Comment of the Week: An ode to going to work

Call it a litmus test, a Rorschach blot — maybe a new question for the Meyer-Briggs personality quiz? But the topic of working from home … well, let’s say it brings out a lot of personality. That personality was on full display in the comments to our post on Alta Planning and Design’s move to the west side of the river. As Jonathan wrote, the move was “part of their strategy to lure more employees into the office.”

WFH (work from home) can be such a hot-button issue that I hesitate to say anything about it. But at least let’s describe the range of the phenomena. It extends from taking one day a week at home, to making home in another state. Yep, some folks have put hundreds, even thousands, of miles between themselves and their employer, and are real happy with the arrangement.

PTB is not buying it. Here’s why PTB thinks going to work matters:

Not everyone loves WFH. My role at work won’t allow it, but there are some here that can, and during the height of Covid, did. I thought it sucked. I hated Zoom meetings. There’s something very human that is lacking when your only interactions are online. It would be one thing to Zoom with someone in a different time zone, but when that person is a couple miles from where you’re at, goddamn, something about it irks the hell out of me.

And it clearly irked my coworkers because once vaccines rolled out they did what I thought we were all waiting to do once they were available; they came back to work. Didn’t we all hate being home and not seeing people? Vaccines were gonna help us get back to normal life, yeah? Then a bunch of office workers decided, nah, fuck it, this spare room office life is legit…I’m staying. You’re the master of your own isolation, same goes for me. I’m going out and leaving the house, thanks.

And yeah, downtown workers help the vendors that sell sandwiches and coffee and work lunch buffets and all that stuff. All that stuff that made downtown a fun place to be before Covid. All those jobs are important, too. I worked those jobs for a lot of years. I like the random encounter you have with someone in line waiting to get coffee, or running into a friend that also just got off work and deciding to grab a drink. I continue to wonder why people deprive themselves of these human experiences and decide they’d rather stay home all day.

Hats off to Alta for their move downtown. I love it. We can’t abandon downtown and just let it rot. We do that and there will be horrible consequences for the region and the state at some point. What they’ll be, I don’t know, but it’s probably best not to try and find out.

Thank you PTB, that was a lovely comment. I bet your co-workers like having a coffee with you.

You can find the full range of opinions in the comments under the original post.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
4 months ago

If you go back through the comments on the Alta story it’s easy to conflate the opinions of commenters. There were 2 separate issues being debated among commenters.

1. Is WFH a good thing? There were differing views including PTB’s good response.

2. Is return to in person work a good idea in DOWNTOWN PORTLAND in the context of Alta’s decision? There were many who pointed out that Old Town/Chinatown is still an absolute mess with many employers including ODOT deciding it is unsafe for their employees to work in Old Town/Chinatown. Until Downtown Portland safety & security issues are dealt with it will be a trickle of employers returning to downtown instead of a flood.

Charley
Charley
4 months ago

Yeah. The whole discussion has gotten tangled up in personal preference, which get extrapolated into social good/ill.

blumdrew
4 months ago

I think so much of this discussion is dependent on your personality, what your job actually entails, if you like it, and how onerous the commute is.

I had a job recently where I commuted ~40 minutes by bike and bus to Tigard a few times a week. I didn’t hate the commute, but I had no coworkers in the office (or at all really. It was a weird job) so going in to work felt like a huge waste of time. All my work was making reports and sending emails anyways so it wasn’t very useful to be in the office. Despite being a pretty social guy, going in to the office felt wasteful. I also didn’t like the work I was doing, so staying home to distract myself also played a role.

I’m currently in grad school and definitely always go in for class even if its offered remotely to socialize and because the commute is short for me. I also am passionate about my school work and tend to want to talk about it, so getting out of the house to chat with my classmates has been nice.

🚲
🚲
4 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

On the other hand, I know several people who have moved out of state (Idaho, Arizona, Arkansa,…) and who fly here once or twice a month for in-person meetings. They might not be driving to work anymore, but they are burning even more fossil fuels.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago

Just have to point out that it must be nice to be one of the white collar elites who even spend time considering about whether to WFH or brave the increasingly mean streets of Portland.

dw
dw
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

People who get paid big bucks to go on the computer all day are afraid to go back into to the office because it’s much harder to pretend to work if you have to physically be present. None of the people who actually make society function – construction workers, educators, healthcare workers, professional drivers, plumbers, etc – can do their jobs in any meaningful capacity remotely. The white collar elites get the privilege of a commute that costs zero time and money, and of running errands, cooking full meals, and napping during the work day. All while the rest of us are stuck in the same cycle, of wake up, commute, work, commute, sleep, repeat.

I hate how work from home is sucking so much of the air out of the room when it comes to labor discussions when it’s really only a tiny section of the population that can work from home.

It also begs the question; if your job is done entirely on the computer, how long until your job can be done entirely by the computer?

Matt Villers
Matt Villers
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

Characterizing remote workers or those who conceivably could work remotely as “white collar elites who don’t have real jobs” is both wrong and needlessly divisive.

Do you watch movies or TV? Or play video/online games? Do you use the internet, or a smartphone? Do you ever shop online or place orders online, even for local businesses?

We live in a society that’s very dependent on tech, and there are literally millions of people in the US who work primarily on computers to make that possible. People in call centers. People in IT and tech support (they’re not paid that well, despite what you may think). People who create the tools and websites you use every day and ensure that they work, or create the entertainment you watch when you want to settle down at home at the end of your work day.

Most of those jobs pay barely enough to live (if they pay enough to live at all), and the folks working them are feeling just as much pain from rising costs as everyone else. Tech and entertainment workers working remotely or trying to, because they can without hurting anybody and because it makes their lives a bit more liveable, are not your enemy and tearing them down or minimizing the work they do helps nobody.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Villers

“We live in a society that’s very dependent on tech, and there are literally millions of people in the US who work primarily on computers to make that possible.“

I think you’ve identified one of the more serious problems modern society has and one of the major drivers of climate change which is too many people inside electricity dependent climate controlled buildings using far too much electricity to give the world more electrical tech that accelerates the coming climate apocalypse. What does tech do that the world couldn’t get by on 20, 30, 40 years ago ?

blumdrew
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

While I broadly share your tech skepticism, I’d question how much of an impact personal “staying inside in air conditioning” impacts the climate compared to more direct environmental costs of tech. Namely electricity and cooling costs for servers. Bitcoin famously uses more electricity than like the entire nation of Norway, all to be a pointless speculation tool. But even more tangible things like Amazon have pretty straightforwardly increased emissions – both in obvious ways like with two-day shipping and in less obvious ways by inducing demand for wasteful cloud computing practices.

I think there are pretty major benefits to some aspects of tech. Major crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap effectively disseminate knowledge, and doing research is broadly easier now (which I think is good). Is it a net benefit? I wouldn’t make that argument necessarily, but it’s hard to say there are no benefits.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I agree with you, the overall electricity/pollution costs you mention are inseperable from the tech industry. My question is if the minor benefits to a limited group of people are worth the environmental costs inflicted on all the people?

Tech is literally toxic when it’s mined and when its thrown away. In the first world we get to have tech in the magical in-between stage where its not physcially harming our community (save for power usage), but everyone else gets to deal with the negative aspects of it.

This is pretty much why I think the coming environmental collapse is not avoidable and resources should be put into preparation and planning for the after effects. First world humans can’t even acknowledge that auto and tech life are the main drivers of an upcoming collapse, let alone actually try to mitigate any change.

