ask the readers: should I band together with coworkers to request a different work-from-home policy?

We haven’t done an “ask the readers” in a while, so I’m throwing this out to you all to advise on. A reader writes:

I work for a medium size team within a large company. Our offices are not very conveniently located and everyone has a minimum 30-minute commute (most closer to an hour) each way. There is also no free parking, so costs add up. There is no particular reason that employees need to be in the office daily; most work is done on an individual basis and the majority of meetings are done by VC with other offices. Of course, being in the office is necessary for building a sense of team, bouncing ideas around, and interacting with other teams, so it’s not like we could all work at home all the time.

Traditionally, working at home has been a perk for the higher-ups (top five people in our team) and used to offset the large amount of travel and longer days they put in. There is also one member of our team who works from home 90% of the time due to medical need. A few months ago, one of our team was allowed to start working from home (it requires company equipment, so it’s a bit more than a manager just agreeing to it) on a semi-regular basis due to personal circumstances. Her husband had a serious accident and now needs round the clock care; they have a nurse for most of the day, but couldn’t get/afford enough cover for the work day plus commute.

No one objected to that, but now another coworker has been given work-at-home privileges because her child has been kicked out of his after-school program and scared off several babysitters. This has caused some dissent in the ranks! A lot of my coworkers feel it’s not fair for someone to be given what is viewed as a perk because her child is badly behaved (for what it’s worth, from what coworker has said, it does seem to be solely bad behavior, not learning/attention difficulties).

Personally, I don’t really want to work from home (I prefer coming in to the office, doing my work, and then leaving my work behind at the end of the day) so I don’t really care that these other two coworkers have the “privilege” due to their personal circumstances. But my other coworkers want to band together and demand an “everyone or no one” policy on working from home (excluding the coworker with medical need). I can see their point – either our work can be done at home or it can’t and selecting who gets to work at home and who doesn’t based on personal circumstances seems like a slippery slope. But, as I said, I’m pretty “eh, don’t care” about the whole thing.

Am I wrong? Should I care about this? And either way, should I be banding together with these coworkers demanding equal working from home opportunities? Or should I just sit quietly in my corner of our open plan office and keep my lazy opinion to myself?

Readers, what do you say?

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. Cheeky*

    Because it isn’t important to you, if I were you, I wouldn’t get involved or pick sides. If everyone in the office starts telecommuting, then the company might end up ending their lease on the space, or the group could break down, whatever. If that’s not something you’d like, feel free to say so.

    1. Lynn*

      Along this train of thought, why not advise your co-workers to wait until this becomes a problem that affects their work? That way, they’ll be in a better bargaining position if this does end up causing issues. If, in the end, it doesn’t affect their work, they don’t really have a great reason to interfere.

      1. KTGab*

        It shouldn’t have to become a problem before they try to change the work from home policy; like the LW said, either their work can be done from home or it cannot. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the other co-workers to want the perk of occasional work from home days.

    2. Weasel007*

      I’m in a sort of similar situation. My husband is going blind and I live 70 miles from my office. My first manager was okay with me working from home and coming into the office once a week, however due to changes in org structure, the team I’m now on a team that wants me in every day! They accepted 1 or 2x a week as compromise. I’m hoping that the exception sticks because otherwise I have to find another job. In the meantime, I’m trying to make sure they know my value.

      If I were the OP, I’d make it be known that you support either mode of work but intend to work in the office. You don’t want to impede someone who really needs this flexibility. It may work out in your favor later if one of the people who has a genuine need becomes your manager.

    3. Vicki*

      First off, it’s unlikely that everyone would end up telecommuting every day (i.e. unlikely that the team will lose their lease). But in any case, plenty of companies have broad telecommuting policies and there’s a lot of precedent that teams do NOT break down with telecommuting!

      OP – If you don’t care one way or the other, say that and only that. Please do not say anything that will jeopardize those who want to telecommute.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I’ve seen lots of teams break down *because* they’re all in the office all the time. (Unfortunately, in business you’re usually not allowed to select your own team members.)

        Personally, I think telecommuting should be allowed until there’s proof that the team has broken apart, or that team goals are not being met.

  2. AMG*

    I would wonder if the child care issue is really a true work-from-home situation. If the kid is that badly behaved that s/he needs that much supervision, then I wonder how productive that employee is. I think that the company may be confusing ‘more or less working from home’ versus truly working from home and that may color their decision.

    I would sugggest that you include a way to manage and track workloads so that management feel slike it has a pulse on what’s going on. They should have this already and a good manager knows what people are doing even if they are working from home, but since there are obvious reservations about it, that may help.

    It may be a pushy thing to do, and may backfire, but it may work. Seems like there is some flexibility there. Let us know how it goes!

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Yeah, I agree. That issue is really separate from the OP’s question, but it does seem that nobody is thinking clearly about that particular situation (with the unruly child).

    2. Celeste*

      The issue is the child isn’t old enough to be left alone after school, until the mother or father gets home from work. On-site latchkey programs at school are a godsend. Some daycares will bus kids from school to the center for pickup, but the fact is they *say* they take up to age 12 but truly aren’t set up for the needs of school-age children past first grade. Like latchkey, they reserve the right to deny service for behavior issues. All other paying customers expect this, and it’s correct because they are not set up to deal with problem behaviors.

      I assume this mother has looked around for other places and found nothing. It’s a niche that is underserved, if you ask me. Probably because for 2-3 hours a day that it’s needed, it’s not really profitable.

      To me the mother is in a crisis. If her child is under 9, it’s against the law in most states to let them be home alone. I think the perk should be applied to her if it can be. I have no idea what the nature of her child’s problem is, but they can take a while to get under control. It may be as simple as he is easily overstimulated by crowding and needs only a quieter environment. He will outgrow the problem, as he will get old enough to stay at home after school in time and temperament. I actually applaud her employer for working with her so she doesn’t have to quit or stretch out a FMLA note for 3 hours a day.

      1. BRR*

        I think AMG’s point, which I agree with, is that the child needs supervision. When an employee gets to work at home, it usually is expected for them to have the same output as if they were in the office, it is a benefit to not have to commute, pay for parking etc. The coworker’s husband has a nurse during the workday and that makes it different.

        PS I felt like the OP did a good job with the details in the letter but without it being too long.

        1. Celeste*

          The nurse isn’t available during commute time, so the employee would be taking care of the sick husband. It may not amount to a whole lot of hands-on, just as a school-age child does not.

          I think the typical argument is that childcare means infants and toddlers, but school age (like age 8) just isn’t the same. They can and do sit quietly. His issue is most likely aggression towards other children in a crowd; that is what makes it not okay to stay in the program. There wouldn’t be a crowd at home.

          1. BRR*

            I think we’re going to have to disagree on this one and call it a day. The coworker wouldn’t be available during commuting time anyways and you’re making a HUGE assumption about the child.

            1. BRR*

              I want to add I know I made an assumption as well but I was just going by the OP’s letter.

              1. Celeste*

                Neither of us knows the specifics of each coworker’s crisis at home, including the all important one: how long will this be an issue?

                1. Green*

                  It also says he flopped out of multiple babysitters, so FWIW, it suggests it’s not just a “crowd” issue.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            To Celeste’s point, I have a 9 year old. He has been *threatened* to be kicked out of afterschool care. He does have adhd, but his unacceptable behavior is non-stop running around or not keeping his hands to himself. The 18 year old childcare workers can’t deal with him and 30 other kids. But, he is a huge xbox and minecraft fan, so he will happily play those for hours (if allowed). I can easily work with him entertaining himself.

            It is possible for a kid could to be misbehaving in childcare & still be okay for the parent to be productive at home. (I’m not the OP’s coworker & he might be more demanding at home. We don’t know, but just wanted to share an example of why it might be fine.)

            1. RPO*

              I used to think that teleworking at home with a school-age kid=taking care of a child instead of working, but I want to thank Celeste and AnotherAlison for making this childless reader realize that being at home with a school-age kid is not the same thing as caring for a young child.

              1. Celeste*

                You are most welcome. I can’t help but wonder if this is the root of the angry mob seeking an all-or-nothing ruling. I can just see it being led by somebody who chooses to equate the accommodation with young child daycare.

                1. Sadsack*

                  It is still a case of, “If Sheila can work from home, why can’t I?” no matter what is the reason for the accommodation.

              2. Hooptie*

                I think it depends on the person. I’ve was on conference call with 30+ people (including customers) that was completely disrupted by a screaming 10 year old. His mom was working from home, his sister wouldn’t let him on their computer so he went shrieking to mom. Our rule of thumb is if you’re working from home, no one should be able to tell that you’re working from home.

                In my experience and opinion, it is just simpler across the board to apply the rule that if your child is in care while you are in the office, they need to be in care when you are working from home. However, I’m fine with an in-home babysitter with the kids in the house as long as the sitter is the one dealing with the kids.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  No, offense, but you must not do a lot of conference calls. :) If there is more than one other person, there is background noise. I have heard screaming babies, screaming kids, mewling cats, chirping birds, barking dogs, ringing phones, doorbells, construction work, emergency sirens. The worst, though, comes from people in the office, like putting the conference call on hold and making 15 people listen to hold music.

                  In my industry (tech), telecommuting is common enough that we’re pretty tolerant of interruptions like that. With the exception of very small children or sick children of any age, it’s kind of understood that background noise or distractions really are background and (to a large extent), it doesn’t reflect on that person. As long as they hit deadlines and deliverables.

                2. Hooptie*

                  I’m on conference calls 15-20 hours per week, on average. There is a difference between non-controllable environmental factors such as sirens and controllable factors such as screaming kids with no sitter, you know. :)

                  I think the tolerance level depends on your industry or company culture, not necessarily if you telecommute or not. It sounds like yours has a much higher tolerance for what mine would consider unacceptable. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

        2. C Average*

          I’d be careful about making that kind of assumption.

          I’m working from home today as I do on occasion when I have a high-importance project I need to focus on. (We’re in an open-plan office where it can get noisy, especially during World Cup! My manager is quite flexible about us working where we can be most productive.)

          Today, my 9- and 12-year-old stepdaughters are home with me. They’re reading quietly in their rooms. They know I’m working and they’re responsible for entertaining themselves, finding snacks, etc. They know I’m not to be disturbed. I can be really productive in an environment like this (aside from an AAM sanity break every few hours).

          In all honesty, my cat distracts me way more than my stepchildren when I am working from home.

          1. BRR*

            I will certainly agree children can be well behaved and not need attention . Only because the OP wrote it was a behavioral issue.

            Cats are an entirely different story :D

          2. Hous*

            My brother and I were awful, awful, awful to babysitters when we were kids. My parents couldn’t get them to come back. But if our parents were home, we generally did our own thing and very rarely bothered them. We just loathed babysitters and actively worked to drive them away. Sorry you couldn’t go out to dinner more, Mom and Dad! You shouldn’t have let us read so much Calvin and Hobbes.

          3. JC*

            Seriously, my cats embarrass me so much when I’m teleworking and need to make a phone call. At least most of the rest of the time they only “help” me by sitting on my papers.

            1. Andrea*

              One of my cats meows and yowls LOUDLY if she can hear people who aren’t there. So, speaker phone can never be used. I tend to shut my office door when I’m on a conference call, too, because a few of my colleagues are yellers, and she can hear them and starts yowling. But of course she hears them and yowls from the other side of the door when I close it. I hope no one else notices; they’ve never said anything.

          4. Phyllis*

            Re conference call noises: That’s what *6 on your phone is for. It mutes noises from your end. If you need to say something; *6 again, and it unmutes. Having to do conference calls with screaming grandchildren, barking dogs, ect. in the background, Star 6 has been my salvation. In fact, most of my conference leaders remind us to do this at the beginning of each call.

            1. stellanor*

              There is a special place in hell for the person on my one big weekly conference call who has a noisy dog and never mutes. Not even when the leader asks everyone to mute. He only mutes if someone actually directly says “Wakeen, please mute,” and then as soon as he needs to say something he unmutes and doesn’t re-mute.

    3. littlemoose*

      Agreed. How productive can you be working from home when you are caring for a child who can’t be controlled by a litany of babysitters? Unless the employee is doing more work after the kid goes to bed or something, which may or may not be acceptable depending on your workplace’s rules. It’s unfortunate, because if the employees who are caring for other people while working at home aren’t very productive, that will surely reduce management’s willingness to expand working at home for others.

      1. Koko*

        I’d agree if it was all-day, but the kid is in school most of the day, so we’re really only talking about a 2-hour window affecting her productivity. Pretty easy to compensate for those 2 hours – it’s possible that because she’s not commuting and the kid catches a school bus at some ungodly pre-dawn hour, she’s able to start working around 7am put in a full day’s work before he even gets home from school. Maybe she works through her lunch while she has the solitude and uses 3-4pm as her lunch to spend time getting her kid settled into some kind of activity when he gets home, leaving only an hour where she’s trying to both work and manage the kid. Or even if she starts at 9am and is only fully focused until 3pm when the kid gets home, she can stay logged in working until 7pm or 8pm instead of knocking off at 5pm.

