have a telecommuting horror story?

When telecommuting goes wrong, it can go really, really wrong – because when problems aren’t right under your nose, it can take longer to spot them. That’s how you end up with the remote guy who hasn’t done any real work in two months (like Marissa Mayer’s discovery at Yahoo! that some remote workers hadn’t signed into the company VPN in months) or the woman who’s so unresponsive during everyone’s work hours that she might as well be a ghost.

I want to hear about your remote work horror stories — remote workers who couldn’t handle the autonomy, non-remote workers whose seething resentment of telecommuting colleagues blew up, and managers who simply sucked at managing a remote team. Spill in the comments…

{ 555 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Stories shared here may be shared in a future column (anonymously, of course!). If you do not want yours shared in such fashion, please feel free to note that!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I was thinking this was for a future column. I hope you’re going to include advice on how to avoid the situations that lead to these horror stories. I’m sure you will. With the stories alone, that will just give some managers ammunition for why they shouldn’t allow working from home. The poor managers (who are much too common) will only see more reasons to avoid a situation so they can continue to avoid managing.

          1. Mabel*

            I really like this last paragraph from the Dave Lewis article in Forbes (that was linked in the original post): “The real problem with remote workers is in not managing your people. Review the logs, provide guidance, communicate and take responsibility for managing your people. Companies need to be more agile and innovative but, also need to behave like grown ups. Don’t phone it in.”

            This isn’t a horror story, but it’s my experience with working remotely, and I’m really glad it has been anything but horrific.

            I’m the only member of my team who isn’t located in one of two other states (which was great when I moved – I just kept doing my job from my new location). It has been this way for about four years, and it is working well for the most part. I lobbied hard to have an office to go to (rather than being forced to work from home), and it makes a big difference. Sometimes it gets too hard to focus on work, and I want to sit and watch TV all day, so to avoid this, I go to the office. The people in this location are on other teams, but they all use the software that I support, so it’s good for them to have me there, and I get to be among colleagues, even though we work on different things.

            There are pros and cons to working remotely. One of our internal clients was so happy with my work for them that they gave me an iPhone to use for work (so I can replace my ancient BlackBerry). On the other hand, I can’t just pick up on the general vibe in the office or easily get information about what’s going on and what might be coming down the pike. So I make sure to ask my manager explicitly about any changes, office politics, etc. that I need to be aware of (and he’s pretty forthcoming even without prodding). I also have other office friends whom I’ve met on my infrequent visits to the offices my team works in, and I think they enjoy telling me office gossip. It’s good to have as much information as possible.

  2. Ali*

    My last job was a telecommuting situation, and my first manager after my promotion was a nice guy but not very organized time management wise. One day, he told me he wanted to have a review meeting with me. I was available, but he never signed on for it or brought up a reason for his lateness. One night during my shift (it was already midnight for me and 9 p.m. for him since he was on the West Coast), he asked if I’d have a few minutes to meet then. I don’t recall that we were particularly busy, so I said sure. We did Google Hangouts for our meetings, and when he got on camera, it was very obvious that he was not wearing a shirt! It was beyond awkward…although to be fair, I did not work in the most professional place to begin with. (The in-office employees were known to play beer pong and mini golf during working hours.)

    The next time he met with me, he had a shirt on, but I’ll never forget the shirtless boss encounter.

    1. Jen RO*

      I worked in an office that had a ping pong table and occasional happy hours, but showing up shirtless, even just on Hangouts, would not have been acceptable!

    2. Cath in Canada*

      My PhD supervisor just recently joined LinkedIn, and sent me a connection request. He’s not wearing a shirt in his profile photo! It’s just shoulders and up, but still, duuuuude! I did not expect to see that on LinkedIn :-/

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        That is a problem. LinkedIn pictures are supposed to be at least you looking fully-clothed. Unless you’re a scuba instructor, shirtless isn’t kosher (even a scuba instructor has a wetsuit though).

    3. MaryMary*

      I have friends whose boss took them to a Cubs game as a work outing. Halfway through the afternoon, the boss took off his shirt. My friends created their own “never be topless in front of your direct reports” rule, with its corollary “never be topless in front of your coworkers, PERIOD.”

    4. C*

      I once started up a Skype call with a bunch of colleagues while breastfeeding, and neglected to turn the camera off before doing so, which meant they got an up close & personal look (the laptop was balanced on my knee) before I realized & turned it off! All mature adults involved, and there’s no shame in what I was doing, but I wouldn’t have chosen to have them know that I was multitasking in that particular way! Not a horror story, but this reminded me of it!

      1. Coffee, Please*

        Crazy! I have been on a conference call while nursing at home where my baby was slurping so noisily I had to mute my line. When it was my turn to speak, I held the phone as far away as possible from baby, but I am sure they could still hear. :)

      2. Meghan Magee*

        I pumped while on meetings and just said that there was construction going on nearby as the excuse for the sound. I know a good number of the women knew darn well that was a breast pump but the men were happy in their ignorance.

  3. Meghan Magee*

    I work for a large tech support company and everyone I work with is 100% at home and has been for years. I had a co-worker that was ‘unavailable’ for all meetings or communications for the majority of the day, every day, because she was watching her ‘stories’. She claimed that she was super busy recording training presentations and billed hundreds of hours for her work. Her recordings were so bad and poorly done, that the client rejected them and we had to fly people out on OUR company’s dime to deliver live training instead.

    She was one of the first to get let go when our company started restructuring.

    1. AMT*

      I’m baffled at why it takes always seems to take a layoff to get rid of people like this. Is firing someone that hard?

        1. Not an IT Guy*

          It really shouldn’t be that hard considering the law allows someone to get fired over anything and everything…kind of baffles me as well.

          1. NJ Anon*

            People just don’t like to do it so we keep employees around that need to go FOR YEARS! Especially in the nonprofit social services industry because GOD FORBID someone loses their job. So yes, stay, make everyone else miserable or they quit but terrible worker stays on.

            1. Beancounter in Texas*

              I think firing people is distasteful to many people, or they dislike change, like my current boss. I was hired to replace his bookkeeper because they communicated poorly and he didn’t like her. I suspect that the problem had festered for years prior to my hire and then it festered another 14 months before he finally pulled the plug. He’s also averse to change, so he drove a car that he didn’t like for eight years before trading it in.

      1. Dan*

        Managers are just lazy… and risk averse.

        I’m fairly certain that one of the reasons they will wait to do layoffs/firings in groups is so that the company can better protect themselves from some sort of discrimination lawsuit. Fire someone who is a member of a protected class and they’re the only one, you could easily get stuck fighting a claim. Fire a group of people, and it’s much easier to prove that protected class membership had nothing to do with the termination.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Which is a myth that lazy managers latch onto. Employ competent and professional people to handle HR, document your employees’ work, take appropriate disciplinary action promptly, make sure employees are being treated fairly (i.e. Wakeen isn’t getting dinged for showing up five minutes late while the manager’s best buddy can wander in whenever), and discrimination lawsuits are going to be 1) rare and 2) easy to deal with if they do happen.

          Realistically, there’s nothing a company can do to stop a completely frivolous lawsuit from being filed. But there is a lot a company can to do make sure that such lawsuits don’t go very far, and that getting out of them isn’t a morass.

          1. AMT*

            Yeah, I’m not sure people understand how hard it is to take legal action for discrimination, even when there actually IS clear, well-documented discrimination!

          2. some1*

            “Realistically, there’s nothing a company can do to stop a completely frivolous lawsuit from being filed.”

            But if they lay the employee off, they can make waiving their right to sue or file any claim a condition of severance.

            1. KJR*

              Sometimes though, a layoff isn’t realistic. If you are clearly busy, and need someone in that position, it looks odd to lay one person off only to hire their replacement a week later. Also, I have a hard time with letting a blatantly incompetent/lazy person, who has no interest in improving, collect unemployment under the guise of a layoff. (Can you tell I’ve had few of those?)

              1. Artemesia*

                to not get unemployment the employee has to be fired for pretty egregious cause — most places ‘they aren’t doing good work’ is not enough to deprive unemployment.

                1. KJR*

                  If you have the proper paper trail/documentation/warnings, you sure can. You’re right though, (and maybe we are saying the same thing) you definitely have to have your ducks in a row in that department, in order to prove that the person has been given multiple chances to improve. I’m talking about situations where most people here would agree the person is taking advantage of the company and really slacking off. I have to add though, that if the person is really trying, and still not improving (i.e. bad fit), then I do not contest unemployment.

                2. Steve*

                  It depends on state or local law. There are definitely places where your conduct has to be illegal for you to not get unemployment. But there are others where getting fired for cause (such as not doing good enough work; or violating company policy – and who among us has never violated a single company policy) is enough.

            2. Mpls*

              Still won’t stop a frivolous lawsuit from being filed (you can file just about anything you please), it just means the employer has something to take to court to defend against the lawsuit. But there will still be lawyers involved.

