when my coworkers “work from home,” they’re not really working

A reader writes:

Many of my colleagues have an agreement with our boss that they can work from home on Fridays. All of them happen to be moms of young children. I am married but do not have children.

I am all for a flexible work environment, but I feel that they take advantage of the situation. They constantly post on Facebook that they are at karate tournaments, music class, etc. or tell team members they can’t participate in client calls because they have to pick up their kids at school. I realize I am not a parent so I don’t understand the balance or struggles of being a working mother, but I am expected to be in the office five days a week, while they essentially work four.

I don’t want to be the group tattle tale but it’s really starting to affect the morale of those who are childless when we see empty offices on Fridays. Thoughts on how to approach this, or do I just suck it up and deal with it?

Well, first, you want to make sure that you’re right that they’re not working much on their Fridays at home. It’s possible that they’re simply working flexible hours that day. For instance, if someone worked from 7-11, went to their kid’s karate tournament from 11-2, worked more from 2-4:30, and then put in another hour and half over the weekend, that would total eight hours of work.

And to some people, that’s the point of a flexible schedule and working from home: It allows you to fit life in, and schedule work around it.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that that’s not how your coworkers are using the flexibility. Maybe they’re working 9-5 from home but taking tons of time off in the middle of the day that they never make up. But do you know that, or are you just assuming it?

And if you do know that they’re abusing it, then what you have is a management problem, because no good manager is going to neglect to notice that hmmm, the people who work from home on Fridays seem to produce less work than everyone else. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating — in fact, it makes it more frustrating — but it’s worth being clear that that’s what’s going on.

Of course, the one thing that you do know for sure is that these coworkers are at least sometimes missing client calls on those days, and that’s potentially a legitimate issue. But even there, the question is how much that matters. Are they missing these calls more than someone else might miss them for occasional dentist appointments or other conflicts? And what’s the impact on their work?

If there is an impact and you’re concerned about it, then you should handle that just like you would any other concern with a coworker’s work that impacts you: First talk to the coworker, and then to your manager if the problem remains. In this case, that might mean saying to the coworker, “I’ve noticed you often can’t make client calls when we schedule them on Fridays, and I know that Client X really likes having you there. Is there a different time we can schedule them so you’re able to call in?” Or, depending on the situation, “I know there’s not much notice, but they’re usually in the afternoons. Is there a way for you to keep that time free?”

And if you remain concerned, then you’d talk to your manager, just as you would about anything else that was affecting your work. For instance: “I love that we have schedule flexibility, but I’m having trouble getting what I need on Fridays from people who are working at home and often can’t get people on client calls when I need them. I wonder if we could give people clearer guidelines on how accessible they should be when they’re working out of the office.”

But overall, you want to (a) keep the focus on the impact on your work, and (b) assume that if these are otherwise good coworkers with a strong work ethic, you have no reason to think they aren’t putting in a full day’s work even if it’s spread out in an untraditional way — unless you really know for sure that that isn’t true.

And last, I’m assuming that this benefit isn’t just offered to parents in your workplace, so there’s no reason you couldn’t responsibly take advantage of the flexibility too, if you want to.

{ 222 comments… read them below }

  1. Allison

    I have to wonder if these employees are paid hourly, or if they’re salaried and it doesn’t matter how many actual hours they put in as long as they get their work done. If it’s the latter, it probably doesn’t matter if they don’t put in a solid 8 hours as long as they do complete the necessary work and meet their deadlines, although I suppose being a part of client meetings is part of that.

    When my mom works from home, she takes meetings seriously, and works her day around them.

    Honestly, I’m a little torn on policies that give special treatment to parents. On the one hand it allows for a good work-life balance, but it doesn’t seem fair to the childless employees who often seem to feel like they have to “pick up the slack.” Maybe a good compromise, if those stuck in this office on Fridays feel the current policy is unfair, is to allow everyone to work from home on Friday, and then perhaps offer some sort of incentive to get people in the office if they really want people there.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’ve never actually seen a policy that only applies to parents — although often parents are the ones who use it most. In this case, it sounds like it’s only parents who happen to be using it, but it sounds like others could too if they wanted to. (If I’m wrong, then I totally agree that that’s horribly unfair and they need to change the way it’s being implemented.)

      1. Jubilance

        I don’t think policies are specifically just for parents, but often in companies/offices its an unspoken part of the culture that parents are the ones who get to use those policies. I’m single & childless & I’ve had coworkers make comments about how I must have so much free time since I don’t have a husband & kids. I’ve had friends who have been told they have to be the ones to stay late or work weekends because everyone else in the office has a family. When people who don’t have kids want to use the flexible working arrangements, its often perceived as they just want to have more time to go the bar.

        1. TRB

          That is very true. My office is very flexible and I am the only one not married with kids (or pets). I feel like I have no reason to work from home when a lot of the others are working from home and have “legitimate reasons.” Sometimes I just don’t want to go in and would be more productive at home where I could get other life work done in my downtime but I feel like I can’t because I’m young and single with fewer (maybe) responsibilities.

          1. fposte

            Is that something you’ve ever asked your manager about? It’s possible that the “I need a reason” thing is your worry rather than your organization’s policy. (I’d hope so, anyway.)

            1. BCW

              Totally true. For a long time I thought I needed a “legitimate” reason to ask to work from home. Eventually I just asked and they agreed. Sometimes your perception doesn’t fit the reality.

              1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise

                “Sometimes your perception doesn’t fit the reality.” Perfect

              2. Vicki

                My “legitimate” reasons for working from home are and always have been higher productivity and fewer distractions outside of the office.

            2. -X-

              I was about to ask what fposte asked.

              I’m a parent, but even before I became one, it was similar when I worked from home: I’d start the day a little early, about when I’d normally leave for work. And I think that covered small amount of typical “slack off” time of being at home.

              But the most important thing was not the time but the work. Getting it done.

              1. Anon

                And sometimes part of getting the work done is being available for the client calls. I work from home most of the time, so I am not opposed to it at all. But I would be annoyed with anyone (working from home or not) who couldn’t make a conference call on a working day because s/he was doing something personal. If I need to do something that’s going to impact my ability to work, I take PTO, so I’m not expected to be reachable. I guess I feel pretty strongly about this. :)

            3. A Bug!

              Yes, this. There can be a lot of variables at play, and yes, it is not uncommon for workplaces to prioritize flex time for people whose reasons are considered more valid, but sometimes the reason is simply that nobody else asked.

              Which would make sense: a person with a pressing need for flex time is probably more likely to ask for it as compared to someone who would just find it a nice thing to have.

            4. TRB

              I haven’t asked but I know there isn’t really a policy as we’re only four people at a start-up and we barely have any policies haha. But you’re right, it may just be my own worry.

        2. ITPuffNStuff

          The overwhelming majority of parents are parents by choice. They choose to take on that responsibility and should not expect special treatment. As a single worker, I don’t owe it to those who are parents to carry their weight at the office. If they were last in line to stay late when the work needs doing, they would also be last in line when it’s time for promotions and raises.

          Only a bad manager can’t distribute work equally, and only a really bad manager uses parenthood status (or anything else completely unrelated to work) to determine how work is assigned.

      2. KS

        At my current employer we don’t have a formal flexibility policy–however when flexibility (or vacation for that matter) is requested by the child-free–SOMEONE (and sometimes it is our CEO) exclaims, “What do you need THIS for–you don’t have kids?”.

        No policy, flexibility exercised via whim.

        1. Erica B

          wow. That’s really none of their business about vacation time. I am not surprised about needing to clarify about flexible work schedule, but your CEO shouldn’t react like that!

      3. Joey

        I think the point behind asking why isn’t to see if the reason is good enough. It’s more to determine if it has the potential to interfere. That said I think non parents have a harder time coming up with any reason that doesn’t sound silly.

        1. Anonymous

          When I read stuff like this, it just makes me glad my company doesn’t care whether I have a “good reason” to work from home. As long as I’m not passing up opportunities for face to face meetings with clients, no one cares where I work as long as my work gets done.

      4. saf

        When I worked for a local university (I’m in DC), there was no work from home or flex policy. All AWS situations were at the discretion of the manager.

        My manager hated AWS. She only allowed it for parents, and only because she was afraid of lawsuits. That was true of many of the managers on campus.

        I talked to HR about it, and to our dean. The dean was sympathetic, but would not consider making a division-wide policy. HR told me that it was perfectly fine to restrict it to parents, since it is illegal to discriminate based on “family status” and allowing parents AWSs meant they weren’t discriminating against parents. They did not accept my argument that discriminating against those without children at home was also basing the decision on “family status.”

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Why would she be afraid of lawsuits for not allowing it at all? That makes no sense; no law requires you to allow flex time or working from home!

          1. saf

            She was afraid that since the university said that AWSs were available at your manager’s discretion, if she denied a parent, we would be sued for discrimination based on family status. She had a STRONG fear of lawsuits (as did the school as a whole).

            Yeah, it’s an unreasonable fear. Yeah, the university was prone to settle, even when they were right.

    2. FormerManager

      Actually, my current company (and others that I know of) won’t allow parents to work from home if the primary reason is a childcare issue. So far this year, we’ve had two meetings where we were specifically told that if we’re working from home we have to have childcare arrangements in place.

      1. -X-

        Yeah, if you’re home to take care of a kid you’re probably not getting as much done.

        That said, when I’ve had a childcare issue all day, *both* my wife and I have worked from home. Between the two of us, I feel we’re getting normal amount of work done that day.

        1. -X-

          One other thing. I expect that if the time comes when my wife can’t be home with me but the kid is, I’ll be working a much longer day, due to having to take time with the kid. It won’t be 8 distracted hours. It’ll be 10 or 12 which adds up to a normal workday in the amount I get done.

  2. DA

    I get where the OP is coming from here. Two main problems:

    1. Parents are the only ones who get to work from home on Fridays.
    2. Those left in the office can’t get jack from those people on Fridays.

    This is of course, based on what the OP wrote, so I’d follow what Alison said. Address No. 2 with the co-worker and if nothing changes, address both with the boss.

    Of course, even if No. 2 changes, I’d still address No. 1 and find out why only parents get to work from home on Fridays.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’d want to know, though, if any non-parents have asked to work from home on Fridays and been turned down. The OP doesn’t say that — just that the people who do it happen to be parents. I’d assume that’s not by design, although I’d be interested in knowing more.

      1. K Too

        I’m a single person without kids and my employer lets the majority of staff WFH on Fridays with exceptions.