        My single-parent mom worked from home full-time when my sister and I were in school, which came in handy when we got sick or had days off from school as she didn’t have to arrange childcare. She was busy in her home office while we played in our rooms or downstairs most of the time, and I can recall that she was always logged in and working already before we left for school at o’dark-thirty, and she often was still working at 7pm when it was time for her to start dinner…and sometimes she’d go back to work after she made dinner. I remember from a young age being aware that the price my mom paid for working from home was 12-hour-plus workdays.

    4. Kate*

      As I read the OP, there is childcare available for the child for most of the workday — but not for the 1-2 hours of commute time. So the employee works from home so as not to have to take those hours of commute time, and cares for the child during those 1-2 hours.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      I had a coworker whose son was involved in a petty criminal situation (I think it was a vandalism thing) and the teenager was put on some kind of parental supervision parole. A parent had to be with the child every moment unless he was in school. My coworker had to move her hours to an early shift so she could supervise in the evening.
      This could be a similar situation.

    6. Sarah*

      I have a brother with autism and have worked with children with ASD. It is not at all uncommon for these children to lash out when they feel insecure about their environment – for example, when they have a new babysitter, or a new daycare program, or a daycare program that provides too loud and chaotic of an environment – but be fairly well-behaved and low-maintenance when at home with a parent or trusted caregiver. The OP of course didn’t specify that this child has any behavioral or autism spectrum disorders, but the mother may just not have made the information public. And for that matter, bratty kids are also known to be easy to handle when they are getting their way! I know I’m possibly reaching here, just wanted to say that it’s not impossible that the child could be unable to stay in childcare programs or with most babysitters but not present a huge problem for the mother.

      1. Melissa*

        Actually, that was my thought as well. Not necessarily autism, but a behavioral disorder in which a noisy aftercare environment would just agitate the child but he’d be fine sitting at home quietly while mom works for two hours.

    7. AGirlCalledFriday*

      I guess I’m not really understanding why it is desirable or necessary to weigh each case of working from home as justified or not. I feel like if this is the type of work environment that allows for it, employees should all have the option to work from home once in awhile, and the reasons why shouldn’t even enter into the equation. Working from home because your car broke down? Fine. Sick? Ok. Kids? Sure. Lazy? Why not. I feel like the only time it becomes anyone’s business is when productivity is impacted. At that point, the employee is put on notice that if productivity doesn’t increase, they will need to relinquish the perk and come in every day.

      As long as work is being done, I don’t see that it matters what’s going on in the employee’s personal home life.

      1. Andrea*

        I absolutely agree. And frankly, I believe that there are plenty of jobs that could be done remotely all or most of the time, but often, it seems like upper management sticks to this idea that they have to see everyone together and sitting at desks in an office. I work from home 100% of the time, and it has had a tremendously positive impact on my quality of life. It may not be for everyone, but I bet it would be good for a lot of folks.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I’m not getting the case by case basis, either.

        I think OPs question is should she get involved in this. It probably would be nice for the coworkers who want support. But I really don’t think it’s necessary for OP to participate in a discussion that she has no preference.

        At some point, OP may consider saying “I will come into the office so Sue can stay home.” Or OP could decide, “I am sick of driving in winter and I would like to work from home those days.” So don’t shut the door hard on this topic OP, in case you later decide that working from home might be advantageous to you now and again.

        But to actively support this endeavor- no, I don’t believe OP has an obligation to help persuade management to change its mind. If management asks directly, OP does not have to pretend that she is fighting for the work from home rights.

      3. Kerry*

        I agree. Purely base it on productivity. But OP needs to stay out of it unless directly asked, then say “I’ll do whatever you guys want”.

  3. Apollo Warbucks*

    It seems completely reasonable to me that you ask all staff to be treated fairly and consistently. If remote working has proven effective with some of the team then that in its self is reason to look at extending it to others.

    1. Gail L*

      I agree with this. It makes sense to allow people the same access to certain methods of working. If you don’t particularly care, you could always tell your coworkers that you support their efforts but won’t be particularly active in advocating for it.

  4. Celeste*

    Well this has gotten ugly. Perks are tricky.

    I think they just need to canvass staff and find out who is interested in working from home and work something out from there. Clearly, all are not. I think some just want to punish others that they may not like. I hope somebody can convince the Queen Bee who is leading the charge to talk to management in a less inflammatory manner.

    I don’t see what point there is in “demanding an all or none policy” and exempting the people that you do have sympathy for. I do have sympathy for the mother with the behavior-problem child, for example. It takes a lot to get kicked out of latchkey and there are no alternatives, except home with family or friends and that is not always easy.

    I’d even be willing to do the canvassing in order to present it to the boss that way. There may be more holdouts than you think.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      That’s a good point – the two people with the “perk” have very similar situations: They both need to care for someone who previously didn’t require care.

      1. Artemesia*

        I would never authorize work from home for an employee who needed it to care for a child. The sick husband is iffy, but presumably doesn’t require the constant attention a child is likely to require. Kids don’t sit quietly while Mom is present. There are some jobs where time on task can be measured and perhaps completed late in the evening. But if the output cannot be easily measured this is the road to disaster. And of course having people ‘working from home’ when they are actually caregiving will over time sour the company’s acceptance of work from home arrangements.

        When my daughter negotiated a work at home deal, one of the requirements was that her young child be in daycare during the workday. I think that is totally reasonable.

        In the OP’s case, I would think that those who want to work from home should request this and raise the uniform policy issue only if these are not allowed.

        1. Celeste*

          The mother is completely available the first 6 hours of the day and only has the child for 2 hours until the work day is over, because he’s in school. Presumably his issues are in getting along with the others, and they won’t be there. School age kids are not the same sort of issue as toddlers. I think it’s important to note that she is just trying to keep him supervised. I think this is probably the rationale for allowing her situation for childcare.

          1. Koko*

            I agree. And if she’s reclaimed an hour or more of her day that she previously spent on the 30+ minute commute that she now just spends working, and she works through her lunch hour, she’s made up the 2 hours of productivity right there.

          2. Laura*

            This. If the mother can get her job done then I think that this is absolutely a situation that calls for the exception – and even my oldest, who will only start kindergarten in the fall, is very capable of being parked and not interfering with my work for an hour or two.

            It depends on what the problem behavior is, but there *all sorts* of issues that could get you kicked out of after-school care, but that will not in fact disrupt the parent working from home. Just off the top of my head:

            Fighting with other kids. Melting down because of overstimulation in the crowded child-care environment. Anything that comes about as a result of boredom, *provided* the parents have anything at home that he will find not-boring but that the care facility might not have/allow. Playing ‘fight’ games such as having your dinosaurs combat each other or your Lego figurines shoot each other…my oldest has gotten in trouble for pretending a couple pieces of plastic were fighting several times, though it looks like ‘no fight games at day care’ has dealt with that, finally. None of these would cause any difficulty at all, once the child was removed from the care setting which triggered the issue (by being an environment where it could happen), because the home environment isn’t the same.

            There are, of course, other behavior issues that would -not- work as well from home. Then again, if the kid gets on the bus at 7:30 and the mother goes straight to work, and the kid returns on the 2:30 bus, the mother has 7 hours to work there and needs to work in another good productive hour in the ensuing several. (Times not arbitrary: those are the actual times my kid would be on the bus if he were going from our house, and it looks like the overall transit time is fairly typical for the routes here.)

          3. Student*

            2 hours per day, 5 days per week, is 10 hours every week. That is a quarter of a 40-hour work week. That is 3 months over a year of work. It’s a lot more time than you’re making it out to be wherein she is not totally focused on her work.

            If she IS totally focused on her work to the point where the child’s presence doesn’t have any effect, then she’s not really supervising the child any more than she would be if she were sitting in the office. If she’s using flex-time – spending those 2 hours supervising the kid, then trading off with the father to spend 2 hours working later in the day – then that is a non-issue for productivity.

            1. doreen*

              School age kids don’t necessarily need that much supervision – between the time my kids were school-aged and the time they could be left home alone, the supervision they needed was basically to have someone available in case there was an emergency. So if I worked from home my productivity would have been affected if the house caught fire or someone was choking. Those things aren’t going to happen every week, they would affect my productivity even if it was my husband at home instead of /along with the kids and would affect my productivity even if I were in the office and got the phone call.

              1. Melissa*

                Do people not remember being 8? I remember being 8, and if you gave me a book, a video game, or a pad and a pen to write, I could easily sit still and be quiet for 2 hours. That was before computers were ubiquitous but I feel like I’d have been even MORE easily occupied with a laptop (and wouldn’t even have noticed 2 hours had passed). I was also quite capable of feeding myself a snack and taking care of minor emergencies (cuts, scrapes bruises, etc). Heck, by the time I was 8 years old I could come home from school, get a snack, finish homework and go outside to play with minimal interaction from my mom if necessary.

                Supervising an 8-year-old child doesn’t mean watching his/her every move like a hawk. It just means making sure they don’t burn the house down for 2 hours until you can get off work.

        2. GrumpyBoss*

          The very worst work from home experience I had as a manager was when an employee was working from home and had a baby. He was fine before the birth of the child, but after his wife went back to work, he chose not to get any additional care for the baby. Guess how much work he got done? Hint: Not a lot.

          Since this was a benefit that had been in place for him for awhile, I enlisted HR for help. The recommended that I pull it back from everyone rather than to single him out. I went along with that recommendation and really regret doing it. I think a lot of people had their lives impacted due to his poor decision.

          So I’m with you now. If someone wants to work from home, it is a benefit that I really like to allow if at all possible. But if they are volunteering that they are doing it to replace childcare, I need to reject it. If someone is vague with me, I don’t ask details. I just ask if you are going to get your work done and how you plan on maintaining proper communications with the team.

          1. Artemesia*

            That is just awful. The obvious thing is to require that anyone WOH with a small child at home MUST have child care or this will not be granted. I know you wish you had done it this way but if a policy change had to be made THAT is the thing that needed to be put in place. OR even more obviously, the worker’s productivity failure could result in either rescinding the permission or firing him.

          2. straws*

            It amazes me how many people think that working from home with an infant is an option. I’m currently pregnant, and multiple friends/family have comment on how lucky I am that I’ll be able to spend less on daycare since I’m home twice a week. I’ve yet to be able to convince them otherwise, as if I can just share my google calendar with an infant and make sure we’re on the same page to avoid disruption (though, if I’m wrong and I can do that, please correct me – that would be awesome!)

            1. dawbs*

              How about ‘sometimes in a pinch, it works’/maybe :)?

              I couldn’t and didn’t WAH when my kid was a baby. But a few times, things had to be done, and I could actually type and nurse at the same time–I could get an hour of work done as the baby ate/slept in my lap (baby-wearing-helped w/ this–I wasn’t good at it, we didn’t do it a lot, but it wa shandy for those days).

              This winter, during snowpocolypse 48,392, I couldn’t get to work or the now-3-year-old child to daycare. I could set things up and gt an hour out of her quietly doing some stuff–and another hour during her nap time. Then between when she went to bed at 7 pm and my bed time, i would work like mad. All told, with a minimum of seething frustration, I could get 4 hours out of a day to spend on work stuff–just not between 9 and 5

    2. Anonicorn*

      I agree; an all or none policy seems like a really bad idea to me.

      It’s possible that all roles in a given workplace can telecommute, but many offices simply don’t operate that way. Perhaps Bob can work at home because he’s a top performer who doesn’t need much guidance to do his work, but Steve is a relatively new employee who needs more supervision and training.

      I’d also want to know if some of these work at home arrangements are only temporary and were offered to excellent employees who needed some flexibility.

      1. Windchime*

        OldJob used to have a good work-at-home policy; some people had regularly schedule WAH days and other only did it when they needed to be home (waiting for a repairman or something). One person who worked in an application support role abused the policy by never being available–not by phone, email, nothing. She didn’t accomplish anything on her WAH because she was clearly not working. The result was that the policy was changed for everyone; no more work-at-home days because Susie couldn’t be trusted to do it.

        So yeah, I’m not a big fan of an all or none policy. Too often, the answer is “none”.

      2. KrisL*

        I also don’t like an all or one policy. Some people can handle working from home; some can’t. You don’t want to have a policy of no telecommuting because some people can’t handle it – you’ll eventually lose good people who need to telecommute.

      1. Celeste*

        I think it took somebody to lead the charge, and the only people I’ve ever met at work who can whip people into a petty frenzy are Queen Bees. I call it petty because they can excuse the woman who has the sick husband, but they can’t excuse the woman who has the child with the behavior problem. I can totally see a Queen Bee thinking she has to retaliate for perceived unfairness in a vitriolic manner (“all or nothing except for people I like and/or sympathize with”).

