Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

source-codesource codeauthorJP MangalindanNoneWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
People

Tech couples confront the awkward close quarters of working from home

From hiding under desks to avoid Zoom cameras to getting annoyed by their spouses, the work from home mandate is getting intense, fast.

A person working at a computer

As tech companies require employees to work from home, workers face feelings of loneliness and discomfort in their daily surroundings.

Photo: JGalione via Getty Images

Last Wednesday, executives at Amperity, a customer data management startup, sent an email strongly encouraging its 175 or so employees to go home, a move that came as King County, Washington, announced new cases of patients infected with coronavirus. For Rebecca Scully, a director of product marketing at the company, it meant facing a new reality: Could she effectively perform her job from home?

Five days in, Scully is finding the answer is "yes," but accomplishing some basic tasks from her four-bedroom Seattle home instead of the office is more difficult. Now the mother of two is constantly comparing work schedules with her husband, an Apple employee also working remotely, and haggling for time in their home office. They have an understanding: Who gets the office depends on the urgency of and privacy needed for their meetings. Scully's two children, ages 9 and 6, also get in the way of work — quite literally. At least two dozen work calls have gone haywire over the last week because one of her kids barged into the office or crawled under her chair and kicked the seat in a fit.


Get what matters in tech, in your inbox every morning. Sign up for Source Code.


Those new challenges, and the fact she's no longer going to a workplace every day, leaves the extroverted Scully feeling disconnected from her colleagues and at times, overwhelmed. "I anticipate this trailing off of energy and motivation and the need for an infusion of adult energy," Scully said. "I'm looking out in the next couple of weeks, and if this persists, I think I'm going to have to get more creative."

While many crow about the benefits of working remotely — a flexible schedule, saving money on gas and food — the reality is far more complex and nuanced for Scully and other tech workers long accustomed to working in offices and mingling with colleagues face-to-face every day. Sure, remote work has its virtues, but it also comes with distinct disadvantages that come from an isolating environment and close quarters, several tech workers told Protocol.

Just several days into their new working conditions, tech workers face feelings of loneliness and discomfort in their daily surroundings, and awkward interactions and rising tensions with their partners.

Another tech worker, a startup co-founder who lives in San Francisco, has worked from home for years; her husband, however, was notified by his employer on Sunday that all employees must work remotely for an indefinite period of time. Although the couple resides in a 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home in San Francisco, their small home office, already filled with two computers and three displays, makes working alongside one another sometimes feel crowded and difficult. Living and working together, as they also stockpile food and supplies amid all the coronavirus chatter, makes her feel "trapped" in their house.

"Now my husband is sharing that same space trying to have his own meetings, so I can hear his meetings and he can hear mine," said the co-founder, who preferred to stay anonymous for privacy reasons. "With the constant Amazon deliveries — 'Armageddon water,' toilet paper, canned soups — the dog walker showing up, and the weekly house cleaners showing up, he says he cannot think. … To me, it's just like working in an office right next to someone. It makes me think we need a bigger house!"

The startup co-founder's teammates, accustomed to working from an office in San Francisco and now working from home as well, are also feeling uncomfortable with their new working conditions.

"There is a lower productivity that I've noticed in my colleagues," she explained. "They seem really freaked out working from home. One person said in a team Zoom meeting today, 'I am all alone … with myself.'"

Related:

Amy Brown, who works on social media and brand marketing for the San Francisco-based design software startup Figma, has been working from her one-bedroom in Berkeley ever since Figma requested earlier this week that employees work remotely. On the one hand, Brown is able to sleep an extra hour because she no longer has to commute to work. On the other, she and her husband, who is between jobs and starts a new position on Monday, have found they must get creative in staying out of each other's way in their small apartment. Case in point: Her husband has "army-crawled" through the dining room to stay out of frame of Brown's Zoom video calls.

"I think we're doing a pretty good job, so far, but I do think there is sort of an element that's missing, of getting to come home at the end of the day and, like, tell them [your partner] how your day went, and now it's like, 'Oh, well, you know how my day went, you were here for all of it," Brown said.