            3. Natalie*

              As far as I know there’s nothing stopping a company from offering severance to someone who’s been fired, though, and they could put the same conditions on it. Particularly if someone’s being terminated because they’re just not that great (as opposed to being actively terrible or a thief or something) a few thousand dollars in severance is probably money well spent.

            4. neverjaunty*

              Assuming such a waiver is binding and legal under state law, that still doesn’t stop an employee who took that severance from filing a lawsuit – it’d get kicked pretty early, but the employer would still need to point out to the court that the employee’s lawsuit is DOA.

              Really, almost all of the time “we can’t fire X, they might sue us” means “we have sloppy HR and management practices”.

              1. TrainerGirl*

                Very true. I worked for a large company that used to pay people to go away quietly. It was usually because when that person became a problem, they were just moved to another department to cause problems for another couple of years. When some manager finally had enough, there was no paper trail to show why that person was a bad employee, so rather than admit that managers and HR hadn’t done due diligence, they just gave the person severance if they walked away without complaint.

        2. Zillah*

          Just a point – as I understand it, most protected classes cover everyone equally. There are a couple exceptions (e.g., age), but race being a protected class protects everyone from race discrimination, not just people of color. I get what you mean – in that example, people of color are much more likely to face race discrimination than white people – but the distinction is worth pointing out, IMO.

      1. Meghan Magee*

        She only told co-workers. Anyone else, like our Manager and the Project Managers were told how grossly overworked she was and what a trial it all was.

  4. Pill Helmet*

    Not a horror story, but on topic. My company has a huge percentage of remote workers. I work in a small satellite office that is pretty empty. I do all my work with people in other offices, with the exception of the occasional meeting with my manager (also in my office), and one other coworker who I talk to regularly but we do different tasks. There is literally nothing I do that I can’t do from home. I can’t for the life of me figure out why we have this office and why we are required to work from it, rather than from home.

    1. Cautionary tail*

      Same here. I have nothing in my office. There are several wide filing drawers, a bunch of desk drawers and 1 pencil drawer; all completely empty. The desktop surface is barren with only dustballs rolling to and fro and not a single piece of paper to disturb them. My office phone simultaneously rings to my mobile phone. My coworkers are in a different state, several hours away. Yet every day I drive in to the office, say a quick hello to the other people who work on unrelated things and then don’t talk to anyone local as I peck on the keyboard and talk on the phone all day.

      Telecommuting is not an option. Why?

      1. Pill Helmet*

        That sounds like my husbands last job. Nothing he had to do in the office but they just had a policy against telecommuting. I suppose for the same reasons many companies do.

        I find it especially odd in my case because my company has a policy that encourages telecommuting. We have about 140 people assigned to my small office (which has 5 offices for directors and about 15 cubicles total) and all but 9 of us work remote. I’m not exactly sure why they keep this office open or why the 9 of us have different rules than the others.

        Perhaps I’ve never been told I can work remote but I’m allowed and just don’t know it??? Now I’m wondering if I’m missing something.

        1. Nancypie*

          Maybe the company needs an office open in a certain location where people actually work? Like delaware, where a lot of companies are headquarters for legal purposes?

            1. Nancypie*

              Oh that’s interesting! Ok, well maybe not Delaware but some other state where you actually do have to conduct business in…

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My entire team telecommutes (they travel a great deal and work from home when they’re not traveling). I only do it if I’m ill, have a repair person coming, or have to take the stupid cat to the vet. I could probably do it if I wanted to, but after sitting on the sofa for a year looking for work, I had a strong need to get out of the house.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Almost everything I do at work I could do at home, if we were allowed telecommuting as an option. And I’d probably do it at a higher level of quality and efficiency. (This is a very noisy space, and I do a lot of editing/verification, so headphones are my friend.) In fact, the one other person who does my job is out this week, and aside from a couple meetings I had to attend face-to-face this week, everything I’ve done has been online or via phone this week. Ironically, I’d have gotten more done this week with telecommuting, because there are some tedious but important formatting tasks that I’d do in the evening and early mornings instead of spending all my time getting “office ready” if that were an option…

  5. John R*

    Not a horror story either, but I had SO looked forward to telecommuting and now have a job that allows it periodically. However, the first day I telecommuted I was bored out of my mind. Not because I didn’t have a lot of work to do–I did–but I missed the office interactions. I don’t think I’ll be doing it as often as I had thought.

    1. Blue Anne*

      I had a similar situation – a month and a half of training outside the office, two weeks of which was done at home on the computer. I was looking forward to it, couldn’t wait. But when it came to it, after about three days I was really bored, and after a week I felt incredibly isolated and unhappy.

      Grass is always greener, right?

      I think if I was working at home all the time I’d have to get a dog.

      1. the gold digger*

        Except if your dog to be is like my cat, she wants to go out. And then she wants to come in. And then she wants to go out. And then she wants to come in.

        “Just put her in the basement!” you say.

        She is a Siamese. Need I say more?

        1. NacSacJack*

          +2 One yellow lab/golden retriever, one black lab/border collie mix. They demand attention during phone calls, rub up against my arm while I’m working the mouse, and howl when they dont get attention (again during phone calls).

          1. Joline*

            I have a black lab/mystery mix. I don’t work from home often – usually just some e-mails in the evening or something. And if I’m working on my laptop on my coffee table she’ll just stand beside me with her nose maybe four or five inches from my face and stare at me. (and then try to lay her head on the computer)

            1. KJR*

              My miniature schnauzer repeatedly puts her paw on the touchpad. It’s funny & annoying at the same time!

                1. Alma*

                  Mine does that too. And clears his throat when I’m not paying attention to his obvious “remove your hand from the trackpad” gesture.

          2. Chinook*

            When I worked from home, the dog insisted on walks every few hours (despite never getting them any other time) and the cat would just glare at me for ruining his routine. Both have passed in the last month, so I am curious how the new cat will react to me being there during the day.

            1. dawbs*

              My cat loved it when I was laid off for a few months…
              So when I got my job and went back to work, she started very vengefully destroying all my work stuff. Work shoes? chewed. Briefcase? chewed. Belt? chewed. New suit? chewed.

              I had to start truly working to keep her out of the closets. She eventually mellowed and allowed me to leave the house during the daytime without eating my stuff.

                1. dawbs*

                  It was!
                  And she was very logical; it was only stuff that went to work with me that got attacked. 2 pairs of the same shoes, but the black ones I wore at home, the brown ones to work? She only ate the brown ones.

                  “So, Mr. Shoe, you’re going to enable mom to leave the house? HA, I shall defeat you, and mom will have to stay home. *waits* OK, so Mr. Briefcasem you will talk, about where mom goes…”
                  (This made me smile today. We lost her this winter and this gives me a bit of the warm fuzzies. I still have that chewed briefcase in my closet)

            2. afiendishthingy*

              My cats love when I work from home because there are so many comfy documents for them to lie on.

              1. KimH*

                or keyboards

                My cat loves when I telecommute (esp in the winter) – the keyboard of my laptop is so warm and inviting!

          3. Green*

            My dog did a very loud, exasperated sigh when I was on a conference call last week that I am sure was audible to the entire team.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          My cat is also a talker. There are times when I’m working from home on the weekend and decide to go ahead and go into the office so I can’t work in quiet.

          1. Susan*

            Most of my job has me leading meetings. I work from home frequently and have a very talkative cat. Pretty much everyone takes it as normal now that they will hear a meow from my side of the conversation.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              It’s nice that your coworkers don’t mind! I have a weekly language-exchange conversation, and my exchange partner has gotten pretty good about ignoring it, even though my cat will get louder and louder if not responded to. And he sounds like I’m in the middle of sawing him in half. I had told my coworkers about how loud he is, but it was only when a coworker called to work through something while I was working at home that she realized *how* loud.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  :) I’m glad it wasn’t your keyboard because that will do some damage.

            2. Connie-Lynne*

              Heh, yeah, Coworker Jane Earl Jones and Coworker Izzy love to stick their heads into my camera when I’m running meetings.

              People have a good sense of humor about it.

                1. Connie-Lynne*

                  Not gonna lie, being able to sit and huff the cats for a while can really help when work gets stressful.

        3. littlemoose*

          The dog will bring me toys and then get sad when I can’t stop working to at with him. He also wants to go in and out a lot. The cat is obsessive about trying to sit on my work laptop – I’m very strict about not allowing it to happen, but that doesn’t keep her from making multiple attempts.

        4. Hlyssande*

          My cat just tries to climb all over me and chew on the monitor and laptop when I’m working from home. He just wants love, can’t you see that?!

        5. Anonymous for now*

          My cat will jump up on my desk and curl up between my arms and the keyboard and rest his head on my wrist. Not a big deal if I am reading student papers; problem if I am trying to type a lesson plan!

          1. AlyInSebby*

            We call our tow Jack Russells the moniter moniters.

            They sit either behind the laptop screen and peek over or next to the keyboard.

            Xena is a Cuz and Tug-aholic she likes to throw those items on the keyboard.

            Puddy likes to put his paws on the keyboard.

            Both have literally pushed, pulled or swiped my hands from the key board.

            Love our wee Monitors.

