'Working from home’ — a new work world creates societal problems. | An Alternative View | Diana Diamond | Almanac Online |

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By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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'Working from home’ — a new work world creates societal problems.

Uploaded: Nov 21, 2022
I am envious – maybe a bit jealous – of all the high-tech employees today who can decide when and where they work, how much vacation time they want, and feel entitled to make such demands of their employees.

And the business world seems to welcome this changing work environment. What does this fluidity mean for our nation’s future?

I am talking about the many employees who now simply decide to “work from home,” can live 1,000 or 3,000 miles from their corporate offices, and can seemingly feel free of what used to be a demanding workplace. As one Silicon Valley CEO told his 500 employees, “Well we like our people to limit their vacations to three week a year,” Really, only three? hires responded.

Before the pandemic, most of us went to the office to work, four or five days a week, were allotted two, or three, weeks’ vacation, depending upon longevity with their company. That all is changing. It’s a new, new work world.

I think work-from-homers have a great deal, but how does this affect our nation? The changes are already apparent. Yet the undercurrents I hear are a bit alarming.

How do employers manage? I have a friend whose son works “from home” for a tech company in Seattle, and when I ask her how he is doing, she says, well, he’s going to France for a two-week chess competition, which he has been practicing for, and then he will take some time to go skiing in the Alps. When he returns, he’ll do more skiing, but also, he has a bike tour planned.

When does he work? I asked her. She laughed. “Well, he tells me he works into the night and some weekends and his boss thinks he is doing great!”

Another young man, working for an international conglomerate, lives in South Lake Tahoe, and spends his winters mostly skiing – “and working too,” he tells me. His boss tells him he is doing a great job.

Yes, their bosses like these flexible hours also -- I guess. And that, I suggest, is today’s new work culture.

This freedom in the workplace is amazing, and working in an office is no longer an obligation. Yet, in many ways, this is affecting American life more than we ever imagined.

In Palo Alto, our local downtown and other shopping centers have many empty offices now, consultant Larisa Ortis, CEO of Streetsense, told the Palo Alto City Council. This is a national, not just a local problem. Some 87 percent of offices all over the country have decided to allow hybrid work for their employees. Before the pandemic, only 5 percent were working from home, she said. The downtown is now plagued with empty retail spaces because of people working are no longer in their downtown offices, and the city has too much space to serve only Palo Altans, the Palo Alto Daily Post reported. In fact, it has 39 sq. ft. of retail per resident – 73 Percent higher than the national average of 23.5 sq. ft. per resident. No wonder we are rattling around our emptier downtowns, she added.

The problems of work-at-home also affects restaurants and luncheon spots. It was a temporary problem during the pandemic, which we could understand, but now it’s become “a problem” for Palo Alto.

Vacant buildings say to downtown visitors and some local residents, this town looks like it’s dying. That is my fear – that what they are saying could become a reality. The city needs to be alert to this – not only in terms of sales tax revenues. We are losing our downtown in the lively all-day activity it had, the vitality, the special quality of Palo Alto. Money cannot buy these attributes.

When mployees work at home, other issues arise. The Mercury News reported Sunday that transit systems around the Bay Area are suffering because of lack of riders (“Transit could face death spiral”) and because new employees are hard to find. The transit agencies are out of money – “the systems are so close to collapse,” the story said.

Caltrain is reducing some train scheduless to one per hour; while some Bay Area bus lines have eliminated some routes. Public transit used to be our dream goal – people would take it to and from work, there would be fewer cars on the road and less carbon emissions. But if people are not using public transportation because they stay home, what does that mean for our public transit in this area? Will it get worse?

I am not negating work from home at all. Those who do say they love it and claim they are more productive than ever.
Yet there are great advantages in working at an office. Camaraderie is one – gathering at the proverbial water cooler to chat and gossip, the ability to run to the next office or lean over a cubicle and say, “Hey Bill, what do you think of this idea?” Those kinds of human exchanges don’t happen much when one is working alone at home.

Yes, a societal change is happening – more than we may have ever anticipated. We can never go back to the workplace of the past, but how do we move forward? And will this work-at-home pattern be beneficial for our society in the future?

I don’t know. Do you?

NOTE: Reader Catherine Mcneil offered this information, which provides some additional data. Thank you, Catherine.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Paly Grad, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Nov 21, 2022 at 5:02 pm

Paly Grad is a registered user.

If “Caltrain is reducing some train schedules to one per hour," we will not need a $200 million underpass at Churchill.

Thankfully Town & Country Village appears to be thriving.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 21, 2022 at 5:23 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Twitter seems to want their workers in the office and to work all hours.

Elon Musk may be making the pendulum swing back. Who knows?

Posted by toransu, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 21, 2022 at 6:24 pm

toransu is a registered user.

First, you really need to actually copy edit your article. Second of all, god forbid the worker not have to spend hours and money commuting every day to get the same amount of work done that they could have gotten done at home. So what if it used to be different in your day? It isn't your day anymore, sis!

Also to our resident carbrained Paly Grad; sticking your head in the sand isn't going to stop Caltrain from running trains more often. It's gonna happen, and we can either adapt or deal with all the traffic issues that we could have avoided had we declined to build this city as car-centrically as we did.

