Return to Office: San Francisco

It looks like the RTO saga has finally reached my company, so most of our engineering force will be coming into the office a couple a days a week, including myself.

Well, I guess it was announced a couple months ago, but it's finally taking effect as of June. Personally, I don't really mind, since I'm living downtown SF and it's only a 30 minute walk down Columbus and Montgomery to get to the office. But it seems a bit superficial, since I'll need to Zoom the vast majority of my team anyhow...

Regardless, I do see some value in having an in-person collaborative space. Especially in the context of fresh college graduates, where I feel like remote work will probably stunt their growth, to some extent. There's something to be said about being able to freely and casually interact with your team throughout the day, in little "hallway conversations."

Though, feelings aside, SF really needs this right now. In one recent study, San Francisco was determined to be in last place in covid recovery among major cities. It makes sense, given how many people here are in tech, and are really able to work remotely without issue. Or, I would have thought. lol Elon doesn't think so.

So... Are Remote Devs Less Productive?

Productivity is a tricky thing to gauge, and if you ask me, the countless cross-disciplinary social studies that have attempted to answer this question in recent years have been largely meaningless. This is probably why every week the consensus on remote productivity seems to flip. I suppose you could probably use more tangible metrics like revenue growth, but even then, since the onset of the pandemic, the US (and probably the rest of the world, too) has practically become a large scale economics experiment, so you'd be remiss if you attempted to make any conclusions of causality based on assumptions of normalcy.

But I'm not really interested in productivity across the board anyhow. I want to know if software developers, specifically, are more or less productive. But I couldn't really find anything.

Of course developers are happier working from home, and they certainly seem to self report increased productivity (myself included), but there may be more subtle productivity losses incurred due to things like reduced interaction with colleagues and collaboration. But I couldn't really find any in-depth studies attempting to objectively measure this.

It Doesn't Really Matter, I Guess

I have a feeling every software company is going to implement an RTO strategy over the next year or two, whether it's a full return or a hybrid model, regardless of the results of any studies. It has more to do with power and status, if you ask me. These companies want to flex their presence in all of the major cities, but they can't do that if their developers are working comfortably every day with no pants on, in the middle of nowhere.