        If employees live outside a certain mileage bubble, we can WFH. So if an employee lives 20-30 miles away, they have the option to WFH. I live in LA so many workers have long commutes.

        I haven’t been granted the WFH option yet so I think seniority is also a factor.

        I have requested a few times to WFH when I had an appointment or was sick with a cold but able to work. My manager has honored my request each time.

        From what I can tell, as long as management realizes that you are productive in the office, they trust that you can WFH .

  3. John

    Great response, AAM.

    NYT had an article on this perceived tension between parents and non-parents in the workplace last September:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/business/straightening-out-the-work-life-balance.html?smid=tw-share

    One thing that concerns me is the pitting of parents and non-parents against one another. What if it were, instead, “people with significant responsibilities outside of work” and “those without?” That could just as easily become a generational conflict rather than this “parents/nonparents” storyline that’s being pushed on us.

    1. the gold digger

      “people with significant responsibilities outside of work” and “those without?”

      The first thing I thought of when I read this statement was, “Why not give higher pay to the people with higher expenses?”

      I’m pretty sure that’s not where you meant to go with this, but even this breakout leads to problems, though. My time away from work is just as valuable to me as someone else’s time away from work is to her. Giving more flexibility to the person who has more home responsibilities is fine for that person, but if I have to pick up the slack, I am not going to be happy. Maybe everybody should have flexibility.

      1. Jamie

        This. Some positions cannot be done from home, but those that can if a company chooses to offer flexibility it should be based on the position and not personal circumstances. Because if people are using flex time to = working less (because caring for relatives while working is just that) then why not just pay people according to what they need and not the value they and their position bring to the company?

        It’s the same with free time or OT cutting into same. If the gold digger is spending her after work hours caring for scads of relatives who need her assistance, developing an un-workrelated cure for cancer in my basement, or working in a soup kitchen her off-hours time is not more valuable than my need to wear sweatpants and watch TV with my dogs. Or making batches of Shrinky Dinks to create a Barbie themed stained glass window…or (and my personal favorite) napping.

        I mean her activities would be more valuable to society, but that’s not for an employer to decide. We all have lives and we all have things we need/want to do with our non-working hours. Decisions need to be made based on what the company needs and the responsibilities of individual positions…not personal circumstance.

        1. fposte

          I totally, totally agree. I work at home with some regularity, and it’s not because I have people needing care, it’s because it works really well for me (and makes me able to be more productive, in fact). If that’s a problem, it’s a problem that would affect the office whether I had kids or not. If it’s not a problem, why should that be an option offered only to certain people?

          1. HAnon

            Agreed. I’m going to bring up the question of flex-time/work from home 1 day a week/twice a month to my boss because the traffic is so horrendous that I’m spending 2 hours a day commuting for a position that can be done all online or over the phone — and I’m so much more productive when I’m working remotely — I sit down at a coffee shop for a few hours and get so much done!

            I had to talk to one of our major clients (we were busting our butts to turn a project around for her that she requested at the last minute) and she emailed me that morning and said “I’m home with my kids and won’t be checking email today, but here’s my home number. Don’t hang up if a 3-year-old answers the phone.” WTH???? Our business is e-commerce. It is done, in its entirety, online. There were links and emails she needed to approve. I was completely affronted, and I wanted to say “Clearly time with your children is more important than this project that you asked us to turn around at the last minute, and that’s fine, but that being the case can you please delegate this to someone else who actually gives a s***? Or at the least, check your email?!” But being the conscientious professional I am, I resisted the urge to verbally punch her through the phone. Things blew up later that weekend when she failed to communicate some vital info I’d emailed to her for her team, and I was on the chopping block for it with my boss, and had to clean up her mess on Easter Sunday. It could have gone so much differently if she’d just said “Hey I’m working from home to take care of my kids today, but I’ll be checking email every half hour and make sure this gets taken care of and that we both feel good about where things stand at the end of the day. If you need an urgent response, feel free to call my cell and I’ll get right on it!” Ugh.

            1. some1

              No offense, but I don’t feel like commute time should be a factor in whether an employer allows working from home. Unless your org moved to a new location after you were hired, than I can see why it’d be helpful for them to consider. I mean, if a co-worker works just as hard as you but happens to live within walking distance, does she deserve the privilege less than you?

              1. -X-

                “No offense, but I don’t feel like commute time should be a factor in whether an employer allows working from home.”

                How about this – view it as a negotiation trying to get good outcomes for everyone. If work from home has a tiny cost for the company and a huge benefit for the worker, than agreeing to it is an overall win.

                If there is something you need, that is different but similarly a big benefit for you and a small one for the company, ask for it.

                Trying to be the same for everyone seems fair, but it’s actually not the best way to get the happiest workers at low cost. What’s important for different people will vary.

              2. HAnon

                What I emphasized about my (future) request to my boss is that 1) I am proven to be more productive and efficient when working remotely 2) my work can all be done online. The lack of commute is a bonus because that gives the company more of my time that I could potentially dedicate to client calls or emails instead of being in the car. And as a bonus, the city where I live offers incentives to companies who allow their employees to work from home part-time instead of commuting (clean air initiative). Saying that a commute shouldn’t be a factor sounds (no offense) rather archaic, especially if it’s only a few days a month and it earns the employer an extra 2 hours of work time and employee satisfaction, which = retention. And I never said that that any other co-worker shouldn’t try to negotiate for flex-time, so you’re reading a lot into my comments that I never said…

                1. Jamie

                  Maybe it’s just me, but I’d be wary of making the point that you’re proven to be more productive and efficient when working remotely – because you’re clearly telling your boss you are less productive and efficient the vast majority of the time. This would concern me. A lot.

                2. the gold digger

                  Saying that a commute shouldn’t be a factor … especially if …it earns the employer an extra 2 hours of work time

                  If I work from home, I want the benefits of not commuting to accrue to me, not to my employer. I would want to work from home because I would get more (or even the same amount) done in the same amount of time, not because I would work more hours.

                3. the gold digger

                  PS And the reason I would get more done at home is because at home, I don’t have the people behind me eating granola at 10 a.m. I don’t have to hear everyone else’s phone conversations (two going on right now). I would actually have some quiet so I could concentrate more easily.

              3. BCW

                I disagree some1. I”m not sure where you live, but I live in Chicago, with some of the worst traffic in the country. So for people who have a much farther commute, I think its fair (assuming they get the work done) for this to be a consideration. No one is ever treated exactly the same.

              4. Ask a Manager Post author

                “No offense, but I don’t feel like commute time should be a factor in whether an employer allows working from home.”

                I’d argue that we shouldn’t be judging people’s reasons at all — whether it’s commute, kids, personal preference or anything else. If the person is a good worker who you want to retain, the job can be done from home, it won’t significantly interfere with others’ work, and they prove that they can be just as productive there, then why wouldn’t you want to do something to keep a good employee happy? (Especially when you consider how many people with this type of flexibility say things like, “It would take a lot for me to change jobs, because I love how much flexibility I have with my current one.” That’s exactly what you want your best people saying.)

                The reason they want to telecommute doesn’t matter.

                1. Katie the Fed

                  So where I work in the federal government, we have flexible work schedules, compressed work schedules, and telework options. I allow (and even encourage) my team to take advantage, and I don’t need to know the reasons. I just need to know I can trust you, you’re a good worker, and you’ll be as productive as you are under a normal schedule.

                  I was really taken aback once when I asked about a compressed work schedule where I’d get every other Friday off, and my boss couldn’t fathom why a childless woman would want it. Because I want to sleep in, go to the gym with nobody there, take my dog on a nice long walk, and do whatever the hell I feel like. That’s a good enough reason for me!

            2. Judy

              You know, when I say I’m home with the kids and won’t be looking at email, but call if you really need me, that means “I’ve taken a vacation day but don’t want to inconvenience you if you really need me.”

              Of course, I work only with internal customers, and I do give warning 2 weeks ahead, and then the day before.

              1. HAnon

                I know it’s a catch 22, but I wish if people were going to take PTO, they would actually just do it and let someone else cover the work while they’re out. My brain isn’t in work mode when I’m on vacay, and I get really frustrated when PTO is translated by employers as “work from home” because they should be two separate things…

                1. HAnon

                  To clarify, my frustration wasn’t that she wanted to spend time with her kids — it was that she didn’t turn over the work to someone who would actually be invested and available to handle the work.

                2. fposte

                  Conversely, though, I’d be pretty ticked off if I had to take a sick day even though I had produced a day’s work, despite being congested and in my pajamas.

                  So we’re right back with the need to actually manage people when they work from home and make sure that expectations for communication and productivity are clear and met.

                3. Jamie

                  Some people don’t have jobs that other people can cover – but I do agree that PTO isn’t the same as working from home.

                  I consider myself working from home if I’m contagious, but not sick enough to miss work…but want to keep my germs to myself. I am working – for me in my position that means I keep the VPN connection up during my regular hours and I work as if I were in the office.

                  If I’m on PTO or out sick I still check email and answer my phone, but it’s clearly communicated that while I’m available it’s for actual emergencies and things that really cannot wait. Everything that can wait will get a reply when I’m back.

                  But not everyone can just take PTO and fall off the grid – at least not without a lot of inconvenience for the team. But that’s something people should know about those jobs when they take them – and they should be negotiated with that in mind.

                4. KayDay

                  There isn’t anyone else at my office to do my work (not because I’m that special of a snowflake, just because I only work with a couple of other people). So when anyone here takes vacation they have to provide a phone number in case of emergencies, and we frequently check email over break. But people really do stick to emergencies–I’ve never been called while away.

                5. Elizabeth

                  I would love for my PTO days that don’t include me being out of the freaking country to be honored as “not available to deal with all of the stuff I normally do”.

                  Just over a year ago, I took a Friday & Monday off because a college friend who I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years was in town. I got many nasty emails on Monday about not having responded to emails sent on Friday, when they received my email notification that I wouldn’t be returning until Tuesday.

                  About a month after that, my husband & I spent spring break with another college friend. That trip included a half day of whale watching. I got back to the car to discover that one of my colleagues left me 3 voice mails because my cell phone doesn’t actually ring when I’m 40 miles out into the ocean.

                  Heck, my boss did it when I was having eye surgery in January! I wasn’t supposed to look at a computer for 24 hours afterwards (I cheated & read an ebook), so there was no way I could deal with the problem.

                  I don’t know what they’re going to do when I’m on a Caribbean cruise this fall.

        2. KellyK

          Totally agree.