It’s good to encourage bicycle use (best post collapse/world slow down vehicle ever invented) to further health and ease congestion, but I don’t see how its going to stop whats coming.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago

“As Grossman notes, “This is a story in which we all play a part, whether we know it or not. If you sit at a desk in an office, talk to friends on your cell phone, watch television, listen to music on headphones, are a child in Guangdong, or a native of the Arctic, you are part of this story.“

It sounds great! Thank you!! Ironically enough no longer available at Powell’s and available electronically at an affordable price on Amazon or a little pricey for the actual book. I will try to find a copy via library.

cc_rider
cc_rider
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Villers

Pitting WFH workers against job-site workers is just the newest wedge conservative orgs are using to try and divide the working class. The fash that runs Twitter is repeating these same talking points along with the multiple Fortune 500 parasites.

There is no actual thought going into repeating these talking points. It’s along the same vein as the astroturf “Timber Unity” org that talks about “Real working Oregonians”.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

And for all those reasons you stated it helped make those very same workers more productive. They worked well past their 8 hours and knew that yes, they could go pick up the kids, but then they could also work in the evening to stay caught up.
WFH isn’t for everyone. People can be successful with it and yes there are some that abuse it.

As a downtown worker, why is it my responsibility to support the downtown businesses over the businesses in my own neighborhood? I spent way more money in a couple months at my neighborhood eating places than I did in a year downtown.

Work is not my life and I don’t have a connection to it (or where it is located) like I have a connection to my own neighborhood as that’s where I live.

To each their own.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

Wow, got enough vitriol for WFH folks?

My GF and the rest of the folks on her team WFH most days (she tries to go in twice a week). With almost 2 decades of experience in the field, a 4 year degree and 5 years with her current employer with many sterling reviews she is, in fact, finally substantially over the PDX median (as am I – with a similar pedigree) but even 40%+ over median is hardly “elite”

I’m going to let her know that you think she’s an elite!

A girl who started work at 15 because it was the only way to get clothes for school and worked her way through college in retail will get a big chuckle out of that.

Lol – when we moved in together we were making a little over $4/hour in 1989. Oh, yeah, we’re the creme de la creme – elites of the highest order!

Wheres my Lambo …. oh, right, we’ve never owned a car. Where’s my McMansion … oh, right, when we’d just about saved enough for a downpayment on a condo her breast cancer wiped it out.

Lol, elite.

That’s going to make me laugh all the way home – a 1.25 hour trip because we simply can’t get as affordable a place near where my company moved our offices.

Granpa
Granpa
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

Not every worker behind a computer is a robotic drone, e.g. architectS. Ant not everyone who can’t work from home is foundational to a functional society. Your bitterness towards “elites” might more accurately be directed inward for the poor life decisions that left your employment options limited. You may hate the rich. But you can’t blame the rich. FWIW I still work, at the age of 69 and wish I could retire and I would rather be in an office setting away from the refrigerator, the dog and wife.

The Dog and the Wife
The Dog and the Wife
4 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

We would rather you be in an office setting too.

Granpa
Granpa
4 months ago

I get that a lot

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

I wish I could upvote this more than once. A lot of responses are showing the tech cool aid tastes too good to put down.

blumdrew
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

Eh, it’s just as easy to slack in an office as it is at home. And computers have gotten increasingly complex in the past 70 years, which has largely had the effect of creating more computer facing jobs – not less.

qqq
qqq
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

None of the people who actually make society function – construction workers, educators, healthcare workers, professional drivers, plumbers, etc – can do their jobs in any meaningful capacity remotely. 

One of the most inaccurate and divisive comments I’ve ever read here.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  qqq

Honest question for you, what part is inaccurate? Is it the part about none of the professions mentioned are able to choose to work from home or do you dispute that those are the main drivers of a functional society?

I’ve brought this up in another post, but I’m not clear what huge benefits the tech industry brings to society as a whole other than being a way for many to earn money to be good consumers.

It seems to be the modern version of the auto industry, creating lots of product, keeping people employed and that is actually detrimental to the health of people, the mental health of people and very detrimental to the environment.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The part about educators is inaccurate. If you only knew how much higher ed has transformed since the pandemic! Students want most of their services to be delivered online now. Why get in your car and drive across town when you can hop on Zoom to meet with your professor?

Also professors want to teach, tutor, and counsel remotely, and they are doing it.

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago
Reply to  Fred

I have close friends in various hands-on in-person parts of the construction industry and can add that the amount of planning, coordinating, testing and consulting that post-pandemic now routinely done online instead of waiting for a guy with a clipboard to drive to the site makes projects easier & faster for everyone from top to bottom; there’s better coordination for different steps and less waiting around for instructions and approval.

John V
John V
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I agree that a lot of tech is wasteful, either speculation or making exploitation more efficient. But it’s farcical to suggest tech doesn’t have a benefit. “functional society” is vague and pointless. Societies have functioned for all of human history, and I don’t want to live in most of human history.

Tech helps disseminate information (with the obvious downside of also spreading nonsense), it’s needed for much of science, mathematics, medicine (and not just the capitalist side of those, but the true human-fluourishing side). It brings us new art forms like video games, music, movies. You might think those are unimportant, but frankly you’re wrong. And it has the potential to make almost all of human society more efficient. In good ways, not for profit extraction. Something like Amazon, in the hands of the public for the public good, could fully organize the distribution of resources to where they’re needed. It solves major logistical problems. Amazon does it to sell more garbage, but that’s because its goals are not aligned with the goals of humanity. They could be.

So, those include some “potential” benefits, but also there are some very real ones today. Just like everything else (including all the items you mentioned are necessary), it gets abused, badly implemented, and is used to focus on the wrong goals too much of the time. But it’s not the technology that’s the problem there.

Caleb
Caleb
4 months ago
Reply to  John V

Adding to what you said, no matter how much further we have to go toward a peaceful world, empathy has dramatically expanded across generations, classes, countries, etc thanks to all the broad information access tech has brought humanity in the last couple decades.

qqq
qqq
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

It’s inaccurate because it claims “none of the people who actually make society function…can do their jobs in any meaningful capacity remotely”.

That’s not true. Lots of work done remotely makes society function. All the construction workers, etc. that dw lists rely on people who work remotely to do their own jobs. People working remotely may have processed their paycheck, done the plans and engineering and reviewed the permits for the framing or excavation they do, processed the orders for the materials they use, scheduled their dental appointment, helped them with a problem with a payment from a customer, etc.

In fact, many people in the groups dw mentions–construction workers, educators, plumbers, healthcare workers–have always done some of their work remotely, even before computers. Construction people do bids, takeoffs and scheduling from home, educators grade papers, etc.

This doesn’t even get into the fact that people in dw’s groups are often working on projects or for people who are in a position to hire them from money those people made working remotely.

It’s divisive because of the same “none of the people who actually make society function…can do their jobs in any meaningful capacity remotely” statement. That dismisses the value of work of hundreds of thousands or millions of people.

As others have pointed out, remote workers are not all elites by any definition. Take (as one example from hundreds I could give) low-level banking employees, who years ago would have been tellers in a branch bank, then became call center employees, and now work from home–still doing the same work helping customers with checking account or credit card issues. They’re certainly not elite. And when their employer told them they were closing their call center and having them work from home, did their work suddenly become meaningless to society? It did according to dw’s quote I responded to.

