks in a downtown apartment hotel – again, we had a far nicer time of it than many, and after the preceding extremely stressful months I was happy enough to pass two weeks with nothing to decide, no meals to procure, and not much I had to do.
Yesterday we went for a walk in the nearby Royal National Park. This is my first springtime in Australia, and I’m fascinated with the native plants. One species of tree looks like it sheds its skin at this time of year – all of them are bursting out of their outer layer of bark. Many of the flowers are strange, complicated things that appear to have inspired some of Chihuly‘s works. Time for a trip to the Botanical Garden and/or to buy a book – I want to know more!
The pandemic has changed attitudes towards work in many or most parts of the world. The experts are now debating why this is but, as the battle for talent rages, more and more employers are having to reconsider the terms of their relationships with employees.
For white-collar workers, companies are coming around to the idea of working “hybrid” (part office, part remote). Some are going beyond this to become fully remote-friendly or even remote-first or remote-only. “We’re happy for you to work from anywhere” is increasingly a lure that companies can use to attract top talent.
Another reason to favor remote work is that the alternative – commuting – is expensive in every possible way. And the bulk of commuting costs are borne by employees.
The purely economic costs are easy enough to quantify: individual commuters must spend money on cars – very expensive items that may be used for only two trips a day, the rest of the time uselessly parked – with all their attendant costs and fuel, or public transport. Infrastructure must be built and maintained. There are environmental costs. And so on. Some companies offer commuter benefits to help defray these monetary costs, but these don’t help with the considerable personal costs of commuting.
I like big server rooms, I cannot lie. One of the things Dan Maslowski showed me on my first tour of Sun’s Broomfield campus in 2007 was the server room – an entire floor of a large building, chock full of Sun hardware, with thousands of fans whirring and lights blinking (data centers are LOUD). I was enthralled, and continued to be every time I got near big hardware in my subsequent career.