          The only time that personal circumstance should come into it is when it *does* affect the company negatively, and someone has to make a decision whether to suck it up and allow it anyway. For example, if someone has had a death in the family or is injured or has a sick family member, it’s reasonable to pick up their slack (and I would happily volunteer for the slack-picking-up). If they just don’t feel like driving in to work or paying for childcare, not so much.

          1. Jamie

            No question – and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I, too, never mind helping out while someone is going through a crisis. People have lives and sometimes those lives are messy and bleed into work – we’re all human and many are happy to help.

            But as you say, that’s totally different from a commute or non-emergency child care which are life responsibilities we need to fit around work.

      2. Mike C.

        Bingo, that line of reasoning means I should get a raise so that I can start and properly maintain my new Porsche collection.

    2. Charlotte

      “people with significant responsibilities outside of work” and “those without”

      I also wonder how this determination would be made. Are employers going to interview employees and have them catalogue exactly how their time outside of work is spent? And then have the employer make a decision about whose responsibilities are “significant” and whose aren’t? I mean, how would employers even figure this out?

      No, these policies need to be developed based on business needs, and they need to apply fairly to all employees.

      1. Andrea

        I don’t think the “people with significant responsibilities outside of work” and “those without” is a good measure of whether someone can work from home, anyway. I have significant responsibilities, and they aren’t anyone else’s business. I mean, why not just assume that we all have “significant responsibilities”? As a childfree woman, I’m not at all interested in anyone else’s opinion of whether my responsibilities are important enough or significant enough or whatever—but if pushed, I might point out that some responsibilities aren’t the result of choices. I didn’t choose to have ailing parents to take care of, but that became my responsibility. Having kids, on the other hand, is a choice. But bottom line, I maintain that it’s probably best to assume that everyone has responsibilities that are important to them and that those are private.

  4. Just a Reader

    It can be really hard to work with people who aren’t responsive when they’re remote. Most people in my department work at home once a week or so and it’s as if we’re in the office…not a blip.

    But if people are blowing off calls, deadlines, not responding to needs/requests, etc. then that does sound like an issue that affects the OP, and I can see why it’s frustrating.

    I hope the OP will return and shed more light on the parent vs. non parent situation.

    1. Allison

      I do think that this is a problem, and that if an employee isn’t responsive when they work from home, the managers need to step in and, if needed, revoke that privilege. It’s not unreasonable to expect that people working from home still call in to meetings, answer their e-mails, and return people’s calls.

      1. Jamie

        Absolutely. I hate working from home, but I’m actually more responsive when I have to do it because I am trying to head off the phone calls (hate the phone.)

        And pet peeve but tptb need to treat people as individuals. If Jane is responsive and working from home is just like she’s in her office then don’t pull the privilege from her because Bob treats working from home like PTO. I’ve seen Jane pay for other people’s inability to work and it sucks.

        And yes – flex time can sometimes mean working unconventional hours so you can get stuff done during the day – nothing wrong with that. And co-workers shouldn’t be micromanaging other people’s hours worked…but the missing meetings would annoy me. Seems like they need a better scheduling and communication system of availability.

        And I would suggest the OP stop monitoring her co-workers facebook pages, at least on Friday’s. It seems to be fueling resentment.

        Oh and one last thing – I do think we need to know if it’s only available to parents (and as a parent I think that’s horrible) or if it’s just the parents that take advantage of it…because that really does make a difference. Personally I will work from home when I have to, but not nearly as often as I could…because I just prefer to be in the office. I have my desk, my monitors, my workstation which is must faster without a VPN….the hum of the servers…I just personally find it a pita to work from home. I have to look for a pen, one of the kids took my ruler, the big stupid TV sitting there just waiting to distract me.

        Best of both worlds would be an office to which I could wear jammies…but I doubt that will come to pass.

        1. Original Dan

          And I would suggest the OP stop monitoring her co-workers facebook pages, at least on Friday’s. It seems to be fueling resentment.

          Another super important point. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one thinking it.

          1. Rana

            True. If the OP’s spending this much time on Facebook at work, maybe the OP’s not as productive as they think, either.

              1. fposte

                But frankly, if it’s just cranking her blood pressure up, she should stop looking after work too.

                1. A.

                  Oh, totally. All I was saying is that her knowledge of the posts is not necessarily indicative of her productivity. She’s free to be on Facebook as much as she wants at home, even if it’s not advisable.

        2. Anonymous

          Best of both worlds would be an office to which I could wear jammies…but I doubt that will come to pass.

          Everyone has their own idea of what’s comfortable.

          True story: I used to work with someone who was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. He was on call and got paged one evening while he was at a meeting. He came in to work in his armor complete with sword! He was as comfortable as he would have been in his jammies, but the security guards were a little freaked out!

    2. HAnon

      I feel your frustration. One of my co-workers is in a very time-sensitive position that majorly affects my department’s work flow, and one that requires someone to be present to make very quick decisions (within 10 minutes). She is rarely in the office, and it seems like she is always leaving for a doctor’s appointment/headache/etc. and then we don’t hear from her again for the rest of the day. I am very reliant on her communicating pertinent information to me throughout the day because of the way our roles are structured, and I was on the verge of tears yesterday because I had sent her multiple emails and cc’d her boss with no response. I’ve discussed the issue with her, and when that wasn’t effective I discussed the issue privately with her boss, and then I discussed the issue privately with my boss, and it’s still an issue. I’m not the only one who feels this way about her lack of communication/availability, but nothing has been done on the management end to curb her behavior. And what makes it worse is my position is directly reliant on her position, and I’ve been told to “make assumptions” and then I’m punished when I do. It’s making my role hell. If she has legitimate health issues that she’s dealing with, that’s unfortunate, but management should recognize that this position isn’t a good fit for her because they need someone more reliable, and nothing has been done to address it.

      1. Ash

        Do you copy your boss/her boss on every e-mail you send her? I would stop calling her and put everything in writing, that way they can see the total volume of your attempts at contact with this person. I would also start looking for another job because there’s no reason you should be reduced to tears at work.

        1. HAnon

          Oh, I am (looking for another job). And that’s not the only reason, unfortunately…and yes, I put pretty much everything in writing now and cc’ appropriate people. It just seems clear that it’s not a priority to fix this problem.

  5. Seal

    The bottom line is whether or not the work is getting done. There should be guidelines in place for those allowed to work at home; that includes the expectation that those people are available for scheduled conference calls. On the other hand, picking up your kids at a certain time is really no different than having a scheduled doctor’s appointment: if you’re not available to meet at a certain time, it should be on your calendar so others can schedule around it.

    I was going to say that it goes without saying that the option to work from home should be available to everyone, but that’s not necessarily the case; there are some jobs (i.e. a receptionist or someone whose job is explicitly face-to-face with clients or patrons or someone who works with materials that can’t leave the office). But if working from home is practical for a particular group of people, that option shouldn’t be reserved just for parents. Non-parents have obligations (family-related and otherwise) that sometimes necessitate them being away from the office, too.

    1. Hannah

      What’s not equitable is if the people at the office have to use sick time to go to a doctor’s appointment, where the flex-time people can just work it into their schedule when they are out of the office.

      1. Jamie

        I disagree. Flex-time people can make up the work at other times – if our receptionist has to take a half day for a doctor’s appointment she can’t make that time up by working from home or staying late/early…some jobs need coverage during certain times and it makes sense that they need to use sick time or PTO to cover that. Same with some sales and other positions where you need to be in the office proper to do your job.

      2. BCW

        Thats true, but you have to look at why some people are flex time and others aren’t. My position allows me a lot of flex time, so yes, I will work my gym time or doctors appoints in during the day. However I will also be checking emails and doing reports at night. Its all about the work being done and what your position is.

      3. fposte

        I agree that it’s not equitable in that it’s not the same for the two positions, but I think it’s no more unfair than different salaries are. Different positions have different needs–the receptionist doesn’t have to turn around emails in the evening and on weekends, either.

  6. Lisa

    We have a problem where the owner can’t work from home; therefore, he assumes none of us are capable of working from home. We have 2 people that are contract part-time, and come into the office like 30 hours a week. When they are here or when they are working from home, it doesn’t matter they are perceived as not working as hard as FT peeps that are in the office on Facebook, Pinterest, AAM, etc all day long. They produce more than most in the office, but are treated like they are inferior based on their shorter work-hours / where they work that they were hired as from the very beginning. We get mixed signals from the boss. You are hired thinking work from home is a real option, but you are discouraged from doing so, and treated like a criminal if you do so. Everyone knows that you show up on days with 1-3 feet of snow (Nemo) and you can screw around all day, but are still viewed with higher regard than the person that stayed home and pumped out docs and emails all day long.

  7. Anonymous

    Also remember that more senior position may have more flexibility in schedules. I have a more flexible and I have children, but the flexible schedule is not due to children but my seniority

  8. Katie the Fed

    As a manager, the last thing I ever want to hear is “so and so isn’t doing as much work as me!” because it just makes you sound like a whiny tattletale. I want to know if there are legit problems, but I don’t want to hear “life isn’t faaaaiiiiiir” types of complaints.

    Alison’s advice, as usual, is spot on.

    1. jmkenrick

      Fair…but to play devil’s advocate, wouldn’t you want to know if a whole group of employees were feeling frustrated and undervalued?

      1. BCW

        If they are feeling undervalued, that is a completely separate issues than how much work they perceive that someone else is doing.

        1. Jessa

          @BCW, except the reason that they are feeling undervalued is the perception (rightly or wrongly) that someone else is getting something they (can’t, aren’t.) The perceived inequality is what is busting morale. It’s not being a whingey tell tale if the near appearance of sin is making the “non sinner” feel rotten. Whether they are right or wrong the appearance that Sam is not putting in full value of work, or is non responsive when they need something to do their job IS the issue.

          It’s not whingey to SAY that. “Look, boss, I have no idea if Sam is getting the job done to your satisfaction, but when Wakeen is working from home I get the report I need with enough time to finish my work, and when Sam is, I have to chase for it. I really get the feeling true or NOT that Sam is not putting in fair work when at home on Friday.”

          And for all I know the report isn’t important, and you might say “that thing? Don’t stress yourself about report x. I know Sam isn’t doing that but I forgot to tell you that when Sam is out you can wait til Monday to hand in your thing because Sam is doing y for me and I need that done.”