Posted by I+miss+my+small+town+feel, a resident of another community,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 7:19 am

I+miss+my+small+town+feel is a registered user.

I heard it was much harder to hold multiple tech jobs if one of them makes you come to the office on a regular basis. I wish reporters would dig into this more.

Posted by I+miss+my+small+town+feel, a resident of another community,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 7:31 am

I+miss+my+small+town+feel is a registered user.

BTW, didn't you write an article awhile back saying Palo Alto city workers went to 4-day work weeks yet you didn't notice them staying at the office any later, perhaps leaving early to beat traffic? Can you give us an update on this story.

Do they indeed work 40 hour weeks or is this one of the reasons unemployment is so low, cities have to hire more workers to make up for lower productivity?

Thanks for the great articles.

Posted by Tristan Cade, a resident of Stanford,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:48 am

Tristan Cade is a registered user.

The benefits of working at home are numerous (sleeping in, working in one's bathrobe, snacking/drinking/smoking pot at any time etc.) but one must be capable of good time management and establishing certain work-related priorities.

As for the vacant restaurants and office buildings, who cares? Restaurant food around here (whether take-out or dining in) is vastly overpriced and the vacant office buildings are the landlord's problem.

Some people are more productive at certain times of the day and working at home allows for this consideration.

Working at home also beats sitting in a non-descript cubicle all day and being supervised by some crank.

For in-house meetings or conferences there is always ZOOM and this in turn saves money on expenses like dry cleaning because all I wear for these meetings is a clean shirt and no pants with a beer off to the side.

Only people with boring, repetitive jobs need to be supervised and watched over.

Posted by Ashley Johnson, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 9:09 am

Ashley Johnson is a registered user.

Though this consideration is probably of minimal importance (or interest) to older people over 50, working at home offers other benefits like being able to have sex with my boyfriend whenever we want.

He is a grad student at Stanford and has plenty of free time because he too works out of his office at home.

Posted by Robyn Driscoll, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 9:36 am

Robyn Driscoll is a registered user.

There have always been occupations where people work at home (e.g. outside sales, real estate, graduate school etc ).

COVID restrictions and protocols had a lot to do with bringing other types of jobs into the fold.

This changed the dynamics of the work environment and as another poster noted, only those with boring-repetitive (task oriented) jobs need to be onsite.

Posted by Madison Jeffries, a resident of Los Altos,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 10:34 am

Madison Jeffries is a registered user.

"...only those with boring-repetitive (task oriented) jobs need to be onsite."

Being able to work unsupervised at home regardless of one's salary is a sign of a potentially decent job.

Having to be onsite every day for eight hours to operate a forklift, cash register, serve diners, flip burgers, repair cars, or work in retail sales is another story.

The only exception are those employed in the health professions (medical, dental, nursing etc.) who actually need to be onsite to assist their patients.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 10:58 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Before this turns even more silly, there are pros and cons.

Pros, less work clothes needed, a couple more like to be able to share a car, less gas used or less fares/tolls, less need for childcare, less need for haircuts, manicures, makeup, perfumes, less need to buy a coworker a drink/treat/gift for birthday, less need for Starbucks or lunches out, less need to set the alarm or to go to bed on time.

Cons, no need to shower or get dressed, no need to leave home ever, no need to own a car/bike, no one cares what you look like or what manners you have, your money is more controllable, more likely to be lonely, more likely to have no friends or meaningful relationships, more likely to drink alcohol or do drugs, more likely to be unsociable and socially undesirable.

Probably a lot more, but I would suggest a long think before turning into a hermit as it is much more likely to happen if you don't leave home to go to work most days.

Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:49 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Put housing in the empty offices and count that housing toward the absurd number of housing units (6,086) we need to build that are based on outdated numbers of jobs / commuters that are no longer here. That way we don't have to destroy our community with high rises peeking into our bedrooms and no parking in our neighborhoods.

Of course the deep=pocketed pro-density backers would never accept such a sensible proposal because it's not profitable for them.

As for public transit, there have been recent articles that BART, VTA SANMS-Trans etc are going broke for lack of ridership.

Posted by Mike Payton, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:56 am

Mike Payton is a registered user.

The pros far outweigh the cons.

"...more likely to be (1) lonely, more likely to have no friends or meaningful relationships, (2) more likely to drink alcohol or do drugs, (3) more likely to be unsociable and socially undesirable."

In my particular case, only #2 might apply but what's wrong with smoking a joint and having a couple of beers while working at home providing one "stays high but keeps their priorities straight?"

All it takes is some discipline, a laptop and an internet connection.

When I'm hungry, my girlfriend just makes me a sandwich and I am good to go.

As far as being "unsociable or socially undesirable", that depends on the individual and their preferred lifestyle. Not everyone who works at home is 'unsociable and socially undesirable' (aka a geeky nerd loner type without female companionship). A lot depends on one's physical attractiveness, intelligence, outside interests, and an outgoing personality.

We don't associate with nerdy geeks because they are unpleasant to be around and many have 'issues'.

Posted by Julie Whitman, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 12:14 pm

Julie Whitman is a registered user.

• "Put housing in the empty offices and count that housing toward the absurd number of housing units (6,086)..."