        1. Saturn9*

          Consider that prior to these two cases, work from home had been positioned as a benefit that was earned by top performers. Now the coworkers see that it appears to be given out to anyone who asks for it. I agree that someone is probably leading the group but it doesn’t take a Queen Bee to tell an employer that the way they’re handling a so-called benefit has turned demoralizing and needs to be reviewed.

          The perceived unfairness isn’t about who they like or a lack of sympathy. Instances of “medical reasons” are generally considered sacrosanct in the workplace and seen as necessitating reasonable accommodations, while a parent’s inability to control their child’s behavior (absent any medical issue) is seen as a situation the employee needs to take responsibility for and deal with without expectation of being somehow accommodated by their employer.

  5. Victoria Nonprofit*

    You should think about what you believe is right (or best, or most productive – whatever way of framing the question feels most relevant to you) — not just what suits your preferences. If you believe that it is best that there be a consistent telecommuting policy (even if you wouldn’t choose to use it yourself), you should with with your colleagues to press for that policy.

    1. Another Sara*

      I think this is absolutely right. It’s important to stand up for rights/perks/options that you think everyone should have, even if you don’t plan to take advantage of them yourself.

      As some other commenters say below, the policy you argue doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, either. It could simply be a matter of consistent, written policies.

      If I were one of your coworkers, and you argued in favor of a good telecommunting policy even though you don’t plan to use it yourself, it would give me a tremendous amount of respect for you as a person with great integrity.

    2. Gail L*


      I became concerned about good parental leave policies when I got closer to having kids, but I hope to continuing advocating for them long after I need them. Just because I can’t use them doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be available. I think this is always the best way to think about policy – what’s best, in the absence of bias?

    3. Andrea*

      Thank you for saying this. I’m dismayed that there are so many comments along the lines of, “well, if it doesn’t impact you personally, stay out of it.” It’s not just about that. And anyway, the OP could find that her circumstances change one day.

    4. JayDee*

      A thousand times this. Maybe it’s just the union rep in me, but I truly, strongly believe that good, equitable workplace policies are a benefit to all employees, even those who don’t personally use a particular policy, and that every employee has a responsibility to be involved in the conversation about those policies.

      It really sounds like a consistent policy regarding telecommuting would be beneficial in this workplace, and this LW may be in one of the best positions to be involved in the discussion because she doesn’t have a personal stake in it. She can be neutral. She can weigh out pros and cons of different options without thinking just about what is best for her own situation. It sounds like the LW is concerned that this is going to devolve into drama, finger-pointing, etc. and she doesn’t want to be involved in that. That’s totally understandable that she doesn’t want to draw negative attention to herself in that way. But she may be able to help frame the message in a practical, productive way, which could actually make her look good to her bosses.

      1. Melissa*

        Even on just a self-serving level, happy coworkers can be a definite direct benefit to the OP. I prefer to work away from home, too, but I think all of us have had that One Friday on which you are perfectly capable of completing work but you just can’t bring yourself to drag into the office.

  6. Juli G.*

    I’m thinking about Allison’s post yesterday about managers who use “If I do it for you, I have to do it for everyone.” This is exactly the type of dissent they don’t want to manage through.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Me too!

      It sounds like there needs to be a written policy on work-from-home. It doesn’t even need to say what situations qualify, just that x,y,z employee roles can be considered for work-from-home privileges if they have been employed for n amount of time and have received acceptable performance reviews. Every employee request will be considered but every request may not be granted.

  7. Kay*

    Honestly, this feels like a situation where your coworkers are arguing that what’s happening isn’t “fair”, but what’s fair isn’t always equal. I think a “fair” policy would be to evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis. If some of your coworkers have a reason they want/need to work from home, then they should bring those to management. If, however, they simply have sour grapes that another coworker got their request approved for a reason that they don’t agree with, they need to get over it.

    If I were you, OP, I would not touch this with a 10 foot pole. Stay out of the drama!

    1. ClaireS*


      I’m not a fan of “either everyone gets it or no one does” situations. Decisions need to be based on so many things- business needs, how important it is to retain a person, etc – that it’s ineffective to have all or nothing policies. Everything operates in the grey and management should have the flexibility to operate there too.

      But, I can see the irritation from other colleagues. Have those other colleagues asked about working from home? If yes and they’ve been turned down, I would recommend they strive to get a clear understanding of the reasoning and then move on – whether that be getting over it or finding a job with a work-from-home policy they prefer. Another thing would be to negotiate other support in lieu of working from home – parking pass, etc.

      But ultimately, these should be one on one discussions and if you are happy with your current situation, stay out of it.

      1. PJ*

        This. As a manager, the whole “if s/he gets it, I should too” mentality sets my teeth on edge. I don’t react well, I’m afraid, to staff who approach me in this manner.

        I agree — stay out. Don’t let this taint you — and it will if you get involved.

        1. Artemesia*

          As an employee something that really set my teeth on edge was favoritism — when I worked retail, one of my peers was given many free outfits by the boss, both others were not. If I were in a setting where favored employees were given comp time, vacation time, work from home etc and other not, then I would be pretty ticked. If you are annoyed that this bothers employees then it is time to check to see if favoritism is affecting morale.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I was going to say the same thing. Stay away from this drama. If people try to draw you into the discussion, I’d limit my response to be that if people want to work from home, they should talk with management.

      1. Celeste*

        See, I think the way it’s being handled is dramatic, but the issue has merit. Clearly the company CAN accommodate work from home to some degree. They need to decide how much they can allow and take it out of the arena of being a perk. I do agree that it’s a privilege for any who get it, and I hope they won’t abuse it.

  8. Joey*

    I really don’t get that expectation-to get on the bandwagon for something you don’t really care about. At that point it’s more about your co workers than the actual issue. Why not just tell your co workers that you really aren’t someone that cares either way since you prefer coming into the office? And that if asked for your opinion by management you really wouldn’t be a good advocate for the policy as a result.

    But whether or not a policy should be implemented depends on a few things that your co-workers should think about including costs (which sounds like it might be a limitation), logisitics, and accountability are probably the most important.

    Also,I’m not sure if your co-workers used the word “demand”, but if they did they’re going about it wrong. They will have much more success if they pitch it as a way to get more productivity out of everyone than a perk they should also be entitled to. that comes across as a cost instead of a benefit to the company.

  9. Mike C.*

    I’m a bit torn.

    On the one hand, I totally understand that you don’t really have a dog in this fight and staying on the sidelines makes a lot of sense in that light.

    On the other hand, while telecommuting isn’t a perk you’re interested in seeing applied in a more neutral manner, there might be other issues that you do care about that aren’t being applied neutrally. Convincing your managers to apply more a more rigorous decision making process is generally a plus for the working environment.

  10. Snarkus Ariellius*

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand this is why you either give a work at home option to all or you don’t.  The reason shouldn’t matter because then everyone’s personal circumstances are up for judgment.  I, for one, don’t believe that one person is “more worthy” of work at home than another.  Plus the arguments behind it are becoming a distraction from the original issue.  Sick spouse?  Okay.  Unruly child?  Nope.

    Do you really want to go down that road?  It’s so…mean.  (I don’t want to know this about my coworkers anyway.)

    That said, if you honestly don’t care, that’s fine.  Don’t join in.  However, you may want to rethink your position.  Just because it’s not relevant to you doesn’t mean it never will be.  Your life can change in an instant.  And do you want your personal situation to be up for judgment in the kangaroo court that is your office?

    1. Joey*

      Here’s the other side of that though. Isn’t it good for employers to make accommodations for employees that perform? That’s a good thing isn’t it? it’s employer flexibility based on need? it would be no different that say you needing come in 30 minutes late and work 30 minutes later because the bus runs at weird hours. That doesn’t mean everyone has the “right” to the same schedule out of fairness, does it?

      The other part we don’t know is how long these agreements are for. Temporarily allowing someone to telecommute because life is getting in the way is generally seen as a good thing.

      So before I started demanding perks I’d ask my boss to explain the stance on telecommuting. Because for all you know it is something that’s available to other employees under limited circumstances.

      1. Koko*

        If I were making the policy, I would permit all fully-trained employees in good standing to work from home on an ad hoc/occasional basis without justification. Then I would require justification for someone who wanted to work from home on a frequent/regular basis, and individual decide those on a case-by-case basis.

        My thinking is that someone who is allowed to wake up one morning, see that there’s a huge traffic snarl on their commute, email their team and say, “Hey, traffic sucks, I’m going to work from home today,” is (while not totally unlikely) less likely to feel sour and make an issue about their coworker who works from home every day when they don’t agree with the justification. And you wouldn’t have enough staff staff out all the time to threaten the cohesion of the team or make the office rent seem like it’s being wasted.

        1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

          I agree with this… As a manager, I would be less inclined to allow someone to work from home due to a personal situation (that wasn’t temporary) because that logic will just get out of hand. I think having a more blanket policy for everyone makes a lot more sense, and basing it on performance feels more professional and makes it a real perk for high performers. And I think saying “Well you have no reason to work from home” will cause resentment (or will even make people more likely to have to come up with excuses, ie “Um, erm, my grandma is sick?” so that they can get the same privileges.

      2. Snarkus Ariellius*

        Work from home should be determined by job description not personal circumstances.  Obviously there are some jobs that cannot be done from home such as a receptionist or a store manager.  But that’s the nature of the *job* not the nature of someone’s personal life that makes the difference.  Employees will digest that a lot better than trying to figure out if some woman’s kid legitimately has behavioral issues, you know?

        If someone is doing good work from home AND it doesn’t affect the cohesion of the office or whatever, then does it matter why he needs it or for how long?  Yes, it’s a perk, and one I think should be given out a lot more freely than it is currently.  

        Now if someone was doing a good job when he worked in the office and the work quality began decreasing, that’s not a consequence of a work from home perk.  That’s someone who is taking advantage of the system or figuring out that the job itself doesn’t mesh with a work from home situation.  (I also hate employers who yank a perk for everyone because one person abused it.)

        It is about fairness but it’s also about trusting your people first instead of expecting the worst.

        1. Zillah*

          I don’t know if I agree with that. I think that if accommodating for personal circumstances allows you to keep valued employees, it’s worth considering.

        2. fposte*

          I think personal circumstances can be relevant, but they’re relevant to the employee’s *manager*, not to the co-workers.

          1. Snarkus Ariellius*

            My issue with using personal circumstances to justify a perk is that it skews it in favor of married people and/or parents.  Got a sick kid?  Take the afternoon off.  Got a sick pet?  I don’t think so.  (I have been in the latter position while a coworker was in the former.  I was ticked.)

            Some employers are changing a bit with the sandwich generation, but we’re not really there yet. (In my experience, it takes a high-level person to have a sick parent  or distant family member to reconsider the fairness of leave and work from home perks.)  Unmarried and non-parents do get a lot more scrutiny, I’m sorry to say, whether it’s inadvertent or not.

            If you don’t believe me consider two real-life scenarios: a parent who wanted to come in early and leave early in the summers so he could be with his kid vs. a single person who wanted to come in early and leave early on Fridays just to have personal time.  Take a wild guess who got approved and who didn’t.

            1. fposte*

              On the face of it, that sounds dumb.

              But you know, as a single person with no kids, I’m also not accepting the notion that it has to be standard that everybody gets the same regardless of need. I don’t think it’s the end of the world if more flexibility is granted to those in need, and I think it’s legitimate that being a caretaker for the vulnerable, regardless of age, puts more demands on you. I really don’t like the notion that because marriage and child-rearing are choices it’s therefore too bad, so sad, it’s all on the individual to deal with the needs of people in their own time. If you’re in a workplace that can give everybody the same flexibility, that’s great, but I’m not prepared to take need off the table.

              I also think Lora has a really good point downthread about the way the conversation makes it sounds like being in the office is sheer hell and people are trying to get out of going there however they can. That’s something worth looking into, I feel.

              1. Green*

                What if I want an hour every night back so I can exercise and not get diabetes and die an early death? What if I devote my hour each day to non-profit work? The issue is that reasons that are seen as “valid” almost always skew towards people with children. I’m glad that my employer validates all of those reasons by allowing us time but if you start deciding whose reasons are “good” and whose reasons are “bad” you’re really just valuing some employees’ lives over others. Barring a FMLA issue, either everyone deserves the flexibility to seek what they want out of life or they don’t. We shouldn’t get in to trying to determine whose life or reasons have value.

          2. PJ*

            fposte, my thinking exactly. It’s a MANAGEMENT decision. Co-workers are not always clued in to everything that goes into a decision, nor should they be.