          Now if what you get from the employee is whinge whinge Sam waaaaah. Then what you need to deal with is how the message is being delivered. Then you need to drill down to what the actual message is. Even if the message is NOT FAIR!!!. Because if your reports are thinking things are unfair, that’s a management issue that needs to be addressed. Even if the answer is “Yep unfair, but it gets what I need done, done.” Because like it or not people have been acculturated to having a “fair” level. All their lives they’ve been trained that things should be fair. It’s not true, but you still have to manage that expectation.

          A lot of the time simply figuring out the issue – and if the issue is “It looks like only parents or caregivers are getting to work at home Friday,” and the answer is “no you could do that too, you could have asked.” Then someone needs to take a look at the management culture that made people think that. Because someone high up is sending the wrong message down stream.

          1. fposte

            If I’m the manager, though, I don’t need to hear anything after the “I don’t get reports from Sam and it screws up my work.” General assessments of Sam and what you *think* he does and doesn’t do are pretty much in the whinge category unless your manager has asked for those assessments.

            1. jmkenrick

              So, maybe I’m reading it wrong. But I got the impression that a whole group of people are breeding discontentment because they feel like they’re being held to higher standards than their peers. Wouldn’t you want to be aware of that? Regardless of whether you think it’s valid?

              As I said below, I get it in terms of advice to the letter writer, but I’m not really understanding the managers who say they would rather not know if a bunch of their employees were unhappy.

              1. fposte

                Then that’s the issue–“I’m hearing–and feeling–some morale issues because of a perception that work isn’t being fairly distributed. Can we discuss that?” Not “I think Sam isn’t working as long as I am on Fridays.”

              2. Rana

                My question is whose morale is being affected. Right now, we know that the OP’s is – obviously – and we have to take the OP’s word that others in the office feel the same.

                But do they?

                I suppose I’m a little sensitive to this because I once worked a position where I agreed to a reduced salary in exchange for only having to work four days a week. Everyone superior to me was perfectly fine with this arrangement – both my superiors had no problem with it, nor HR, nor even the VP or the founder (small company). But it was cited as one of the reasons they let me go later; it was apparently upsetting to some of the other people at my level who’d been working there longer, as they thought I was getting special treatment (they obviously were not party to the salary reduction side of things) and they made the case that if I wasn’t needed for all five days, I wasn’t needed at all.

                So I’m a bit wary of “morale” as a legitimate reason to challenge someone else’s work practices, especially if the arrangement was okay with the people in charge.

                1. -X-

                  ” if I wasn’t needed for all five days, I wasn’t needed at all.”

                  Idiots. W T F kind of logic is that?

                2. Jessa

                  That is terrible management. There is nothing wrong with telling the complainers that you were hired at four days a week and they weren’t. And no you’re not getting special treatment. That’s the agreement you got. (and with your permission only, they could also mention the pay is for a four day week, but that would be up to you, they shouldn’t discuss that without your input.)

                  But truthfully in the long run (in the short run it stinks) but really, these people made an agreement and couldn’t bother to back it up? Do you want to work long term for people like that?

                  If morale is bad then management need to explain that they’re sorry but the person in question is doing the job they were hired for and back off. Unless this is NOT the case in which case it needs to be dealt with.

                3. Rana

                  Yeah, it was not a well-managed place. (For instance, they gave me my notice a couple of weeks before a major project was due, one in which the work I did was crucial, and my two supervisors, who hadn’t been forewarned, went ballistic. They ended up hiring me back as a contract temp at twice my previous hourly rate, just to finish the project on time.)

                  I liked my two immediate supervisors, and a couple of my co-workers, and the work was interesting, but I also can’t say, now many years later, that it was an altogether bad thing I got let go. There were a lot of effed up things about how the place functioned, and it looked to be heading towards more and worse of the same when I left.

              3. BCW

                Its not that they shouldn’t know. But if they feel undervalued or unhappy or whatever, that has nothing to do with what someone else may or may not be doing.

            2. Whinge vs. Whine

              I had to look up “whinge” because I had never seen it before (except a few times in AAM comments). Apparently, it basically means the same thing as “whine.”

                1. Jamie

                  Ricky, Steve, and Karl say whinging, too. Love that – I am all about the Gervais podcasts these days.

            3. Jessa

              Not every employee is …skilled enough, mature enough, unemotional enough to actually do this though. Again if the message is given badly then that’s a management issue to train the employee to give you just the facts.

              I stand, however, by my point that even badly delivered complaints have validity and the kernel of what the issue is still needs to be dealt with. Good managers realise that the delivery might need help, but first they need to fix the ISSUE. Fixing the delivery method first gives the person a feeling that they’re “Not being listened to darn it. Management just doesn’t care.” And management may NOT care, but it’s bad policy to let the reports KNOW that.

              And if management ignores the issue because of the employee’s method of reporting it, all that does is sink morale WORSE.

              1. fposte

                I think we’re disagreeing on more than just delivery, though. Employee unhappiness is not inherently the manager’s problem to solve or even necessarily a legitimate problem (I remember a workplace where everybody wanted to work in the room with the flirty cute guy and sulked if they couldn’t–that was people inappropriately investing in something irrelevant to work, not a manager’s issue to solve). I do get the frustration at seeming disparities–I’ve been there and how. But the fact that I feel it at work doesn’t mean it’s my job’s problem or that my unhappiness entitles me to an explanation. I can ask for what *I* want–more money for more work, flex-time for myself, whatever–but a complaint about what somebody else gets is not something to bring to my manager.

        2. jmkenrick

          Well, it can be.

          But on the other hand, there is something to be said for creating a culture where it’s clear there are high expectations and accountability.

          If you let under-performers get away with that, then you’re really going to discourage higher-performers from trying as hard as they otherwise would.

          And, for better or worse, if you have a bunch of high performers who perceive (rightly or wrongly) that other people are not being held accountable, you’re going to have a moral problem. And as a manager, isn’t it your job to deal with those sticky situations regardless of whether you think it’s petty or not? I just don’t get this whole “opting out” attitude. I mean, I get it as advice to the letter writer…it would be bad if she looked like a whiner….but I don’t get it from a manager perspective. Wouldn’t a good manager want to know people felt this way?

          1. fposte

            It depends. If the worker knows that because stuff isn’t getting done? Yes. If the worker feels that because of Facebook posts? No. That’s an “it’s on you” thing. If somebody has to cover Sam’s butt or pick up his dropped balls (unfortunate proximity of metaphors there) I want to know, but I don’t care what his Facebook posts lead people to think.

            1. Jessa

              Except even if it’s not reasonable to you, you do have to care, because it’s breaking morale in the rest of the office and that’s an issue.

              Now if the issue is that there is confusion between the two types of work at home (sit at desk 8-5 vs do the work as long as it gets done,) then this needs to be explained that it’s OKAY for the person to be on Facebook, as long as the work is getting done. At that point you have the person either going “oh okay, or WAIT the work is NOT getting done.”

              But the confusion as to what “work at home” means in your company NEEDS to be cleared up, especially if it’s a morale thing.

              1. fposte

                Well, no, I don’t have to care, and even if I do care, my caring may be a judgment that the person complaining is spending time on stuff that she shouldn’t be and needs to knock it off ASAP. If an employee is coming to me to complain that she’s unhappy about a workload thing, fine, we’ll talk; if the complaint is that she’s unhappy about another worker’s Facebook page, my reaction is not likely to be to explain how I handle another employee but to say “This is not something to bring to your manager.”

                The part that frosts somebody’s butt is not always the workload-relevant part. Bring me the workload-relevant part.

          2. Dana

            This exactly!

            I had a co-worker who ‘worked from home’ on Friday without doing much of anything except ansering e-mails from our manager. I had visibility into her work so I knew exactly how much she was getting done or, in this case, not. Since I was physically at work on Fridays I had to put out all the fires and handle things that would have been hers to deal with. Because I was a high performer more and more responsiblities were put on my plate while my co-worker’s stayed the same. We made the same amount of money and she ‘worked from home’ on Fridays. It’s impossible not to resent that when she would post a check-in at the local pool with her kids, meanwhile I’m at work anwering e-mails on her behalf. My boss was willfully obtuse to the situation, the non-confronational sort, and I ended up resenting him so much for not fixing it that I finally left.

            So the moral of the story is: If you don’t listen to ‘whiney’ employees you might get stuck with a floatilla of lazy ones.

            1. fposte

              Well, if the boss knows and doesn’t care, there’s not much you can do about that. But there’s a big difference between “My co-worker is checking in at various locations” and “My co-worker was supposed to have the X-files to me today and hasn’t done it.” The former is just going to make me say “Why are you paying attention to where your co-worker is checking in?” The latter is going to make me say “Thank you for letting me know; I’ll handle it. Let me know if you have this problem with the files in future.”

              1. Jessa

                Except that the former comes out of prior employers who wouldn’t do anything without a raft of evidence, in the past, so employees tend to want to “have the goods,” on someone before talking to management.

                And if you have someone always giving you complaints about where the co-worker is checking in from, you kind of need to deal with the fact that if the co worker is checking in from all over town, and NOT getting their work done, this is an ISSUE.

                1. fposte

                  I understand that the check-ins piss you off, as Dana notes. They’re still not a a work issue. Bring the *work* issue to your manager–leave the Facebook stuff out of it. If your co-worker is getting her work done, it doesn’t matter where she’s checking in. If she’s not getting her work done–it also doesn’t matter where she’s checking in. Step away from the Facebook–it’s not relevant to the work issue.

                  You may barely have a case if you are formally aware that your co-worker is out for surgery and posts from Cabo, but that’s about it, and even there I’d bring it up as puzzlement, not a complaint.

              2. Dana

                I hear what you’re saying, but I think the point is the check-in adds an extra layer of resentment. I didn’t go to my boss and say, my co-workers checking in all sorts of fun places while I’m getting her work done, I just pointed out the work that wasn’t getting done. The check-in did fuel my resentment however, it was like throwing gasoline on something that was already burning.