^ An excellent idea/concept. Turn the vacant office space into residential lofts like they do with old factories.

Unlike many older people who are set in their ways, younger Millennials and Gen Zers don't mind living in compressed environments.

Posted by staying home, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 12:19 pm

staying home is a registered user.

For 30+ years i worked in tech, going into office daily. Remote access for email, access to secure corporate networks was enabled so that i could do my job after hours, weekends, holidays. No additional $$$, just the expectation that long hours and dedication was required to be successful. Now those same tools are working in my favor so that being on-site is no longer necessary. Covid showed the corporate world that being on site for many jobs was no longer necessary. i save 10+ hours a week in commuting. I save $20-50/week in lunch. I save $50+/month in fuel. My productivity is probably higher even though I may take an occasional break to watch judge judy or run errands.

This transition has been a long time coming and is a good thing. We should be embracing this, not bemoaning that the character of the city is changing. Yes, it is changing, but for the better.

Missing workers downtown? Since they are working from home and not commercial space, convert some of that unused commercial space to residential. Your workers will be downtown b/c they live/work in same space.

Posted by Times Have Changed, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 12:36 pm

Times Have Changed is a registered user.

My aging Baby Boomer grandparents told me that back in their parent's day, men used to wear suits when boarding airplanes, attending church, and going to baseball ballgames while women always wore a hat, nylon stockings, and white gloves when out in public.

Times have changed and not necessarily for the better.

My high school teacher wore flip flops, cargo shorts, and a faded tropical shirt.
He looked like just another old codger at a Jimmy Buffet concert.

Another teacher always wore tie-dyes, Birkenstocks, and sported a straggly gray pony tail to augment his balding head.

Looking stupid has no generational boundaries.

Posted by NeilsonBuchanan, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 8:40 pm

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

I hope these comments are put into one of a time capsules deep within the next building built in downtown Palo Alto. I am sure Palo Alto citizens 100 years from now will be puzzled. I am now.

Better yet... these comments could be mandatory reading for today's highschool seniors at PAUSD. Best career counseling ever!... PA Online comments cover the good, the bad and the ugly of life decisions.

As work from home persists, there may be little transition trauma from "college" to the "working" world.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace,
on Nov 22, 2022 at 9:12 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I think Diana's premise, that WFH creates societal problems, is true and that those businesses that can develop good hybrid plans will be the most successful and have the most stable, productive, and motivated workforce. People need social contact. We are seeing all sorts of signals that too much isolation is unhealthy. Communities cannot thrive when offices are empty, restaurants are closed due to lack of business, and downtown areas have no energy.

Posted by Horst Mueller, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Nov 23, 2022 at 8:01 am

Horst Mueller is a registered user.

> People need social contact. We are seeing all sorts of signals that too much isolation is unhealthy.

The QUALITY of the social contact is more important than social contact per se.

Imagine the quality of social contact working at some menial job at Walmart, McDonalds or the DMV. Outside of getting a paycheck, most people would just as soon avoid those kinds of scenarios (including the patrons and supervisors).

Having worked as a mechanical engineer in Silicon Valley since 1992, I've noticed that the quality of social interaction in a professional environment is oftentimes not much better...just lot of small talk about someone else's kids, vacation plans, a new movie, and other boring stuff.

Working at home allows one to complete their job responsibilities with minimal distractions and free from a plethora of petty-minded people you would not ordinarily be socializing with outside of the workplace.

Of course not every co-worker falls into these categories but many do and the entrapments of enforced interaction can often create even more internal stress and further aggravations. No one needs that.

Back in the 1950s, sociologist David Riesman described American society as a 'lonely crowd' and not much has changed. The only difference is that we now have social media platforms in which to interact when/if one feels out of touch with the outside world.

People need to take responsibility for their own sense of personal fulfillment and value. Relying on others to validate one's existence is a recipe for potential tragedy and mental health issues.

Working at home is not for everyone but for those who can, it often provides a viable escape from a mundane world.

Posted by Haley Jorgenson, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Nov 23, 2022 at 8:49 am

Haley Jorgenson is a registered user.

The COVID pandemic created this modern-day work at home model and for many people it was a godsend.

For others, it was a sad and lonely time because some people actually enjoy going to work and interacting with other people.

The Palo Alto office vacancies should be converted into affordable living quarters for those who want to reside in such a residential complex either out of necessity or preferences.

To accommodate the proposed accomodations for 6,000+ new and aspiring PA residents, these vacant office units could easily be converted into pods, lofts, studios, and dwellings for small families providing there are adequate amenities to accommodate them.

Palo Alto is entering a new era with (1) limited space and properties available for further residential development, (2) an emerging stay at home professional workforce, (3) ongoing ecological commitments to reduce global warming, (4) demographic changes, and (5) a realization (especially among the older residents) that yesteryear's Palo Alto is long gone and will never return.

The future now belongs to younger Millennials and Gen Zers.

By the projected timeframes for full EV implementation and other climate change related regulations, most Baby Boomers will be dead and so their opinions hardly matter.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Nov 23, 2022 at 8:52 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

I can work from home or at work, but I prefer working at work. It's normal and healthy to get up and get out the front door whether you're working, going to school, etc. If you're a productive employee, you'll be productive regardless of your environment. It makes more sense to take care of business in a business setting. I also enjoy social interactions. I've always had friends at work, but most people are business colleagues. Employment is all about taking care of business, not a social club.