        6. Mirror*

          Aww, my Rhodesian ridgeback mix is a great work buddy! She’s 3 and she lounges on a chair next to my desk and looks out the window. She’ll gently remind me to take a break every few hours by nuzzling my leg or bringing me a toy.

          We also installed a doggie door as soon as we built a fence for her. Which has been AWESOME during winters. She is also known to play outside by herself, which of course makes me feel guilty so I take a 5 min break :)

        7. AT*

          My dad has a very large (as in, large breed, not fat) couch potato dog who sleeps next to him on the couch when he’s telecommuting. Most of the time, she’s just sprawled out, snoring a little, occasionally “chasing rabbits”. But from time to time – if there’s a strange noise outside, for instance, she’ll jump up with the most deafening WOOWOOWOOWOOF you’ve ever heard.

          I was round at my parents’ house a few months ago, doing some writing across the living room from the two of them. My dad was in a conference call of some sort, working with a bunch of people in different cities on some sort of database…eh, IT, not a clue what they were up to, but it sounded important and all very serious.

          And then a fly landed on the sleeping dog’s nose.


          Right in my dad’s ear. He jumped so high I’m pretty sure there was a dent in the ceiling, his coffee flew in one direction, his laptop flew in the other direction. His mobile was ringing off the hook for the next half an hour from the people he’d been in the call with, making sure he was all right and hadn’t been attacked or something!

        8. LJL*

          My Siamese was just fine when I worked from home right up until I got on the phone. Then she had to start that Siamese miao. Fortunately, I only did that once a week or when weather was bad. Now that I work from home all the time, my dog is much more amenable to my phone calls.

        9. Brandy*

          I have 6 dogs and a nightmare phone interview because of it, but it wasn’t scheduled just a hey you answered lets do this interview, and I did get the job. But I don’t talk on the phone but maybe 5 minutes a day if that at this job. Its all computer.

      2. Melissa*

        I work from home a lot and I have a dog. She doesn’t really liven up the place that much, honestly. She’s only 1.5 years old and a Lab/Boxer mix, and quite high-energy, but when I’m home she’s a good little girl and spends most of her time lying on the carpet, the couch, or my bed, or wandering out onto my porch (I leave the door open for her). I do occasionally get up for play sessions as a break but she’s pretty chill otherwise. The only time she ever makes a peep is if someone knocks on the door. Then she barks a few times.

    2. V2*

      I agree. It’s great once in a while (like today, when I had a dentist’s appointment and getting back home vs. going to the office saved me 45 minutes, or when waiting for a package or something), but I literally could not work at a job if I had to do it remotely 100% of the time. I can’t even do it two days in a row without cabin fever setting in.

    3. Sofie*

      I telecommuted recently while I was recovering from a serious injury, and had the same experience. I was SO PRODUCTIVE at first and then… I felt like I was going to lose my mind. I didn’t expect to feel that way, especially since I’m an introvert and don’t socialize much at the office, but staying in one place for all night and most of the day was just too much for me.

      1. Sofie*

        For context, I realize it didn’t help that I was also in a wheelchair at the time and could barely leave my apartment at all, so I’m sure that’s part of the reason why it was so blech-y. But still. Never again.

      2. Chinook*

        “I didn’t expect to feel that way, especially since I’m an introvert and don’t socialize much at the office, but staying in one place for all night and most of the day was just too much for me.”

        Fellow introvert and I have to agree that it is isolating, especially when you are injured. I somehow managed working from home as the receptionist (I still don’t know how my boss swung it) when I had a cast and I started going stir crazy. At my current job, I have also started to appreciate the value of just sitting and chatting with colleagues helps loosen up some bureaucratic wheels or get insight into the bigger/historical picture. This is not something that would have been as obvious if I hadn’t telecommuted on occasion (and came across issues that could have been dealt with in the hall getting a coffee instead of 20 emails or numerous calls).

        1. jmkenrick*


          It’s a fantastic perk for me (when I do have something come up to be able to work from home) but it’s difficult to do regularly. You miss minor interactions that can shed light on how the cogs turn.

          Plus I live in a teensy city apartment, so I don’t really have a formal work space. Spending all day within two rooms is a bit much!

          1. Chinook*

            ” Spending all day within two rooms is a bit much!”

            I can top that! When I ratched up my ankle and telecommuted as the receptionist, I was renting a room in someone’s house (and that someone wasn’t happy when I used her kitchen to cook in, but that was another issue). that was the most isolated I ever felt as I spent approx. 22 hours a day in my bedroom. The only way I stayed sane was by making myself get up, make my bed and put on real clothes before sitting back on the bed with my leg propped up.

    4. Jane*

      Yep. I had a full time telecommuting position for a couple of years. I was super productive at the job, but ended up very depressed. I found out I’m at least partially an extrovert who needs face time with coworkers (and a reason to get dressed and comb my hair) to be happy. Telecommuting is fine if I have to work around a doctor’s appointment or put my head down and work without distractions, but it’s not good for me to do it all the time.

      1. Extro/Introverts*

        Extrovert and Introvert just refer to how you get your energy. Extroverts are people who are energized by being around others, Introverts are people who are exhausted by it. You can be a Shy Extrovert or an Outgoing Introvert, or a Shy Introvert or Outgoing Extrovert.

        I am an Outgoing Introvert – I enjoy my alone time, and even crave it. Partially I think because, I’m so outgoing that when I AM out and about it can be exhausting. I tend to be the instigator of things. I really enjoy a Friday night at home watching Netflix. But, I’ve often been told that I’ve never met a stranger and I know how to strike up a conversation quickly, even if I’m somewhat apprehensive because I don’t know anyone – I know that in most cases, everyone else is apprehensive too (like at a networking event).

        My husband on the other hand always wants to go out, no matter what is going on. He prefers to be out with others. He’s an extrovert – but he’s actually quite shy. He has trouble talking to new people (until you bring up SPORTS or some other subject he will talk your ear off about… no, he doesn’t have Aspergers he’s just shy) but really enjoys spending time with good, close friends. He isn’t exhausted by being out with others because he ISN’T super outgoing.

        I have another friend whose definitely an outgoing extrovert. I love her to death, but sometimes I’m like girl, you’re exhausting.

        1. Extro/Introverts*

          Additionally, when I get home from work my husband knows to let me say hello, pass him, and go upstairs and sit on my bed for like 20 minutes to detox (I usually just screw around on my phone or play with my dog, just no people) Being at work can be quite draining for me – but no one would ever know it at work!

          I like that I can work from home when I need to, but I don’t do it frequently. More than 2 days in a row (for a surgery or something) and I start going stir crazy. I couldn’t do a 100% remote type job because I AM outgoing, but I also can’t do a 100% in office job (was an admin a few years ago with a physical desktop computer – not laptop – and I couldn’t work remotely because my entire job was in office, and I got tired of that after about 6 months and asked for a transfer).

        2. Blana del Ray*

          I love this description of “Outgoing Introvert” and am going to start using it! It fits me to a T and I’ve been struggling when people try to categorize me as one or the other. I also always come up on Meyers-Briggs as 55%Intro, 45%Extro. Interesting!

        3. Bagworm*

          Thanks for making this distinction. People are always confused when I say I’m a Shy Extrovert. It’s very hard for me to meet new people (networking is excruciating but important for my job) but I practically cannot work through a problem without talking it out with someone and get super depressed if I have virtually any alone time. My partner on the other hand is an Outgoing Introvert. He needs lots of alone time (which I give him but have to be conscious of it because my inclination is to always pester him as soon as I walk in the door). For us, at least, it works well (in social situations) because he can easily strike up a conversation with anybody new, then he can introduce me and bring me into the conversation which is so much easier for me.

          1. Ad Astra*

            I also identify as a shy extrovert. I require very little alone time, but I have to get myself pumped up to talk to new people. I’m married to an outgoing introvert. We do not always agree on the best way to spend a Friday night.

    5. Cath in Canada*

      I think my ideal set-up would be 3 days a week in the office, 2 working from home. (Well, 2 and 2 with 3 days off would be really ideal, but aint gonna happen!)

      1. Cate*

        Looks like I have your ideal setup! My two days in the office are incredibly social with meetings, projects, networking and clients, and I spend the other two days reading reports, editing, writing/developing. Even from home my day can change on a dime, and my coworkers and I use Hangouts all the time so it lets me feel like I’m still in the office even when I’m not.

        Best of both worlds, and I’m so much more productive than in my previous department when I was on site 5 days a week with my own private office.

      2. littlemoose*

        That was mine, and it recently changed to 3 at home, 2 in office. I like the flexibility for my non-work schedule but am considering going back to just 2 days at home. I feel like I never see anybody, and while my work is mostly independent I do need to collaborate with others on occasion. And I could never do three days in a row at home – by the end of the second day, I have just got to get out of the house and go to the office.

      3. bopper*

        I have an office (we just converted to the dreaded open office plan) where our boss is completely cool with working from home…I am doing 2 days at home and 3 days in the office.