Note I didn’t take any position on the pros or cons of remote work, the benefits or evils of the tech industry, etc. I was just responding to the statement I quoted.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  qqq

Its a well thought out answer, thank you. It made me think.

marcus
marcus
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The fallacy is the implicit claim that these people have special status elevated above others as “main drivers of a functional society”. For example, constructions workers who tried to put up girders by eyeballing where they might fit rather than following an architectural plan (which can be created equally well in an office or in a spare bedroom) aren’t going to be drivers of anything except the accumulation of metal junk.

Charley
Charley
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

I won’t sign on to everything in dw’s comment. However, I will say this:

I was laid off from my non-wfh job early in the pandemic and subsequently got a a different non-wfh job several months later. I listened to radio on my drive into work and often heard about how great people are for staying home.

For years after that, while reading news articles and listening to podcasts, I hear people how “everyone was at home, not seeing anyone during the pandemic.” The “everyone” in those comments always makes me feel terribly ignored, at least by the class of professors, journalists, etc., that I listen to and read.

Some of the ill will in dw’s comment strikes a chord, because while the experience of suddenly “working from home to save lives” was a disruptive, isolating experience shared by millions of Americans, it was also a *privilege* not afforded to millions of others. Before the vaccines came out, that privilege of working from home saved many lives.

It just so happens that the division between wfh and “what, are you kidding?” lines up pretty well with educational class and income.

My wife works from home mostly and it seems miserable. I wouldn’t choose it. But I can understand the deep well of felt experience behind the resentment in dw’s comment.

Charley
Charley
4 months ago
  1. The ease of sending an email creates endless communication work for my wife (non-profit administration, mostly). The sheer volume of emails for everyone has increased, right?
  2. A lot of this communication does seem inefficient… except I have to remind myself that a lot of it is mass email that only takes a few minutes to write, then gets sent to hundreds or thousands of people, who collectively takes minutes to deal with it! So, it’s inefficient for our society as a whole, but efficient for the producer?
  3. The Turing test was passed, right here on BP! Wait, which comments are those????

This is the most interesting thing I’ve read about AI recently: https://www.theintrinsicperspective.com/p/excuse-me-but-the-industries-ai-is

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago
Reply to  Charley

“A lot of this communication does seem inefficient… except I have to remind myself that a lot of it is mass email that only takes a few minutes to write, then gets sent to hundreds or thousands of people, who collectively takes minutes to deal with it! So, it’s inefficient for our society as a whole, but efficient for the producer?”

From my perspective our consumer culture has simultaneously become more fussy in its demands AND more impatient with prompts for feedback; I feel this way too! Unfortunately we need to pick one; we can’t have our every whim indulged while also insisting that we stop being asked for details of what we want.

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago

“The people working from home are most likely working on a computer. So they are creating computer workflow. My observation is that I am having to respond to more, and more, and more stuff that folks at computers have generated for me to deal with.“

I worked in the ILL department of my university library when the regional system was transitioning from paper to computer. I think we forget that the paper-technology workflow was both more time-consuming and less responsive than the digital workflow, even though both flows are obviously heavily polluted.

I think we also tend to consider computers to be a closed ecosystem, where computer users generate content and tasks for other computer users. However, many fields use computers for designing physical objects, or for processing data to detect patterns and find errors; this common work takes the place of more arduous handwriting and model building, or fills a need that could never be filled before. Pattern-detection is annoying when it predicts what we can be persuaded to purchase or consume, but that same computer tech has also revolutionized medicine. Again, there is plenty of time and energy waste here, but surely the average work computer user is accomplishing a task that touches the physical world, not merely creating digital work for other computer users.

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago

Lisa,
I think you’re correct that we basically agree on the positive and negative uses of computers. That’s a very exciting work history you have.

Whether it’s paper or computer, I think the existence of most administrative work is an admission that the middle class fundamentally believes in guaranteed middle-class income, and that the difference between much of our economy and medieval ecclesiastical sinecures is that the sinecures didn’t waste electricity. If we ever decide to collectively admit that it’s morally unnecessary to look busy in order to live, then when the AI robots become capable of all the real business then computer-based ways of humans looking busy can join in the bin all the other ways of humans looking busy. I hope the robots will still let me prune trees though; with my AI-robot-profit-sourced sinecure I’ll do it for free.

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

The jobs you listed are easier to do (easier to communicate and schedule with clients/parents, I can say from experience), and easier to commute to (also from experience) when people who would only be going to the office to prop up commercial real estate stay in their neighborhoods. Other necessarily-in-person jobs, many of the most exploitative, exist only to cater to and pamper office culture and will benefit from reimagining and refocusing.

Charley
Charley
4 months ago
Reply to  Adam Leyrer

True.
I was commuting by car all over the metro area in 2020/2021, working in construction. I can’t imagine how much worse the traffic would have been, if I’d been doing those jobs in, say fall of 2019. The lighter traffic during the worst of the pandemic made those commutes bearable.

Matt Villers
Matt Villers
4 months ago

There are a lot of key upsides to remote work not really touched on in the original thread that might help demystify the appeal of WFH for PTB.

First up, it’s gotten really expensive to live in the last few years, and being able to WFH (even hybrid) takes pressure off from multiple angles:

  • You can choose to live someplace less expensive without bearing the full brunt of a longer commute every day.
  • You save money on transportation costs (a huge chunk of many households’ expenses these days).
  • You’re likely also saving money on food because it’s easier to prepare something at home on your lunch break.

It also gives you more flexibility in how you work. Because you’re not commuting, you get a lot of time back and/or can break up your work day differently (as long as you’re available for meetings).

For example, one of my co-workers has a newborn child. On in-office days, by the time he’s finished work and driven home, she’s already down for the night. On WFH days, he actually gets to spend time with her before she goes to sleep. That time is fleeting and irreplaceable.

Then there’s the fact that some folks are more comfortable and work better in a remote environment. In my old office, I spent at least 75% of every day wearing noise-canceling headphones, because it was the only way I could focus with everyone talking loudly around me. Being able to opt-in to conversations when I want to has been a blessing of WFH that I’m not in a hurry to give up.

Then there’s accessibility for people who:

  • Are disabled and can’t easily commute
  • Have compromised immune systems
  • Have caregiver responsibilities for some portion of the day

The reality is there are many people in categories who would simply be excluded by a hard requirement to be in the office. Many of those folks have incredible talent, and I would not want to lose out on getting to work with them just because I have to do it on a Zoom call.

I empathize with folks who have a hard time with the idea of WFH or relying on tools like Zoom to interface with some of their co-workers. I think we’ve lived for so long in a world where spending 8hrs a day in a crowded, noisy office and always having face-to-face access to everyone was “normal”, that a shift to a different “normal” can feel very uncomfortable for those who thrived in those settings.

My hope ultimately is that in this new world where we’ve proven we can support both types of arrangements, or a hybrid of the two, that we keep ourselves open to allowing people to make the choice that works best for them, and focusing on where we need to compromise to ensure everyone has what they need to work as smoothly and comfortably as possible.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Villers

^This is the *ACTUAL* comment of the week.

Aaron
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt Villers

Very well put. I can’t imagine why anyone would have such bitter attitudes towards people who want to save money and spend more time with their family in the process?

