WFH: incidental information

I always figured that the lack of contact available in the workplace would have negative effects even when I could not point to specifics. The model of the human brain is a bunch of neural networks comparing new inputs with all that’s already stored in the brain and somehow building new ideas from the old. This lack of contact could have negative effects on WFH or it could spark research into methods of solving the problem. This could impact our investment positively or negatively.

This morning I found an article that addresses this issue.

What JPMorgan learned when its traders worked remotely
by Sarah Butcher About a day ago

Speaking at a seminar organized by the Systemic Risk Centre in London, Charles Bristow, a managing director in rates trading at JPM said that what’s been missing while traders were at home is “incidental information.” This is the information that, “you didn’t know you needed,” explained Bristow.

https://news.efinancialcareers.com/us-en/3004155/jpmorgan-re…

Denny Schlesinger

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This is why I refuse to believe WFH will become normalized once the virus threat has passed. There are too many intangible benefits of social creatures interacting face to face.

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Hi Captain,

I was interested to reply to this one, as I have some first hand experience of this particular situation.
My housemate works for JPM here in London and works closely with the traders. From what I understand, the traders have been itching to get back to the office for a long time now.

‘Incidental information’ could be an advantage of working from the office, but in my opinion this particular advantage is not ubiquitous to all roles. I can well imagine that a trading floor brimming with interaction, and casual sharing of information would thrive in this environment. However I consider this particular example as something as an exception, or a niche in this respect. I would not consider ‘incidental information’ particularly relevant for my own role for example.

There are certainly some advantages to the office, no doubt, including intangible benefits like the one you are trying to capture here. However, I am firmly in the camp that a hybrid model is inevitable for the foreseeable future to make use of both office and work from home benefits, and to not get hung up over what these might be.

From many discussions with friends & colleagues covering various industries & roles, I am more than ever convinced by this shift. From anecdotal examples of a friend who is a corporate lawyer having never worked a single day from home in his life before the pandemic, to have his firm move to a hybrid model full time and his boss (one of the firm’s Partners) leave and set up his own firm so that he can remote work permanently. My own Director leaving and only looking for roles where he can remote work full-time, my dad (an office traditionalist CEO) video interviewing two people yesterday for a role with both requesting that it be full time work from home (a notion he has now accepted), my previous company moving their entire head office of several thousand onto a permanent hybrid model, as I’m confident will happen with my current company (we are still remote working currently).
These are among the biggest UK companies with hundreds of thousands of employees (albeit only a portion are office based), whose very structure are entrenched in archaic systems and are slow moving at the best of times but here, even they are adapting quickly. Personally I expect to work 2-3 days a week in the office, 2-3 days a week from home - up from 1 day a week at home historically. I could go on, but my point is the evidence is there to see before our very eyes.

There is not much point second guessing this inevitable shift, in my opinion. Yes, there are some advantages to office, of course, and some companies will stay with an office model. And you will always find use cases to exemplify that. But for most the times they are a-changin, and where there are current deficiencies to the work from home model, ever evolving tech will adapt to provide a suitable solution.

Yes, some people are resistant to change, they always are, but attitudes will change, they have already begun to. And ultimately that is my investment thesis and why ZM is my top holding, as I believe it is a company that has what it takes to thrive in this ‘paradigm shift’.

I would consider the importance of ‘incidental information’ to this thesis, as merely incidental.

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This is why I refuse to believe WFH will become normalized once the virus threat has passed. There are too many intangible benefits of social creatures interacting face to face.

I would like to add that just this afternoon I got off a virtual team day event with my area’s Finance department (about 300 people) - sounds terrible right? But I can honestly say it was the most fun I have had in a team event of this or any scale since I’ve joined the company.

Why? Because it was hugely interactive, and technology enabled that. If we were in the office I can well imagine the CFO rambling on for hours while only an emboldened few participated, but through third party apps (such as Kahoots) everybody got involved. The only downside is that it was hosted via Teams…

Imagine the potential for in-app entertainment that video conferencing could enable, through third party or their own products. I am a social creature, I believe most people are, but that doesn’t mean that working from home can’t be sociable. Perhaps down the line it will help us engage and connect with colleagues more than the office enables (beyond Thursday night work drinks).

I for one, will still have my groups of friends to spend time with, and ‘work from home’ just enables for me to spend more time with my real friends & family.

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I would consider the importance of ‘incidental information’ to this thesis, as merely incidental.

Nice turn of phrase!

I consider Zoom to be the greatest beneficiary of covid-19 and ZM, the stock, an even greater beneficiary because Zoom is small and a pure play compared to competitors like Google and Microsoft. Their tele-conferencing offerings, even if successful, will not do much for their bottom line or share price. But more than that, the economic benefits of WFH such as reduced real estate costs and reduced time wasted in travel and commuting are very powerful drivers of adoption. Another powerful driver is the need to get the job done in a timely manner which is driving adoption by lawyers and the judiciary as highlighted by Saul’s recent post.

What I have done is to bring to the attention of the board anecdotal evidence from the field. My reaction to it was neutral, I wrote, “This lack of contact could have negative effects on WFH or it could spark research into methods of solving the problem. This could impact our investment positively or negatively.

I don’t understand the need to be so defensive.

Denny Schlesinger

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According to the article below, some companies are turning negative on working from home:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/companies-start-to-think-remote…

BLancaster

Well, reality is most of the schools are declaring for e-learning around me at least. That means someone is home.

Reality seems to be a kick in the teeth for those who would like things to be like September 2019.

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Thanks, BLancaster. That article is hidden behind the usual paywall. Can you summarize it a bit? I’m interested in knowing how much of the reason for “turning negative” is the usual mid-level managers whining about “I can’t manage you if I can’t see you”.

Eric [a consulting software engineer for 40 years and ran into that complaint with almost every project]

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My apologies for cluttering the board, I should have retested the link. It came from a news aggregator site and I can’t break the paywall now either. Will post follow up if/ when available.

BLancaster