    2. Clinical Social Worker*

      This is well put. People are judging the mom pretty harshly. There is such a thing as mental illness. Kids that are autistic are easy to overstimulate or children that are psychotic can get aggressive. It’s not like the kid is evil.

      I have a feeling if the kid were physically ill, people wouldn’t feel so entitled to the perk.

      1. Saturn9*

        The mom is being judged harshly because she has a child that has been kicked out of afterschool care and scares away all his babysitters. To most people, this is unacceptable.

        The sad truth is there’s still a stigma against people who raise bratty kids. We’ve recognized that mental illness is no fault of the parents (excluding genetics, which is basically Russian roulette for all the control we have over that aspect) but we still blame a child’s behavior on their caregiver, absent any medical explanation. Funny that.

    3. Kay*

      In some businesses, you can’t give a work at home option to all. Can the receptionist work from home? What about the outside sales guy that sets up meetings with prospective clients? The work from home thing is a perk of working in a capacity that allows it.

      I don’t disagree that judging the reasons of one versus the other is a distraction, but I think if someone wants to work from home, they should present their case to management about why it makes good business sense to allow it, not “well Sally in accounting gets to because of her sick husband, so I want to too!” That kind of argument is rather childish in my mind.

    4. Lisa*

      I shouldn’t have to get married or knocked up to be deemed worthy of a perk that should go to ALL high performers.

      1. Zillah*

        But it seems like this perk is already going to the highest performers, along with a few people who need the accommodation.

      2. PJ*

        I disagree that a perk “should” go to all high performers. This is a management decision, pure and simple, and not a decision to be made by popular vote.

        1. Lisa*

          I am trying to say that those without kids shouldn’t be denied simply because there isn’t a need or accommodation aspect of the request.

          1. straws*

            I agree with your statement in general, but we don’t know that a request would actually be denied for a single, childless employee. The 2 current examples of approved requests are for married/kids, but that doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be circumstances approved for others. I think one of the missing pieces here is if other people have been denied & what the rejected reasons were for.

            1. Lisa*

              I think the group thinks they will be denied without needing an accommodation, so they are trying to collectively bargain for it as a perk. I would love to see an update on this Q to see how it was received by management.

            2. Zillah*

              And, in fact, we do know that it was approved for someone who had a health issue arise, regardless of whether she had children/a spouse.

  11. littlemoose*

    For context – are the coworkers who are working from home doing it five days per week, or just part of the time? I could see how management might balk at the idea of everybody suddenly being out of the office all of the time, but maybe a couple of days per week would provide some benefits and mollify your coworkers without upsetting your office’s function too much. If you agree to stagger days so that somebody’s always in the office, that might be helpful.

    That said, I think I would wait and see what your coworkers want to do. Since you’re not that invested in the outcome, maybe let them all take the lead and see if they cook up a specific proposal – if so, then maybe you can assess whether you want to go to bat for it or not.

  12. Sharon*

    I’m a fan of telecommuting in principle, however I don’t like the idea of the “all or none” policy. There will always be some people who cannot work from home because they have home life full of distractions or can’t keep themselves motivated without supervision or a myriad of other reasons. A reasonable policy is to allow people to try it for a defined period of time, while providing proof that they are remaining productive.

    If you decide to join the team in advocating for this, I recommend you do some research and offer your employer strategies for being successful. For example:

    There is much online information now about how to keep your teleworkers productive and how to manage remote workers.

  13. Ann O'Nemity*

    Issuing an ultimatum as a group is risky business. I’d be hesitant to jump on board with that, even if I wanted the telecommuting perk. It’s one thing to ask for fair and consistent policies; it’s another to band together and start making demands.

    1. perebe*

      Yes! I feel like if it’s going to be all or nothing, they’re likely to go with nothing. And then where will you be? Everyone will resent each other and you won’t be any better off. Ultimatums never get anyone anywhere.

    2. KarenT*

      Yes, this. I came to post this as well. The OP’s co-worker’s wording about an ultimatum/bandwagon seem bizarrely adversarial. Of course they know more about their own management team, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that someone reaching out to management with a “Hey, can all of us work from home more often?” would be turned down. In fact, the number of working at home situations already approved would indicate to me that management isn’t against work at home days.

  14. jenwales*

    A work at home perk because you don’t have child care? Not in my workplace. If you are working at home you are expected to be available during normal business hours, not tending to your family.

    I can see exceptions when there is a terminally ill family member, but even then if you can’t perform your work you should be out on FMLA or some other kind of leave.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      To be fair to the individual who was mentioned as caring for an ill family member, the OP does indicate they have nursing care during the work day, they just couldn’t swing it during the commute time.

  15. Hedgehog*

    I don’t really get the “all or none” perspective here… It sounds like management has shown that they can be understanding of the folks who have extenuating circumstances and need to work for home on a semi-regular basis. If other coworkers want to work from home for legitimate reasons, they should be able to expect the same accommodation.

    The risk your coworkers take by demanding this from management is that if a similar situation comes up in the future management will be less accommodating. I get that people want things to be fair, but they’d also want management to be flexible and accommodate their needs if they were ever on the other side of things. I guess you’d have to weigh which one is more important to you personally.

  16. Big Tom*

    I think the complicating factor in this is the standardly long commutes and paid parking. Those are what make working from home a perk rather than just an accommodation for the various circumstances the OP describes.

    As several commenters have been noting lately, “fair” does not equal “everyone is treated the same,” and if there are costs to the company involved (equipment and setup) then it’s understandable to not want to provide the work from home option to just anyone.

    It sounds like the people who have been allowed to work from home have pretty good reasons beyond “parking is expensive.” I would leave it alone and only make a big deal out of it if you have a genuine interest in being able to work remotely, because from examples you’ve given it sounds like the company is open to allowing it when necessary, but not spending money they don’t have to spend for people who want it “just because.”

    1. Pixelpaintr*

      This is what I was thinking as well. In both work-at-hone employees cases, they seem to have extenuating circumstances that management took into account before granting then that status. In each case it might have come down to “is this particular employee worth the cost of hardware, and also the risk that they won’t be as productive, vs them having to leave this job”. That is not the case with other employees having a long commute or saving on parking, which employees accepted as part of their hiring.

      I think it’s generally OK to ask (not demand) management to consider a perk to the other employees such as working at home 1x a week or for emergencies, but in this case, it’s not that fluid – the company has to set up a workstation for each employee doing this.

      If I were the OP, I would not want to make that demand of management. I’d rather have the precedent of in urgent need being able to approach them for this perk than force them to take it away completely.

      If I were management, I’d consider a less expensive perk that might make the office more attractive to commuting employees – such as buying lunch for the team occasionally, snacks at meetings, free coffee, office events at holidays, or finding a way to subsidize the parking.

  17. Cindy*

    Working from home is a privilege and not something which is a substitute for childcare/sick care, unruly kid care, etc.

    I understand one co-worker has issues with timing, and the drive. However, she should be 100% on the job with the exception of her break/lunch. Perhaps she should look into FMLA to be with her spouse.

    Also, the co-worker who is working from home for 90% of the time is a liability as well. If she is on medical leave, then she should not be working.

    Your “ehh” attitude could land a discrimination suit if enough people are looking at this as special dispensation for others.

    1. EA*

      It could be that the co-worker working from home 90% of the time is due to conditions that cannot be accomodated in the office, but pose no additional liability.

      For example, someone who is confined to a wheelchair, and a non-accessible office building. Or, someone with a sensitivity to flourescent lighting. These are not conditions that would always merit a medical leave of absence, but allowing someone to work from home would be a good way to accomodate their needs.

      1. Chinook*

        Believe it or not, I once worked from home when I was the receptionist as a medical accomodation. I had ratcheted up my ankle and the commute back and forth to work caused me so much pain that I looked like I was going to pass out at the front desk. The boss sent me home with a laptop and a stack of data entry that needed being done. They did have to have someone cover the front desk, but since I was available via Office Messenger and email, I could deal deal with incoming faxes, room bookings, email requests, etc. It probably sped up my recovery by a few weeks as well as ensured that I would contiue being paid.

    2. Zillah*

      I can think of several reasons why a person might be allowed to commute due to medical need that makes it difficult to come into the office but doesn’t really impact their ability to do work at home. Jumping to “if she’s on medical leave, she shouldn’t be working” is a little quick considering that we don’t even know what the medical issue is.

      A few examples off the top of my head where this would make sense:

      – A broken leg and no cost-effective way to get to work without driving herself;
      – Stomach issues like IBS that she’s grappling with;
      – Chronic migraines/headaches, especially if they’re triggered by the lights in the office

      On a personal note: I hit a period once where I was getting a lot of migraines. My medication generally made me okay as long as I was sitting in a cool, dark room drinking plenty of water, but taking the train+bus to work and then sitting under the bright lights in the office made it come screeching back. When I got a migraine on days that I was supposed to work (it was a part-time job), my boss was great – she made it clear that as long as I could truly do the work from home, she had absolutely no problem okaying it. Being able to control my environment and not deal with outside noise made me perfectly capable of doing the work I needed to do, so everyone won.

      That was a legitimate medical issue, and it was one where working from home more than usual was a great solution that I’m glad my boss was willing to try.

      I’m also not sure where you’re coming from with the coworker whose husband had an accident – they have a nurse for most of the day, so why wouldn’t she be able to be on the job for that period of time? Why should she need to take FMLA? That seems like a really weird statement to me.

      I don’t know – I just think that you’re being a little harsh.

    3. fposte*

      I’m not seeing what you’re seeing here, but maybe that comes out of different approaches to working at home. It would, though, be perfectly legal for the company to discriminate as long as it’s not based on legally protected characteristics; it would be legal if weird for them to say, for instance, that employees whose names begin with A-M can work at home but N-Z can’t. And while I agree that one shouldn’t be working during medical leave, there’s no indication that this worker is on such leave, just that she has medical needs that are easier to accommodate at home; that’s probably the prime reason for working from home time around here, and as long as productivity remains acceptable it’s a really good option to have.

      I also don’t think the OP is responsible for the policy’s creation or enforcement, so she’s not likely to be implicated in a discrimination suit even if one does somehow come up. She’s just a bystander.

    4. BritCred*

      I approached my work about working from home on a medical basis because with a sinus and sickness disorder which included dizzyness I could be fine enough to work (say 80% healthy) in the morning but very bad once I commuted for an hour (say 50-40%).

      That was the difference between me being able to work and not being able to.

      In my case it was a temporary situation that I hoped would resolve and I was trying to do the best for both company and myself since my job was a one person role.

  18. JC*

    I definitely see why your coworkers want to band together on this, and I think they should. But since you don’t care about teleworking personally, I don’t see any reason why you need to get involved. I don’t think it would cause animosity to your coworkers to say, “I personally don’t want to telework, so I am not going to get involved,” or even “I support what you’re trying to do, but I personally don’t want to telework, so I am not going to get involved” if that is how you feel.

  19. Robin*

    Whatever you decide, can you leave the circumstances of the mom and the kid out of it? It’s not really relevant, and you probably don’t know the whole story.

    1. tesyaa*

      +1. Maybe she has a therapeutic caregiver lined up at home but needs to be present for occasional consultation.

  20. ThursdaysGeek*

    This could be a situation, where if you WANTED to, you could be an excellent advocate. Because you prefer to be in the office, you wouldn’t be talking to management for something for yourself, per se, but something to benefit everyone.

    You want an office where people communicate well, it’s easy to tell if people are doing their work, and co-workers are happy and are also able to balance their work with whatever outside needs they have. That could include working from home being available to all, providing you also still have good collaboration tools (as needed), and clear work goals from management.

    If you present the clear work goals as part of the work-from-home, improved communication and processes, then it won’t be just management giving up and everyone doing what they want. If you can find ways for it to benefit management, those of you would are just fine coming into work, as well as those who want to work from home: clear benefits for everyone, then it goes beyond a ‘that’s not fair!!!’ type argument.

  21. Tinker*

    The whole thing sounds like a clusterfuck — the way the policy is presently being done, the notion of people “banding together and demanding” (really? REALLY?) a differently questionable policy, all of it. Remaining agnostic as to how the company should solve the problem they’ve created, or how the folks who have an issue should address the issue, but the present direction smells like the start of a tiresome office drama that produces nothing good.

    Particularly if one isn’t likely to be affected by the current or proposed policy, I’d favor politely declining to get involved.

  22. DM*

    Given that you’ve written this fairly detailed letter, I think you have some opinions on what is or is not reasonable (I’m reading that the woman caring for her spouse has your sympathy, the one caring for her child may not).

    I vote that you join the conversation so that your opinions about the slippery slope the office is going down can be heard. If you have ideas of what would be reasonable, such as a policy that all employees are expected to work from the office for a minimum portion of the week, then it’s your responsibility to speak up or otherwise be content if nobody else represents your thoughts.