Posted by Justin Farraday, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 23, 2022 at 9:02 am

Justin Farraday is a registered user.

Could this work/stay at home concept also be applied to the incarcerated?

House arrest would greatly alleviate the overcrowding in jails and prisons.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 23, 2022 at 9:45 am

Bystander is a registered user.

There's an old saying that you can choose your friends, but not your family. I would go farther and say you can choose your friends, but not your coworkers.

Social interaction is easy with friends, variable with family, but with coworkers it can be downright difficult. People who work on teams whether it be as cooking in a restaurant or a design team in high tech, we have to get on with our fellow employees and work. That means working together and interacting to get the work done. Personal grievances, politics, personality and character problems have to be dealt with or the job will suffer.

Learning how to deal with coworkers is a social skill and a very necessary art to do most jobs well. If you never see someone face to face, it is not going to be easy to support each other, but it may be very easy to ignore each other. Thinking about coworkers over the years, I have had help with moving, help with car issues, help with health issues, and made some really good friends. Happy times at work happen because of seeing the same people day after day and helping each other out as friends do. Giving and receiving friendly acts make work life so much better.

Posted by Penelope Drake, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Nov 23, 2022 at 11:03 am

Penelope Drake is a registered user.

"Happy times at work happen because of seeing the same people day after day and helping each other out as friends do. Giving and receiving friendly acts make work life so much better."

So true but very unrealistic because the majority of people (including work colleagues, acquaintances, family members, and *gasp* even so-called friends) are oftentimes self-serving, self-important, and/or self-centered.

This is human nature and it has been going on since Day 1 of mankind's existence.

Working at home provides some opportunity to distance oneself from these kinds of people.

Posted by Florence Jackson, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 23, 2022 at 1:38 pm

Florence Jackson is a registered user.

A lot depends on who you work with.

I would imagine that working in an academic environment like Stanford is much more fulfilling than punching the time clock at Walmart but then again, some people are best-suited for working in jobs that require minimal education or job training. These types of employees must be regularly supervised to the point of even being told when to take their lunch break.

Not so for those who can manage their time effectively and complete their work assignments in both a timely and responsible manner. For them, working at home provides an ideal environment.

I never went to the office to socialize, just for the paycheck and sem-annual bonus.

There are some people who make their workplace the center of their universe.
My uncle used to work at HP and they had a company culture that promoted group recreational activities after work, and during off-hours. This was during the old days at HP when William Hewlett and David Packard were actively involved in the running of the company.
That all changed under the Carley Fiorina reign.

Apple and Google supposedly have a company culture as well but it appears that most of their emoyees prefer working at home.

Posted by NeilsonBuchanan, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 23, 2022 at 3:45 pm

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

In my almost eight decades of life, I have observed people who live to work. And I have met almost an equal number who work to live. We are complex animals.

Posted by Fred Baker, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 24, 2022 at 10:15 am

Fred Baker is a registered user.

Humans are not that complex.

Most people work to survive. Others (the ones with interesting or challenging occupations) might look forward to working but it all boils down to the almighty dollar sign and one's preferred or aspiring lifestyle.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Nov 25, 2022 at 10:38 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

So much for the world of Tech. Back in the day CA used to have Manufacturing, actual Products produced, all of which require a full time line of workers who are working to build a product. San Francisco used to have a working wharf with ships coming in, unloaded or loaded. People on farms planting and picking. CA is working hard to tax that type of activity out of the state. That is the changing economy of the state in general. But there is still a bottom line - what is the value of tech? At some point there is no long-term value. FB, Twitter, et all are just pushing media opinions and there is a lack of benefit to anyone. If all you are doing is sitting in your home then so what. Who cares.

Posted by Eugene Baker, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 25, 2022 at 12:39 pm

Eugene Baker is a registered user.

> "Back in the day CA used to have Manufacturing, actual Products produced, all of which require a full time line of workers who are working to build a product."

^ Much of this production is now being done by assembly line workers in the People's Republic of China.

"San Francisco used to have a working wharf with ships coming in, unloaded or loaded."

^ Most major CA import & export shipping has shifted to Long Beach and to a lesser extent, Oakland.

*People on farms planting and picking."

^ Many of the seasonal CA crops that once required migrant workers are now being grown in Mexico.

What this tells us is outside of certain occupations that require human presence, many jobs can be done at home via a computer and internet access.

Posted by Marc Jensen, a resident of Whisman Station,
on Nov 25, 2022 at 1:22 pm

Marc Jensen is a registered user.

I do not have the option of working at home and am grateful that I do not have to. This cannot be done if one is a forklift operator unloading platforms at a major hardware store for much of eight hours a day.

Going to work every day and having to punch a time clock keeps my weekday work-life in order by minimalizing outside distractions.

Being told what to do by a supervisor also requires less mental energy and during the course of a typical day, I look forward to my assigned morning break, lunch hour, and afternoon break. Then it is time to go home.

What more could one ask for?

