What caught my eye this week.
We’re nearly a year into Covid in the UK. The novelty has long worn off – you hear much less about finding inner peace or baking sourdough – but on the working from home front, the revolution revelation continues.
Even the most lunch-is-for-wimps office junkies seem to be finally coming around to the reality that you can get plenty done from home.
In fact I’m getting tired of entrepreneurial types on my LinkedIn and Twitter feeds declaring they’ve seen the future and it’s here.
These guys remind me of dads who trumpet a hot up-and-coming band to their kids because they saw them last night headlining The Other Stage at Glastonbury on BBC 2.
Better 20 years late than never, I suppose.
Working from home works
The potential to work from home was never a secret. I’ve been at it most of my adult life, and I’ve shared the benefits before in articles like:
The start-up I co-founded 15 years ago mostly ran without an office, too.
Revolution? Retread more like.
I guess it takes a global pandemic for some people to try sending an email from a spare bedroom.
How did they manage before?
Perhaps I’m just bitter that the queues are going to be longer in Waitrose forever if so many of these weekday incomers stick about.
I’m probably also chippy thinking back to how hard it was to chisel days of working from home out of even supposedly flexible employers.
Most bosses believed staff were far more productive in offices. Really they meant they liked to keep an eye on them.
Generally, managers are pretty terrible. They’re not good at empowering their underlings or managing projects or workflows. Too many come across like that enthusiastic kid in school who would try to run from his goal line to tackle the ball halfway up the pitch and then maybe get a shot on goal.
These – ahem – midfield maestros saw the office as their playing field.
The last thing they wanted was for the metaphorical ball to be picked up and taken home.
Work from home to work less
Traditional employers’ productivity calculations never paid much attention to the hours it took for the employee to get to work, either.
Nor all the time it took to recover at home afterwards.
Let alone the maths of shuffling kids or pets or cars or anything else along the way.
These huge time sucks drop away when you’re working from home.
Indeed I recently read one blogger – and I presume recent convertee – claiming it could make a 50-hour work, split over a couple, the new normal:
Work from home has the potential to restore better family life for some without reducing net income.
With two parents working a total of 50 hours at home, they’ll be able both to care for their kids and be as productive as they were when nominally working 80 combined hours in the office and commuting to boot.
They won’t be materially worse off either. Both parents can have careers.
Even single parents will benefit from a shorter WFH week, although certainly not as much.
Whose hours are they, anyway?
I’m as big a zealot for flexible working from home as they come.
But expecting societywide benefits like this from a nation doing business in its sweatpants seems to me fanciful.
For one thing, if employers cotton on to all that extra capacity and time freed up, they’re going to try to reclaim it.
More perniciously, people have been claiming productivity gains will set us free for hundreds of years.
In reality people who could have worked fewer hours just tend to work longer to buy more stuff.
As I say, this lifestyle option isn’t new. For those who can do it today (brain surgeons not so much) it was always available if you made some sacrifices.
I don’t think working for just 25 hours a week will come naturally to yesterday’s commuting salaryman or woman.
Time to burn
I’ll tell you another secret about managing your own work and time from home.
It’s hard to stay so efficient forever.
When you first get off the commute-office-commute hamster wheel it’s nirvana. Not only are you fresh and productive, but you get tons of other stuff done in your screen breaks. Popping on the dishwasher, say, or a trip to the Post Office via Tesco Metro for a little shop.
However most of us can only get so much work done in a day. If you’re paid to work the same traditional hours anyway, I guarantee your efficiency will flag.
(If you’re a freelance or contractor paid for results, happy days. Get your stuff done by 2pm and take the rest of the day off. Or work a four-day week.)
Finally, I haven’t got kids but I hear they’re still popular in some parts and I can’t imagine how they fit into all this. Any parents want to weigh in below?
Have a great weekend, anyway. Try not to work too hard!