    6. Chinook*

      “Not a horror story either, but I had SO looked forward to telecommuting and now have a job that allows it periodically. ”

      Ditto – I have my first job that allows for occasional telecommuting and I love the ability to be able to work from home when there is a reason I have to be there (or am just sick enough not to bother with the bus and long commute but aware enough to work part-time through the day and only charge a few hours for the effort). DH is confused by this concept though because I pointed out that I could work from home while he recovered from hernia surgery so that I could take care of the dogs and him throughout the day (during coffee breaks) but he feels bad about me missing a couple weeks of work. (Then again, for him to telecommute for his job as media cop, they had to hard wire a secure line into his house for him to use his work computer to access work files, which is still better then driving into the office Christmas morning to draft a press release)

    7. Windchime*

      Same here. I work at home one day per week, which is just about perfect. Two days might be OK, and that is actually an option for me. But a couple of years ago, we had a big snowstorm (unusual for Seattle), and almost everyone worked at home for an entire week. I felt like I was in solitary confinement and could not WAIT to get back to the office. And I’m an introvert, but apparently I’m an introvert that still likes to be around people for a certain amount of time.

    8. Barney Stinson*

      I enjoy coming to work. I like my office and the people and the drive isn’t annoying. Do not want to telecommute.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Yeah, at most I would want to telecommute one day a week: it would be easier to schedule services without taking PTO, and it could be a good chance to focus on some work in large chunks without being disturbed. Beyond that, though, I thrive with small, low-level interaction throughout the day, so being in an office does me a lot of good.

    9. Penny*

      Yeah, I love the IDEA of telecommuting traffic is awful and I’m not a morning person, so that would be great. But I’d really miss interacting with my coworkers every day and doing it by IM or the occasional call isn’t the same. And I enjoy that collaborative aspect of the office where I run into people in the cafeteria or halls or they drop by to ask questions. I’m not even a people person at all- I love just being alone at home-but I enjoy that aspect of work. That said, my mom and her department work from home and it’s a great fit for her job since they’re on a computer all day usually with headphones. I do have one coworker who works from home for long periods and I miss her when she’s home!

    10. Liane*

      When I was doing WFH as a medical transcription editor, I absolutely loved it. No getting dressed up, no leaving the house..My kids were also old enough to both take care of themselves for a few hours and understand why Mom had to be left alone if it wasn’t a Call 911* thing. I didn’t get bored, but I enjoy reading/editing/scoring stuff others might consider tedious (medical reports, educational assessment essays and game materials). Also this wasn’t a job that had any downtime. Medical transcriptions have a very short turnaround, often hours, so most of the time I had at least 1 more added to my queue when I finished one.
      I wasn’t micromanaged, but I could reach my supervisor easily via email or IM & in fact I “clocked” in and out by emailing her. As for computer problems, I could also reach IT very easily and my dedicated, company-supplied computer was set up so that he could look or take control remotely if there were issues.

      Would do this again in a heartbeat. In fact I am looking for similar opportunities right now.

      *Emergency services number in the USA.

      1. chrl268*

        Just because I find this interesting, so I’m not trying to be rude etc – I’m pretty sure most people outside the US knows 911 but I find that Americans don’t know other country’s emergency numbers.

        I’m from Australia, if I dial 911 into my phone I get redirected immediately to 000, our emergency number. Same with if I dial 999 (UK’s emergency number) and I think there are a few more. In some European countries 112 is the emergency number which we use for mobile emergency calls, ie if I call 000 from a mobile the operators can’t tell where I am and rely on my communication skills but if I call 112 from my mobile they can trace me.

        If I call 000 from within America I don’t get redirect to 911. I think thats an oversight. What if I panic and forget that I’m in America and dial the number that means PANIC to me?

        1. Sobriquet*

          Huh. I would never think to expect that [Random Int’l Emergency #] would redirect to [Local Emergency #]. Sure, it would be better, but honestly I’m surprised that [Random Int’l Emergency #] redirects to [Local Emergency #] anywhere.

          Also keep in mind that most people have cell phones (I think at this point they outnumber landlines) with a big red button that says “emergency call.” Number unnecessary.

          I agree, however, that people outside the US are far more likely to know 911 than people from within the US are to know other emergency numbers. I only know a couple others, and that’s because I watch BBC and have traveled a fair bit. I assume the difference is mostly because of Hollywood and the fact that Americans are less likely to travel abroad than people from most other countries, but it would be interesting to see if that’s actually true!

          1. chrl268*

            I think the reason it redirects is because of how many american tv shows are on tv over here and the people in charge are concerned that someone in a panic will only remember 911.

            We were talking at work about this the other day, a coworker was talking about when he went to America to teach and he was amazed by how these 14yr old kids weren’t aware of other countries around the world. Another coworker mentioned when she went to America for a conference they were shocked that she wasn’t from America.

            As an aside, I just checked my phone – no emergency button. It’s a small sample size of one phone but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a phone here with an emergency button.

            I rather like BBC tv shows :-)

            1. UK Nerd*

              Same here – my other half and me have different models of android phone, and neither of them has a big red emergency button. It’s drilled into us at an early age that you call 999 for an emergency. I know the American number because I love US crime shows. In case of an emergency in the US, I think I’d remember to call 911, but I don’t know if I’d be able to remember 112 while in Europe.

              1. Marillenbaum*

                Personally, I find 112 (or even 911) to be far less intuitive than 000 or 999, where you simply have to hit the same number three times.

  6. Sabrina*

    At an old job I had a co-irker who would WFH one day a week. And she’d use that day to run a lot of personal errands during work time. Fine, right? Except she’d never change her status on the chat system, or update her calendar, so no one ever had any idea if she was around or not. She was an Admin Asst, so a lot of times we’d need to know if she was available to do something or if someone else should handle it.

    1. Jesse*

      Oh yeah — an old coworker with the same deal would accidentally slip and say something about “not working” that day….The boss was just looking for an excuse to cancel WFH, and that was a good one.

    2. Artemesia*

      I can’t imagine allowing an AA to work form home except in very unusual situations. The name of the job is ‘be available.’

      But having people who are routinely unavailable during the work day when WFH is a management failure.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I’m an executive assistant who works from home at least once a month. There are plenty of days I have to be in the office because of the nature of the work, but there are just as many days where I can get everything done at home depending on what I’m working on. My boss has realized that I need that day to work from home once in a while because she sees how many people stop by my desk for little favors that really add up to a huge chunk of time (and these are people who I don’t even work for).

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I am an admin and I can work from home. But I’m not on the front desk except one hour a week, and everything we do is remote anyway. Most of our work is slow-paced, so urgent anything is pretty rare, but I’m available by email and IM the entire time. All i need is decent internet and I’m good to go. :)

        It’s no different from being at the office except I work in my jammies and can actually cook my lunch. I even did it over 4,386 miles and a six-hour time difference the last time I went to London.

        1. azvlr*

          I have my sights on being able to do this in the future at my job. My dream is to rent a furnished apartment in the south of France for a month. Work from home during the day, explore during evenings and weekends. If I could do this, I would be the most dedicated employee alive!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I know, right?! I love London so much that I don’t even mind taking public transport at peak time. I’m all mentally, “Oh hello, stranger who is one inch from my face. This is kind of uncomfortable, but hey, I’m in the UK! Woo hoo!” instead of D:

            I wish I could take a sabbatical and do research for a year. Alas, I cannot stay for more than six months without a visa and I couldn’t get a job on visitor status. Though I don’t know about remote working. Even if I could work remotely, I can’t afford it. x_x

  7. AndersonDarling*

    My organization has it set up so any employee can work from home, even if your job required you to be in the office. There was an in-office hourly employee who was signing into her work account from home, clocking in, and then would come into the office hours later. It was a while before the fraud was discovered and she was fired.
    I only found out about it when I asked what happened to the person who was in my position before me.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      At Dream Job, we had a web-based time clock until I think someone realized they could clock in from home before coming to work. Then we had to lock it down by IP address.

      At Nightmare Job, we had a time clock with biometric identification. It was a pain to use sometimes, but at least the one coworker who repeatedly contested her own punches couldn’t claim someone else clocked her in late or clocked her out early.

  8. Blana del Ray*

    Here’s a great story about a recent boss (E.D.) who was paranoid about her team working from home and yet insisted that we do so upon occasion, resulting in the feeling of working with Joan Crawford. Her insistence on ‘having working from home time’ was to appear generous, but it was that SHE wanted to “work from home” (i.e., do absolutely nothing work-related). She’d usually end up claiming to have ‘gotten work done’ but anything the team would have sent to her would be met with absolutely no response, or we’d hear lies such as, “Oh, my computer broke…” or “My internet wasn’t working all day so I couldn’t receive e-mails” even though she would be perfectly able to SEND accusatory e-mails our way.

    So, her paranoia and mistrust stemmed from her own guilt of using ‘working from home’ to do no work. She would then announce the next day that she’d not only worked ‘a whole lot’ but that she’d managed to get a few ‘minor, personal side projects’ done, such as retiling her 2 bathrooms, getting a manicure and pedicure, and going out shopping for window dressings. Then she’d say things like, “I know we’re all working from home tomorrow, but I don’t want anyone doing anything that takes advantage of my trust, like, you know, redecorating your bathroom or something.”