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Nov 25, 2022 at 2:45 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I'm okay...maybe a little puzzled/confused/saddened/frustrated, but not totally surprised after reading all the comments, but I'm old enough to remember when my company, Kaiser Electronics (at the top of Page Mill Road...corner of Porter Drive...and a neighbor of HP), designed, developed, and built things. We had a manufacturing floor and a shipping department where our "hardware" was weighed, packaged, and shipped. What all these new software tech companies make may offer a lot of weight in the new real world of Internet service, online nausea caused by volatile/viral media outlets, but have no physical weight that can be measured on a scale. I like to think I'm open minded and can see both sides of this issue, the pros and the cons, but my mind bends me towards the on-site work place model...primarily because that's the one I remember so fondly when I worked for KE. We were family with a very active Employees' Club that sponsored many activities outside of work. But I am smart enough to know that many things I loved and remember from the past are never coming back and that my town, the way I remember it in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, ia gone forever. That era that included family owned department stores, book stores, pet shops, hardware stores, flower shops, bakery shops, stationery stores,lumber yards, and many movie theaters, is gone forever. Bob Dylan's song keeps rolling around in my mind..."The Times They Are Achangin'".

Posted by Jim Grady, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 25, 2022 at 3:26 pm

Jim Grady is a registered user.

Having to show up for work everyday at some office, factory, store, dock is a total drag and fortunately I am one of those individuals who no longer needs to do so.

Since my wife makes 2x my former engineering salary, I am now a house husband and after dropping the kids off at elementary school in the morning and running some small errands, the rest of the day is mine to do as I please.

We order take-out 90% of the time and have hired a part-time housekeeper to do the laundry and housework.

It is nice being taken care of without need for a regular job and I cannot understand why so many women prefer professional careers rather than being housewives and stay at home mothers.

And in the event of a divorce, I will also be well-taken care of because I have sacrificed my professional career and potential earnings to tend to the pressing needs of maintaining a household.

When the kids get older, I will have even more freedom.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Nov 25, 2022 at 5:46 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

So are we talking about the bay area here? Why are all of the tech companies laying off people? All of those people they are laying off work at home. And given the nature of their work they know a lot about YOU. They have spent a lot of time evaluating what you say and judging the worth of what you say. And the companies that they are being layed off from are losing money because the general public has little desire to have a bunch of people who sit at home judging them. At some point the value of FB and Twitter comes under the eyes of public value. And the opinions of the CEO of Disney hit a royal roadblock.

And the Feds are now trying to figure out how we can have a chip producing company so we are not dependent on foreign labor and all of it's challenges. Maybe tech world has maxed out it's perceived novelty and value to the general public. So what are all of those people who have been layed off going to do now? A new set of challenges.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 10:28 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Yes - Eugene - the issue here is the percentage of jobs that do not require hands on work at a location. If High Tech is laying off people then the value of companies that sit around monitoring other people's opinions is not a high value job. At some point people will not put up with the fact checkers who do not fact check their opinions. We now have been reduced to competing clairevoyants who are now duking it out over job descriptions and titles. Where is Rex Manor?

Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of another community,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 10:38 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Jim Grady, shhhhhh. Don't spread the word about how much better a househusband has it than a housewife ever has. Gender disparities begin at home, and you are the poster child for the modern version of that.

@Resident/Adobe, I've been ringing the alarm about the collapse of industry here in the US since about 1988. Well, here we are. Everybody finally gets it. We don't make anything here anymore. The reason is because we took more out of the earth than we put back in this part of the continent. We make nothing because we have nothing to make it from.

We've been "outsourcing" since the 1980's and the pandemic put the klieg lights on to show us what we've wrought. A country populated by "work from home" engineers and baristas. The workers from home are being told by their bosses to either take a stiff pay cut (because staying at home is basically a huge raise that employees took without asking for). The baristas will find themselves a bit lonelier because with inflation and lack of jobs, people won't be able to buy designer coffee. The drive-throughs already have people weighing the price of sitting in line running their car vs. learning how to buy one of those coffee maker things and making their own at home.

The gravy train will come to a screeching halt in 26 weeks. That's how long unemployment benefits last. Periodically our country has allowed for extensions but I don't think it will happen this time. Our president has learned from his student loan fiasco that the well is running dry with "cash giveaways". The pandemic will be officially pronounced dead in February. All of the "forgiven" PPP loans will have run out. I have relatives who milked that system and are still living off of the proceeds of a government spending spree that lacked oversight. There won't be another.

By May 2023, we will think of $5/gallon gas as being part of the "good old days". As will be the availability of iPhones. No chips, no phones.

Posted by Chase Daulton, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 10:52 am

Chase Daulton is a registered user.

"So what are all of those people who have been layed off going to do now? A new set of challenges."

First things first...sign-up for unemployment insurance (accounts receivable) and review one's accounts payable (i.e. miscellaneous bills, rent/mortgage, alimony/child support etc.). Skip the payments that are of low priority (i.e. Visa/Mastercard) and start economizing.

If this means vacating one's residence and buying an RV or van, consider the advantages (no rent/mortgage + free parking almost anywhere) and join a fitness club for its shower facilities.