            2. cncx

              I was in a similar situation. I quit a job because a mother who was at the same level as me could not make it a week without some sort of real or invented kid-related emergency. Since we were the same level and our positions were similar, every time she called off, I got her work. For about six months I was essentially doing mine and her job, and the kicker was that she would come back after the latest bout of kid flu and complain about the work I had done FOR her AT the behest of her manager.
              In her case, HR knew full well her workload issues weren’t being addressed by her and that I was doing her work. Yet she still never got written up, or talked to, or anything, for missing what was tantamount to about a day and a half or two days out of a five day week, always on emergencies. The end result was me, a high performer who could do two jobs, burnt out and left, and they were stuck giving my job to this woman who never showed up. They wound up hiring two people just to replace me. I wish I could say she was fired…

          3. Katie the Fed

            Not really. I can only deal with facts. If employee X is an underperformer, then I can deal with those facts, and take disciplinary action and do what needs to be done. I can’t fix your feelings – they’re your business. If you bring me a reasonable issue like “I am having to cover for Employee X on Fridays because he isn’t doing tasks A, B and C” then I can deal with that. If you bring me “Employee X is checking in from fun places on Fridays and it’s not fair” I’ll ask what business it is of yours, and tell you to stop checking up on them on facebook, because I’m happy with the work Employee X has been doing.

            It’s really, really not your manager’s job to make sure you’re feeling 100% fulfilled and happy at work. Your feelings are your business. Sure, I want my employees to be happy and I do my best to create a healthy and functional work environment for them. But life also isn’t always fair, and you might not always like the decisions I make, but I probably have good reasons for making them. I’m your boss, not your therapist.

      2. Katie the Fed

        Sure, but I know my team pretty well in the first place. I don’t need someone designating themselves the spokesperson and bringing a big whiny complaint to me. Keep to the facts. All the OP actually KNOWS is that the people who are working from home aren’t always available to get the work done at that time. That’s all he/she knows. He/she has absolutely no knowledge of whether or not the coworkers are working – that’s an assumption. And not his/her place to make it.

        I think employees really underestimate just how much their managers don’t want to hear them whine. I just want you to do your damn work, do it well, and not create drama.

  9. jmkenrick

    This is not really relevant, but when I first read AAM’s answer I pictured someone working from a 7-11 convenience store before I realize she was talking about the times.

    I was like…oh, is that something they do in Washington DC?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’d end up in far worse than a cast — traction, probably.

          No actual karate tournament in my future — was just amusing myself with the examples from the post!

        2. Jamie

          I was just picturing Alison showing up at random children’s karate tournaments. Other parents whispering about who that redhead is in the corner and why is her soda cup so large?

  10. Karen

    I’m in my 30’s, not married, and “childless.” I can’t leave work early once a week to oh… go take a yoga class. But Jane can leave early to go to her kids soccer game. It’s a double standard.

    1. BCW

      I 100% agree, if that is actually the case. Have you ever asked to be able to leave early once a week. You don’t have to say its for yoga, just to tend to some personal matters. My previous job was like that. Whenever there were late nights, parents got out of it. My current job is much more if you are getting your work done, but need to head out early here and there, its fine.

      1. fposte

        Agreed. I do think that sometimes people assume that flexibility is only for people with kids without asking.

      2. Oxford Comma

        Not Karen, but yes, I have asked for something along those lines and been told no. But the parents almost always get permission. I have a colleague who takes a 2 hour lunch to get his kid off the bus. Our boss never says anything. Drives me crazy.

        1. Julie

          This is a little different – but I used to work at a bank (in the office, not at a branch), and a lot of my colleagues commuted from the suburbs. I lived in the city, so when there was a snow storm, they got to leave at noon, and I had to stay for the whole day. This was before telecommuting was really possible. And even though there probably wasn’t a better way to handle the situation, it still made me angry at the unfairness.

          1. BCW

            I get the frustration, but I think sometimes it comes down to just looking out for people. If I know Jane has a 1.5 hour commute in good weather, then yeah, I’d let her leave early so it doesn’t take her 3 hours to get home. If you lived 10 minutes from the office, yeah I might expect you to stay for the whole shift. Is it “fair”? No. But I’d argue it wasn’t wrong

          2. Zee

            If it was a super bad snowstorm in which commuting routes (buses, ferries, some trains, etc.) would be shut down after a while, then it might be better for that particular employee to leave early. Otherwise, you might be writing in on how to deal with putting up a coworker for the night at your place.

    2. LMW

      We actually have the opposite situation here…people take time off in the middle of the day to go to the gym or leave early, and the only person who can’t is the only one with kids, because her job requires her to be here during business hours.

  11. Rindle

    One thing I’ve noticed in the developing telework debate is two different definitions of “working from home.” Some people expect that a person working from home will essentially be at the computer / phone for his or her regular work hours, without distractions such as children in the home (unless there is adequate “separation” and full-time childcare onsite), being as available as they would be at the office. Others define working from home as “accomplishing x, y, and z as expected, regardless of when or how that work is done.” I haven’t seen managers in my large organization, which is putatively making a huge push toward more telework, doing a great job of addressing this distinction. And from what I’ve read, that lack of clarity seems to affect many organizations with telework policies. If OP’s office is using the “accomplishing x, y, and z as expected, regardless of when or how that work is done,” they need to be very clear about that to non-teleworking employees! And if they aren’t, they need to manage the teleworking employees better.

    1. Anon

      This. I am continually surprised at the extent to which teleworking and other new or unconventional policies can throw otherwise competent managers and HR professionals for a loop.

    2. Jessa

      Thank you EXACTLY. It needs to be VERY clear to both teleworkers and in office staff. And it particularly needs to be clear to people with positions that cannot flex without advance notice (IE receptionists, people who monitor equipment that has to stay in place, etc.) And if possible if it is flex at home as opposed to “work 8 straight FROM home,” there needs to be some kind of option to allow the stuck in place employees some leeway. Maybe it’s a shift change policy where they can trade hours or something. But if you pin them in place 40 hours a week and then seriously penalise them if they have to go to the doctor or take a holiday day, you’re going to have HUGE morale problems.

    3. Jane

      I worked at an organization where they specifically called out the difference between the two. You could request a flex schedule (shift hours – start early, leave early, etc) or a flex location (work from home a few days a week). As a part of that process, you had to get approval from your boss PLUS create a plan addressing communication plan, how to handle issues if you weren’t in the office, etc.

      I feel like a lot of the issues / misconception with WFH/Flex schedule is when it’s not a part of a regular process. It can be problematic when one supervisor allows one thing versus the other.

    4. The IT Manager

      I completely agree. I am somewhat disappointed that my office does not really offer flexi work, but I am very, very glad that my office was very clear that telework requires that we work standard our set hours and must it cannot be used as a substitue for childcare or elder-care. That clarity is very appreciated even if flexibility is lost.

    5. Rana

      That’s a really great point. Some work is process-oriented, in which access at set hours is really crucial, and some work is task-oriented, which is more a matter of getting projects completed by set deadlines. It’s one of the hardest things I find when I work in an office on site, actually; I’m task-oriented, so my goal is to get things done as efficiently as possible, thus freeing up time for other activities. But if you’re in a position where being “on-call” is a large part of your responsibilities, that just doesn’t work, as getting the day’s tasks done early just means sitting around with little to do (unless you go hunt something extra up, which is sometimes possible, but not always).

      I’m terrible at by-hour, process-focused work, but I excel at task-based stuff. It works well for me as a freelancer, but as an office telecommuter? We’d have to be very clear as to what the expectations were.

      1. Rana

        (To give you an idea of what working at home typically looks like for me, it tends to alternate between fairly open day time hours, which I use to get household chores done, and long, late nights working until 3am, for two week stretches of intense, focused work alternating with slower periods. Deadlines are god; regular daily schedules, not so much.)

  12. BCW

    I recently became one of those people who work from home regularly twice a week. I don’t treat it as a PTO day by any means, but at the same time, I work very differently than if I was in the office. Typically I’m up checking and responding to emails (from bed) at around 7am as opposed to getting in the office around 9am. In the middle of the day I’ll go to the gym or run errands when needed. I’ll also continue working on things past when my normal “shift” would be over. So yes, there may be times when I’m not as immediately accessible as I would be if I was in the office, but it doesn’t mean the work isn’t getting done. If someone needs me free at a certain time, all they have to do is give me some heads up, which should be the same whether I’m home or in the office. Don’t just assume if I’m at my desk that I’m available to do what you need right then.

    Its similar to what the Rindle said, the expectations need to be clear both to the telecommuters and their co-workers. The boss may have absolutely no problem with the fact that Jane is at her kids karate tournament at 2pm on a Friday (although you’d think kids would have school then) because Jane was also up doing emails at 5am.

    1. Rana

      True. And Jane may have her smartphone with her at the tournament, and is using that time to answer more emails.

  13. head down, work hard

    Sometimes I get sick of people tracking time for everybody else in the office. Working at a small office, I totally see people wondering “what are they doing? Why did the leave early?”.

    It is at these times that I wish everybody would MYOB.

    I totally get where the OP is coming from but I do think what OTHER people are doing shouldn’t be her problem.

    If she can’t get a response via email or phone, escalate to the higher powers. If the manager doesn’t see (after so many escalations) that the person who is using flex time isn’t working “enough” (whatever that “enough” may be), that the problem should be with the OP and the boss (ie: is this type of culture the OP wants to stay in?).

    As a side note; I am childless and I not married. I understand that my time will come (hopefully) and when it does I hope I work for a company/peers that understands work/life balance. I hope I don’t have to constantly worry that my co-workers are judging me about my time and I would hope that my results speak for themselves. That’s how I operate now: I do my best, keep my head down, do what my boss says. Life it too short to worry about the time my coworkers may or may not be putting in.

    I can barely handle my OWN time let alone my coworkers!

    1. Jessa

      I get this I really do, but if you’re handling your own time and it appears to your co-workers that they are stuck, unable to do things that you are permitted to do, that’s going to take a morale hit. And it’s not your fault but there’s a reason to “why did they leave early.” Particularly if in the past the other employee has needed to do so and been told “no,” and the only difference is that the one who left early was “to pick up kids,” and the employee who was told no was “to do something for themselves.”

      1. Original Dan

        If the two hypothetical employees in your example have essentially the same responsibilities, then it’s an inequity that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, if one is doing job A that requires them to be at their post during business hours, and the other is doing job B that can be done anytime from anywhere, then there is just a difference in jobs and not a problem that must be addressed. And it doesn’t matter who has kids and who doesn’t.

    2. NYC

      Well said. I completely agree. Why is everyone SO worried about what everyone else is doing….I am with you on that whole MYOB. If work is getting done, and especially if it is not even affecting the person complaining about it, then why is it ANYONE’s business. When deadlines are not being met and phone calls not returned, then yes- time to intervene…In the meantime, quit worrying about everyone else’s time so much. Maybe one day- you will be the one with kids, who needs to leave early- think about that and give some of these parents a BREAK.

      1. Jamie

        I don’t think co-workers should be worried about how others spend their time (outside of how it affects their ability to do their jobs) but management should.

