Why I love working in an office

Staff Interviews

In the WordPress industry, remote working is the norm. It’s what people do, having taken a lead from Automattic which promotes themselves as a distributed company.

And right now, while we’re hiring, it’s something that’s come up. Some people don’t want the hassle of moving, or commuting. And who can blame them.

There are very very compelling arguments for remote working. Here’s a few as a list:

  1. Find the best staff wherever they are in the world.
  2. Those remote workers don’t need hard to obtain visas to come and work in your office – a problem we’ve experienced when trying to hire a great Serbian front end developer.
  3. You can provide support to multiple time zones because all your team aren’t stuck in GMT+3 or whatever.
  4. You can hire people in low cost economies, so reducing your wage bill.
  5. You can hire people as separate companies, rather than employees, so simplifying legal issues – Automattic do this in the UK, for instance.
  6. People aren’t interrupted by the bustle of an office, being disturbed and so on.
  7. Hours can be much more flexible, which is helpful to staff with personal commitments.
  8. Time spent commuting is wasted time.

There are lots more. But with every silver lining, comes a cloud. And there are huge advantages to being in an office together:

  1. Fosters a feeling of togetherness – you’re a team that’s in this together. You laugh and you cry as one.
  2. You can play table football with colleagues. Important, that one.
  3. You can still work from home when you need some undisturbed time, or, if the company has it, you go to the special ‘quiet’ office.
  4. You have somebody to go to lunch with.
  5. Say it out loud debugging is quicker and easier to do.
  6. Knowledge transfer is simpler – sometimes, standing and drawing diagrams on a whiteboard is the easiest way to explain something.
  7. Time spent commuting is quiet reading or listening time.
  8. And an eighth item, to match the seven above… for some people working in an office just suits them better.

But here’s the thing. I’ve worked every dream combination. From home, from an office, from genuinely beautiful offices, and travelled regularly. And they all come with massive advantages and disadvantages. When I got up at 4am every Monday to catch a plane, international business travel started to be a bit less attractive. It’s nice done sometimes, say two or three times a year, and less nice when it’s twice a week.

And I feel the same about home working. It’s nice up to one or two days a week, but above that I started to feel lonely. I also mainlined on Cheerios and yoghurts. It was as if I thought that every problem could be solved by staring into the fridge or the cereals cupboard. Sometimes that seemed to be true, but my health suffered for it. I also noticed from my pedometer (measuring your activity has been a thing since way before the Fitbit made it easier) that I would often walk as little as 1000 steps a day. In an office environment I walk around 3,000 steps a day, plus things like nipping out to lunch.

It’s just a discipline thing Dave

Sure. For you. You might be super duper disciplined. You might be ultra passionate about WordPress and the web and the company you work for. Great! But without regular human contact, and I don’t mean over a Hangout or similar, you start to become a little… odd. Well, I do. I stare at neighbours through the blinds, and start talking to the computer even more than I normally manage.

And of course, an office is similar. You need discipline. Whilst it might be harder to view kitten gifs without being spotted by colleagues it’s a lot easier to be distracted by conversations, the cleaners or somebody else’s kitten gifs.

The interconnect/it way

So… we have an office. And we like being together. So the key thing to do is to make being in an office attractive. Yes, if you’re currently grinding through traffic every morning to sit in a dull out of town business park open plan office suite then I totally understand why the thought of going to a company that has an open plan office might not appeal. But we’ll never have massive, scary offices, we’ll have team sized offices. And we’re working with our landlords to make things even more attractive for the team.

We make it fun. That means regular (but not so regular we get huge) lunches out together. Trips to nearby bars. A city centre location with nearby plentiful parking, meaning you have a broad choice of transport modes – get a bus, or train, or ride your motorbike, or drive a car. Doesn’t matter. And you can work from home if you need some quiet time. People do it all the time. The hours are flexible and not too long, and if family commitments mean you’d prefer a 30 hour contract then hey, just ask and we’ll do our best – we’d rather a happy genius doing 30 hours for us than someone mediocre and grumpy who does 50 hours. Same if you prefer working 10 months a year. Just ask, and we’ll see what we can do.

And we’re in Liverpool

Not only that, but we’ve located ourselves in Liverpool. A city with a growing and dynamic economy, within easy commuting range of Manchester, Warrington, Chester and many other towns, but more importantly, a place where you can buy a good home within walking distance of the sea, good schools, and yet be just twenty minutes away from work for less than £220k. I’ve lived in London, Paris, Ostend, Alicante and more. And guess what… I chose to base my business in Liverpool – economic growth, good income, and affordable rates were what helped me make my decision. It’s not the best city in the world, but it’s the best city most people can afford.

I mean really. It has an international airport that services places you might care about, and another one in Manchester which in spite of being 20 miles further away from Liverpool will take you exactly the same amount of time to get to as Heathrow from Kensington. And you probably can’t afford to live in Kensington so you’ll be schlepping across London for an hour first. And if you need to be in London? Just over two hours on a swish and comfy train. Want to climb a mountain? An hour away in beautiful beautiful north Wales. Your average Londoner has a three hour trip to get to see a proper mountain. London is awesome, but only if you make at least £100k a year or have a very specific kind of job.

Photo of the lovely Liverpool Science Park next to the Catholic Cathedral, on a perfect sunny day.
Look, you too could work next to a space ship! Not only that, the building is part of a science park. Like talking astrophysics? It’s like an episode of the Big Bang Theory around here.

So yes, remote work has its appeal. But so does spending time every day with the best team I’ve ever worked with in the best offices I’ve ever worked at doing the best job I ever had. Whilst people who work from home say they don’t want to change, it would take a lot of convincing to get me away from spending daily time with brilliant people like Chris, and Miriam, and James, and Andrew, and Laurie, and Barry and Ant. They make me laugh, they make me feel useful, they point out when I’m being an idiot (at least, I hope they do, right guys?) and they batter me at table football. My milkman is lovely, but he never does any of that. And that’s why I like to work in an office.

And that’s it. I’m actually writing this from home, and have just finished my fourth yoghurt. Why do you like working in an office?

3 responses to “Why I love working in an office

  1. Nice article Dave!

  2. +1. Office or separate from home, work environment it the best thing. Hilarious article 🙂 And spot on about abuse of the fridge! :))

  3. Horses for courses. Some people need the structure of a physical space; some thrive in an environment they control.

    I’ve done full-time remote working for – hmm, is it 7 or 8 years now? really? wow. I fully expected to go back to a ‘proper job’ in due course. Now, I can’t imagine it. Has it made me ‘odd’? You tell me.

    There’s really only one thing I truly miss about having all our team in a physical office: and that’s being able to down tools and all go out to the pub to celebrate a new project going live. Arduino-based solutions are being discussed.

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