    That said, if the group is clearly going in a direction you disagree with, then you have every right to disassociate yourself from them.

  23. Malissa*

    As a general rule all-or-nothing policies are bad. There will always be a reason for an exception.
    OP, if you don’t care, it’s not your fight.
    Also what I’m seeing is that management is allowing telecommuting for those who have made a reasonable request. Have your coworkers even tried that yet?

  24. Rachel - HR*

    I have found that the EEOC is pushing companies to provide reasonable accommodations for employee’s associated with individuals with disabilities. If the child has been kicked out of school and having trouble with baby sitters, there may be a disability in the works. If so, then your most recent coworker’s situation may be no different than the woman’s staying home to assist her husband (which you said no one was bothered by).

    So, I would say don’t worry about other people’s circumstances. If you have a desire to work from home then present your own case.

    1. Joey*

      A reasonable accommodation for someone that doesn’t have a disability, but is associated with someone who does? Where does that end? My grandmother has dementia and I need every friday off to go visit her and provide care. My aunt needs someone to take her to an appointment for her diabetes. Where does it end?

      1. fposte*

        I think you just go with FMLA’s definition of family rather than reinventing the wheel.

      2. Rachel - HR*

        Oh, I think it’s bullshit but I can promise you it’s something the EEOC is looking at.

      3. Helka*

        It ends with what the business can reasonably accommodate and what the employee can make a reasonable argument is necessary? That doesn’t seem difficult.

        Your grandmother has dementia and you need every Friday off to go visit her and provide care. Okay, can you productively work from home (or her home) on Friday, and get a comparable amount of work done? Does your position accommodate spreading out your hours so you work a 4×10 schedule? Are you willing to take a 20% pay cut and have a formal schedule of Mon-Thurs, 32 hours a week?

        I don’t think it sounds particularly insane.

        1. Joey*

          that’s the point I’m making – to add in another almost endless layer of accommodations is implying that all businesses should have even more capacity to accommodate. Sure some business can (usually larger and well funded ones), but many struggle with just accommodating what’s federally mandated. Few business have the capacity to accommodate things beyond that without incurring significant expense.

  25. Abby*

    As a CEO of a non profit, I wouldn’t be thrilled if my employees threatened an all or nothing situation. There are always exceptions. And, a company doesn’t have to be equal or fair in this situation.

    I think I would be tempted to tell my employees if this is how they think it is best to handle this, that my organization is probably not the place for them and they should start looking.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t think the policy should be changed. It sounds like it is a little unreasonable. But as Allison says, nothing keeps an organization from making unreasonable policies.

    1. Joey*

      I disagree. It does indeed need to be fair, but how you define fair is important. Fair to me is treating people in similar circumstances similarly. Not a lot of people get that, they think fair should be equal treatment regardless of circumstances.

  26. Sydney Bristow*

    Have your other coworkers requested to be allowed to work from home even though they don’t have a specific reason to “need” it? That seems like it should be step one. Management might actually be open to it but haven’t addressed it because the only people who have requested it happen to have a reason for asking aside from a simple desire for it.

    It sounds really confrontational to approach the situation as described in the letter. I’d be reluctant to do it. On the other hand, letting management know that some people would still prefer to come into the office might help deal with their fear that nobody will ever come in.

    1. Clever Name*

      Exactly. I was trying to figure out a way to express this.

      Are the other employees sure that working from home is off the table for them? If they haven’t asked individually, they need to.

      Unless they’ve asked and been told “no”, marching in to the boss’ office as a group with pitchforks and torches will not end well. And even then I still wouldn’t do it. Businesses are not a democracy, nor are they governed by mob rule. Just because a majority of employees want something doesn’t mean a business is obligated to give it to them.

  27. MJ*

    Management must concern itself first with what is best for the company. Having all the employees working from home could affect communication, morale, project cohesion and deadlines, etc. It may be that given extenuating circumstances, it can afford for one or two employees to work at home without affecting overall productivity or company function, but more than that will affect the bottom line, morale, innovation, etc.

    Once management decides the limits it can afford with work-at-home while still maintaining its vision of how employees should work together, the next question is how to address this with employees so that all feel they are being treated fairly. I think that more important than getting to work from home just because others do, employees want to know that when their life hits a rough spot, the company will work with them to try to keep them employed. If this is the message and the understanding, it could boost morale.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      Exactly. I read this thinking that this company is obviously very understanding and flexible when life throws you a curve ball. There are many places that would have simply said, “too bad”. I hope that a vocal minority doesn’t manager to destroy a good thing. Cultures like this are increasingly rare.

  28. MaryMary*

    I agree that if OP doesn’t have strong feeling either way, he/she should stay out of it.

    However, I feel like the happy medium between OP’s company’s current practice and letting everyone work from home is to ask for a formal work from home policy. This doesn’t have to be “all or nothing,” which seems overly confrontational. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask the company to specify which employees are eligible for a certain perk. It’s also reasonable (and probably a good idea) for the company to limit working from home to, say, people who have been with the company for a least a year, who work in certain roles, who received a “meets expectations” or better on their last review, and to require anyone who works from home to keep a set schedule and use certain company software or hardware (i.e. secure log in, VOIP phone). As a manager, I would be more receptive if a group of associates came to me and said, “We’d like to have clarity around who is eligible for this perk and who is not, and how to request to be able to work from home” instead of “Jane and Jim work from home, and it’s not fair that we can’t.”

    1. fposte*

      Agreed. I don’t like the all or nothing, and I think they’re just asking for a “You’re not getting either–now what?” I do think now that it’s been clear that the office does permit some working from home, it would be helpful to the whole workplace to define how the rest of the staff might be able to use that perk.

  29. Tiff*

    If face time at the office isn’t a necessity, what would it hurt to amend the telework policy to give up to X hours of possible telework time per work week that staff can use, with exceptions handled on a case by case basis? Of course, with the agreement of a supervisor. I agree with some of the other comments that running this solely on a case by case basis doesn’t seem fair, even when you accept that “fair” doesn’t always mean “the same”.

    In my organization the telework policy explicitly spells out that telework is not a substitute for childcare. Although I think it’s really nice and supportive that they would allow a staff person to work from home because she doesn’t have childcare I can’t imagine how much actual work she is able to get done while the unruly child is at home.

    1. Observer*

      Who said she is expected to work during those hours? Maybe they’ve cut her hours, or maybe they agreed that she should make up the hours the child is at home by working in the evenings or whatever.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, that’s another piece that bothers me–there seems to be an assumption by the co-worker that they know exactly what people’s arrangements with their managers are, and that it’s totally their business. And I’m a no on both.

      2. Tiff*

        Interesting point, perhaps she has a totally different arrangement than the one people are assuming she has. I can only speak to the policies in place at my own office and the reasons given for those policies.

      3. Pixelpaintr*

        Good point – she may be capable of 6 hours of uninterrupted work before caring for her child, and took a pay cut for the remaining hours. I have a friend who is a single mom who had an hour plus commute, and she negotiated to work at home 2 days (with child at day care) and leave a little early the other days because of the child care facility’s hours. She took a pay cut based on the hours she now works.

  30. Celeste*

    OP, every one of you in your office should be really grateful that you work for somebody who will work with you should you have a crisis in your home life. That is pure gold. I hope the band of disgruntled people don’t screw it in their zeal to hate on this mother.

  31. Brittany*

    I agree with the comments on how there needs to be policy to evaluate things on a case-by-case basis. In terms of the employees on medical leave and with a child at home, it doesn’t really matter what speculation coworkers have added as to whether this is fair or not. Management deemed it appropriate and granted these people the opportunity to do it. If the OP feels indifferent about it, then they definitely should not participate in the mass crowd for the heck of it. Making demands of an all or nothing is not likely to go over well here.

    I think what management needs is a clear guideline as to why telecommuting is evaluated on a case by case basis. If they want people in the office, that’s reason enough; simply having a crappy commute isn’t really a good enough reason as plenty of people have that problem. At my last job, some people could work from home and others could not, but the difference was the ones who could not understood why. There was the occasional grumble about it but overall, they understood why it made sense so there wasn’t a large uproar about fair vs unfair.

    1. BB*

      I think it’s really important for offices to either 1. Have an across the board work from home policy or 2. Have everyone understand why they can or can not work from home. In my office, no one is really allowed to work from home unless weather or emergency. However, there is one manager who is always doing it and people get livid about it because he never has to give a any reason to why he’s doing it. Meanwhile, when we need to work from home because the plumber is coming, we get the third degree. I have no idea what kind of a situation he has worked out with the boss but it would be really nice if the higher-ups would explain why we can’t work from home beyond just ‘you need to be here because i said so’

  32. AndersonDarling*

    One thing missing from the argument is why the company should allow everyone to telecommute. If the group is really going to move forward with this on a grand scale, they should have some kind of proposal “We believe it will increase morale, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Here is the data to back up our expectations.”

    If the group comes forward and just complains that things aren’t fair and parking is expensive, then …well… they will look whiny.

    They may need to step back and look at his from the company’s perspective.

  33. BadPlanning*

    Is anyone set up to work at home sometimes? Or do you have to go through special steps to be setup to work from home? If no one can work from home unless additional special setup is done, I think it would benefit the OP to advocate for “basic home setup” for everyone (or everyone who can do their job remote) to be used as necessary and full-time at-home work addressed on a person to person basis.

    Of course, that’s how my job is set up so I am biased. The company provides laptops as your primary computer and has a VPN. They don’t provide a phone or pay for home internet or home office supplies (unless under special circumstances). So anyone can stay home on a Tuesday and work while they wait for a package to arrive they have to sign for. It also makes bad weather decisions easier — ice storm last night? Work from home.

  34. Observer*

    My take is to stay out of this completely, unless the issue is totally re-framed.

    If the issue is framed as “We need a neutral work from home policy that is applied even handedly, and a way to make sure that it doesn’t have too much negative impact on the rest of the team” then, yes, that’s something everyone should be n board with.

    But “all or none”, no. At best it’s petty and small minded – and what goes round comes round.

    As for the idea that management should be making moral judgements in deciding what to allow and what not to allow, that’s just crazy. Telecommuting is not a “reward” but an accommodation. And it’s no one’s business to judge who “deserves” it for being a “good” spouse, parent etc, or not for being a “bad” spouse or parent.

    And, by the way, while it’s possible that the issue for this parent is nothing but a really nasty child and really poor parenting on the part of the parent(s), it’s also not all that likely. Getting kicked out of after school programs generally takes a lot more than being a brat. And, in any case, when this kind of stuff happens, the family is almost always suffering.

    1. GigglyPuff*

      “Getting kicked out of after school programs generally takes a lot more than being a brat. And, in any case, when this kind of stuff happens, the family is almost always suffering.”

      I agree, this coworker could be completely stressed out, and they might even hate working from home like the OP. From what I can tell, all of these situations are unintentional situations that need accommodation.

      All I know, is I’d hate to work at home at this point in my life, I love to sleep in and my ADHD is killer if I’m not in a structured environment.

    2. Clever Name*

      Yes. Thank you for expressing compassion for the parent of the unruly child. My child was kicked out of his preschool, and it was stressful as well as humiliating. In our case, the school really wasn’t the right place for him and they were unwilling to put in any extra effort to help him. We went through 6 months of family therapy to help us gain tools for working with our child, and our son is now thriving at his school. We regularly meet with his teachers and the administrators and school psychologist to tweak our approach.

      My point is, that experience was very difficult for us as a family, and my son is still a challenge. If I had heard grumbles from coworkers when I had to leave the office to pick up my child from school because he got suspended I may not still be working here.

      OP, just because your coworkers don’t “approve” of the reason for working at home for one coworker doesn’t mean that the company should rescind the agreement. Being treated like an adult who can manage their own schedule is a rare thing these days.

  35. Tasha*

    Our company had a limited work from home policy until hurricane Sandy affected our NY offices. My gosh, TPTB turned on a dime when it was the executives from that office who needed to either work from home or commute to the Connecticut office for six weeks. Suddenly the countrywide policy went from “you must get three levels of approval for” to “your manager or role must have a good reason to decline” work from home requests. So your colleagues just need to arrange a natural disaster. :)

    Personally, I would support a broad work from home policy even if I didn’t expect to use it.

    1. Sunflower*

      This is also kind of how I feel. While I, like the OP, wouldn’t want to work from home all the time, it would definitely be a benefit I think everyone can use from time to time. I support the policy but not the way the coworkers are going about it so that is why I’d be hesitant to join their army unless they construct a plan that makes sense and not just ‘well they get to so so should we’

  36. Lora*

    I’m not sure I can quite articulate why the notion that coming into the office is a punishment while WFH is a perk bothers me, but it does. It sort of hints that no, you do not have a good teamwork thing going on.