        I’m not saying micromanage every moment – but when I think of my job things that took a full 40 hours a week when I was new don’t take nearly that long once I became more efficient and automated. If you’re in the office you will expand your job and find other things to add value. If you are at home and don’t have the drive to do this it is possible to get all your work done while basically working part time, but drawing full time salary.

        So no, I’m not saying that every 15 minutes needs to be accounted for – but there should be a regular assessment of what is getting done and if it’s being done from home as efficiently as it can be and that the job isn’t stagnating while providing extra free time unbeknownst to management.

        I’ve known remote workers who are every bit as diligent as the butt in seat workers…but I’ve known some who absolutely do take advantage of the set-up and co-workers in the office totally carry more of their weight than is fair. Management should be looking at how often people are working and how much is getting accomplished.

        1. The IT Manager

          Amen, sister.

          The LW should mind her own business and only concern herself with how her co-workers’ laziness impacts her work; however, the managers should be concerned with how the co-workers are spending their Fridays and ensure that the business is getting a days work out of them.

      2. Mike C.

        I’ll be more than happy to give the parents a break when they stop treating my free time as a complete frivolity.

        1. fposte

          That’s pretty blankety, though. I think one reason why people with kids announce their reason for working at home is the same “You have to have a reason” fallacy that leaves childless people not asking at all, and that they’re just as anxious and defensive as the rest of us.

          1. Mike C.

            Another reason why is because there are people out there who don’t think you’re a real adult with real responsibilities until you’re married, have a house and have a few kids. Then your life means something.

            Until then? You’re just some kid that doesn’t have anything really important to do outside of partying and related activities.

            Sure, it’s not everyone. I get that. But I see it way too often for my liking.

        2. head down, work hard

          Is that a co-worker issue or a culture issue? I think the issue is who cares what your coworkers are doing and focus on yourself. If you don’t like how are you treated or how the company culture is, you need to decide if that is the place for you.

          You generally can’t change the people around you but you can change yourself (and that includes your situation).

          1. Mike C.

            You generally can’t change the people around you but you can change yourself (and that includes your situation).

            I disagree completely. If we were to simply throw up our hands and say we can’t change anything, then nothing would ever change.

            In my case, the issue is societal. And rather than just keeping my head down, I’m going to speak up when I think something is wrong. I’m going to advocate for myself and for others in similar situations, because that advocacy leads to change.

            I just can’t stand this idea that “if you don’t like something, then leave”. I’m not going to say that it’s easy or that it always works, but it’s so, so much better than being a doormat.

    3. BCW

      I think about half the questions that are posted here regarding co-workers could be solved by just saying MYOB

    4. K

      Except that not everyone does have kids; they don’t deserve to spend their entire life covering for people who do. The “my time will come” mentality only works if you’re someone who does want kids.

      1. Kara

        I had a similar exchange with a colleague. She’s married (less than a year), I’m not. We were talking about wedding parties and she was like “No one likes being a bridesmaid but it all evens out if you have your friends in your wedding and they have you in yours.” I said “What if they don’t get married, or decide not to have a wedding party?” Colleague: [blank look] She couldn’t conceive that there are people who eschew the whole wedding rigmarole.

  14. Ann O'Nemity

    In my experience, “family friendly” means “parent friendly,” or even “actively discriminates against the single and childless.”

    1. Jamie

      I would caution against painting everyone with that same brush.

      I work for a place where “family friendly” is tossed around and yes when a guy’s kid got seriously sick they told him to take the time he needed and then worked a flex schedule until the child was better. But they’ve done exactly the same for a never married/no kids co-worker when his mom was sick. And for a couple of co-workers when they were ill themselves. I’ve been shooed out of here when my sister needed someone to drive her to the doctor.

      And the person who took advantage most of the flex time when available was never married/no kids. A single mom can’t because her job is reception and phones.

      So sometimes family friendly is applied with a broader scope than seems to have been your experience.

      1. Mike C.

        That’s great to hear, but for many folks out there, family means a 50’s nuclear family with a male husband and a female wife and 2.3 kids.

        1. A Bug!

          Yeah, this is true. “Family-friendly” can mean so many different things as to be basically useless on its own. I’d be inclined to ask for elaboration.

        2. Jamie

          I was merely pointing out that the cynicism may be justified with some companies, but not all, and I’d hate for people looking to think that’s always code for single/childfree people will be screwed.

          It needs to be vetted during the interview process.

      2. Meg Murry

        Yes. My company is big on work-life balance and while that means family friendly it also means people friendly. We have flexible start times (you pick what time you start, between 6:00 and 9:30, then work 8 hours) and a general rule of thumb that if an appointment is going to take less than 2 hours of work time you can work early/late/through lunch other days that week to make it up. Taking FMLA or vacation days to deal with sick children, self or pets is encouraged. Now if someone isn’t doing more than just showing up for their 40 hours, obviously management deals with it. But our company uses the term “work-life balance” and means it.

        On the other hand – for the OP -this could be your chance to “lean in” if you are junior to the people working from home. You don’t need to be obnoxious about it, but for instance, if you are handling client calls solo on Fridays, which isn’t something a person at your level would do, be sure to mention it to your boss come review time. If you perceive that your co-workers are slacking or leaning back, this could be your chance to show how you can step up and shine, rather than just whine how unfair it is.

  15. AnotherAlison

    They constantly post on Facebook that they are at karate tournaments, music class, etc. or tell team members they can’t participate in client calls because they have to pick up their kids at school.

    It sounds like a bunch of lazy coworkers to me. These excuses are BS. My experience in kid sports is you are either on the road at some sort of all-day tournament, or it’s a league/local event in the evening or on the weekend. If someone is regularly scheduling music lessons during work hours & not making conference calls, their manager should intervene. (BTW, the parent waiting area at most lessons is just dandy for making phone calls.) Same with school pick ups. If I had a call at 3:40, when my kid’s school lets out, I’d get there early and make the call from the car.

    1. Lynn

      I agree, something doesn’t add up here. I used to be heavily involved in the martial arts scene, and tournaments are always on weekends for exactly this reason. Kids are in school, the majority of the kids’ parents and adults who are competing themselves are at work–so who would even go to a tournament on a weekday?

      But this is not what they’re telling work. It’s what the co-workers are posting on FB, presumably forgetting that their co-workers can see. Why make up a lie like that? Maybe they’re posting *about* last weekend’s tournament, and the OP is mistaking it for being at a tournament right that minute? Not that posting on FB is the awesomest, but a quick social media break is very different from sitting in the bleachers all day when you’re supposedly working.

    2. Chloe

      I disagree entirely, and think its pretty unfair to assume that your experience is the same as everyone elses. I have two children whose sporting activities are mostly scheduled between 3-6pm on week days, although there are also some weekend games. I have students who pick them up four days a week and ferry them around to those activities, and one day I week I do it, making that time up after they’re in bed. This has no impact on anyone – my boss is in a different country and couldn’t care less where I’m working as long as I am achieving the outcomes she needs – so obviously its different from the OP situation – but I do think you’re being very close-minded in assuming that every child in the world has the same sporting schedule as your kids.

      But I disagree even more with your opinion that phone calls can be made so flexibly. When working from home I never schedule any phone calls unless I’m on my own or in rare emergencies am able to bribe the kids with an hour of Minecraft time. If I’m negotiating the finer points of a contract I do not want to be doing this sitting in my car, in the waiting rooom at ballet, or with two tired scratchy hungry kids murdering each other in the next room. I have my professional reputation to consider and I need to concentrate on a phone call, not be dealing with any extraneous people or environments while I’m dealing on the phone.

  16. Dana

    This is a really frustrating issue that I dealt with at my last company. There was an unofficial policy (stated but not written) in my department that those with young children could work from home on Fridays. This was utilized fairly by some and totally abused by others. My boss was not willing to confront my counterpart who abused it so I was left with extra work every Friday. Since her productivity had a direct impact on me I was well aware that she was only answering e-mail that included our manager on Fridays and leaving everything else untouched. My manager chose to be obtuse about the situation and as a result my job satisfaction took a nose dive and I lost all respect for him as a manager. On the upside this was the catalyst for me to look for a new job which I am now very happily working in making a lot more money.

    1. Dana

      I also want to add that I don’t think office policies, official or unnoffical, should take in account children. I’m a parent, it was my choice to have a child and I don’t have any expecations that I will get special treatment because I have one.

      1. Katniss

        Agreed. As others have said above, my time is just as important as the time of a parent, and my work/life balance is just as important as well.

    2. Jane

      This is exactly what happened at my previous job as well! The real issue from my end wasn’t that they were allowed an unofficial WFH Friday, but that she was clearly abusing it and no one stepped in to say anything. She answered emails only if her boss was CCed on it or it came from a Sales person. My organization moved to a formalized flex request schedule, but the unofficial WFH individuals were grandfathered into the process.

  17. The IT Manager

    The LW is not clear in her letter (and maybe in her own mind) if the co-workers are approved to work from home (normal duty hours required) or for flexi-work which implies the worker can set their own hours as long as the job is done.

    Either way, though, even approved for flexi-work, it seems that the co-workers should not miss client calls because they are caring for their children while “working from home.” That’s not flexi-work, that’s not getting the work done.

    1. BCW

      Another thing that is not clear. How far in advance are these client calls being scheduled? Are the clients expecting people to be “on call” to drop everything and talk to them? Or are these scheduled days in advance? Is the telecommuter initially saying they can making them then not showing up? Are the people in the office accepting the proposed times without talking to the telecommuter? These things to me makes a big difference.

      1. Jamie

        This. We can’t tell from the limited information we have if the remote workers are dropping the ball or if this is a lack of communication and they just need a better scheduling plan in place.

        1. Meg Murry

          Yes. Are they saying “I can’t take client calls on Fridays because I have to pickup my kids at school”? or “I can’t take a client call on Friday at 2:30 because I have to pickup my kids at 3, how about 1:00 instead?” Thats a huge difference, in my book.

  18. K

    I think one thing that is important – if applicable (I know it’s not everywhere) – is laying out for management the “invisible” things that get shuffled onto other employees when people are at home. I raise this because my experience has been that this – rather than inequity per se – is often the cause of resentment when some people work at home while others don’t. In my job, for instance, there are a lot of things that nobody really thinks of as our primary job that have to be done in the office by whoever is there (i.e., they could fall on any one of a number of people and will be more or less divvied up evenly by people who are there). We’re lawyers so these include things like reviewing changes with paralegals; making sure the correct documents are pulled from files and sent to clients; checking whatever filings came in on paper in a given day to make sure there’s nothing we need to worry about; and a number of other tiny tasks that end up taking significant time if not evenly distributed.