Ryan Wenger, a business analyst for the travel startup Fairytrail in San Francisco, has run up against similar challenges with his partner, who is attending Golden Gate University for her master's degree, ever since Fairytrail encouraged employees to work from home nearly three weeks ago. The couple shares a 1,000-square-foot three-bedroom with a roommate. For Wenger, getting some "alone time" means shutting out the world — and his partner — by donning a pair of headphones.

"Being near each other at all times can get annoying, and you lose special moments," Wenger said. "Because if you're both at work all day doing things, then you come home hungry, you can say, 'Oh, I missed you.' But you're just … always together. It's hard to appreciate your time together. … There's nothing to talk about, and then you're just getting in the way of each other."
Protocol | Workplace

In Silicon Valley, it’s February 2020 all over again

"We'll reopen when it's right, but right now the world is changing too much."

Tech companies are handling the delta variant in differing ways.

Photo: alvarez/Getty Images

It's still 2021, right? Because frankly, it's starting to feel like March 2020 all over again.

Google, Apple, Uber and Lyft have now all told employees they won't have to come back to the office before October as COVID-19 case counts continue to tick back up. Facebook, Google and Uber are now requiring workers to get vaccinated before coming to the office, and Twitter — also requiring vaccines — went so far as to shut down its reopened offices on Wednesday, and put future office reopenings on hold.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Over half of employees report working longer hours, and a quarter say they're unable to unplug from work.

The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

Keep Reading Show less
Stella Garber
Stella Garber is Trello's Head of Marketing. Stella has led Marketing at Trello for the last seven years from early stage startup all the way through its acquisition by Atlassian in 2017 and beyond. Stella was an early champion of remote work, having led remote teams for the last decade plus.
Protocol | China

Livestreaming ecommerce next battleground for China’s nationalists

Vendors for Nike and even Chinese brands were harassed for not donating enough to Henan.

Nationalists were trolling in the comment sections of livestream sessions selling products by Li-Ning, Adidas and other brands.

Collage: Weibo, Bilibili

The No. 1 rule of sales: Don't praise your competitor's product. Rule No. 2: When you are put to a loyalty test by nationalist trolls, forget the first rule.

While China continues to respond to the catastrophic flooding that has killed 99 and displaced 1.4 million people in the central province of Henan, a large group of trolls was busy doing something else: harassing ordinary sportswear sellers on China's livestream ecommerce platforms. Why? Because they determined that the brands being sold had donated too little, or too late, to the people impacted by floods.

Keep Reading Show less
Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
Power

The video game industry is bracing for its Netflix and Spotify moment

Subscription gaming promises to upend gaming. The jury's out on whether that's a good thing.

It's not clear what might fall through the cracks if most of the biggest game studios transition away from selling individual games and instead embrace a mix of free-to-play and subscription bundling.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Subscription services are coming for the game industry, and the shift could shake up the largest and most lucrative entertainment sector in the world. These services started as small, closed offerings typically available on only a handful of hardware platforms. Now, they're expanding to mobile phones and smart TVs, and promising to radically change the economics of how games are funded, developed and distributed.

Of the biggest companies in gaming today, Amazon, Apple, Electronic Arts, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nvidia, Sony and Ubisoft all operate some form of game subscription. Far and away the most ambitious of them is Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass, featuring more than 100 games for $9.99 a month and including even brand-new titles the day they release. As of January, Game Pass had more than 18 million subscribers, and Microsoft's aggressive investment in a subscription future has become a catalyst for an industrywide reckoning on the likelihood and viability of such a model becoming standard.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Policy

Lina Khan wants to hear from you

The new FTC chair is trying to get herself, and the sometimes timid tech-regulating agency she oversees, up to speed while she still can.

Lina Khan is trying to push the FTC to corral tech companies

Photo: Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty Images

"When you're in D.C., it's very easy to lose connection with the very real issues that people are facing," said Lina Khan, the FTC's new chair.

Khan made her debut as chair before the press on Wednesday, showing up to a media event carrying an old maroon book from the agency's library and calling herself a "huge nerd" on FTC history. She launched into explaining how much she enjoys the open commission meetings she's pioneered since taking over in June. That's especially true of the marathon public comment sessions that have wrapped up each of the two meetings so far.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Latest Stories