Sign-up for food stamps and Medi-Cal making sure that you qualify for these programs by disclosing minimal documentable financial resources.

Keep your cellphone account expenditures minimal by switching to a cheaper plan. Reduce data charges by using public Wi-Fi whenever available.

Sell-off anything that you cannot carry or keep in the RV/can for cash and do not disclose it as outside monetary resources.

Stay mobile. This requires an operational RV/van with current DMV license tags. Park and sleep at night in a quiet, safe residential area and move your vehicle prior to sunrise. By doing so regularly, your chances of being identified as a local transient are greatly reduced. Save on gas by limiting your AM migration to a nearby area (park, shopping center etc.).

I've been doing this since I was laid-off back in 2018 and have never looked back.

Posted by Chase Daulton, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 11:07 am

Chase Daulton is a registered user.

* Forgot to mention...get a P.O Box.

"The gravy train will come to a screeching halt in 26 weeks. That's how long unemployment benefits last. Periodically our country has allowed for extensions but I don't think it will happen this time. Our president has learned from his student loan fiasco that the well is running dry with "cash giveaways". The pandemic will be officially pronounced dead in February."

^ Our president is a humanitarian and will not allow American citizens to suffer from the dehabilitating economic impacts of a global pandemic that has yet to subside in full.

House approval for unemployment extensions and cash bonuses will be critical as the Republicans are against most entitlement programs except for the wealthy. The Senate has the president's back.

Hopefully there will be renewed financial assistance for those in need.

Posted by Fletcher Lange, a resident of Stanford,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 2:46 pm

Fletcher Lange is a registered user.

"By May 2023, we will think of $5/gallon gas as being part of the "good old days". As will be the availability of iPhones. No chips, no phones."

By 2023, more Palo Altans will be driving EVs as this recommendation is now a PACC edict. Get yours early and beat the crowd.

As for iPhones, COVID lockdowns in China have slowed production but don't dismay as Apple smartphones are good for 6 years (6 annual iOS upgrades). An Apple iPhone 11 purchased in 2019 is functional until 2025. Just replace the battery when/if necessary.

No need to buy a new iPhone unless you enjoy spending/wasting $1200.00 on a whim.

Posted by Pravad Chopra, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 5:14 pm

Pravad Chopra is a registered user.

Having the latest in computer and smartphone technology is very important to countless East Indians who value the latest innovations in engineering design.

The key is not to overpay for these devices. Last year's Apple iPhone (purchased new) will remain current for five years and a brand new Google Pixel Android smartphone will receive OS updates for three years.

After that is is time to consider purchasing a new smartphone as security updates will lapse and now you are in deeper danger of your personal information being hacked.

As for working at home, my wife is an MD and I am conveniently 'retired.' Since many professional women in America wish to be considered equals to their male counterparts, they are also entitled to bringing home the paycheck and maintaining the household expenses.

I am blessed to be married to a liberated professional woman who is willing and grateful for having to pay all of the bills.

Thank you Vishnu.

Posted by Bill Butler, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 7:15 pm

Bill Butler is a registered user.

To preserve my personal sense of self-worth I too work at home as a part-time app developer. My wife draws a good salary and covers all of our household expenditures + vacations.

She also does most of the cooking, house cleaning, and laundry because I am not as competent as her in these tasks.

In keeping with my part Native-American heritage, I do all of the grocery shopping as it is my role as a man to be the primary hunter-gatherer (aka buyer) of food for the table though my wife covers the grocery bills.

Women's liberation has been very good to me and other empathetic husbands.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 7:37 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Thankfully, I'm happily married to a great guy who is willing to bring home the bacon. That's what men are for!

Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of JLS Middle School,
on Nov 27, 2022 at 10:24 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Chase Daulton,

I'm not opposed to the cash assistance for those who are truly in need. But I've known several people who took advantage of a good thing and got government money they weren't really entitled to during the pandemic. Those people who cashed in are among the "I got mine, go F yourself" breed that are helping make our economy what it is right now -- a disaster.

Biden is a humanitarian. It's all those other people who have to get the bills advanced and to his desk that we're a tad short on right now. Biden walked into a field full of land mines set by the earlier administration, and with our two party system and staggered elections for seats, means he has had to spend too much time defending something that was not his fault, and not enough time to roll up is sleeves and do the job he is qualified to do.

As for the househusbands who are living the good life thanks to their overly generous wives, don't forget how good you have it should the day come when the roles need to be reversed.

@Jennifer, is bringing home the bacon the sole responsibility of the male half of a heterosexual couple? I knew it had something to do with pork but I presumed it was a different cut than bacon.

Posted by Asher Waldfogel, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 5:04 am

Asher Waldfogel is a registered user.


The research is clear that at least for now hybrid models are more productive than rigid return-to-office.

Web Link

That doesn't mean downtown retail is dead. It needs to adapt back to neighborhood-serving. It needs to deliver experiences: sound, touch, smell, taste that online can't compete with. It needs to be human-centric. How do we get there?

First thing is get serious about ground floor retail with expensive penalties for vacancies. Landlords who are holding spaces empty hoping for 3-years-ago rents need to be strongly encouraged to rent now for whatever price they can get today.

