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Home » 'Working from home' — a new work world creates societal problems. – Palo Alto Online

'Working from home' — a new work world creates societal problems. – Palo Alto Online

By Diana Diamond
E-mail Diana Diamond

About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help …  (More)
About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help do the right thing. My goal with this blog is to help the public better understand what really is happening, and more important, how residents living here may be affected by these local decisions. I’ve been a journalist most of my life, first as a reporter and then managing editor of a Chicago newspaper, followed by a wonderful year at Stanford as a recipient of Knight Journalism Fellowship. I then went to the San Jose Mercury as an editorial writer and columnist. I also worked for the State Bar of California as the first editor in chief of “California Lawyer” magazine, and then spent a decade at Stanford involved in public issues affecting the university. In the late 1990s, I sequentially wrote columns for all three local newspapers here in Palo Alto. Born in a small community on Long Island, I attended Middlebury College, graduated from the University of Michigan, got married, had four boys in four years, and then started working. I moved to Palo Alto in 1979, and have been involved in the community on several nonprofit boards.  (Hide)

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Comments
If “Caltrain is reducing some train schedules to one per hour,” we will not need a $200 million underpass at Churchill.

Thankfully Town & Country Village appears to be thriving.

Twitter seems to want their workers in the office and to work all hours.

Elon Musk may be making the pendulum swing back. Who knows?

First, you really need to actually copy edit your article. Second of all, god forbid the worker not have to spend hours and money commuting every day to get the same amount of work done that they could have gotten done at home. So what if it used to be different in your day? It isn’t your day anymore, sis!

Also to our resident carbrained Paly Grad; sticking your head in the sand isn’t going to stop Caltrain from running trains more often. It’s gonna happen, and we can either adapt or deal with all the traffic issues that we could have avoided had we declined to build this city as car-centrically as we did.

I heard it was much harder to hold multiple tech jobs if one of them makes you come to the office on a regular basis. I wish reporters would dig into this more.

BTW, didn’t you write an article awhile back saying Palo Alto city workers went to 4-day work weeks yet you didn’t notice them staying at the office any later, perhaps leaving early to beat traffic? Can you give us an update on this story.

Do they indeed work 40 hour weeks or is this one of the reasons unemployment is so low, cities have to hire more workers to make up for lower productivity?

Thanks for the great articles.

The benefits of working at home are numerous (sleeping in, working in one’s bathrobe, snacking/drinking/smoking pot at any time etc.) but one must be capable of good time management and establishing certain work-related priorities.

As for the vacant restaurants and office buildings, who cares? Restaurant food around here (whether take-out or dining in) is vastly overpriced and the vacant office buildings are the landlord’s problem.

Some people are more productive at certain times of the day and working at home allows for this consideration.

Working at home also beats sitting in a non-descript cubicle all day and being supervised by some crank.

For in-house meetings or conferences there is always ZOOM and this in turn saves money on expenses like dry cleaning because all I wear for these meetings is a clean shirt and no pants with a beer off to the side.

Only people with boring, repetitive jobs need to be supervised and watched over.

Though this consideration is probably of minimal importance (or interest) to older people over 50, working at home offers other benefits like being able to have sex with my boyfriend whenever we want.

He is a grad student at Stanford and has plenty of free time because he too works out of his office at home.

There have always been occupations where people work at home (e.g. outside sales, real estate, graduate school etc ).

COVID restrictions and protocols had a lot to do with bringing other types of jobs into the fold.

This changed the dynamics of the work environment and as another poster noted, only those with boring-repetitive (task oriented) jobs need to be onsite.

“…only those with boring-repetitive (task oriented) jobs need to be onsite.”

Being able to work unsupervised at home regardless of one’s salary is a sign of a potentially decent job.

Having to be onsite every day for eight hours to operate a forklift, cash register, serve diners, flip burgers, repair cars, or work in retail sales is another story.

The only exception are those employed in the health professions (medical, dental, nursing etc.) who actually need to be onsite to assist their patients.

Before this turns even more silly, there are pros and cons.

Pros, less work clothes needed, a couple more like to be able to share a car, less gas used or less fares/tolls, less need for childcare, less need for haircuts, manicures, makeup, perfumes, less need to buy a coworker a drink/treat/gift for birthday, less need for Starbucks or lunches out, less need to set the alarm or to go to bed on time.

Cons, no need to shower or get dressed, no need to leave home ever, no need to own a car/bike, no one cares what you look like or what manners you have, your money is more controllable, more likely to be lonely, more likely to have no friends or meaningful relationships, more likely to drink alcohol or do drugs, more likely to be unsociable and socially undesirable.