If I commute to work then

  • I have to spend 1.5-2 hours a day commuting, plus associated expenses
  • I have to be in a noisy office without privacy where I have trouble concentrating
  • I have to plan and prepare lunches ahead of time or spend money eating out every day
  • I don’t see the sun all winter

If I work from home

  • I have a nicer screen, desk, and chair than any job has ever bought for me
  • My home office is completely quiet so I can concentrate on my work
  • My dog is at my feet and I can take her out multiple times a day instead of making her hold her bladder for 8 hours or paying $40+ a day for a dog walker while I’m in the office.
  • I have 1.5-2 extra hours I can spend with my family every day
  • I can cook my own, healthier and cheaper, lunch and then eat it with my partner who also works from home
  • I can take mid-day lunch walks with my family

Is that really nefarious white collar elite stuff? I’m sorry some people have jobs that have a physical component but my work is 100% digital and like many others I can do all my work at home with no compromises, I always get yearly reviews from my manager.

If some of you think jobs that can be done remotely will be replaced with AI then that’ll happen whether we’re commuting every day or not. If we can start replacing creative and engineering jobs with AI we’ll have way bigger societal problems as huge swathes of industry are laid off and we’d have to revert to a post-work or at least post-knowledge-work society.

Honestly it really feels like some of these commenters have such spiteful and hateful attitudes towards people who have a different work style or career that they don’t understand.

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

When I was an Arborist, working and traveling 60 hours a week without sitting, the most tragic job results were Winter jobs for busy working parents who apologetically did not know whether I’d worked on their property yet. An economic and transportation system where people could conceivably not see their own property in daylight for three months a year was a systemic insult to my labor, not anyone getting paid while in a sitting position in their home.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
4 months ago

Different strokes.

I don’t miss the commute at all. 70 minutes on the bike each way in cold rain and darkness or 45 minutes in traffic plus the associated fuel and parking costs. With the exception of summer, commuting is just life sucking, time consuming, and dangerous.

I now get more sleep! It’s nice to wake-up only 30 minutes before a workday, enjoy breakfast and coffee, and then log in. More time with family and less overall stress. I also love working out at lunch and not having to cut things short to get a shower in. Zoom doesn’t offer a smell feature!

Human interactions can still be had. A casual meet-up with folks that I like is always fun. Nothing stops you from doing that. I can’t say that I miss random interruptions because someone thinks that I have in interest in fantasy football or because they want to talk trash about a co-worker. Meetings also seem to be more streamlined with less wasteful cross chatter and attention seeking behaviors.

It does suck for the service businesses downtown but, I have saved huge sums of money on coffee and overpriced food. I am trimmer, healthier, and wealthier as a result. I had no idea how much stupid spending that I was doing due to the peer pressure of “doing lunch” or “having coffee” in order to be a team player. That’s an extra $600-800 a month towards retirement investments or my kid’s college fund instead of being flushed into the city sewers.

Have you also noticed that we have far fewer foul air days with the relative lack of cars on the road? Hmmm…

In any event, if you enjoy the office and you have the chance to go back, then do it! I am opposed to government trying to shame, strong arm, or bribe companies to mandate return-to-office policies. Especially the City of Portland when they cannot manage to control the perimeters of their own facilities, let alone any private sector buildings. I am not willing to risk my safety nor spend money and time for the pleasure of having Phil from Operations spend 20 minutes telling me how Patrick Mahomes poor passing really disappointed him last night.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

^Back-to-back comments of the week.

marcus
marcus
4 months ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

The “downtown businesses will suffer from lack of commuter traffic” argument is a textbook example of Bastiat’s “Broken Window Fallacy”. Obviously, people who no longer buy lunch from a place in the office district don’t stop eating; they simply buy food elsewhere.

mc
mc
4 months ago

I’m not interested in an unpaid, risk life & limb commute to a soul-sucking job that doesn’t pay a living wage.

Meetings suck too, whether via zoom or in person.

If you just got to have your meetings, you could have them in a park or at your fav local cafe, restaurant or bar and support them that way.

I don’t care if downtown PDX dies, there isn’t much there for the average working person anyway, just a bunch of a-holes in suits who think they own the effin’ place and can tell other people how they should live & work.

mc
mc
4 months ago

Who in there right mind wants to work in some lifeless, drab, dull cubicle farm in a high rise building with no window to look out at other buildings and a bunch of wanna be cops all up in your business and surveillance cameras every fuq’m where tracking your every movement? Just F! right off!

PTB
PTB
4 months ago

If I’m being totally honest with myself here and I focus *solely* on the idea that someone works from a spare room in their house all day, look, stay at home, I don’t really care. It’s your life, I think that’s a sad choice to make, but hey, people make sad choices all the time; they cheer for the sports teams from California, they don’t drink Burgerville milkshakes, they’ve never watched Toast of London a dozen times over, etc.

But it’s not solely about that. It really seems like there are some consequences to so many people staying home. I love Portland and in particular I love downtown Portland. I have great memories of going downtown with my mom in the early 80s to go shopping or just for fun, I have great memories from my high school days going to the X-Ray or going to Rocco’s super late at night or going to the City Nightclub. I have great memories working at coffee shops in the 90s and waiting tables in the 00s and finally going to PSU in the ’10s. Downtown was really charming and for a city of our size, always had a lot of decent stuff happening. Friends would visit and universally agreed that downtown Portland was nice. Nicer than the downtown in their city. And now, well, I dunno, it’s not super nice and if you’re in a foul mood it can seem quite lousy. That’s sad. It makes me sad.

DW, I’m not smart and when I try to wade into territory like you have it backfires. But there is a big and obvious divide about who can and can’t work from home and that is pretty frustrating. When someone says “I don’t want to go IN to work, it’s not my responsibility to prop up downtown” I don’t really get down with that. This is our community and your choice to stay home, in my dumb and probably overly emotional opinion, is not helping the community at all.

Matt Villers
Matt Villers
4 months ago
Reply to  PTB

I chuckled reading the first bit and appreciate you sharing your memories – thank you for that.

I think maybe the disconnect, and Daniel states this well in another comment, is that working from home doesn’t necessarily mean staying home all day. I may not work in downtown, but I often bike there for lunch breaks during the week (and visit almost every weekend).

Basically I think we’re on the same page of wanting to see an active thriving downtown. I just hope to see us use less of the stick (“you must come here to make a living”) and more of the carrot (“downtown is easy to get to/around for people of all ages and has lots of reasons to visit”).

cc_rider
cc_rider
4 months ago
Reply to  PTB

I don’t really get down with that. This is our community and your choice to stay home, in my dumb and probably overly emotional opinion, is not helping the community at all.

It sounds like you have a strong personal connection to downtown, a lot of other people don’t. My community is up here in St. Johns. Going downtown just means shifting money I spend in my community to a different part of the city.

Portland isn’t centered in downtown and its unfair to ask people to sacrifice their personal time and money to prop it up because city leaders and property owners care so much.

If I’m being totally honest with myself here and I focus *solely* on the idea that someone works from a spare room in their house all day, look, stay at home, I don’t really care. It’s your life, I think that’s a sad choice to make, but hey, people make sad choices all the time;

I think there are a lot of older folks who have a really hard time with the idea that work isn’t your main social outlet and so they think if you aren’t going to work, you aren’t socializing.

WFH has revitalized my social life, especially after the pandemic ended. Not commuting has opened up so much time for doing other things. Meet up with friends after work, attending events I never would have been able to attend, going on walks and meeting my actual neighbors instead of some guy smashing stuff on the sidewalk. It’s great.