Second thing is to explore some district concepts. Castro Street is all about the restaurants. Stanford Shopping Center has the big brands. DTPA has seen bookstores, furniture and a few art galleries come and go. We need some brainstorming. Would a performing arts district work? Bookstores are coming back in big cities: would a bookstore work in PA? Are crafts enough of a thing for a yarn store or any other kind of DIY to work? Lot of businesses that can work with $2/ft rents that can't survive with $8/ft rents.

Third thing is to explore if there are buildings that can work as anchors. The Roth building. The downtown post office. The gym space in the Hamilton parking lot would make a fabulous teen center that we promised decades ago.

Final question is how to activate the surface parking lots in DTPA.

DTPA and Cal Ave have worked as neighborhood-serving districts for 100 years so the vacancy problem is not surrounding density. The problem is that retail spaces have been priced into a use that doesn't currently exist.

Oh yeah: ground floor medical isn't the answer. PAMF can't hire doctors either.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 8:10 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Love the way this has turned.

I remember my mother saying she was too busy at home to think of getting a job. She took pride in cooking us meals from scratch each day, doing all the laundry on Mondays in very primitive washer and drying the clothes outside, spending Tuesday ironing said laundry. She cleaned, shopped on a daily basis, always dressing nicely when leaving the house, wearing high heels and pearls, and had my father's slippers warming at the hearth for his return home in the evening. She spent the evenings darning our socks, or knitting sweaters, sewing missing buttons on shirts and expecting us kids to do the dishes under her strict supervision.

Ah the good old days. Hard work without all the appliances available now, but she was happy and she felt rewarded by seeing us grow up into responsible adults.

Yes too busy working hard in the home where she was boss, to have a job where she was told what to do as a small cog in a very large machine. How times have changed.

Posted by Giselle Winslow, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 8:41 am

Giselle Winslow is a registered user.

Having more women in the workforce stimulates the economy and provides a certain degree of financial independence.

The days of the classic middle class American housewife are gone forever as women no longer go to college to become elementary schoolteachers or to source a viable husband-breadwinner.

And the ones who suffer are the children (if any) because without anyone to watch over them at home on a regular basis, many become spoiled, incorrigible adolescent youths who later de-evolve into disgruntled Millennials and Gen Z malcontents as adults.

Also gone (with the possible exception of certain Asian and Hispanic families) is the extended family where 3 generations share a household providing the necessary stability and discipline that children require.

A new era of extended emotional dysfunction, false sense of entitlements, and pervasive discontent has emerged in America.

Posted by Bob Ketchum, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 9:50 am

Bob Ketchum is a registered user.

• A new era of extended emotional dysfunction, false sense of entitlements, and pervasive discontent has emerged in America.

^ Very true...at 75 I am looking forward to the day when I can leave this Earth as global warming/climate change, rampant political animosities, pervasive racism, and global pandemics will no longer be a part of my conscious realities.

• ...many become spoiled, incorrigible adolescent youths who later de-evolve into disgruntled Millennials and Gen Z malcontents as adults.

^ I am also not planning to leave any part of my sizable yet humble estate to my children or grandchildren as they have become jaded by excess and have no down-to-earth concept of monetary value or personal integrity.

The grandchildren can go rent a loft in an abandoned Palo Alto office building and 'work from home' on their dubious phone apps and various Bitcoin 'investments.'

Posted by Carole Pierce, a resident of Professorville,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 10:51 am

Carole Pierce is a registered user.

@Bob Ketchum
My husband and I are thinking along the same lines as you.

The problem-challenge...once the familial ingrates are 86'd from any inheritance, to whom does one leave this money?

We do not believe in non-profits because most of the donated money goes into questionable overhead costs and bloated executive salaries/perks.

And as Stanford graduates, we are not leaving anything to Stanford because it has always been more of a business than an actual learning institution. Besides, Stanford gets enough money from other deceased alumni and benefactors.

Churches are also questionable as their religious doctrines do not apply to everyone + organized religion is oftentimes little more than repressive dogma disguised as faux-spirituality.

Our tentative plan...(1) procure a massive re-fi on our long paid-off house in Palo Alto and let the finance company foreclose on it upon our passing, (2) cash-out our annuities and begin liquidating our investment portfolio, (3) give most of the money away to the homeless and downtrodden in person rather than through a non-profit organization, and (4) maybe buy a nice RV and explore what's left of America. Chances are there won't be much to appreciate anymore.

Posted by Ron Mendelsohn, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Ron Mendelsohn is a registered user.

I'm not leaving any of my hard-earned money to my spendthrift offspring either.

As Shaquille O'Neill told his children, "I'm rich and you're not."

Much of the wealth disparity in America is due to wealthy white people leaving their deadbeat beneficiaries excessive amounts of money.

I'm not wealthy but the proceeds from a $3M Palo Alto house that I paid $25K for back in the 1960s is not going to my ingrate grandchildren.

They can work like everyone else. It's not my fault that they majored in the humanities and are now working at Starbucks.