    If the work output is measurable, it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone to work from home. I can see if you have a new employee in training and there might be some sort of “you have to be here 6 months before you can WFH” provision for that reason, but I really don’t think the reason should matter.

    I’m at a client site with two colleagues from the same consulting firm. Client has a huge open office setup that catches every noise, smell and has horrible fluorescent lighting, plus the client’s computer system leaves much to be desired. Not to mention 1000 interruptions per day asking if I saw this YouTube thing, do I want a muffin from the break room, and other very important things. A huge part of my project is writing reports, and noise-canceling headphones don’t stop the constant interruptions, the lighting or the server speed. As a result, we try to come in early/stay late outside of regular office hours because otherwise it’s quite difficult to get any work done.

    At home, with a cup of tea at hand and a dog sleeping under my feet, I can get a report knocked out in two hours. At the client site, more like 16. Between meetings, interruptions, things that urgently need my help (but somehow are able to be resolved if I’m unavailable for whatever reason), I just don’t get blocks of time to work. However, if I asked to work from home because the guy who sits across from me belches disgustingly and the lady who sits over there yells all the time, that would probably not go over too well. Does it really matter what the reason is?

    1. Andrea*

      I agree, I don’t think the reason(s) should matter: If the work can be done from home and if the employee is productive, then fine, yes, work from home. I don’t have a disability or a sick spouse or a child or any of those “good” reasons for working from home. But I don’t want everyone up in my business asking why, either. I work from home for a lot of reasons, some big and some small, but they’re MY reasons.

  37. Penny*

    Where I work, we are taught that telework is a tool, not a benefit. It should be applied when it improves outcomes at work. If telework makes an employee MORE productive, it should be permitted for that employee. If it makes another employee LESS productive, it should not be permitted for that employee. Telework should be an option for everyone, but it’s the individual employee’s onus to prove that it benefits the company.

  38. GigglyPuff*

    I know absolutely nothing about working from home rules/situations, but it definitely seems that no matter what happens, your co-workers need to come up with a plan, not just a demand. They should try coming up with a few different policies and present those, and if that doesn’t work, maybe suggest other perks, like trying to get parking discounts or reimbursements, flexible hours to avoid traffic, etc.

    But ultimately I feel like what others have said is valid, have they tried asking for it and been denied because it wasn’t seen as a extenuating circumstances situation? If so, then there probably is an unwritten policy by whoever approves the requests, and your coworkers should maybe ask for a written policy with clear cut rules.

    It’s also possible, they company could reject it because of having to provide equipment that they just can’t afford. Also for all your coworkers know, it’s possible, the working mom was given a deadline for finding alternative care, and this wasn’t ever meant to be a long term deal, same with the coworker with the injured spouse. But I also feel like it’s not their business, but at the same time, acknowledge that if something happened to change their situation, it seems like their employer is willing to work with them on alternative arrangements.

    If you’re going to get involved, ask for a written policy and if it’s unfavorable, ask (as a group), if a revision/change in policy may be discussed.

    1. Laura*

      This. The flex schedules / flexible hours to avoid bad traffic is an especially golden idea, because it helps the employees without requiring the company to pay for the additional equipment the company has to supply. (I realize that’s not the norm at all companies, but the LW clearly says it is at this one, so there is an actual cost to the company to provide that equipment. How high that cost is, we don’t know.)

  39. BadPlanning*

    Several people are skeptical on the mother staying home to watch her child — I’m skeptical on the first coworker being able to work effectively at home. Having helped a family member post surgery and thinking I would work remotely while doing so…taking care of anyone, adult or child can totally zap your workability. Between doing laundry, prepping food, getting snacks, checking on pain meds, doing some therapy, getting the mail…no chunk of time to get real work done. There’s a reason people are paid to be home health aids! I just gave up on work and took vacation time.

    Of course, maybe the company knows they aren’t getting 100% out of these remote employees and is just playing the long game to keep their employees. Let them work at 50% capacity for awhile, but win their long term loyalty when they’re able to return at 100% (assuming neither of these situations are permanent).

    1. Helka*

      I think you mean the second coworker? The first one is at home based on their own medical need.

      But as for the second, the one taking care of her husband, the OP’s letter points out that they do have a nurse for most of the workday; it’s mainly the commute portion of the day that isn’t covered. Most companies don’t expect you to work during a commute anyhow.

  40. TaterB*

    I’m surprised no one has said this (yet, I have not refreshed my browser in awhile), but I am not quick to go to bat for a co-worker’s battle in the first place. This may be important to them, but would I receive the same support on issues I see as just important? Call me jaded, but I have seen this strategy backfire quite often in my career.

    Also–and I am other single, childless commenters can relate–my spidey senses tell me this would only be a one for all moment in theory. I can almost hear someone saying: “why is Janet working from home? SHE doesn’t have any kids/a spouse!”

    1. Layla*

      I’m with you. The ultimatum approach usually backfires, with management saying, “Fine, no one gets it,” then have the first and second coworker use FMLA. I don’t like that approach, so that’s why I would stay out of it and let the chips fall where they may.

  41. Helka*

    I really don’t think the circumstances for the child are relevant. As it stands, the child has to be at home, and requires supervision; it’s not a question of “rewarding the mother for a poorly-behaved child,” it’s enabling her to comply with the law. At this point, with no after-school care and no babysitters, what is she supposed to do if the company refuses? Quit her job? It sounds like that is the alternative here. So the company isn’t rewarding her for having a poorly-behaved child (which is an incredibly condescending and judgmental attitude, may I just point out — having a child with behavioral problems is irrelevant to her personal worth or to her quality as an employee!), they are accommodating her particular situation so they don’t lose her.

    selecting who gets to work at home and who doesn’t based on personal circumstances seems like a slippery slope.

    Keep in mind that personal circumstances are only part of the equation that any sane company looks at when deciding if someone’s request to work from home gets approved. That slippery slope can be easily averted with questions like, “Does this person’s performance merit working from home?” “Can we afford to set them up?” “Is their role one that permits this?”

    It sounds like your coworkers are coming at this from an attitude that assumes they are all eligible to work from home from the company’s standpoint, and that the only thing standing between every single one of them and spending Monday-Friday in their PJs on the couch with their work is the company requiring a good excuse. I sincerely doubt that’s the case.

  42. Sunflower*

    I think it’s the ultimatum that is really rubbing me the wrong way. I understand if the group wants to come up with a plan together and present it to the higher-ups on why telecommuting should be an option for everyone but implying either everyone or no one gets it is not the way to get what you want. Considering you don’t have much vested interest in this, I would stay away. Just the ultimatum part could end up looking really bad on your part. If your coworkers try to bring you into it, just say that you don’t have much interest either way and wouldn’t be a great advocate for the team. I would also maybe suggest they do something similar to the plan I mentioned and come up with a logical plan for why this should be an option for anyone who wants it.

  43. Works at home sometimes*

    I’m surprised so much of the commentary is about working at home, and kids and such because that’s not what I heard the OP asking about. The question seems to be “should I get involved in my coworkers’ issue?” So I’ll answer on that basis:

    Yes. The original posting describes working in the office as having a benefit of team building. Part of team building is supporting your coworkers on things they feel strongly about even if you’re neutral on it. If there was an issues you felt passionate about and your coworkers just shrugged and ignored it, how would you feel?

    That said, there’s an important caveat about getting into an unnecessary confrontation with management. There’s a world of difference between “Hey, we’d like to discuss making a consistent office-wide policy” and “Hey, we’re mad that you did something and we’re going to demand you do something else.” If your coworkers are being confrontational it’s perfect grounds to say, “I’d like to support you but I’m not willing to be confrontational over this.”

  44. Molly*

    It seems, from the OP’s question, that people who ask to telecommute and seem to have a good reason are allowed to telecommute. That makes me wonder if it’s really been an actual policy that only the higher-ups get to work from home, or if it’s just been “the way it’s been done before.”

    Have any of those who want to telecommute (but who don’t have personal circumstances that seem to demand it) asked and been denied permission? If so, what was the reason given? I just think I’d want more information before making any concrete suggestions.

    Generally speaking, I don’t think people should just stay out of issues simply because the outcome won’t really affect them. Employees deserve to be treated fairly, and if we see a true disparity in how people are treated on the job that’s not based on ability or performance, I think we have a responsibility to address it – even if it doesn’t affect us directly.

    Personally, I wouldn’t join in a petition to make telecommuting an all-or-nothing policy, because I think that’s silly – different people have different needs and skill sets, and managers should have discretion to allow it or not allow it according to their perceptions of a staffer’s ability to succeed with that arrangement.

  45. Angora998*

    Walk away from the issue. The individuals that want this privilege should have the courage to approach their supervisor and ask for it.

    I have always found other’s desire to include another’s individual in their request and/or demand to management as beating management over the head with a bully club. It’s one thing to band together when it’s a safety issue, equipment problems, etc.

    It also shows lack of courage if they need to band together to ask for something. If they truly want the priviledge than they need to ask for themselves.

    If they go to management with an “or else” demand they may find themselves with “or else” right out the door and you do not want to be included in that group.

  46. Angora998*

    I forgot to include … if they band together with a threat or approach with an ugly tone … because so and so got this privilege is not justification for everyone to do so.

    If their approach puts your mananger and/or upper management on the defense it can backfire and none of them will ever get that privilege at all . And as the other posters comments it looks bad on them. You do not want to be painted on the same brush.

    Do not let peer pressure force you into including yourself in the group. Just tell them you prefer to work at the office, and that they need to handle it on their own.

  47. LizNYC*

    When I was at my previous job, I was told repeatedly that the higher ups frowned upon working from home and it was to be used in emergencies only. Fast forward to after my manager decided to move an hour away from the office (it was commutable–but she didn’t, for whatever reason), and suddenly, she worked from home 4 to 5 days a week most weeks.

    Coworker and I, who did the same function, soon banded together to ask for a work from home policy so we could benefit from not commuting one or two days a week. We positioned it as “we’ve worked for this company for 4-6 years, and now since there have been no raises for X years, we’d like you to consider this as a perk.” Plus, we came up with backup and contingency plans for everything we could think up.

    It worked. We were each given two days a week to work from home and it was WONDERFUL.

    OP, I’d join the band of people asking for a more formal WFH policy. Though you don’t want one or need one now, who knows when your situation could change. Also, it might be nice to know, when you’re too sick for the office (but could still function at home) or when the weather is too treacherous to risk the roads, you can still put in a day at home and your bosses will not bat an eye at the prospect. It’s a nice backup to have. (And yes, you really can unplug after work ends for the day.)

    1. Zillah*

      I don’t disagree with you overall (though given the way her coworkers are going about this and her company’s track record with accommodating major life problems, I’d steer clear of this situation), but I do take issue with this: (And yes, you really can unplug after work ends for the day.)

      I’m really glad it works that way for you – it works that way for me, too! However, I think that it’s a really individual thing, and some people do have a hard time unplugging after the work day ends. It depends on the person.

      1. LizNYC*

        That’s true it depends on the person. When I WFH, I was afraid that I’d be expected to be available all the time. But fortunately, that wasn’t the expectation. And once it was quitting time (and I was able to stop for the day), I did. I didn’t feel the need to do a little more or to check my work email on off hours if I hadn’t done that before WFH. And my managers didn’t expect it either. I was just trying to convey that I didn’t feel like I had to apologize or make up for the fact that I was working from home = work for a longer time that day.

  48. Zillah*

    Wow, I think some of the other commenters are being a little harsh toward the coworkers getting this accommodation.

    To point a couple things out that seem to be overlooked/missed:

    The coworker with the husband who had an accident appears, from the OP’s letter, to have a nurse there most of the day: they have a nurse for most of the day, but couldn’t get/afford enough cover for the work day plus commute. She’s not actually caring for her husband while she’s trying to do work; the WFH accommodation is there to eliminate the need for another two hours of nursing care to cover her commute.

    Similarly, the coworker whose kid is acting up isn’t actually staying at home all day taking care of her child. Her child is, for the moment, at least, in school during the day. Again, I can see how the commute could be an issue – it cuts out two hours that she could otherwise spend working. Even if she doesn’t have a partner pitching in, I can easily see a situation where her kid is out of the house by 7:30 or 8 and isn’t back until 3:30 or 4:00. She could well be putting in a full work day, or nearly one, before she has to care for her child.

    Regardless: a clearer WFH policy would probably benefit the company and morale. However, I do think that the coworkers are going about this in the wrong way – it’s entirely possible that there are reasons that the company doesn’t want everyone to work from home, and they should be asking for clarification and depending on the answer, request that it be considered – not demanding.

    Also, tbh, maybe it’s just where I live, but 30-60 minutes for a commute doesn’t sound like such a hardship in general. Sure, it’s annoying and inconvenient, but at least where I live, it’s also pretty common… and presumably, they knew that this was the commute when they signed on.