    And when you WERE working at home, god forbid you took 2 minutes to take a pee and she e-mailed you. If you didn’t respond IMMEDIATELY, even if the request wasn’t urgent, or if you were THINKING about what to write whilst peeing or making a cup of tea, the WHOLE TEAM got an angry e-mail about responsibility, about ‘taking advantage’ of trust, and how there would be “NO MORE days from home because no one can be trusted!”

    Usually, after being ‘reprimanded’, a week or so later there would be an announcement of a ‘new work from home’ schedule, which would include ‘summer Fridays from home’, which meant we had to work but she could parade around doing whatever she wanted and leave an obvious trail of evidence that she was doing things such as:

    Going shopping with her daughter
    Buying furniture and redecorating her house
    Leaving the country
    Sleeping during emergencies at work
    Watching musicals

    So “working from home” became a phrase that made our skin crawl. My friends would say, “You’re working from HOME? You’re SO lucky. I’d kill to be able to do that!” They had NO idea what a maelstrom of paranoiac crap was hurled our way each time and how our boss’s unpredictable nuttery made it so that 3 senior staff members left in a 6 month span.

      1. Blana del Ray*

        It was the worst boss I’ve ever had. The hardest part was that external partners and board members bought her act hook, line, and sinker. She also threw documents in my face and flossed her teeth during meetings…

        1. MommaTRex*

          At least she didn’t remove her teeth during meetings and place them on the conference table. (true story)

          1. manybellsdown*

            Ooh is your boss my Grandma? She threatens to do that all the time when someone ticks her off. “You stop that right now or I’ll take my teeth out!”

      1. Steve G*

        PS you brought back bad memories of a manager that ½ of my previous office reported to. He would “work from home,” and no work EVER seemed to come out of him, expect occasional email nitpicks – why wasn’t X done, why didn’t we get paid for X job yet, is this customer buying yet? These all sound innocent enough, but in that office, they would be the equivalent of asking the janitor “are you going to mop the floors? Will you replace the empty toilet paper?” We all got the feeling that they just logged in for 10 minutes, sent out a bunch of meaningless emails to look engaged and “create accountability”, and then did personal stuff.
        We especially rolled our eyes when he called/sent a few of us emails to ask what time the others got in. Sometimes I thought I was the only one who got these, until I confided in one guy “I hope this doesn’t PO you, but he’s emailed me that past 3 times he’s out to ask what time you came in.” His response? “Really? He emailed me to ask what time you came in !” I was livid! I was ALWAYS doing OT and doing stuff on weekends. Who cares when I come in. Dude, you can’t roll you’re a** into the office at all, so if someone comes in ½ an hour late, how are you in the position to make a stink of it?

        1. Blana del Ray*

          Yeah, usually someone who can’t be trusted doesn’t trust other people either. I bet this was the case with your guy. Sounds like a douche!

    1. Clever Name*

      Ha ha! My former boss would leave every single day around 3 or so, and he claimed to his boss and sometimes to us that he’d be working from home. Other times he would plainly say, “I want to watch a football game tomorrow night, so I’d better take my girlfriend to the movies this afternoon” as he was walking out. Or he’d say he was taking his daughter to the mall. One time my coworkers and I caught him in a lie because he told the folks in the office one story and he told the folks in the field a different story.

      Then, when I’d work from home due to a snowstorm, he’d constantly call and email, and I knew it was to make sure I was actually working. One time he called my cell multiple times and left multiple messages, because I wasn’t in the office. I wasn’t at work because I was getting my mandatory work-required medical workup, and I had reminded him about it when he left the day before, but he’d obviously forgotten. I learned then that if I was going to be gone from the office for any reason I’d need to leave a note on his chair the day before.

      I don’t miss that job at all.

    2. Lizabeth*

      If ED is still doing it, why not, quietly, among yourselves, all come in the office on one of the WFH Fridays? (GRIN)

      We have the option to do that on Fridays during the summer but since the office is much, much quieter on Fridays, I’d rather be in the office working than trying to do it from home.

      1. Rana*

        My theory is that they’re capable of short bursts of competence at lower level work, and have a knack for being well-behaved when superiors are watching. So said superiors think that they’re that way all the time, and are capable of doing higher level work… but anyone who works with them on a day to day basis knows they suck.

        1. Gene*

          It’s like scoring comps at table games in Vegas. When you first sit down (let’s say at a $5 table) make sure you sit where can watch the pit boss. After you give your info to the pit boss, make $15-25 bets while he writes down your info (or enters your card into the system). Then when he’s not watching your table, drop your bet down to $5. Whenever he heads toward your table, bump back up to your original amount.

          You’ll be earning based on the theo for $15-25 while only risking the theo for $5. Same thing for a lot of people at work, when the boss is around, they are the hardest working person in the cube farm; the boss’s door shuts and the Minesweeper game starts up.

      2. Blana del Ray*

        It’s usually when an organization is desperate to fill a spot and they don’t do a good job hiring, in the case of this position. Also, the ‘hiring committee’ was a virtual board of directors who did most everything over the phone, and this boss had no one to report to on a daily basis whatsoever.

      3. NJ Anon*

        It’s the Peter Principle: The Peter Principle is based on the notion that employees will get promoted as long as they are competent, but at some point will fail to get promoted beyond a certain job because it has become too challenging for them. Employees rise to their level of incompetence and stay there.

      4. Chickaletta*

        I think it’s a sign of poor upper management. Poor being defined oh-so-many ways: ignorance, dictatorship, nepotism… It leaves a lot of room for yes-men, ass-kissing, and manipulative employees to work their way into middle management.

    3. the gold digger*

      My internet wasn’t working all day so I couldn’t receive e-mails

      Which is when I would, after I sent a text to my boss saying my internet was out and to call me if he needed me until I resolved the situation,

      1. ask my next-door neighbor if I could poach her internet
      2. go to the library and work there
      3. surrender and go to the office

      1. littlemoose*

        We have a policy that, if your internet/power/whatever isn’t working, you have to come into the office or take leave.

      2. jmkenrick*

        Agreed. Although, at my org, I’ve sometimes seen people put on their Out-of-Office saying they’re head-down on a project and off e-mail – usually accompanied by a WFH day.

        Of course, I believe this is cleared with managers and these are all productive coworkers (who obviously are working a deliverable) but I’ve always thought that’s a smart idea for the occasional project you really need to power through.

      3. Blana del Ray*

        Of course you would. But this person had no one to report to as E.D. with a ‘virtual’ board of directors scattered all over the place that would only meet in person 1 time a year, when she’d put on her best BS song n’ dance. Sigh…

      4. catsAreCool*

        When my internet doesn’t work, I call the internet company to find out when it will be fixed. If it’s going to be a while, I’ll let my supervisor know. Sometimes I can work offline for a while, but if it lasts a while, I take some PTO time.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Leaving the country?!

      What a horrid person. If she emailed me angrily when I was peeing, I’d be tempted to fire back, “I AM SORRY I WAS ON THE TOILET. WHAT DO YOU NEED?”

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I once worked in a trade organization with a woman named Rebecca.  Rebecca was an assistant for a VP named Bob.  She claimed to be so busy all the time, but doing what?  No one ever knew.

    She had a couple of schemes.  

    A) She’d claim she was working from home, and the email time stamps showed that she did.  But one Friday, I had a flex day, and I went to the grocery store.  She was a cashier.  She never said anything to me nor I her.  (This was back in the day before cell phones with cameras.)

    B) She’d work a regular 9-5 day and then go home and claim to work another eight hour day from 6 PM to 2 AM.  Again the time stamps on emails would back her up.  Not only was she drawing a paycheck, but she was drawing an additional week of OT pay EVERY week.

    C) She’d go on vacation, but she’d come across any flimsy excuse to “work” during her vacation.  Again with the time stamped emails at 3 AM.  She still counted those days as full work days too so nothing cut into her vacation time.

    How did Rebecca get away with all of this without showing an ounce of productivity?  Bob mentally retired about five years earlier, and he didn’t care.  He’d sign off on whatever she asked him to because he was lazy and he knew she’d put up a fight.  Rebecca also played into the fact that upper management wasn’t very tech savvy.  They had no idea that you could set up an email to send out in the middle of the night if you wanted.  Bob bragged frequently about all the late night emails he’d get from Rebecca.

    Unrelated but Rebecca got in trouble for buying everything Staples had to offer and running up the office credit card.

    1. Future Analyst*

      Wow. Just… wow. Did you say anything to anyone after you saw her at the grocery store??

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I did but no one higher up felt like they could do anything because there was no proof. Or maybe they didn’t care. They were big spenders too.

      2. Pill Helmet*

        I’m wondering why she even needed to work at the grocery store if she was raking in all the extra OT and not really doing her original job in the first place and still getting paid for it?