Posted by MyFeelz, a resident of JLS Middle School,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 3:42 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@ Bob, Carol, Ron (Alice is missing) -- I too am trying to think of a way to not only leave my family members no money at all, but to also reward them with so much debt they will all be afraid to open probate. They say you can't take it with you. So I'm spending all of it. The RV lifestyle no longer has the appeal it once did, because so many are forced into it by misfortune. There are no places left to safely park a rig and take a walk unless you're at Baylands, and those spots are scarce. The shortcomings of non-profits soured to the point of become downright untrustworthy. There's no way to know what will happen to your money after you're gone. Luckily (???) it's getting harder and harder for your money to outlive you. So there is that.

@Bystander -- I did not know your mom was the template for June Cleaver. Mine was kind of like that but without the pearls, and she had to do laundry every day, and cursed under her breath smoking a cigarette while ironing dad's shirts. Times have definitely changed. Now she would get a visit from CPS after a "mandated reporter" smelled scotch on her breath during a teacher-parent conference. She never got arrested for DUI because she never learned to drive. OK mine wasn't like yours at all. But she did her best to give her kids all the advantages available to be successful in life. The new generation has had those things thrown at them too. I don't know why they don't want it, and prefer to sit on the internet all day and ask to get paid for it.

Posted by Cover Your Bases, a resident of another community,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 5:43 pm

Cover Your Bases is a registered user.

Speaking as a successful probate attorney, always keep in mind that it is very easy for an elder to be placed under a conservatorship by their avaricious children.

All it takes is a medical report by a physician of their choice declaring that one's elder parents are suffering from pre-dementia and are no longer capable of handling their personal care and finances. In other words, their cognitive abilities are now being held into question via complicities.

A probate attorney for the aspiring conservator(s) then files a petition for a conservatorship hearing and the rest is history. Because the elders have been diagnosed as mentally incompetent, the probate court assigns a court-appointed attorney to represent them and that attorney simply concurs with the petitioning attorneys.

Ouila! The children (generally Baby Boomers) now control the trust assets unless there is an inner-sibling disagreement in which warrants that a private fiduciary be court-appointed to administer the estate.

If a private fiduciary is appointed by the court, this often amounts to a legalized license to steal from the trust assets by padding expenditures and the beneficiaries end up with even less inheritance.

Cupidity is very unbecoming and it will always come back to bite the greedy in the *ss. And deservedly so.

As probate attorneys, we always come out ahead regardless of the outcome.

Life is good.

Posted by Jason Roberts, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 28, 2022 at 7:31 pm

Jason Roberts is a registered user.

@Cover Your Bases...
So what you are saying is that what some Baby Boomers do to their elder parents, Millennials and Generation Zers can also exercise the same options?

If so, time is on our side.

Posted by Harry Desmond, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 29, 2022 at 8:40 am

Harry Desmond is a registered user.

I'm not sure if this is totally legal but my Millennial-aged son works at home in lieu of the corporate office and has claimed IRS work-related expenditures and deductions up the wazoo.

Deductions include his three Dell desktop computers, two iPhones, three iPads, printer/fax machine, Keurig coffee maker, three big screen Samsung TVs, SubZero refrigerator, pool maintenance costs, PG&E utilities, landline & cell service, dining-out costs, and his two vehicles (a new Ford Bronco and a Mercedes S-Class sedan including insurance, registration, fuel, and maintanence).

Every year he sells off most of these items and then makes new purchases to replace them.

He has mentioned trying to deduct his mortgage as well as an added business expense.

To date, he has managed quite well in these fully tax refundable and cost-cutting endeavors citing Oliver Wendell Holmes (a former SCOTUS justice) who once conveyed that it is illegal to evade paying income taxes but totally legal to avoid paying them.

Sharp kid and Millennial to boot.

Posted by Penny Watkins, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:02 am

Penny Watkins is a registered user.

@Harry Desmond
I just asked my husband who is a CPA whether these various deductions are legal and he said that as long as they are work-related tools of the trade they can be depreciated and deducted along with any entertainment expenditures providing a client or guest is present.

It is no different than a musician writing off his instruments and equipment or a gardener writing off his leaf blower, pick-up truck and gasoline.

The key is not to get too carried away and to save all of your receipts if audited.

If more people paid less in income taxes regardless of their earnings, we could easily re-stimulate the consumer economy and usher in a new era of American domestic prosperity.

Posted by Lars Johansen, a resident of Stanford,
on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:47 am

Lars Johansen is a registered user.

> it is illegal to evade paying income taxes but totally legal to avoid paying them.

Yes. Tax evasion and tax avoidance are two different things.

Smart people 'avoid' paying their full share of income taxes via innovative and LEGAL deductions.

Dumb people 'evade' paying taxes via non-reportage or questionable deductions and some of them wind-up in prison or with a huge tax liability if/when caught.

Once upon a time, there were no federal income taxes in the United States. We should return to that model and only tax businesses and corporations.

Posted by Vinob Pravaad, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 29, 2022 at 10:57 am

Vinob Pravaad is a registered user.

I enjoy working at home because there are fewer distractions and I can come and go as I please.

It is no different than being a real estate agent as the only time they really need to be in the office is when they have a floor assignment to assist walk-in clients or for periodic meetings.

Not all jobs require on-site attendance and some MDs are even conducting their patient appointments via ZOOM. Dentists and surgeons do not have that option but many would like to.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:45 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

The hardest part about working from home is you're always "in the office."

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