    OP, I’d steer clear – what your company seems to be doing is accommodating people who have major life upheavals where it seems possible to do so, which I think is great. And, it seems like your coworkers might never be happy – if they’re allowed to work from home twice a week, will they be happy with that, or push for more because “She gets to!”? Let them fight their own battles.

  49. Totally Normal Person*

    The degree of pushiness or demandingness you should employ really depends on the culture and circumstances of your particular company. That said, I do believe it is appropriate to at least ask for this additional benefit.

    Having children is a choice. Period. Everyone’s time is valuable whether you have children or not. Everyone has better things to do than spend two hours in the car each day driving to and from work. It is simply not equitable that some employees get more time off or flexibility to manage their life circumstances than others. I have children and do not expect any special accommodations that any of my childless coworkers would not also receive.

    I ran into a similar issue working for a state university. PTO was broken up into vacation and sick time with two weeks in each category. Sick time could be used to stay home and take care of sick children (as it should be). At the time, I did not have children. However, it always struck me that for someone like myself who almost never calls off sick, the folks with children effectively received two additional weeks of paid time off to manage their lives. While I, and others, had to pick up the slack while they were gone.

    Again, your exact approach on asking for this may vary widely. But, I don’t think it is unreasonable at all to at least ask. Employers need to get it through their skulls that people need to be able to manage their lives regardless of what that means at the individual level.

    1. tesyaa*

      But the sick day benefit isn’t just for parents. Some adults do get sick. And I wonder if such a benefit could be designed so that people with elderly parents could also use it to take them to medical appointments, etc.

      1. Totally Normal Person*

        Yes, it could and you are right. I did leave that out. My point was simply that even though you may not have any extenuating circumstances in your life at the time (as I did not at that time), that does not automatically mean that some people’s time is more valuable than others.

        I think smart employers are starting to realize that everyone’s needs are different and that to treat people equitably you can’t just make exceptions for special cases. You need to give everyone the flexibility to manage their lives no matter what their needs are at any point in time. An employee’s needs can change in an instant.

        1. Observer*

          Exactly. And that’s why you evaluate each person’s situation. You look to see whether they have a legitimate need AND whether that need can be reasonably accommodated. Legitimate does not necessarily mean “kids” or “spouse”. It’s true that not every job can be done remotely, in whole or in part, so that has to be factored in. And, it’s also true that some people simply don’t operate well that way, so that needs to be factored in as well.

    2. Observer*

      You think that people without kids don’t call in sick? That’s the case in most environments. Some people don’t have kids and wind up using more than their allotted sick time. And others have kids and don’t use much sick time.

      As you can see, only one person who is being accommodated has a child in the mix. The other two are not. And, lets be real. Getting married is just as much a choice as having children. Why should there be a difference between the two? (That’s one thing that the FMLA got right, in my opinion.)

      What is clear here is that what people are really objecting to is that they have decided that the parent doesn’t “deserve” this “perk”, and so they would rather see that NO ONE gets that kind of flexibility.

      As I said up thread, asking for a neutral policy is one thing, and I am all for it. But this is something else. People need to keep their noses to themselves.

      1. Totally Normal Person*

        No, I don’t think people without kids never call in sick. And I didn’t say anything to that effect. I cited the specific example of myself, who might only call in sick once a year or so, and used that to illustrate how much extra paid time someone with extenuating allowable circumstances would receive in that particular situation. You seem to have read a lot into my comment that isn’t there.

        Your example of marriage illustrates my point perfectly. Everyone has reasons and circumstances that they might need more schedule flexibility or paid time off. As I said verbatim “people need to be able to manage their lives regardless of what that means at the individual level”. I’m not sure where you are coming up with the idea that I am against certain people having more flexibility when, in fact, I am saying the exact opposite of that.

    3. Zillah*

      I feel like you could apply this same logic to coworkers with chronic health problems or weaker immune systems, too, though. When I’ve had to call out because of a migraine or, very rarely, because of a mental health issue, it’s not like it’s a day off – I wouldn’t rather be home than at work.

      I agree that it sucks when people with kids are truly given preferential treatment because they have kids, but knocking people for using the sick days they’re allotted because someone else doesn’t seems to open up a huge can of worms for me.

      1. Totally Normal Person*

        How is advocating for a neutral policy where everyone has equal flexibility to manage whatever may occur in their lives “knocking people for using sick days”?

        I must be the worst writer in the world because people have grossly misinterpreted my comment based on one specific instance I used to illustrate my point.

        1. Zillah*

          Huh? If several people are misinterpreting your comment, perhaps it could have been written a bit more clearly, but it seems like quite a leap to say “worst writer in the world.” Misunderstandings happen, especially online – there’s no need to get dramatic.

          You said: PTO was broken up into vacation and sick time with two weeks in each category. Sick time could be used to stay home and take care of sick children (as it should be). At the time, I did not have children. However, it always struck me that for someone like myself who almost never calls off sick, the folks with children effectively received two additional weeks of paid time off to manage their lives. While I, and others, had to pick up the slack while they were gone.

          This sounds to me like you’re saying that people who take sick days basically got two extra weeks of paid time off compared to people who don’t. You also seem to be equating that with having children, since you say that the people with kids “effectively received two additional weeks of paid time off.”

          But here’s the thing:

          First, nothing is stopping people without children (or anyone else) from taking sick days. It’s not as though those days were limited to people with children, right? While I do understand what I think your point is – that parents are more likely to have to use their sick days, particularly when they have young children – that can also be true of many other people, including people with chronic health issues. As someone with several chronic health issues, I’ve heard grousing before about my having to use more sick days than other people, and IMO, it stinks.

          I think you’re saying that people should have more flexibility overall, including just having access to days in a lump group rather than having them divided into sick and vacation days. I can see the value in that, but I can also see many reasons why management wouldn’t want to make that the case. I can also see reasons why accommodations might be possible for someone who needs them (and in some cases, that’s legally required), but if they were applied to everyone, it would severely impact productivity. That sucks, but I promise, the people who need accommodations would almost certainly prefer not to need them!

  50. ChiTown Lurker*

    As far as I can tell, your company does not have a work from home policy. If your coworkers want to petition for a policy, that’s great but I see something else here. They are basically attempting to dictate something that is not their business.

    Your company has a few higher ups with perks and three people that have accommodations. These accommodations do not seem to affect you or your coworkers. However, your team members have decided that they want a say in who is accommodated. This is nuts. As long as the company is not being discriminatory, they are free to do favors as they please. I would not participate as it is not your business or theirs.

  51. Tomato Frog*

    It sounds like your employer has a really humane policy about working from home and, if I were you, I wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that or to make it less likely that people will have their requests granted in the future. Certainly the co-workers should ask to work from home if that’s what they want — but telling the boss “everyone or no one except for clear-cut medical need” would be a step too far for me. I can’t think of many situations where “If I can’t have it, they can’t, either” is the high moral ground.

    1. Angora*

      If the coworkers get ugly and take the approach of “offer it to everyone or cancel it for the one who have it approach” need to consider something.

      There may be a time in their life when they need an accommodation to work from home. Say one of them has a parent, spouse or child with an injury or find themselves dealing with a serious illness where they are functioning but unable to leave the home, or travel is difficult. Wouldn’t you want the option to work from home so that you can keep a salary and medical benefits.

      If they are argue all or else, they all may lose in the long run.

  52. Brett*

    I just find Work from Home as a benefit to be baffling in itself. We have mandated work from home and it is the most god awful thing ever that I really really wish could go away. My wife wants to kill me every time I get an alert in the middle of the night and have to wake up and work for hours. For a while, I just started going into the office anyway to better disconnect work and home and to make a point of how much work from home had turned into work on call.
    I hope OP’s co-workers understand what they are demanding.

  53. MT*

    I can totally seeing this back firing. I have seen more than one company eliminate WFH entirely becuase a couple of people couldnt handle it. I could imagine a situation where the people who get to WFH are pushing themselves to make it work, becuase they really need it to work. It’s less of a perk, then a life necessity. With everyone out of the office every day, the company may look back and decide that WFH was a bad idea and ruin it for the people who truely need it.

  54. Hooptie*

    As a manager who actively worked for approval of, then piloted our company’s first broad work from home program, I have some thoughts.

    1 – You need to be consistent and set down ground rules. In writing. And review them with the whole team as a group before implementation.
    2 – It does need to be all or nothing or the team won’t support it. However, you can work in language that allows tweaks of the program based on the needs/circumstances of the individual.
    3 – Any ‘tweaks’ need to have a time limit imposed and this language needs to be included in your guidelines. For example, in the situations of the woman caring for her son who can’t behave around others and the person who needs to care for their spouse, I would add verbiage that the arrangement will be reviewed every 3 months at minimum. This should give the other employees comfort that at least the situation is looked at on a regular basis and if the situation changes both sides can look at what is reasonable at that point.
    4 – Don’t create a 10 page document. Mine is 1 1/4 pages. Employees initial the conditions, then sign the bottom.

    I’d be happy to share my document if anyone could provide me with the name of a free service where I could post a pdf without my name attached to it.

  55. Allison (not AAM!)*

    To me, the biggest thing that stood out was that each SAH worker requires company equipment. It is NOT fair for a few disgruntled coworkers to expect the company to invest in additional overhead just for the sake of “fairness”. I work from home, but that’s because our entire company does. I have a company laptop and a company cell phone which is really all I need since I’ve already got wifi. The company didn’t have to dole out any unnecessary money for me. But it this case, the OP’s company WOULD have to. I’d stay off that bandwagon and remain completely neutral.

    1. Hooptie*

      It is fair for everyone to expect equal treatment UNLESS the situation is due to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Honestly, the increased productivity and employee retention have been worth far more than any investment we’ve made. If the investment is reasonable and there is a potential for ROI I would at least look at establishing some fair guidelines for everyone then PILOT it.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        Disagree. You don’t have to treat everyone equally. You can give different employees different perks because it will help them be more productive or to reward them for good work. It doesn’t have to be one size fits all.

        1. Hooptie*

          I do try to treat everyone equally. It ends up to a lot less angst in the long run. That’s just my experience, and in my world there isn’t a lot of time to deal with people running to HR with the ‘not fairs’. To each their own, I guess.

  56. Hannah*

    I think the OP should leave this one alone and wait until there is a personal persuasion to make a request, if the OP ever wants/needs that accommodation.

    I understand wanting fairness to applied across the board, but how do we know the manager would not be fair or consider each request? So far it appears he/she has, and that the comments are taking a turn for judgement of situations we have limited information about. Personally, I don’t think the personal circumstances of each person’s request should be debated as whether the department needs a work at home policy. If they need a policy, they need a policy. If the workers want a policy, then they want a policy. Dragging colleagues personal situations into the request is taking a reasonable argument (wanting a work from home policy) into muddy waters (the public debate over which circumstances merit it). That’s not what teamwork should be about.

    As someone who transitioned from my company’s corporate office to a fully remote, at home office when my husband’s job took us out of state, I can say several things about my working from home experience:

    a)Productive people are productive, whether in the office or not. Being a productive employee is about character, which is often about what you do when no one is looking. There are plenty of in-office workers who make sure they look busy but aren’t necessarily being productive. An in-office staff member on my team was recently let go for this very reason. So, productivity does not have to = physical presence in an office.

    b) there are lots of caveats to working at home. what is your company culture like? what is your team culture like? how does it impact what you are expected to deliver? for example, i work in an IT organization, and all of the work I did while in office supported geographically dispersed teams anyway. My boss was (and always has been since day 1 at this company) in another state. Moving out of state and transitioning to a full time remote work situation did not impact what or how I deliver what I’m responsible for.

    c) even though it seemed a “no-brainer” to be able to transition to working from home, I still approached my boss about the possibility before we decided to initiate an out-of-state job search, because we wanted to know what our circumstances might look like should he be offered a job somewhere else. we had a formal process to go through, which included getting permission from our department’s VP, who in turn left it up to my boss to decide.

    d) my boss approved the situation and said he appreciated the work I was doing and that he strongly believed that this was not a situation that would necessarily work for everyone on our team. Some team members were very effective workers at home, while for others it was more problematic (they weren’t always responsive or available or transparent). He did not wish to punish the effective team members for the other team members whose work-from-home arrangements were not a good fit for. in other words, he evaluated each request on its own merit. generally speaking however, most of the team when working from home was aware of what an amazing privilege it was and didn’t want to screw it up personally or for the rest of the team. not everyone partook, some people preferred to be in the office which was absolutely ok.

    I remain the only team member who works 100% remotely, , although our company overall has about 800 remote employees and several corporate offices with large populations going into the physical office. Many of these colleagues work from home 1-2 days per week themselves, and there has never been animosity, judgement, or whining about why I was afforded my request. We are all adults who respect the differences in our workplace and home dynamics. I think we each know that were the shoe on the other foot, we would appreciate the respect from our colleagues not to serve judgement on one another’s circumstances and it has worked really well! It’s the golden rule in action, and the company has lower turnover as a result.