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          There’s an 18th-century Italian play called “The Servant of Two Masters” about a guy who gets two jobs working for two different people and all the shenanigans he has to go through to make sure his employers don’t find out. It sounds like we’ve found a real-life version!

          1. hh*

            The real life version was at my company. He would show up in the morning at one job, and then depart for “meetings” all day. Then he would show up for a little while at the other job, and depart for “meetings,” and go to the movies.

            This was all only discovered when he got a THIRD job, with an employer who submitted him for a security clearance.

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            This was the same organization who told the receptionist that they didn’t have enough money to give her a raise and the she was processing the expense reports from the Board of Directors meeting and found out the bar bill alone was one of her bimonthly paychecks.

            I’m no accountant, but I swear everywhere I’ve worked the finances made zero sense in public perception. I get that money comes from different pots, but the perception of asking lower staff to sacrifice a COLA for another year while charging $1K for steak dinner for execs is so disgusting and allowing another employee to milk OT every week

    2. Sarahnova*

      I always think that people thinking sending emails at 3am is a sign of awesomeness is in itself a red flag about a work culture. I know some people are productive at weird hours and long hours are routine in some fields, but I feel like when you’re bragging about sending/receiving emails at arse o’clock, something is very wrong.

      1. AMT*

        Yes! My wife used to have a boss who bragged about spending several hours every evening working at home. My wife knew that he did this because he had next to no clue how to do his job and was ridiculously inefficient. It was yet another sign that the office culture valued ass-in-chair time over actual deliverables.

      2. MicheleNYC*

        Being someone that suffers from insomnia there have been plenty of times where I have sent e-mails at 3:00am to my counterparts in other parts of the world. No one thought I was bragging but I also never made a big deal out of working at that time. I was awake so why not do some work. My director even made a joke out of my insomnia.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          There’s a difference between what Sarahnova is talking about and someone who is working and emailing in the middle of the night because they have insomnia or are a night owl. I get late-night emails from two of our higher ups, but they aren’t bragging, and they aren’t working a 15-hour day or anything. They just don’t really start working until the afternoon because they are night people.

      3. cuppa*

        Not about telecommuting, but once I worked somewhere where a co-worker left printed out e-mails on our chairs for when we came in to the office. They always had a timestamp of 2, 3, or 4 in the morning, like he was proving he was in the office at some ungodly hour. It was so weird.

      4. mdv*

        Agreed! Although, one time I wrote a reply to a campus-wide email that was sent by the chancellor of the university I work for (I don’t remember what it was about), and I remember feeling a little impressed when I got a response that was clearly written by the chancellor himself very late in the evening — I’m sure the people who helped answer his email were not the ones working until midnight!

      5. Dan*

        I send emails at 3am… because I’m up at that time doing work. The flip side is, you will *not* see an email from me before 11am. Ever. And I work only 40 hours a week.

        My boss gives me crap about it, and I just ask her if she wants my work done or not.

      6. A Kate*

        I also have occasional insomnia, and I’ve intentionally *not* sent emails at 3 am (I schedule them to go out at reasonable times), because I don’t want my boss or clients to wonder how sleep-deprived I am in the office the next day.

    3. Steve G*

      Wow! And it’s nuts that all you had to do was send an email to prove you were working!

      1. fposte*

        I’m not required to show proof at all, and I don’t have to log into a VPN. But, you know, academics.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I agree. She did put on a great show of how busy she was even though she only planned one conference a year.

        This woman also had a five page, single spaced job description. No kidding. Turns out that she not only listed her duties, but she included when and how she would do them. (Think “every Monday, mopped floor by pouring bleach and soap into bucket; guiding mop with upper body strength.)

        She never actually produced that much, but those vps never paid that much attention to the junior staff anyway.

    4. Ed*

      My buddy got a new job and very quickly figured out his entire department was doing this kind of stuff. What he could tell from archived records, it had been going on for maybe a decade. These dozen guys were getting an extra $25-30K a year in unworked overtime. The owner wouldn’t fire them because it would affect the company too much to lose an entire department. But they fired the supervisor and all overtime now has to be personally approved by my buddy. Of course, he makes sure he schedules them in such a way that they rarely ever get overtime. He figured the worst punishment possible (other than firing) is to take away $25K a year from a guy who has his standard of living based on the old salary.

    5. Dorothy*

      Wow, that’s… very sad that she was so desperate. (In addition to being incredibly bold and dishonest.)

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        It was tough to tell. She was emotionally unpredictable so no one ever really got to know her. I always steered clear of her. She was a yeller.

    6. ArtsNerd*

      I have a friend who has done this with emails, but not to rack up overtime. She’s exempt, and will work a little longer the day before she’s working from home, and generally is more efficient with her time in the office than her colleagues are. So when she “works from home,” she’ll have a few emails and project drafts scheduled to send out, and keep an eye on email for urgent responses… and then do whatever she likes.

      She does NOT have the kind of job where immediate availability is frequently a concern, and she works at a high level, so… I kind of judge her negatively for it, because “honesty” but also think “so few employees get their work done AND their personal time back. good for her.”

      1. sunny-dee*

        I actually don’t have a problem with this. I work from home all the time. There are days, legitimately, where I’m working 15 hours a day because of international calls or tight deadlines or something went wrong that I have to fix immediately. Other days, it balances out if it’s 6 hours and a long lunch to work with a repair man (like, today, as I listen to the sounds of a $1500 water heater job I’m not at all upset about)…..

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ugh! Water heaters suck. I finally got my new one paid off. Now I’ll be saving/spending/working from home repeatedly as the rest of the bathroom slowly gets renovated…. >_<

        2. Windchime*

          But ArtsNerd’s description doesn’t sound like this is happening. It seems disingenuous to me to work “a little longer” the day before a work-at-home day, and then just schedule a few emails to go out the following day while she does whatever she likes. I work flexible hours — yesterday I probably spent 7 hours in the office, but I worked a couple more from home later. Today will be closer to 8 — or maybe 6 1/2 if I decide to go home. But I make sure that I get at least 40 a week and don’t ever just goof off and send out scheduled emails on my “work at home” day. That just seems dishonest to me.

          1. Coach Devie*

            Seems like her work culture has that flexibility. As long as you are doing your work and getting it done on time, and your deliverables are of quality and on time… I don’t know that it matters if you are actually putting in an exact 40 (especially as an exempt employee) especially if you aren’t needed for emergencies regularly etc. I think I’d be more worried when an employee was putting in OVER 40 (exempt or not) and still struggling with quality work, deadlines and deliverables. Especially a non-exempt because they’d be raking that OT in when they could just be balancing their schedule better.

    7. Beancounter in Texas*

      I love the delay-send email feature of our email client, but I use it for efficiency, not pretentiousness.

  10. stellanor*

    All my telecommuting horror stories are like, “And then the VPN started kicking me off every 30 seconds and I couldn’t get anything done, so I ended up going in to the office anyway.”

    1. ElCee*

      Or “my dog kept stopping by my desk to distract me with questions about when I was going to scritch his ears.”

      1. stellanor*

        Yesterday my dog decided that the right time and place to vomit was right next to my foot while I was pinch-hitting on a phone interview I had not prepared for.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Or, it’s so hard to get anything done using that tiny laptop screen, when you’re used to two monitors, so it’s nicer to be at work, if I really want to work. But if I telecommuted on a regular basis, I would have a better home setup.

      1. NacSacJack*

        +1 I’d work from home more often if I had two monitors. Trying to see everything on those tiny laptop screens. LOL

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          We’re in the middle of reno work at home, but when it’s done this is what I’m doing. At work I have a laptop on a docking station with two monitors; I talked them into spotting me a spare docking station to leave at home and I’ma set up two monitors there so that when I do work from home (which saves me buckets of sick leave, because the number of days I’m not really well enough to be around people but absolutely well enough to read, which is 9/10 of my job, is a little high; also see the past two winters’ worth of snow days) I can do so more efficiently and without straining my eyes.

      2. JoAnna*

        I bought a secondhand LCD monitor for $20 and set it up in my home office. It’s nice to have on my WFH days (I WFH 3x per week).

        1. littlemoose*

          +1. I did the same. Craigslist monitor for $10 and it works great. The way my work is done, it would be incredibly frustrating without the second monitor, so it was money well spent.

          1. Windchime*

            Hmmmm. I have two monitors, but for some reason when I use the VPN to get into the network at work, only one monitor will work. I can’t figure out a way to get both monitors working. Any ideas?

            1. aliascelli*

              Try the Microsoft-key-P if you haven’t already. You might need to switch it from “Duplicate” to “Extend.”

      3. Elizabeth West*


        When I went abroad, I didn’t realize I had to enlarge the text size on my laptop AT THE OFFICE before I left. When I hacked into it with the loaner laptop via VPN, I could barely read anything and I couldn’t make it bigger! I had to use my reading glasses and that wasn’t even ideal! Thank goodness I had the IT guy who set me up on speed IM. He hacked into it from there and finally I could read my emails without severe eyestrain. I had to change it back when I got home, but that was no big deal.