Probably a lot more, but I would suggest a long think before turning into a hermit as it is much more likely to happen if you don’t leave home to go to work most days.

Put housing in the empty offices and count that housing toward the absurd number of housing units (6,086) we need to build that are based on outdated numbers of jobs / commuters that are no longer here. That way we don’t have to destroy our community with high rises peeking into our bedrooms and no parking in our neighborhoods.

Of course the deep=pocketed pro-density backers would never accept such a sensible proposal because it’s not profitable for them.

As for public transit, there have been recent articles that BART, VTA SANMS-Trans etc are going broke for lack of ridership.

@Bystander
The pros far outweigh the cons.

“…more likely to be (1) lonely, more likely to have no friends or meaningful relationships, (2) more likely to drink alcohol or do drugs, (3) more likely to be unsociable and socially undesirable.”

In my particular case, only #2 might apply but what’s wrong with smoking a joint and having a couple of beers while working at home providing one “stays high but keeps their priorities straight?”

All it takes is some discipline, a laptop and an internet connection.

When I’m hungry, my girlfriend just makes me a sandwich and I am good to go.

As far as being “unsociable or socially undesirable”, that depends on the individual and their preferred lifestyle. Not everyone who works at home is ‘unsociable and socially undesirable’ (aka a geeky nerd loner type without female companionship). A lot depends on one’s physical attractiveness, intelligence, outside interests, and an outgoing personality.

We don’t associate with nerdy geeks because they are unpleasant to be around and many have ‘issues’.

• “Put housing in the empty offices and count that housing toward the absurd number of housing units (6,086)…”

^ An excellent idea/concept. Turn the vacant office space into residential lofts like they do with old factories.

Unlike many older people who are set in their ways, younger Millennials and Gen Zers don’t mind living in compressed environments.

For 30+ years i worked in tech, going into office daily. Remote access for email, access to secure corporate networks was enabled so that i could do my job after hours, weekends, holidays. No additional $$$, just the expectation that long hours and dedication was required to be successful. Now those same tools are working in my favor so that being on-site is no longer necessary. Covid showed the corporate world that being on site for many jobs was no longer necessary. i save 10+ hours a week in commuting. I save $20-50/week in lunch. I save $50+/month in fuel. My productivity is probably higher even though I may take an occasional break to watch judge judy or run errands.

This transition has been a long time coming and is a good thing. We should be embracing this, not bemoaning that the character of the city is changing. Yes, it is changing, but for the better.

Missing workers downtown? Since they are working from home and not commercial space, convert some of that unused commercial space to residential. Your workers will be downtown b/c they live/work in same space.

My aging Baby Boomer grandparents told me that back in their parent’s day, men used to wear suits when boarding airplanes, attending church, and going to baseball ballgames while women always wore a hat, nylon stockings, and white gloves when out in public.

Times have changed and not necessarily for the better.

My high school teacher wore flip flops, cargo shorts, and a faded tropical shirt.
He looked like just another old codger at a Jimmy Buffet concert.

Another teacher always wore tie-dyes, Birkenstocks, and sported a straggly gray pony tail to augment his balding head.

Looking stupid has no generational boundaries.

I hope these comments are put into one of a time capsules deep within the next building built in downtown Palo Alto. I am sure Palo Alto citizens 100 years from now will be puzzled. I am now.

Better yet… these comments could be mandatory reading for today’s highschool seniors at PAUSD. Best career counseling ever!… PA Online comments cover the good, the bad and the ugly of life decisions.

As work from home persists, there may be little transition trauma from “college” to the “working” world.

I think Diana’s premise, that WFH creates societal problems, is true and that those businesses that can develop good hybrid plans will be the most successful and have the most stable, productive, and motivated workforce. People need social contact. We are seeing all sorts of signals that too much isolation is unhealthy. Communities cannot thrive when offices are empty, restaurants are closed due to lack of business, and downtown areas have no energy.

> People need social contact. We are seeing all sorts of signals that too much isolation is unhealthy.

The QUALITY of the social contact is more important than social contact per se.

Imagine the quality of social contact working at some menial job at Walmart, McDonalds or the DMV. Outside of getting a paycheck, most people would just as soon avoid those kinds of scenarios (including the patrons and supervisors).

Having worked as a mechanical engineer in Silicon Valley since 1992, I’ve noticed that the quality of social interaction in a professional environment is oftentimes not much better…just lot of small talk about someone else’s kids, vacation plans, a new movie, and other boring stuff.