    So there’s a running problem where people think “Oh, well, I can write this brief just as well at home” but forget they’re then saddling their colleagues with all these other things that distract from their brief writing. I think when discussing work-at-home arrangements it’s worth rounding up those tasks specifically and making them part of the discussion; it gets it away from “it’s unfair that Jane’s at home and I’m here” and balances it back on “here’s what I’m doing that distracts from X, Y, and Z an undue amount.”

    Of course, this might not be relevant here, just bringing it up since it seems like an undercovered part of the work-at-home discussion.

    1. anon o

      I say this as someone who sometimes works from home but this is a great point that is often ignored when discussing flexible scheduling. I sometimes work from home when I have a meeting or appointment scheduled close to where I live (my commute is 1.5 hrs and most meetings I have are in my area so it’s more efficient). I feel terrible when I have to call someone and ask them to do something for me because they’re in the office and I’m not. And I’m home for a legitimate business reason!

  19. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise

    I am a PT telecommute employee. It is b/c my position is classified as “on call,” and they don’t want us to have to drive into the office if a fire needs to be put out at 8 pm. There is a whole telecommuting policy that we have to adhere to. Here are a few specifics:

    *The telecommuting agreement has to be approved by my chain of command up to the SVP.
    *We must give a description of our home office.
    *We must take into account any tax implications and attest that we have done so.
    *We have to take an assessment of our personality and work habits.
    *Our immediate manager must agree that we are WFH material.
    *We cannot have been on any steps of discipline within the last 18 months.
    *There is training we have to complete.
    *We must agree that we are NOT going to be caring for anyone (kids/elderly).
    *If a child under 12 will be home for the day, another person has to be there to take care of them.
    *Failure to adhere to the policy will cause the agreement to be terminated.
    *If we are non-exempt, we must keep track of any additional hours worked.
    *We must be available for any meeting, phone call or request; just like if we were in the office.
    *We must check emails and VM throughout the day.
    *We CANNOT put an “Out of Office” message up that says we are WFH so we can’t be reached for the day.
    *We are expected to work a full 8 hours.
    *Flex time is available but cannot be used as a permanent schedule.
    *Non-management employees generally cannot work from home.
    *We must understand that not every job type/responsibility is WFH material.
    *We must take training on how to remain “visible” to the organization while WFH.
    *We must be flexible enough to be able to come into the office at the last minute if need be.
    The list goes on. It isn’t hard to adhere to; they just make sure everything is covered. We haven’t had any major problems and we have a thriving telecommute employee base.

    1. Jamie

      What kind of assessment for personality and work habits? That’s interesting to me, I’ve never heard of that as being among the criteria for WFH before.

      1. Anonymous

        Jamie/Tiff, what I ment was work personality….like Does someone else have to motivate you to do your work? Do you feel left out if you are not around your peers? Hope that makes better sense.

    2. Tiff

      Exactly. Our telework agreement doesn’t include a personality test, but it does include a photo of the work area and a copy of our home owner’s insurance policy for the risk management folks. And yes, if you need a supervisor than usually you are not eligible for telework.

      1. Jamie

        Wow. If working from home my work area is my bed/nightstands, propped up with various pillows – a laptop, extra monitor, and an iPad or two, and my phone…all precariously perched until one of the cats jumps up and topples everything for sport.

        The nightstand holds the extra monitor, my HK coffee cup, and I’m wearing jammies and my ugly scientist glasses.

        Seriously, I’d no sooner send in a picture of that than I would show up to work without getting dressed.

        1. Original Dan

          Ha ha! I was thinking the photo (not to mention the personality test) was a deal breaker too.

          1. Jamie

            Nah – my cats prefer iPads…one is convinced they are his because of Pocket Pond. That will keep him happy for hours and he will randomly hit apps and when the wrong thing pops up he gets mad and swats the screen.

            Seriously – those of you who share your lives with cats and tablets I cannot recommend Pocket Pond enough. He still flips it over looking for the water. Hi. Larious.

    3. -X-

      “*We must be available for any meeting, phone call or request; just like if we were in the office.”

      But I’m not available for any meeting, phone call or request even when I am in the office. Sometimes I’m too busy to go to a meeting, and some meetings are not worth my time. Sometimes I have to tell people, “Sure, I can respond to your request next week.”

      I’m happy to be *as* available as in the office. Which is “sometimes.”

      1. Anonymous

        True. I was saying that some people become less available when not in the office. They made a point to let us know to not fall into that trap. If you would have been on a call at work, be on it while at home. This is Toni btw…my phone doesnt populate my name :-)

    4. Anon

      This one is interesting: *Non-management employees generally cannot work from home. I can understand that you work might not lend itself to WFH if you need supervision. However, a while back when my then-manager was in the process of getting divorced and moving to Florida, he thought it was just the same to work from home/Florida (we were in NYC). It was not the same, and it was like trying to get our work done without having a department manager. Of course, this was for weeks on end – not just Fridays.

      Prior to the Florida move, he would take conference calls from home in the morning and then decide that it would take too long to come to the office that day since it was already 10:00 A.M. This happened a lot.

      Not surprisingly, this person quit soon after spending weeks out of state, “working from home.”

      1. Judy

        I find it interesting also. To me it would seem that the moderately senior individual contributors would be the ones working from home. I’m an engineer, and I work from home up to two days a week when I’m at the phases of my projects that need “time in my cave”. I’m still available by phone (just not my office phone) and IM, but no one is walking into the room to see me. So the heavy duty project planning and software design happen partially at home. I’d say during those parts of a project, I get more done in 2 days at home than I would have in a week at the office. But other phases I need the collaboration of being in the office. If only we had walls, doors and DND on our phones, I wouldn’t need to work from home.

        1. Anonymous

          Non management equals union represented employees. Anyone that isnt represented are considered management, even if they arent supervisors.

    5. Anonymous

      I’m a full-time telecommuter, and that sounds very similar to the agreement we have to sign (without the personality/work habits part and even FT telecommuters have flexible hours as well).

      It’s always interesting reading others’ work situations. I haven’t worked in an office where I actually had local teammates to pick up slack in so long that I don’t remember how that is.

      I’m an IT analyst, my projects are mine, and while I have to coordinate resources with other analysts, they have their own projects and unless I drop dead or am out for an extended period of time on disability, there’s no one to cover if I’m out. My manager and the project manager could care less where and when I’m working as long as I call into project meetings, hit my deadlines and produce defect-free software releases. If he had to manage my schedule or be concerned about it, he’d dump me in a heartbeat.

      Depending on my meeting schedule, I usually roll out of bed and log in around 8-ish, shower and eat breakfast around 9-ish, try to grab a break sometime between noon and 2-ish to eat a sandwich and finish up around 6-ish. Sometimes I start earlier for meetings with India, and sometimes I end later for meetings with the west coast. Co-workers can see my status on IM (available, in a meeting, busy, do not disturb, away, etc) if they’re looking for me. If I run out for a few hours, I give my manager a heads-up as I leave.

      It helps that very few people in my department actually work in an office location. We’re scattered around the US and in India. I’ve never met most of my teammates nor my manager face-to-face and probably never will.

  20. Jan Arzooman

    I’ve worked at many places (before working at home became such a wide-spread practice) where parents were given privileges not granted other employees. I wanted to have kids so it was kind of a sore spot for me, I admit. I’m not talking about an emergency involving a sick child, but going to a kid’s show or picking him or her up after school. It always seemed fine for salaried employees to leave early if they had kids—for almost any reason—but other salaried employees had to jump through hoops.

    Sure, you have to be adult and mind your own business; not everyone’s job is equal, and you might not be aware of what the other employee is doing to make up the work. But it does effect morale in a big way.

    1. Miss Displaced

      Must say, it’s a bit of a sore spot for me as well. I once was forced to stay on the graveyard shift because I was single and childless, while the people with kids got the nice cushy 8-4 day shift.

      When I confronted management and pulled seniority, they said I basically had to stay on nights because the other woman had kids. Period. End of story.

      I quit 3 days later.

  21. The Other Dawn

    Just because someone is working from home and then posts on Facebook that they are going to a karate tournament, etc., that doesn’t mean they aren’t working or aren’t putting in a full day. It might be they are working odd hours.

    If one were to look at my Facebook page while I’m working from home, one would think I was slacking off all day; however, it happens that I will log in early in the morning for a few hours, then go do a few errands or peruse the internet, then work for a few more hours, take a break, then typically log in after 8 PM to finish up. And I make sure I’m around for any conference calls.

    I agree with Alison, though. If it’s affecting you getting your job done, you need to address it with the employee and then escalate if necessary.

  22. Tiff

    My job has guidelines for managers on how to go about incorporating telework into their overall work programs. I think that’s one of the best ideas they’ve had in a long time. Everybody doesn’t have the work ethic to telework, and if the folks who are teleworking on Fridays cannot get it together it’s because they should be teleworking in the first place, which is a management issue.

  23. Hooptie

    “or tell team members they can’t participate in client calls because they have to pick up their kids at school.”

    This part really bothers me. Working from home is a privilege, and if you are expected to take part in something when at the office, you are expected to take part when working remotely.

    This statement is what convinced me that SOME of these people are taking advantage of the perk.

  24. Jax

    A few people at my company can work from home, but it’s at a $2 per hour cut in pay. It’s rarely used unless we have a big project and are working weekends. It discourages abuse, and it seems fair. Our company needs “butts in the seats” to run effectively.

    1. Mike C.

      This seems silly to me. If there is a business case for telework, then allow it. If there isn’t, then don’t. But don’t penalize someone for working from home just because it’s a perk.

      1. BCW

        Agreed. That makes no sense except to discourage people from doing something. Why don’t they just say “No”

  25. -X-

    What about saying something like this to a boss: “I’m not sure if Harold is meeting your expectations, but it seems like about once a month when the Ask A Manager blog has an open thread, I have a lot of difficulty getting information I need to do my job effectively from him in a timely manner. It’s really holding up the work. How do you suggest I handle this?”