      4. Hlyssande*

        I hook up an old LCD that a friend gave me to have two monitors, then plug in my extra ergonomic keyboard and my wireless mouse and it’s almost as good as being in the office.

        Hate the tiny laptops, though. Hate them so much.

      5. AVP*

        I’ve only worked at home when I was injured for a few days, or during bad snowstorms. My big horror story is that I have a tiny studio with no desk or table, so I would lay on the bed for an hour until that hurt my neck, and then sit in the beach chair at my coffee table until tat hurt my back, then back onto the bed… ideally if I ever needed to work from home for more than a day or so, I would get a real set-up.

    3. K.*

      The VPN at my old job was really limited – you had to log on by like 6 AM if you wanted a slot, and if you got kicked off you were pretty much SOL. And when people started complaining (winters have been tough the past couple of years and the office was in a location that was really hard and dangerous to get to in bad weather – there was no public transportation out there), the company was like “Um, come in? I guess?” A lot of people just ended up taking the time as PTO.

      1. MaryMary*

        I used to have a job where long hours were really common, and our VPN would kick off users after 12 hours. There’s nothing like sitting there on work hour #12, trying to coax your computer into logging back into the VPN so you can finally finish your work.

        1. Jessa*

          Oh gods this. You have a perfect connection and it drops and you’re in wait hell trying to get back on. I never understood why they couldn’t make certain log ons “no drop.” I mean if it’s obvious you have to work more than 12, then give you more than 12. If someone abuses it by not logging off, you reprimand them, but you don’t get everyone else screwed up by having to try and log back in. And OMG it’s always when you have a customer/client on the phone. “I’m sorry my computer,” is never something an employee should have to say unless something actually happened. It shouldn’t be built in by the system. This from someone who worked overnights so when I was calling customers in the morning, it was near to the end of my shift so I was on the long end of the “it’s gonna shut off soon, can you finish this convo in two seconds or you’re in deep kimchee.” Especially since our phone system was part of the network. The phone controls were on the screen as a virtual phone. I get dropped, so did my call. Took me three months to get them to understand that they needed to stop DOING that, because I could really only call people after 8 am. I finally went into the office one day and pretty much sat on the IT person til they fixed it.

    4. Ama*

      Or “I spent a whole weekend rearranging my apartment so I’d have a designated work from home space and discovered on the first day using it that it’s a wi-fi dead zone.”

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        This happened to my poor husband. We have office space attached to the garage with AC but no heat, so he intended on working in the house tucked away in a corner the 2 year old couldn’t find him during the 3-4 winter months it’s just too cold to think of going out there. He ended up working most days in the sunroom, instead. He took calls in the bedroom so clients couldn’t hear the kid (that I was watching, so he wasn’t doing childcare, but toddlers aren’t quiet!)

        1. einahpets*

          I work from home twice a week, and occasionally have to take calls at ~6am my time (I work on the west coast and one of my projects has clients in London).

          I count myself lucky that there has only been one occasion so far where my early rising 2 year old has busted into the room I am hiding in for a call and shouted ‘HI MOMMY!’, and it was an internal call before a sponsor call.

          But yeah, sometimes I feel goofy hiding in a little used spare room talking quietly in the phone so my daughter wont realize I am still there until my call is finished.

          1. TT*

            Would it make you feel better to know that I hide from my twin toddlers as well….not so much to take work calls, but to eat chocolate? Because I do that.

            1. AnonInSC*

              If that’s wrong I don’ t want to be right. And I only hide from one toddler….

            2. Elizabeth West*

              If I have one, I plan on lying about my chocolate. “No, this is not chocolate; it’s special grown-up tablets that taste like kale. You have to eat them to stay big.” Woe is me if my kid likes kale.

              1. Aunt Vixen*

                Toddler: Auntie Vixen, are you eating ice cream?
                Me: Nope. It’s medicine.
                Toddler: [extremely skeptical look]
                Me: Special medicine for aunties.

                I didn’t know three-year-olds could raise just one eyebrow like that.

              2. HRWitch*

                In our family, the kids’ chocolate milk comes in a dairy carton. Mom’s chocolate milk comes in a Bailey’s bottle! ;~)

            3. einahpets*

              Oh I totally do that too. Totally got called on it once when my daughter found a wrapper from a post-bedtime snack my husband and I shared (and had thrown away). She came to me and asked for candy (at breakfast). I said no. She held up the wrapper, looked me straight in the eye, and challenged me with ‘candy?’ again. I hadn’t had my morning coffee yet and could literally think of nothing good to counter her with, so I gave in.

              Now I bury those wrappers.

              1. Beancounter in Texas*

                LOL You got called on the carpet by a kid! Isn’t it funny how they can do that with the purest sincerity?

              2. LD*

                You could have used the parental stand by…” Because I’m the adult and you’re the child.” It has the added value of being true.

        2. Meg Murry*

          This is similar to my WFH situation. I did it one day last week and thought “wow, I got a lot done, and I didn’t have to go into the office, I should make this a regular thing.”

          Then it got hot and I remembered that our house doesn’t have central air and the room with window air conditioners has terrible WiFi reception. Nevermind, scratch that regular WFH day – maybe I’ll revisit it in the fall.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            When I worked remotely in LA in a house with no AC, at first I resented my 4am – 8am shifts.

            Until I realized that they meant I could knock off work at 10am, sleep through the heat, wake up at 3pm and finish whatever had come in during the afternoon.

            1. Beancounter in Texas*

              This is what the Emiratis do. Work 8am to 2pm, siesta until about 5pm, work until 7 or 8pm and eat dinner at 9 or 10pm.

      2. Nanc*

        I shouldn’t laugh at this but I am because this happened to my boss! He was going to be recovering from surgery and working from home for a week or so. I ended up running out and buying the longest internet cable I could find and we made it work.

    5. The IT Manager*

      This is normal so I don’t react with horror, but the I have a meeting first thing in the morning and when I go to log in my computer requires an immediate software update so I am unable to log into the VPN and get started on time is very common.

      Last night at midnight I was restarting my computer and logging in so I would not miss an early meeting. It took 45 minutes to an hour so I am so glad I did it then even though it kept me up later than I wanted too.

    6. MaryMary*

      I once worked from home after a bad snowstorm, and my landlord decided to use the snowblower directly outside my first floor apartment while I was trying to have a technical phone call with a non-native English speaker. I gave up and had to call her back after the snowblowing was done.

    7. AnotherAlison*

      Lol, same. I have the worst wifi, being out in the country I can only get WiMax or satellite. Combine the wifi with VPN and it’s almost dial-up slow. If I accidentally save a spreadsheet to the network drive instead of my desktop while at home, I’m like, “Noooooo I dooon’ttt haaave tiiiime fooor thaaaaat.” 10 minutes later, it’s finally saved.

  11. mdv*

    I’m not able to work from home because I am tied to a phone, but I would love to be able to do it every once in a while, such as when I am working on certain projects where I end up letting the phone ring to other people in order to concentrate on them…

    On the other hand, I was recently on vacation for 17 days (in Germany), during which time there were a couple of tasks that I needed to do, which only I could do, and which had to be done before I got back. For that, having access to the VPN was awesome, and I did get paid for those hours, not using my vacation time while working.

    1. FJ*

      Was setting up my fiance for work from home – trying to find a landline phone with basic headset capability was quite the adventure. Seems like no one sells anything useful with all the cell phones going around!

      1. Red Stapler*

        I use a plantronics myself. My headset has an attachment that physically picks up the phone when I hit the button on my headset. I don’t work from home, but I think it could work with pretty much any phone out there.

  12. moss*

    I hope this does not influence bosses to believe that working from home can never work. I currently have been WFH for 2+ years and it is very very common in my industry to do so. AFAIK, there are no ongoing systemic problems with this.

    And I ~~LOVE~~ the peace & quiet & complete lack of office drama and office kitchen issues, etc.

    1. Liz in a Library*

      My last remote experience (which was 100% remote for the whole department, though those who lived in the same city as headquarters were given the option of an office), was fantastic!

      Highly motivated, high achieving colleagues, who had company-wide respect for their excellent work. A manager who balanced allowing employees to work independently and appropriate hours with engagement in their work and responsiveness. An excellent tech set up and lightning-fast reimbursement for expenses. I can’t think of one single horror story!

      1. Anonyme*

        Same here! I worked 100% remotely after relocating. My supervisor was incredibly supportive and responsive, and the branch’s committees made sure to include me (and the other teleworkers) in activities.

        The only slightly negative thing was that, when a new focus was being introduced, it was not always thought through for the teleworking side of things. For instance, a new enforcement of shift time (exempt employees) didn’t take into account that the VPN would sometimes randomly kick us off.

      2. moss*

        Highly motivated, high achieving colleagues, who had company-wide respect for their excellent work

        that pretty much describes us, I would modestly say! :) Plus we get random presents from the company in the mail sometimes so that’s fun.

    2. einahpets*

      Amen. When I first started at my current job, we could work from home one day a week. It was bumped up to two days a week about two years ago, and I haven’t noticed any decrease in my productivity or that of any of my coworkers.