Working at home allows one to complete their job responsibilities with minimal distractions and free from a plethora of petty-minded people you would not ordinarily be socializing with outside of the workplace.

Of course not every co-worker falls into these categories but many do and the entrapments of enforced interaction can often create even more internal stress and further aggravations. No one needs that.

Back in the 1950s, sociologist David Riesman described American society as a ‘lonely crowd’ and not much has changed. The only difference is that we now have social media platforms in which to interact when/if one feels out of touch with the outside world.

People need to take responsibility for their own sense of personal fulfillment and value. Relying on others to validate one’s existence is a recipe for potential tragedy and mental health issues.

Working at home is not for everyone but for those who can, it often provides a viable escape from a mundane world.

The COVID pandemic created this modern-day work at home model and for many people it was a godsend.

For others, it was a sad and lonely time because some people actually enjoy going to work and interacting with other people.

The Palo Alto office vacancies should be converted into affordable living quarters for those who want to reside in such a residential complex either out of necessity or preferences.

To accommodate the proposed accomodations for 6,000+ new and aspiring PA residents, these vacant office units could easily be converted into pods, lofts, studios, and dwellings for small families providing there are adequate amenities to accommodate them.

Palo Alto is entering a new era with (1) limited space and properties available for further residential development, (2) an emerging stay at home professional workforce, (3) ongoing ecological commitments to reduce global warming, (4) demographic changes, and (5) a realization (especially among the older residents) that yesteryear’s Palo Alto is long gone and will never return.

The future now belongs to younger Millennials and Gen Zers.

By the projected timeframes for full EV implementation and other climate change related regulations, most Baby Boomers will be dead and so their opinions hardly matter.

I can work from home or at work, but I prefer working at work. It’s normal and healthy to get up and get out the front door whether you’re working, going to school, etc. If you’re a productive employee, you’ll be productive regardless of your environment. It makes more sense to take care of business in a business setting. I also enjoy social interactions. I’ve always had friends at work, but most people are business colleagues. Employment is all about taking care of business, not a social club.

Could this work/stay at home concept also be applied to the incarcerated?

House arrest would greatly alleviate the overcrowding in jails and prisons.

There’s an old saying that you can choose your friends, but not your family. I would go farther and say you can choose your friends, but not your coworkers.

Social interaction is easy with friends, variable with family, but with coworkers it can be downright difficult. People who work on teams whether it be as cooking in a restaurant or a design team in high tech, we have to get on with our fellow employees and work. That means working together and interacting to get the work done. Personal grievances, politics, personality and character problems have to be dealt with or the job will suffer.

Learning how to deal with coworkers is a social skill and a very necessary art to do most jobs well. If you never see someone face to face, it is not going to be easy to support each other, but it may be very easy to ignore each other. Thinking about coworkers over the years, I have had help with moving, help with car issues, help with health issues, and made some really good friends. Happy times at work happen because of seeing the same people day after day and helping each other out as friends do. Giving and receiving friendly acts make work life so much better.

“Happy times at work happen because of seeing the same people day after day and helping each other out as friends do. Giving and receiving friendly acts make work life so much better.”

So true but very unrealistic because the majority of people (including work colleagues, acquaintances, family members, and *gasp* even so-called friends) are oftentimes self-serving, self-important, and/or self-centered.

This is human nature and it has been going on since Day 1 of mankind’s existence.

Working at home provides some opportunity to distance oneself from these kinds of people.

A lot depends on who you work with.

I would imagine that working in an academic environment like Stanford is much more fulfilling than punching the time clock at Walmart but then again, some people are best-suited for working in jobs that require minimal education or job training. These types of employees must be regularly supervised to the point of even being told when to take their lunch break.

Not so for those who can manage their time effectively and complete their work assignments in both a timely and responsible manner. For them, working at home provides an ideal environment.

I never went to the office to socialize, just for the paycheck and sem-annual bonus.

There are some people who make their workplace the center of their universe.
My uncle used to work at HP and they had a company culture that promoted group recreational activities after work, and during off-hours. This was during the old days at HP when William Hewlett and David Packard were actively involved in the running of the company.
That all changed under the Carley Fiorina reign.

Apple and Google supposedly have a company culture as well but it appears that most of their emoyees prefer working at home.

In my almost eight decades of life, I have observed people who live to work. And I have met almost an equal number who work to live. We are complex animals.

Humans are not that complex.

Most people work to survive. Others (the ones with interesting or challenging occupations) might look forward to working but it all boils down to the almighty dollar sign and one’s preferred or aspiring lifestyle.

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