PTB
PTB
4 months ago
Reply to  PTB

Hey Matt. I wasn’t going to comment in here again because this thread is getting insane and I didn’t ask or advocate for my COTW status and the extra focus it brought to my post from the other day. But of all the comments here, yours above, your long comment, had the mellowest tone and reasoning and since you replied to me directly, and kindly too, here I am. Thanks. I still don’t agree with you, not entirely anyway, but you’re correct, we both want downtown to be healthy and vibrant. Matt, thanks for being mellow.

cc_rider. I do have a very strong personal connection to downtown and Portland at large. I grew up here and for all the shit talking I do about the place the last few years, I love Portland. I hate seeing it like this, whether you’re downtown or wherever, it’s kinda grim. I don’t think of work as my main social outlet, but now and historically, it’s a huge outlet, and I’m not some weird outlier in this way. I have hobbies and friends outside of work, like we all do. But I can’t hang out with friends when I want to. They have jobs too. Fortunately I quite like my coworkers and I get to see them every day. I’d hate to only see them via email, texts and zoom meetings. Every month there’s some new article about our “Loneliness Epidemic” and is it any wonder? We’re all staring at our fucking phones everywhere we go and all the comments here in this thread are furiously defending the right to sit alone at home at a computer all day. I honestly don’t understand! cc_rider, thanks for your calm reply to my comment, too. I appreciate that a lot.

Aaron
4 months ago
Reply to  PTB

I think what you’re missing is that some people actively don’t want to socialize at work. I am happy to complete my tasks and go to required meetings and then go hang out with my real friends after work. I don’t care about my coworkers any more than I care about the barista at the cafe near my house. I like my coworkers and I’m pleasant and friendly with them, sure, but they aren’t the people I chose to be in my life and they’re not where I find fulfillment.

Much like cc_rider I have found that WFH has improved my social life by freeing up time for activities with people who actually share my interests instead of just people who happen to be in my proximity due to my job. In fact, when I am around someone at work who thinks of work as their primary social outlet I sometimes find it very draining and unpleasant to be around.

You might think it’s sad that I don’t get my social fulfillment from my job, but honestly I think it’s way more sad to see people who can’t achieve social fulfillment outside of the context of their coworkers.

Damien
Damien
4 months ago

I tend to set aside the question of whether WFH is “good” – it’s all I’ll accept, so long as I work a job that’s entirely on a computer. It’s best for me. I’d make exceptions for a sub-15-minute-by-bike-or-foot commute and if all the participants of any of my meetings are colocated (my current team is in five time zones. The office is 100% useless and unproductive to me). Or the following:

I’ll offer a deal to the powers that be that blue and white collar workers, WFHers, WFOers, etc can all get down with: I’ll trade you going into an office for the 16-20 hour (“full-time”) weeks we should have based on productivity trends that continued ever upwards since the 1970’s (or however many hours that ends up extrapolating to), rather than all those productivity gains funneling ever upward to the uselessly rich. Hell, I’ll even throw in 2-3 trips a month downtown.

Caleb
Caleb
4 months ago
Reply to  Damien

This comment is only here to emphasize how the working class in general has been shafted for decades, in support of your implied point about increasing productivity by that class. Then there’s the wages stagnation…workers at and away from home unite!

Daniel Reimer
4 months ago

Going to need to disagree with this picture of “staying home all day” and never leaving the house. I don’t need to go into an office to go to my neighborhood’s coffee shop, or to be able to grab a drink with friends after work.

I want downtown to flourish, but it is not going to be 9-5 office workers and a focus of commercial buildings that will make downtown lively.

dw
dw
4 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Reimer

Downtown needs fast-tracked affordable housing development

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

This – my GF and I lived in downtown for about 20 years. We spent our money downtown, went to plays, movies, restaurants and the like.

We loved it – then we just couldn’t afford it anymore.

Forget working downtown – if you want it to be what it used to be, a vibrant living place, you get people of all incomes living there again.

John V
John V
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

Yep. Downtown needs to be a place people live. It needs to be someone’s neighborhood. I mean sure, some people live there but not enough. The reliance on office workers meant the only thing downtown was for was the office, lunch for the office, and service workers all to support the downtown workers. There is a smattering of other stuff that was and still is a draw, like the art museum, auditoriums, etc. None of that stuff was there for office workers, and it’s still there.

Anyway, yeah. The only real solution to make downtown a place is to have people live there.

PS
PS
4 months ago
Reply to  dw

Who will subsidize it and why should they?

Ray
Ray
4 months ago
Reply to  PS

This comment seems to clarify the problems with development of affordable housing in the USA. Let’s just continue to let the corporate developers dictate what and where to build. We can see how well that has worked out.

PS
PS
4 months ago
Reply to  Ray

For sure, it clarifies that there are people who think that if something is too expensive for them, somebody should use everyone’s money to make it less expensive for them.

When a majority of people living in Portland say they would move if they could, I feel like Portland’s days of having to be judicious with spending are just getting started, so why not focus on efficiency now.

Ray
Ray
4 months ago
Reply to  PS

My comment was directed more at the “landlord class” and “residential real estate speculation class” than asking someone else to just hand over a house to me.

IMHO, it’s these 2 groups that have priced most renters who want to buy out of the market.

A Grant
A Grant
4 months ago

A few thoughts from some who chooses to bike into work five days a week, whilst working for a sector that only requires employees to be in the office twice a week:

1. I don’t owe downtown businesses anything. The idea that downtowns are dependent on the 9-5 business crowd to survive is a sign of a failure in urban planning. It means that there isn’t enough people living downtown to make these businesses viable after hours.

2. We as a society have spent untold amounts of $$$ to build our way out of congestion. COVID presented us with irrefutable evidence that the best and cheapest solution was fewer cars on the roads. Yet despite the lessons learned, we’ve effectively gone back to the old model, condemning “the people who actually make society function” to daily gridlock as they share the roads with “white collar elites” who don’t need to drive.

3. The mandated “two days a week in the office” that my sector (government) is employing feels like the worst of both worlds. Since it is our city’s primary share of the workforce, this policy has effectively killed public transit ridership (in a city that continues to spend gobs of $ on an LRT that serves the suburbs), while making car traffic so much worse. Pre-COVID transit was the best option for most as, despite its myriad of issues, it was the cheapest option for folks going to the office five days a week. Now? For those going into the office two days a week, the price of parking and gas isn’t that much more than a monthly transit pass. So traffic from Tuesday to Thursday is simply abysmal.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  A Grant

A few thoughts from some who chooses to bike into work five days a week, whilst working for a sector that only requires employees to be in the office twice a week:

This is the whole point, a vast swath of workers don’t have the ability to choose. That is why you and apparently most of the commenters here are the elite.

A Grant
A Grant
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

You clearly missed the bigger point:

“… we’ve effectively gone back to the old model, condemning “the people who actually make society function” to daily gridlock as they share the roads with “white collar elites” who don’t need to drive”

Fewer cars on the road benefits the vast swath of workers who don’t have the ability to choose any other method but driving.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  A Grant

I really don’t think the commuters who are struggling through their morning on the way to a day full of manual labor and/or constant, grinding human interaction are sparing much time to thank the elites who don’t share their world that the roads are flowing or in gridlock.
In fact, during the covid shut downs I kept coming into work struggling with ridiculous protocols and trying to do the same amount of work as before while the white collars sat home and learned to bake artisian bread with all the extra time they had. I did not have kind thoughts in my head for all the people sleeping in because the roads were faster.
The commute is not really the issue, its the privilege a small percentage of the population have by relying on toxic producing and environmentally damaging tech.
Until that privelige is acknowledged and until some of those priveliged start to wonder if their lifestyle is worth the damage it is doing to the planet and the people in 2nd or 3rd world courtries, then having fewer people on the road or on bicycles is not really going to change things.

