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.
There are decades-long trends in interior decor, including the colors favored. If you were in the US in the late 1970s – early 80s, you probably remember shag carpeting and wallpaper, often in shades of avocado, orange, and rust. You probably also at some point rented an apartment with a bathroom done in black and white tiles with pink fixtures. No matter how strange or hideous those colors look to us now, at some point they were decided upon by professional designers. I learned about this at one of the many temp jobs I took in Washington DC in 1986 when I began my working life post-college.
When we lived in Bangkok during my childhood, my mother taught English as a second language at a language school for adults. One year, the teachers staged a Christmas play. I suppose that they did this partly to celebrate the holiday and give the students exposure to Western holiday traditions, but also because the students didn’t have many opportunities to hear English spoken. (This was well before videotapes. There was only one TV channel in Thailand at the time, which only ran a few hours of programming per week in English, and not many English-language movies were shown at Thai cinemas.)
The play, called “Santa and the Efficiency Expert,” was probably from a book of material considered suitable for children. The story takes place at Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, when someone decides that Santa’s operation is too old-fashioned, and brings in a ruthless efficiency expert to modernize it. The efficiency expert is accompanied by his wife (played by my mother), an even less sympathetic character.