    I have two young children, 7 and 1, who are in school /after school care program and daycare respectively. I had to sign a teleworking agreement that stated I would treat my home office just like my regular one , and one of the stipulations was that it was not a substitute for all day childcare. Like my in-office counterparts, all kinds of situations pop up where it is good to be able to be at home if my children need me. I have never been looked upon as a less productive member of the team when those situations happen (for example, a sick kid). If anything, it’s less conspicuous. I still mention to the team my child is home sick with me for the day, but my colleagues in the office have to leave work for those type of accommodations and email everyone who is otherwise expecting to see them in the office.

    And lastly, working at home if you do it full time (even sometimes) is not without its own challenges! You miss that facetime with people. It requires you to put an extraordinary effort into communication that otherwise might be tacit in an office. There is no separation from work/office. It’s easy to keep working all hours of the night. I’m not complaining, by any means, but it’s also not like I’m sitting around the house eating bon bons and watching soap operas all day.

    I think the OP should make a case to have a policy if and when you want. But let that be separate from judgement about colleagues situations and whether or not their WFH arrangement has merit.

    1. Us, Too*

      I take issue with this comment:

      “Productive people are productive, whether in the office or not. Being a productive employee is about character, which is often about what you do when no one is looking.”

      I have not found this to be true for me, personally, and I don’t consider it a character flaw. I am a highly productive employee when I am in the office. I cannot produce NEARLY as much at home, however. There are perfectly valid reasons for this that have nothing to do with my character:

      1. The nature of my work is such that face to face interaction is far more efficient and effective than a phone call or email/IM. My job and workplace is very political and losing face time is a big deal.

      2. My work desk/equipment setups are far more effective as well. I have large monitors, great chairs, equipment, etc at work that I could never have at home without significant investment in both time and money. For example, at work I have a motorized sit/stand desk, a mounted monitor, etc. All this comes magically installed and maintained for me thanks to our awesome staff who is devoted to just this. Batteries run out in my mouse? Need kleenex? Need pens? Need post its? All magically appear in a supply cabinet and I don’t need to monitor or maintain in any way. Our kitchen even has drinks and snacks. All this is there so that i can focus on work. And if I DO have a problem, I just drop a note to someone and it gets resolved with no additional work from me.

      3. When I have a technical issue, I am a few steps away from a help desk employee who can solve it on the spot for me 9 times out of 10. And the 1 time out of 10 that he can’t, he can immediately hand me a loaner laptop. Contrast that to the last time my laptop died while I was working from hom. I lost nearly half a day in work on the phone with the help desk trying to fix the issue only to find out I’d have to drive into the office for a loaner.

      Anyway, my point is only that productivity IS a matter of work environment in addition to character and skill and so forth.

      1. Hannah*

        People are going to take issue with all sorts of comments on this thread. Point b was meant to address exactly what issue you raised, that there are caveats to each person’s work and workplace that inform this decision/request. One size does not fit all, as you succeeded in pointing out.

  57. MR*

    I’m on the side of everyone does it or nobody does it.

    That being said, if working from home does happen, it’s up to the managers to hold their staff accountable for results. If someone starts to slip with their performance, they need to have the privilege yanked.

  58. soitgoes*

    What if the company started reimbursing the cost of parking? IMO it’s very rare that employees in a city with scant free parking aren’t eligible for something along the lines of city parking passes, even if the business has to pay out for them. It almost sounds like this was a very small business that started in a low-rent area of a (possibly major) city that is now having to deal with the issues that crop up once you’ve amassed a decent base of employees. If the office is in a lousy area that every single employee has difficulty reaching, it’s time for the owners to consider upgrading to a better space when the lease is up.

    Of course, this isn’t something that the employees can demand, but I can almost guarantee that this is something that management is already thinking about; by granting telecommuting privileges to two people for commute-related reasons, they’ve acknowledged that their current location isn’t workable.

    1. BritCred*

      They haven’t really said by allowing these two that the location isn’t workable, only that the two coworkers in question have mitigating circumstances that for them personally *any* commute might be unworkable.

      I’d be surprised if the bosses were aligning that with issues over parking costs.

      1. soitgoes*

        It could go either way, depending on how the employees sell their side of things. Personally, I think it’s easy to see how long commutes in their cars PLUS paying to park those cars turns this whole thing into a single big messy issue. Accommodations based on inability to manage any aspect of that car-time is going to be relevant. I also think that a workplace location that allows for no parking is inherently a bad choice if the owners intend to hire people who drive (which is every employer in 99% of the United States). The parking issue is worth bringing up.

  59. Case of the Mondays*

    I really am not a fan of the “treat everyone equally” mentality. As long as it is not legally protected against discrimination, I don’t see a problem with employers treating different employees differently based on their personal situations.

    In my line of work, some people are paper based, others are electronic. I work electronic. I asked for and received an ipad to help with this. Joe who is all paper has no need for one so why should the company spend money on one for him when he has expressed no interest in one? Another employee has a back issue and a stand up desk. That doesn’t mean we all need stand up desks. Employers should be free to give out perks/accommodation as they see fit just like they can raise salaries as they see fit.

    That said, I work for a small employer and we all have our individually negotiated packages with different salaries, hour requirements, vacation time, “perks” etc.

  60. In progress*

    I’m still not sure if the OP should take a side, but I do think if the co-workers approach their manager, they should definitely leave out the circumstances of the other people. Bringing their co-workers’ personal lives into it wouldn’t look good and would be a poor case for fairness. Personally, I’d suggest each co-worker individually work something out with their manager.

    1. soitgoes*

      This is tough, since I think there’s a case for bringing the personal circumstances into it. I’m sure there’s at least one other employee who’d like to pull her kid out of daycare and save all of that money by staying home with him. While the mother’s job performance is neither here nor there in this discussion, she really has been rewarded for her son’s bad behavior.

      1. In progress*

        The fact is that the co-workers just do not have enough information and getting stuck on what they see as unfair only hurts them.
        Also, the mother in this case has no choice. For example, I arranged with my employer to leave a little bit earlier because I take the bus. I explained that leaving even fifteen minutes meant taking the bus that took 3 hours and made me transfer in a dangerous part of town at night. I cannot drive for medical and financial reasons. If someone else wanted a different schedule, they would be much better off explaining their circumstances than “how come In progress gets to peel off early and I don’t?”

        1. soitgoes*

          It sounds lousy, but I think that the mother should have been scaled back to part-time if she can’t be there for the full workday. It’s not that her reason for needing to be home after 3 pm isn’t valid. It’s that, by allowing this particular accommodation, the management has placed more value on this one person’s home life than on her coworkers’. All children would be better off seeing their parents for two extra hours a day after school. Childfree people could certainly use two extra hours a day to pursue the interests that they’ve prioritized over starting families. This is an annoying conversation, and it doesn’t belong in the workplace, but the fact is that the managers at this particular office have brought it on themselves.

          1. ChiTown Lurker*

            Why should this person be forced to work part-time? If I, as the employer, decide that I am fine with doing this favor for my employee, why should it matter to you? How I choose to spend my resources is up to me. As long as I do not discriminate based on a protected class or force you to take on extra work to allow this accommodation, what is the issue with this?

            Each day corporations decide to provide different perks that affect their work populations differently, why must a choice to be made to accommodate the unaffected? For example, my company pays 55% of health care costs for individuals, 65% for individual + spouse/partner and 75% for family (adult + kids). If I am single or childless, I am getting a lesser benefit. Therefore, the company places more value on families supposedly. Perhaps, the company places more value on providing health care benefits that are more equitable in cost for everyone regardless of pay grade. For those purposes, it is fair though it is not equal.

          2. bearing*

            It looks to me that the company has placed more value on retaining the employee than on others. Maybe she is worth it.

            1. soitgoes*

              Then it really needs to be said plainly to that employee. I think a lot of commenters here are bending over backwards to see it from the managers’ point of view (which is fine, in the sense that the OP wants to try to figure out the initial reason behind the accommodation). I think the management has turned a blind eye and let a lot of rancor build up over a long stretch of time. The commute sucks, the parking fees aren’t being reimbursed, and now some people are allowed to opt out of that part of the office culture altogether. What’s happening is that the employees are looking for fool-proof logical reasons as to why they deserve the same privilege, and they’re tearing apart the justification of the few people who’ve gotten their way. It’s not about the reasons for the accommodations. It’s about the fact that EVERYONE hates the commute and EVERYONE hates paying for parking, and EVERYONE wants to get around it. As I’ve already said, I think management should have been buying parking passes all along.

              On the other hand, if they’re showing blatant favoritism and nickel-and-diming their employees over the cost of parking their cars, that’s a crappy work environment anyway. I’ve never, ever heard of a decently-sized company that forced its employees to use paid street parking.

  61. BeBe*

    Unfortunately, the situation at this company has gotten ugly and I think management needs to step in and determine what the rules are on the telecommuting issue. I agree that it doesn’t seem right to treat different people differently based on their “situation” because who knows what the real story is.
    However, I don’t think is has to be “all or nothing” either. If people need to be in the office, then they should determine that days 1 and 2 are mandatory in-office and the other 3 days are work-from-home if you want.

    Where I work we have a very liberal telecommute policy. Most people come in T-W-Th, and a lot work at home on Monday and especially Friday. This seems to make most people happy and it’s not even a “rule.”

  62. Aeraen*

    I think your co-workers may have a case for working at home, but not the one they think they have, and the OP’s contribution to “the cause” just might be to encourage the others to take a different, more professional, approach.
    As others have pointed out, approaching management with a “It’s not fair” attitude is childish and not likely to bear fruit. And ultimatums are almost guaranteed to fail (or, at the least, leave a bad taste in management’s mouth, even if the do capitulate.)
    Rather, they should build a case for a WAH program, including statistics on employee satisfaction, retention, productivity and cost. They should already have set up a guideline of eligibility (maybe have to be on the job for one year before being eligible, no attendance issues in the past year, etc.), as well as requirements (a separate room, children under a certain age must have separate care, etc) and productivity requirements. They should all look at their jobs and honestly assess the pros and cons, and how to mitigate or eliminate the cons before they start the WAH program.

    This is where they those who already work at home can help them. They can point to how well it has worked out for the company to allow those two to work from home, how their personal difficulties did not interfere with the office function, allowing them to continue to contribute to the company while taking care of their families.

    Rather than making the two who already work at home into a liability by insisting that everyone else get what they got, the group can turn these two into admired pioneers who paved the way to a happy, STABLE, work force that will remain loyal to a company that values their employees’ work/family balance.

    This approach is more likely to get upper management’s attention, and possibly offer a positive response.

  63. Anon1234*

    My thoughts:

    -employees have every right (natural/legal) to organize and present demands
    -realistically most employers will take offense at mass action b/c they see employees as theirs not autonomous agents
    -most office jobs can be does at least part time remotely
    -everyone who has any relationship of signifigance will face the need to care for someone- working from home should be a human right when possible, not a gift granted
    -b/c managers play favorites, work from home should be regulated by law

    1. bearing*

      If work from home becomes subject to government paperwork, fewer companies will let anyone work from home. Ugh. The solution to everything is not more regulation.

      1. Anon1234*

        I disagree- FMLA has been pretty much embraced and corporations have not crumbled. The way it is now, work-from-home has become a tool (for some, I have personal exp) for rewarding favorites and abused (by few, but it is there) to the point workers are working at their own businesses. Right now work from home folks get the perk of being at home AND saving on everything from food-commute costs-clothes-childcare and even able to store up sick days, folks who have to go in would have to had to call off and lose a day.

        Arbitrary work at home without rules/regs is a recipe for abuse.

  64. Anon1234*


    I think the only stipulation is whether or not the work gets done- I don’t care if you are watching your kids/dogs/sick grandma and being productive. Ask farmers, most small businesses back in the day….family didn’t get shuttled off to “care.”

  65. Hcat*

    In Canada, a person can request job accommodation such as WAH, based on family status. The request has to be reasonable, and doable, if that is in fact the case, then it’s then up to the business to prove otherwise, eg. undo hardship etc. They simply cannot say no, “because everyone else will want to do it”. Those types of cases were litigated in a court of law and employers lost big.

  66. Helen*

    I just want to point out that you need to be careful. I had a situation at my work where someone was trying to get the management to give her an accommodation to work from home one day a week because of a medical condition she had just had surgery for. The company decided that they didn’t want to give her this accommodation for whatever reason (most likely because they didn’t care whether or not she stayed with the company.) She decided to go complain to HR and point out the one other person she knew who got the accommodation. Because of this that other person lost the privilege and she landed up looking really, really bad. If you do all band together make sure you phrase things that other people do not become resentful.

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