Brandon
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I was absolutely thanking the Covid gods for the reduction in traffic on my commute. Those “elites” as you call them, would still be causing all of the tech damage you despise, while also releasing more carbon on their commutes had we kept the status quo. You are angry at the system, but taking it out on the individuals making the best decisions for themselves. I commute to an office, but 90% of my work is done on a computer, that’s how the world works now. 40 years ago I would have been working phones and faxing invoices, the job didn’t change, the technology to do the job did. You call everyone who uses a computer to do their job “white collar elites”, yet many of them make significantly less money than construction workers and nurses. We are all just trying to make the best of the hand we are dealt, if I could stop commuting and save that money and time I would do it in a heartbeat, and it would be a net positive for the environment and my local community.

The commute is not really the issue, its the privilege a small percentage of the population have by relying on toxic producing and environmentally damaging tech.

Until that privelige is acknowledged and until some of those priveliged start to wonder if their lifestyle is worth the damage it is doing to the planet and the people in 2nd or 3rd world courtries, then having fewer people on the road or on bicycles is not really going to change things.

I don’t chose how work gets done in the 21st century, and expecting individual choices to have any impact on how things are done in a corporation is asinine. If I handed my laptop to my boss and said I’m done with technology I would be fired and replaced immediately, the capitalist machine stops for no man.

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago
Reply to  Brandon

“You call everyone who uses a computer to do their job “white collar elites”, yet many of them make significantly less money than construction workers and nurses.”

This is a vital point to this discussion. Somehow “work computer user” morphed into “tech industry” in this discussion, and while it’s rightly pointed out that even the notorious tech industry is built on the backs of low-wage desk workers, the average remote computer worker in this country is ordering roofer’s nails or sending carpet-cleaning invoices or scheduling your dentist appointment, not programming artificial intelligence.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  Brandon

 If I handed my laptop to my boss and said I’m done with technology I would be fired and replaced immediately, the capitalist machine stops for no man.

I could swear the movie “Office Space” had a protagonist in a similar position as you posit. Capitalism and the ability to make money exists outside the office environment.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Brandon

If I handed my laptop to my boss and said I’m done with technology I would be fired and replaced immediately, the capitalist machine stops for no man.

Would you expect the company to just shut down because one person didn’t want to work there anymore? (Unless, I suppose, you’re Sam Altman.)

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

From 1989 to 2002 I worked in grocery – started out at $4.17 an hour and busted my butt so I’d be promoted to apprentice checker. (Not as hard as it looked – I grew up on a farm. When someone complained about hauling 60lb milk crates around I pointed out that they were way lighter and easier to handle than 90lb alfalfa bales – they weren’t amused)

I worked absurd hours all around the clock until, in 1993 I moved to the graveyard freight crew. That, by the way, involved 2 of us showing up at midnight, unloading a truck then hauling pallets around the department to spot 1400-1800 cases of freight then cutting, stocking, cleaning up 350-450 cases each (the other 2 guys came in at 2am). Substantially more during Thanksgiving & Christmas.

I did this so my GF could work PT (25hours) and go to school.

When she graduated and got a “privileged” white collar job (as an associate registrar at a small college) she kept working at her retail job 1 day a week. Because that allowed me to go part time (32 hours a week unless they were short handed then 40 – less than the 45-50 I worked most of the previous years) and go back to school.

This wasn’t as easy as it sounds – at the end of one term, having worked 48 hours the week before finals (we were short handed) I had to choose between a chance at an A in my SQL class or sleep – I took my first B just so I could sleep (I already had enough points for a B).

I graduated in 2002 and took a job for *less* per hour than my journeyman grocery wage (with graveyard&Sunday premium and OT) and slowly worked my way up to where I am now.

That’s not called privilege – that’s call hard work and determination.

The retirement savings we have isn’t privilege either – it came from tightening our belts and getting by with less. All the stuff I learned from my mom and dad (don’t eat out, cook food from scratch, menu out your meals and make one shopping trip, by larger packages and portion it out, set a budget and *stay in it*). Yeah, I did that while going to school and working.

So, all the BS about privileged or elite white collars is pretty grating.

You don’t like the way your life is? WORK AND CHANGE IT.

Stop whining about what others have and earn it yourself the way we did.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

That’s not called privilege – that’s call hard work and determination.

I appreciate the response Trike Guy, especially as from this and other posts I think we’re close in age and it’s nice to talk with people with an (cough cough) extended view of life.
I think it is indeed hard work and determination and it is most definitely privilege.
I graduated HS in 1990 and found myself teaching ESL just outside Changsha, China. I was 6’1 and a fit 180lbs and in a few months was 140lbs due to lack of food and industrial pollution. I made 700 yuan a month while actual professors made about 250 yuan. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford food, its that food was difficult to get. That was my first experience seeing the world away from the redwoods where I grew up realizing that life is not the same for everyone and I still can’t shut the sights and smells out.
Then college, teaching, enlisting in the Army, more time, getting into the Oregon Guard, going through Accelerated Officer Candidate school in Alabama, Iraq, Hawaii, Singapore and working at a Veterans Cemetery literally digging the graves and burying my fallen brothers and sisters while watching their families grieve.
I’ve been white collar for 18 months now (union actually forbids me from operating equipment now) and through the Guard have a pension with guaranteed affordable healthcare when I turn 59 plus whatever pension I’ll get from here.
Its been hard and I’ve been so glad that I am priveliged living in a first world country every minute of the day!
I keep bringing things back to the upcoming climate crisis because i’ve seen and lived what that is like when there is not enough and the tech everyone here loves does not exist, water is always boiled, one is always hungry and therefore a touch ruthless, oh, and in Iraq they kept trying to kill us. It wasn’t even the Iraqi’s that killed my friend though, he breathed in enough burning chemical/tech/medical waste that it grew a tumor that killed him recently. Which is why I can’t take the republicans bad/democrats bad debate seriously since it was administrations from both parties Bush/Cheney and Obama/Biden that ruined so much of that part of the world.
The coming climate crisis will know no random line drawn boundries, preparation for the reality that is coming would be a good idea and tech only increases the speed at which the problem is coming.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I’m well aware that all but the poorest Americans have more wealth and privilege than the majority of the rest of the world.

But this discussion wasn’t about the great lie of American greatness, or how we all were born into a world that gave us more opportunities because a bunch of white europreans created it with the slaughter and destruction of other people.

(a stance that got me in a lot of trouble in the early 80’s in a town named for an “indian fighter” general with a festival in his name).

What it was about was the difference between (for instance) me and the folks who work in the warehouse behind me. Or, more accurately since I can’t WFH, my GF and the construction workers who can’t do their job unless she does hers.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

You don’t like the way your life is? WORK AND CHANGE IT.

Stop whining about what others have and earn it yourself the way we did.

Oh, I thought you were giving me a motivational exhortation to change my life so I could be as tough as you. I didn’t realize it was about the difference between you and the people that work behind you.
Or something else?
I guess i’m a little confused.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

It’s interesting you should ask that.

6 years ago we hired a really nice kid (he was 22). He was hired as a warehouse order picker (the base entry level position here).

For context, starting pay for a WH picker is right at the PDX median with bonuses adding up to $2.50/hr more on average. The bonuses are strictly accuracy/reiliablity based with the minimum pick speed set so low that we have a 75 year old out there who easily exceeds it by a comfortable margin – and he ain’t fast. It’s still hard for me coming fromt he production oriented environment of 90’s grocery, but the simple fact is that accuracy saves us more labor than speed and it’s a nicer work environment – win/win. The job includes benefits and a 401(k) match.