How to invest in sectors, themes, and megatrends – Monevator
Some ridiculous ETFs that we might as well market – Monevator
From the archive-ator: University has become an unaffordable luxury – Monevator
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MPs reject call to speed up regulation of new ‘buy now, pay later’ providers – Which?
Vanguard’s assets hit record $7 trillion [Search result] – FT
Blackrock holds $85bn in coal despite pledge to sell fossil fuels – Guardian
Record number of buy-to-let landlord companies set up in 2020 – ThisIsMoney
Another day, another IPO surges on its debut on the US market – CNBC
Iconic boot maker Dr Martens is getting a listing in London – NPR
Managing your personality in your portfolio – Incognito Money Scribe
Products and services
What investment pathways mean for pension drawdown – Actuarial Post
Santander latest lender to make life harder for the self-employed – ThisIsMoney
Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade
UK fintech offersworld’s ‘first’ net zero pension fund [Search result] – FT
Covid has upset the funeral business – Guardian
Homes for sale to escape to the country, in pictures – Guardian
Comment and opinion
Just take the money – Of Dollars and Data
Merryn: Why house prices may dip but won’t crash [Search result] – FT
Previous attempts to improve on index funds have not delivered – Morningstar
How Covid-19 rebooted retirement [Search result] – FT
Simplistic – Indeedably
Ramit Sethi: How to land your dream job [Podcast] – The Art of Manliness
When and how should investors make forecasts? – Behavioural Investment
Drawing it down – Humble Dollar
Cullen Roche talks sensibly about inflation and money supply [Podcast] – TIP
A clear Signal of market insanity – Compound Advisers
Everything in one place – The Evidence-based Investor
The [mostly UK] FIRE blog cemetery – The FIRE Shrink
Naughty corner: Active antics
New bullish themes are emerging – All-Star Charts
Something of value [PDF] – Howard Marks
A thoughtful review of a UK dividend-focused portfolio – UK Value Investor
The quality margin of safety – Intrinsic Investing
Billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya could be the next Buffett – Business Insider
How Apple won the share buyback debate – Above Avalon
The case for takeaway marketplace roll-up Just Eat – Value and Opportunity
Stocks valuations are fine because starting yields are low…right? – Meb Faber
An interview with that chap who has all $11m of his net worth in Tesla – Ramp
Bitcoin bits and pieces
Lost passwords lock millionaires out of Bitcoin fortunes – New York Times
One chap has only two password guesses left to access £175m wallet – Guardian
A graphical overview of the crypto landscape – Visual Capitalist
Bitcoin prices are likely manipulated, says Research Affiliates – Institutional Investor
FCA warns Britons to be prepared to lose all their money – Guardian
Bitcoin is dead as a currency, but it could still be an asset – Medium
Covid and politics quarantine zone
UK to close all travel corridors from Monday – BBC
Infections may be peaking in England; R could be 0.6 in London – Guardian
PM says Britain targeting a 24/7 vaccine rollout as soon as possible – Reuters
Does vitamin D combat Covid? – Guardian
Universal vaccines and other research to stop the next pandemic – Wired
The Covid vaccine is now a dating app flex – GQ
Brexit hassle: ‘Most difficult week I’ve had in this job in 20 years’ – BBC
Trump’s election lies were among his most popular tweets – CNBC
Kindle book bargains
Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country by John Kampfner – £1.69 on Kindle
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown – £0.99 on Kindle
The Organised Time Technique: How to Get Your Life Running Like Clockwork by Gemma Bray – £0.99 on Kindle
The Wealthy Retirement Plan by Vicki Wusche – £0.99 on Kindle
Don’t have a Kindle? Buy one.
Off our beat
CRISPR and the splice to survive – New Yorker
This post reflects why I moderate every comment on Monevator, too – White Coat Investor
Why people won’t change their mind – A Wealth of Common Sense
Think twice before you fly to surprise your other half [Sweet!] – via Twitter
“Investment is essentially the arbitrage of ignorance.”
Jim Slater, The Zulu Principle
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