  26. Jesicka309

    I’ve seen similar distinctions made when it comes to holiday requests between parents and non-parents.
    My mother has worked in banking for years, when she started I was about 14? Old enough to babysit younger brother and sister in any case.
    My mother spent many years feeling resentful because she was always denied leave over our school holidays, because we didn’t require care like the parents with kids under 10. The parents with kids under 10 got priority for the best holiday times (Easter break, Christmas and New Years), whereas parents with older kids and non-parents had to fight it out for the other days.
    My youngest sister was 8 or 9…easy enough to babysit, but I know all of us kids would have loved mum/kids time on the school holidays. And if she wanted to take us on vacation, we had to miss school.
    Even amongst parents, there’s still discrimination between young and older kids, even if its just holiday priority or who has to unlock the shop before opening time (my mum, because we didn’t require supervision getting dressed and on a bus like younger kids!). These were verdicts that came from the boss too…the joys of a small community bank where everyone knows everyone.

    1. AnonintheUK

      I worked somewhere which once announced that only parents could take time off during school holidays. Until a colleague with no kids, who was married to a teacher, went and accused HR of trying to ruin her marriage.

  27. Lynn

    It’s so strange to me to read all these comments about workplaces that blatantly favor kid-related reasons over other reasons for flextime and WAH. I’ve never worked anywhere where managers cared or even asked why you were leaving early, WAH, etc. If your work is getting done, great, if not, there are… discussions. I’ve never seen anyone blatantly abuse it, either.

    I certainly believe everybody–this many people can’t all be mistaken. I work in software engineering; maybe we have really strange norms compared to other lines of work and I never realized?

    1. Judy

      I can think of two reasons, as a software engineer. First, engineers work on projects that span weeks, months and even years. So day to day accomplishments are not as critical. Second, we are considered professionals. I’m expected to know the deliverables of my projects and manage them. When I plan a vacation, I make sure my project plans handle that. As long as I get things done, I can take kids to doctor’s appointments without asking anyone. I also choose to schedule a weekly conference call with part of my team at 5:30am, because they’re in India, and it will be completed by 7:30am which is 6pm for them.

      I am a senior individual contributor, but I do lead a team and manage the technology aspects of projects, I just don’t manage the people from a performance and salary perspective.

      1. Anonymous

        I could have saved myself a lot of typing up thread if I just scrolled down and read your and Lynn’s comments because…

        Word! I think IT is a really different environment particularly on the software end with distributed work forces.

  28. The B

    I’d caution the OP to think that just because her co-workers are posting photos on Facebook, they’re at an event on the day/time she thinks they are. I posted photos of my kids to Facebook today…while on my lunch break. I wasn’t in the park at the time. I had taken photos on the weekend, during lunch time I uploaded them to Facebook. I suppose someone might have assumed I was at the park while posting, but eh…no.
    Similarly, just because someone is updating their Pinterest account doesn’t mean they haven’t been working. People take breaks.
    The best thing is to ask about the WFH policy. How it works, etc. I know I wasn’t allowed to WFH until I had been working for a company for some while, for example. Or this may be a perk reserved for senior management. Or maybe they negotiated it when hired. Assuming that it is reserved for parents and that the employees who use it are slackers is a pretty big leap. Besides, if they slack I assume they do it all the time, like my co-worker who spent his days playing Tetris back in the day. Does the OP monitor their Facebook and Pinterest use on days when they are in the office, too? Come on.

    1. Chloe

      Agreed. Yes of course WFH can be abused, but there are plenty of people who can work really productively and in non-standard hours when out of the office environment. And plenty of seat-warmers who come in to the office and do very little all day. Its unfair to generalise. If it has a genuine impact on your ability to do your job or achieve the organisations goals then by all means bring it up with your manager, otherwise just live your own life, really.

  29. Dana

    I’m starting a business providing fake families for childless people so they can enjoy the office perks of having children. Here are a few things that will be included:

    Maternity Package:
    Fake baby bumps for all stages
    Sonogram photos
    Rental infant for office visits during maternity leave
    Photos of infant to pass along to co-workers at ‘birth’

    Youth Package:
    Rental child for office visits
    Photos of child for office decor (sports specific themed extra)
    Endearing stories regarding child to pepper into water cooler conversations

    This is just the rudimentary outlline, obviously an iphone app would be developed to include sick days for your rental child as well as fictional doctors visits, sick days etc.

    Who’s my first customer?

    1. Jamie

      I would like to sign up to be one of your suppliers. I have years worth of cheerleading, basketball, baseball, cross country, track, and chess club pics. I am also happy to rent out my wedding/engagement rings (either for this or the other thread to ward off suitors – I don’t care as long as I get paid.)

      This would totally work.

      1. Dana

        Probably, but you can rent one from me. You’ll also need some goldfish crackers or Cheerios to throw around for legitimacy…maybe something sticky too.

      2. Natalie

        No, as a man you can play off the lack of a car seat. Of course you never drive the kid anywhere – that’s your wife’s job!

  30. Cassie

    When an employee complains about something, I think there are a few questions he/she answers first. 1) What is the problem? (Define it in a single sentence). 2) Does this affect my ability to complete my work? 3) What is a possible solution?

    So something like “Suzy is not a team player because she doesn’t say hi to me in the morning” is not a good enough complaint to bring to the boss. Yes, there may be situations where there is an issue that affects staff morale, and that should be addressed, but it would at least cut down on the “this person is mean” or “this person is stupid” kind of complaints.

    For the OP, be specific on how your coworkers’ behavior is affecting your work and bring that to their attention (or if that doesn’t improve, then to your boss).

    Yes, it’s frustrating if you have coworkers who slack off or appear to be slacking off (I hate it too), but at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about it. If you have a good manager, he/she will be judging performance based on output anyway.

  31. Anon

    Interesting. I guess this would be a “con” for being “Facebook friends” with one’s coworkers.

    I work in a similar environment, where everyone is passionate about and dedicated to their work, but where everyone works different hours, both in and out of the office. Though everyone in our office has a great work ethic, no one in particular seems to mind the different hours & everyone seems fairly understanding of this.

    Our bosses seem to promote the work-life balance, especially for those with younger children. I think everyone has different arrangements for their work schedules with the bosses.

    On the flip side, they also seem fairly understanding of non-children related work-life balance issues–like having to step out for a doctor’s appointment, leaving early on holidays, taking care of older family members, taking long weekends to go to friends’ weddings, etc.

    Though I completely see where you’re coming from, I’m not sure how the ‘morale’ point would be received–it could potentially get into a slippery slope, such as the possibility that your point would be responded with “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I don’t feel that way about the same situation” and at one point, everyone’s just going to have to agree to disagree that they feel differently on how their morale is or is not affected by some coworkers not being physically present on Fridays.

    Would it maybe be easier for your boss(es) to respond to your concern, if you were to maybe present your concern in a different way? Maybe one that doesn’t focus primarily on Facebook tweets, but more work-specific issues that you and your boss(es) could identify a specific solution for?

  32. cncx

    Just another voice saying that even if a company has a flextime policy, in my experience it is usually only extended to parents in reality. As a childless person I spent a lot of lonely fridays, and many years ‘covering’ for coworkers with kids who were later found out to be not on the VPN working. It is only at my current job where the flextime is extended to all employees both on paper AND in reality, but it took me many years to find an employer like that.

  33. JK

    Whether or not an employee has children should not factor into the decision to let them work from home at all IMO. I telework twice a week, and have done so for four years – I have only been a parent for the last year. After my baby was born, I was surprised at how many people asked me if I would need to get childcare for those telework days. Um… yes! For me, a telework day is a *work* day. I am logged into my computer by 8:30, when I am “at my desk” I am logged onto Skype and my work phone is set to forward to my home phone. When I am taking a lunch break, I set those things to “away.” Just like when I am in the office. Since my son started daycare, I had to take a few sick days because of his illnesses, and while I can usually squeeze a maximum of four hours of work in on those days during his naps, it’s not ideal, and I record which hours I work and which I do not.

    I feel very fortunate that my company allows me this telework schedule. I simply could not keep my job if they did not, due to a variety of circumstances. So I take it very seriously. Honestly, I am MORE accessible on telework days because I don’t have as many meetings. People know they can contact me for important things, and at the same time, don’t just Skype me to chit chat. To me, one of the biggest time wasters, pleasurable as it is, is the time that I end up spending chatting to people who stroll by my office.

    For those who embrace telework, I don’t have to go over the benefits, but to me, one of the very biggest is efficiency. I schedule “deep thought” projects for those days when I know I will not be interrupted. And because I live in a small city, it is very easy to schedule things like doctors appointments or other errands, very early or on my lunch break. If I tried to do a lot of those things in the area where I work, I’d end up having to take a half day off.

    I’m sorry the poster is having issues with her teleworking colleagues. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of my colleagues don’t even realize that I’m working from home half the time. I see it as a privilege, and one that I am grateful for. I’ve never experienced teleworking coworkers slacking off, but I’ve certainly experienced it among people who show up to the office every day…

  34. CW

    I have not read through all of the comments, but I am a “newish” employee (6.5 months) at a very large company in a highly technical role. I am male and have a daughter under 2 yrs old. I am the only person in my age group (28-35) within my business unit that has children. Actually, everyone else, younger and older, is either childless or has adult children. This has been rough as I would love to work more hours, but I have family responsibilities and I REFUSE to look back at missed hours with my baby because of something that really does not matter to anybody, but has to be done as a formality.
    My first Fridays and Mondays consisted of a 1 hr commute (1-way) followed by working in a nearly empty office because a) 75% of my coworkers are remote and work from home, b) most others worked from home on Fridays and Mondays. On top of all of this was the fact that this is a VERY date-and-$$-driven division that did not offer any training (or throw you into conference calls, fire, and the ocean kind of training), had high turnover in my role, and is understaffed…now I know why. Also, my hiring manager transferred before I started…either way, this is better than toxic environment of the the last place where I worked.
    After some WFH abuse and HR and the few onsite managers walked passed my section of cubes and saw nobody but me, the new director (hired around the same time as me) swiftly moved to require stricter WFH rules even though the company as a whole pretty much leaves this to manager discretion. I had to come up with an evening activity with great enough importance (religious in this case) just to get ONE WFH day per week for 8 weeks (Thursdays).

    My point is that I am not aware of any organization anywhere nor should there be any that gives WFH preference to parents. However, given how much I have done and how I have been a plug-and-play employee that has hosted calls with clients and not have any invited peers join, done a damn good job learning and implementing a product that is extremely customized and not like anything else, the fact that I have not had any training, the fact my manager has called me a great hire and has used my resume as an example to HR, I will be playing serious hardball come performance review time to get ONE WFH day per week, forever.

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