I talked to him about how we like to promote from inside and what we were looking for and did, in fact, share with him my experiences (I’ve worn many hats here since starting 16years ago, many simultaneously).

About 6months of working hard later he moved to the receiving/stock crew. About a year later the receiving manager left to take a promotion at one of the other warehouses and he took that job over.

At the time one of my jobs was buying all the products for the warehouse (about 100 vendors back then) which requires close co-operation with receiving. He was a joy to work with – we worked out systems between us that allowed me to handle the really time consuming part of the job (following up with vendors) more easily and more quickly.

About 18months into that he came to us (me and my boss the GM) and said there were aspects of that job that made it one he didn’t want to continue in.

We were working on building a sales crew (our WH didn’t have one) and we put him in as a relief delivery driver (a lateral move) for about 6months with instructions to spend a bit of time at stops getting to know the store owners and managers.

When we got the sales team off the ground we paired him up with first an experienced salesperson then a new salesperson who had run a store for 9 years to learn how to help our customers get the right products in and sellt hem effectively.

3 years later he came to us and told us he was in love <sigh> and she ran one of her father’s stores a *long* way away from here and commuting would be out of the question if he moved in with her. So we helped find a new position as a TSM with one of our vendors who had an opening in that area.

He now makes north of 60k with even better benefits and 401(k) match than here and he’s 28.

So, yes, I am talking about the folks behind me in the warehouse who (like him) are in the same position I was in at their age.

Aaron
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

So smartphones and the internet are destroying the earth but putting unnecessary cars on the road every day to make people work in an office won’t be doing any damage? Sounds like you just want all of those jobs to not exist, which is all well and good I guess but is a separate issue from whether the people doing those jobs commute to and from an office every day.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

So smartphones and the internet are destroying the earth

and the infrastructure that makes them work and the toxic mess they become once discarded…. yes.

unnecessary cars on the road every day to make people work in an office won’t be doing any damage?

Why can’t a decent majority of the white collar elite use public transportation or bicycle, or car pool, or something that isn’t a simplistic binary solution? Isn’t that why BikePortland exists? Believe it or not I have really enjoyed the times I didn’t have a car, but at those times I lived somewhere with functioning and usable public transportation which of course makes all the difference.

marcus
marcus
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The difference between moving two tons of car back and forth or moving a quarter-ton personal portion of a bus back and forth is trivial compared to the difference between either of the preceding and moving a nanogram of electrons back and forth.

A Grant
A Grant
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The goal has been and always will be reducing the amount of cars on the road. Pre-pandemic, the ideal solution was getting more folks onto bikes and public transport, which had a much lower take-up compared to motor vehicles for various reasons.

The pandemic demonstrated that a significant segment of the population could effectively work from home, resulting thereby achieving the goal stated above.

A Grant
A Grant
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I am struggling to understand where you are coming from. Having “elite” white collar workers (which make up almost 60% of the American workforce btw) work from home if they are willing and able would have zero negative impacts on “people who actually make society function”.

Meanwhile, the benefit for those very people in terms of less gridlock is real in terms of less stress, more time spent at home with family, and less wear and tear of road infrastructure.

Unless of course your reasoning boils down to white collar workers being made to suffer alongside their blue collar brethren. In which case your argument is no better than the farmer with the dead cow who, when granted one wish, asks that their neighbour’s cow perish as well.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  A Grant

There’s always public transportation and bicycling to cut down on gridlock. The white collar folk (myself incuded now these days) are more able to use these resources than blue collar/shift work people. I would love Metro to have an epiphany and decide to put the interests of the working populace above that of their crony capitalism buddies and actually build and extensive trolley network throughout the Metro. I know thats now going to happen though and like many people here find it very frustrating.

As far as your dead cow metaphor goes, it would be more accurate to say the farmer with the dead cow with one wish wishes his neighbor knew his cow was dead and that things are hard for him (or her). Right now I get the distinct impression people of privelige here on this thread aren’t bothering to appreciate what they have and are eager to prove their bonafides by how much they are suffering.

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

In our culture the spaces for political and economic discussion far outnumber those for emotional discussion and it seems to me like a lot of our country’s political and economic arguments are emotional exchanges in disguise. If everyone felt respected and empathized with I wonder how many policy disagreements would be left standing.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  Adam Leyrer

I agree wholeheartedly and wonder the same thing!

A Grant
A Grant
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

You didn’t actually answer my question. How does working from home have any negative impacts on blue collar/shift work people? In fact, by having fewer cars on the road during rush hour, wouldn’t you agree that there is a net gain for those who feel that they have no other option but to drive?

I have many blue collar/white collar friends. Several of whom live outside the urban core due to a variety of reasons, including being priced out. Other than the job itself, the most common work day-related complaint is their commute, which was made significantly easier prior to March 2023, before my sector mandated a minimum two day a week return to the office. Now congestion is by far the worst they’ve ever had to deal with. And they are suffering because of it.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  A Grant

You didn’t actually answer my question. 

Apologies for that, I didn’t see a question in your comment.

 How does working from home have any negative impacts on blue collar/shift work people?

In the immediate now I see your point that less people on the roads can be considered a benefit to those who need to commute.
It also points out that poor and middle class society is fragmenting into a multi tiered system where different groups of people benefit from what their profession is, regardless to the benefit to society and humanity as a whole. Granted, this isn’t new in human history and at least doesn’t seem to be explicitly along gender lines as it has in past years.
It just doesn’t seem like enough of a benefit to society as a whole to make it worthwhile to have whole segments of the population staring at electronic screens all day.
I guess in the end I just don’t like the way so many people are forced into work manipulating electrons on screen. The engineers down the hall from me spend plenty of time meeting with contractors, refining plans and dealing with computer problems and resulting downtime that seem to cut into the benefits of being on computers that so many commenters here bring up. Unlike a lot of people here, my experience with blue collar life was not lived “through friends” and I completely recommend to anyone whos young(ish) to leave the office and try a manual labor job for awhile to see what its’ like.

The goal has been and always will be reducing the amount of cars on the road. 

Its a worthwhile goal, but the goal for who and for why? Is it a Portland goal, a United States goal? A 1st world goal? Are you thinking locally or globally. I guarantee from my personal experiences in various unpleasant places around the globe that the goal of a huge percentage of people is to have access to a car/truck and roads to drive it on.
Is the goal to have less cars because cars bad? They pollute? They generate more toxic waste in poor countries than tech does? They fill up the roads?
I remember being told not to eat the blackberries on the side of the roads because of lead pollution back when. I agree that too many cars are bad and people are far better off taking public transportation or cycling if possible. What about globally? I constantly read on here to “think globally, act locally” and I wonder if globally means other first world countries or the far more numerous places that suffer from our tech greed.
Hmmm, this may have gotten a bit rambly, but its a big subject and I’m doing my best.

A Grant
A Grant
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

It just doesn’t seem like enough of a benefit to society as a whole to make it worthwhile to have whole segments of the population staring at electronic screens all day.”

Regardless of your opinions re: whether or not sitting in front of a computer screen is a net benefit to society, it can be done both at home or in an office.

Globally speaking, too often our previously walkable cities have been bulldozed to accommodate as many vehicles as possible during the rush hour period, leaving us with urban designed for cars, not people. Having more people working from home is a step towards moving away from this car-centric design philosophy, which would benefit society as a whole.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  A Grant

 Having more people working from home is a step towards moving away from this car-centric design philosophy, which would benefit society as a whole.

Going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
I don’t think reducing cars usage is worth even more people working from home nor do I think its a binary correlation as you are saying.
Why do you want less cars? (speaking of not answering questions) The reason why actually does matter. If you feel that it’s the only way out of the impending climate crisis than sitting at home with tech and not learning any real life skills is not going to save us from that.
Have you read HG Wells “The Time Machine”? which is an incredible vision of what happens to society when it splinters into physical workers and those who don’t. For all everyones defense of at home computer workers, the fact remains that the world got by just fine before that became a thing. I understand that it is the employment offered to many in this day and age, my only question is if it is worth it?

A Grant
A Grant
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Your focus on the perceived value of blue collar v. white collar / physical work v. non-physical work is completely unrelated to the issue at hand – as this “splinter” existed well before COVID and very little is going to change this dichotomy in the near future.

So can you please but this bugaboo to bed and focus on the point of this discussion – which is the relative benefits (or lack thereof) of working from home for those who are willing and able.

Meanwhile, you’re dismissing the crux of my argument in favour of working from home – which is the decrease in car dependency, which would have a myriad of benefits including, but not limited to:

  1. Environmental. The largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the US is transportation-related.
  2. Health. Traffic is a significant source of nitrogen dioxide; ultrafine rubber particles; and black carbon/soot, leading to higher rates of asthma amongst youth, birth and developmental delays, cancer, etc. Issues that more heavily impact poor and BIPOC communities living closer to centers of high traffic.
  3. Improved traffic flow for those who need to drive.
  4. Less noise pollution. Remember cities aren’t noisy – cars are.
  5. Less wear and tear on our existing infrastructure and the related cost-savings.
  6. A chance to move away from car-centric urban design, including the development of 15-minute cities and designating public spaces not for wider roads and more parking, but for wider sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.
  7. The cost of car ownership is a significant burden for the average family. The opportunity to work from home, as well as the changes to urban design mentioned above, would allow households to go from two cars to one, or even dispense having to rely on a personal motor vehicle altogether.
jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  A Grant

Meanwhile, you’re dismissing the crux of my argument in favour of working from home – which is the decrease in car dependency, which would have a myriad of benefits including, but not limited to:

I’m not dismissing it. I disagree with you. There is a difference. You keep making it a simple binary, working from home vs car use. I disagree that those are the sole matters of importance which is why I may seem to be dismissing you.
I agree with all the things your are saying about cars. They are bad. Less cars are good.
Did you know cars were once thought of as a way to rid the early cities of pollution? Animal manure was a serious problem back then. Every era has its version of an environmental problem and cars were seen as a solution to all the manure in the streets and in the water supplies much as WFH is seen as the solution to cars now. What will our ancestors think of that decision?
The cities are already built, there is no magical non-car centric urban oasis on the horizon for the predictable future. Most cities can’t seem to pave the roads, let alone do any serious changes to them. The only time when the modern cities are going to become walking utopias is after the climate crisis is upon us and then the word utopia won’t really be applicable.
You keep ignoring my one question for you which is the question whether working from home is worth the loss of cars on a long term basis? My whole philosophy is based on the coming climate crisis and I understand that a lot of people don’t believe in it. I do and my goal is to be prepared with knowledge and resources to support my family and myself when resources including power to support WFH is limited or non existent.
You and many others seem to think that WFH is just going to continue and grow as 1st world countries have always done, without thought of the resources used up because for you, those resources are infinite. They are not infinite.
I have seen with my own eyes children making coal cakes out of coal dust with their bare hands and piling it up on an animal driven cart and many other things that shape my bias. This is how so much of the world lives so you can burn the electricity to use tech to WFH and worry about the 7 things you’ve mentioned.
I ask you one more time in hopes you’ll respond, is WFH worth what we are doing to the world to have that ability?

A Grant
A Grant
4 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The cities are already built, there is no magical non-car centric urban oasis on the horizon for the predictable future.”

Cities were originally built for people. Not cars. If anything, cities as we always knew them were destroyed for cars. There are countless cities around the world that are reversing 1960s-era car centric urban planning in favour of a more balanced approach, whereby travel by car is not the first and only option.

“You keep ignoring my one question for you which is the question whether working from home is worth the loss of cars on a long term basis?”

Yes. Absolutely. Working from home results in less car dependency, resulting in a reduction in personal vehicle usage. I would have assumed that my previous responses would have made that obvious.

“You and many others seem to think that WFH is just going to continue and grow as 1st world countries have always done”

I never said that. In fact if you scroll back to my very first comment which started this whole discussion, I was bemoaning my city’s return to the pre-COVID status-quo of returning to the office. Effectively dismissing all of the lessons we learned during the pandemic and, as a byproduct, making rush hour traffic so much worse for blue and white collar workers alike.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  A Grant

Yes. Absolutely. Working from home results in less car dependency, resulting in a reduction in personal vehicle usage.

Fair enough.
I can’t get past that tech development and power production pollute a large swathe of the 3rd world countries while car pollution mainly effects the immediate people and environment using the cars. Given the two I’d rather suffer the effects of my own making rather than farm it out to other people.
Of course it goes without saying that if Metro truly wanted to build a train and trolley system that was effective it would solve both problems.

jakeco969
jakeco969
4 months ago
Reply to  A Grant

ps. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation and appreciate your solid responses and the queries you present.

Adam Leyrer
Adam Leyrer
4 months ago

In-Person Work is stockmarket-approved socialization; it’s better than disconnection from our society and from our sense-of-place but the pandemic taught us that we need to dream a little bigger.

Zach
Zach
4 months ago

I work from home most days for the last few years and I love it, it works for me at this point in my life (parent of small children). Before the pandemic I spent fifteen years working in various office parks with the only thing in walking distance almost always being a starbucks.

I’ve never spent much time downtown in those years and now that I don’t have to go to the office I feel zero guilt for not supporting those office parks and the businesses around them, those things were always a misallocation of resources.

Point being, it’s not a fair or accurate assumption to make that everyone who works from home used to work/directly support the downtown core.

Charley
Charley
4 months ago

I’m loving the comments here, but there seems to be some conflation of issues:

  1. What’s best for an individual may not be the same as what that individual prefers (ie, I might want to sleep in and skip work tomorrow, but if I do that every day, I’ll be damn lonely).
  2. What’s best for you may not be best for me! I have zero interest in WFH, but I’m glad you love it!
  3. What’s best for a company may not be what the company’s employees prefer.
  4. What’s best for a company may not be what the company’s leaders may think is best for a company (I’ve been hearing how one middle manager at my job insists on pointless in-person meetings so that he can feel like he’s in charge, or “doing something” or whatever).
  5. What’s best for individuals or companies may not end up being best for a neighborhood or City.

I think this is something that the free market will sort out over time.

  1. I remain hopeful that, over time, people will sort into careers and jobs that fit their preference for in-person vs WFH.
  2. I also hope that, over time, WFHers will figure out ways to avoid loneliness and isolation.
  3. Neighborhoods change, and it turns out that our downtown is too reliant on specific kinds of jobs (obviously, other factors currently have a huge impact down there!).

The big solution is staring us all the face:

Portlanders want Downtown to be safe and vibrant, but vacant buildings are dragging us down. Coincidentally, we also want more affordable housing.

Housing is the answer (aside from Gov. Kotek’s other solutions as recently unveiled.)

We need an all out effort to encourage office conversions. Lower interest rates will help, and regulatory changes might help, too.