      I honestly do enjoy my office environment (no real coworker dramas) and probably wouldn’t want to work from home any more than 2 days a week, but do feel like I have the ability to get a little more work done on intensive projects on my days at home.

    3. Amtelope*

      Yes, we can work from home one day a week in my current job, and I love it — it’s great to have one day to work on projects without the distraction of people stopping by my cube to chat or ask questions or pull me into meetings about random things. We also have some employees who work 100% remotely, and it’s truly not a problem. Everybody’s set up on the VPN, we have phone/web conferencing setups for meetings so that remote people can attend, and much of our work is in a web-based content management system that can be accessed from anywhere.

  13. jen*

    we have a pretty restrictive policy at our office (one day a week, only tues-thurs, and no switching days). some managers had previous arrangements with their staff that allowed more freedom than that. some of those staff performed well with their freedom, others were clearly not being productive. some of those people got to keep their old arrangements, some didn’t and got moved to the new system. a few people have also been allowed fully remote positions, but that is very rare (usually to keep a high performer who is moving). it all comes down in the end to how strict of a manager you have, and that creates a lot of resentment because you could be an awesome worker with a strict manager who always follows policy and get no flexibility, or you could be a ‘meh’ employee with a manager who is permissive or uninterested, and will just say yes to whatever. some people wish that the policy was the policy and don’t want anyone to get ‘special privileges’ . other think it’s unrealistic to hold everyone in a large company to the same standard and that people should have to work it out individually based on their job’s needs and their manager’s style. i don’t know if they’ll ever get it resolved, but we’re definitely losing some high performers because of the restrictive culture norms. they aren’t children and don’t want too be treated as such.

    and this is the general trend in my org. exec leadership is pretty stingy about quality of life benefits like this. it would all work if managers actively managed their staff, but instead of telling managers to do better individually, the execs just restrict behavior/workstyle/dress so that the ‘bad apples’ can’t get away with being bad. this creates a lot of resentment. like, 5% of the people who work at the office can’t seem to get the intersection of casual and professional, and no one wants to ‘be the bad guy’ and tell them to go home when they are dressed inappropriately – so now no one gets to dress casually regardless of their job function.

  14. ElCee*

    There’s a person in my department who has run out of her paid personal leave. (We don’t have dedicated sick days, but if you have a doctor’s note there is usually donated leave available for longer-term emergencies.) So she “works from home” on the days she is either sick or doesn’t want to come in, usually with little to no notice. Except that she doesn’t have a home computer and doesn’t answer her house phone. Upon her return there is no evidence that she did anything work-related when she was “working from home.” But my manager lets it go on and refuses to talk to her about it, so she gets away with it.
    I will say that everyone else in my department who telecommutes (some on regular schedules, some not) is responsible about it and very responsive.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I will say that everyone else in my department who telecommutes (some on regular schedules, some not) is responsible about it and very responsive.

      That’s…surprising, bordering on shocking, considering how your manager is basically broadcasting that they do not require people to show even a bare minimum of productivity or responsiveness while WFH. Many people who would otherwise be conscientious workers will grow resentful and their behavior will deteriorate when coworkers are paid for doing absolutely nothing.

      1. ElCee*

        Tell me about it! It speaks to these other team members’ integrity and work ethic–my manager is very nice personally, but IMO really doesn’t deserve the team he has.
        I’m certainly job searching…I am not that forgiving, LOL.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Good for you! I hope you either find a better position…or maybe get a better manager, who will fire the slacker and better appreciate the rest of you! :)

    2. CanadianDot*

      I’ve been very lucky where I work. I have a couple of health issues – some back problems, and migraines, etc etc, that can make it very difficult to get up and get to work. However, I can usually stay very still and be okay. My supervisor noticed that on the days I was sick, I’d still be logged into my email all day because I could at least do that, so she set me up with VPN access so that instead of taking sick days, on those days when I could look at a computer but just not move, I could work from home. And I do work, I just stay veeeeery still.

  15. Kelly O*

    We have a newer member of our executive management team, and he is VERY anti-WFH. He wants everyone to come in one conference room and sit together and talk over things, which can be great, but can also be accomplished on conference calls.

    I sometimes wonder what negative thing happened in his past working life that makes him so against the policy. I realize as a general rule, I wouldn’t be able to participate much, but the flexibility to work from wherever can make a difference between getting the good candidates and getting the great ones. (We have a lot of great current employees who work from home, and they live too far out to really logically come in to an office on the regular.)

    1. Alice*

      “the flexibility to work from wherever can make a difference between getting the good candidates and getting the great ones”

      Absolutely. It’s all about time management and productivity. Logically, a great employee should be able to work well no matter the surroundings. A “just okay” employee may only be able to work well with certain structure.

      1. ReanaZ*

        “Logically, a great employee should be able to work well no matter the surroundings”

        I don’t think that’s true or logical. I think I’m a high-performer (and my performance reviews would agree), but I know I work very poorly in environments where I don’t have a dedicated space, where I’m getting constantly interrupted, if it’s bustle-y and I don’t have any visual isolation (a cube or facing the wall, or whatever), or if it’s too quiet (and I’m not able to listen to music or something). Part of being a good employee who can manage my time and productivity well is knowing what work styles I work well in and which ones I don’t and trying to set up my work life accordingly.

        I am a good, hard-working, and dedicated employee, but I am TERRIBLE at working from home. I get hardly anything done, dick around on the internet (which I literally never do at all in the office–not even the occasional news browse or anything), fritter away at “quick” personal chores, or just plumb get distracted. So I manage that by not working from home very often–generally only if there’s an external reason I would get less done in the office (for example, injured in a way that makes sitting at a desk hard but working from bed possible) or if I need to say meet the plumber get the hot water fixed (and then usually only a half-day).

        I don’t think needing a certain structure to work well inherently makes you a ‘just okay’ employee–but I think you need to recognise that about yourself and manage your time well.

        1. Alice*

          Okay, point taken. That definitely makes sense. I would amend my original statement to “Logically, a great employee knows when and where they work best.”

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      My 77 year old boss once told me that he has heard of flexible schedules and people working remotely from home and that he absolutely cannot conceive of how anything gets accomplished like that. :| He’s Old School.

  16. The Strand*

    I can speak to managers who suck at remotely managing their team.

    A friend and former colleague of mine worked for a famous software company in the Southwest. They were and are famous for software used throughout Hollywood to develop special effects and the like. He loved his job, what he was actually doing, but… Morale was in the toilet. Now, it was not a customer-facing job, and it involved software. Most companies like this offer telecommuting perks to all. Instead, upper level managers of the company worked off site, living wherever they wanted, doing a horrible job of keeping in touch with their reports or communicating clearly about what they wanted, and then would fly in for a week and “set people straight”. The rank and file of the company were not trusted or allowed to telecommute during my friend’s tenure (it has changed, thankfully). If you are a manager and you are telecommuting from another state 75% or 90% of the time, but you don’t trust your own people to work from their homes, in the same city where your company is based – you will not engender their loyalty, especially if you are shitty at communicating remotely.

    The reason I heard about this company? We had to deal with an IT manager at our company doing the same thing. Thank God he wasn’t in our chain of command. This person lived three weeks of every month 1200 miles away, and then would fly out for a week to our location. During those three weeks he was out of state, this person would sit on requests from his team and other teams, not reply to emails, and apparently do nothing. His reports in IT absolutely loathed him. In fact, we learned later on that he was working those three weeks for another company; rather than make a clean break and deal with the inevitable downtime, the CIO had asked him to stay on board for at least six months, as a telecommuter. The telecommuting manager went ahead and got himself a new gig. Meanwhile, the entire company was caught at a standstill waiting for him to lead on initiatives he was in charge of, large and small, while he maintained only the bare minimum of contact. At the end of the three weeks, he then would fly in, spazz over whatever had not been done properly, then fly out again four days later.

    1. Dawn*

      Man do you ever wonder what goes through the heads of people like that? I get nervous when I go over my 1 hour lunch break by 10 minutes… how do you just blatantly do *no work* and still get paid for it and not feel bad?

      1. The Strand*

        The second guy definitely had delusions of grandeur. I think it says a lot about the CIO though, that not only was this guy he had hired not communicating with his own people, or people outside in other teams, that he was getting away with not doing anything for weeks at a time. When you have someone that ineffective, why on earth would you want to hold onto them in any way, shape or form?

      2. Anonsie*

        I don’t get it, either. How do these people not just live in constant anxiety? I know my employer can see when I’m logged in remotely and what I’m doing the whole time, and I assume they can see what I’m doing and for how long on my work computer as well. Don’t people who pull stuff like this end up just walking around in the constant worry that at any day someone could notice and they’ll get fired?

    2. Steve G*

      Sounds like a nightmare.

      I never got the double standard where VPs don’t have to move to where the office is, but people at my last job making $50K or $60K had to go to the office everyday. If you make $200K and you’re duty is to guide a huge chunk of a company and drive lots of revenue, why is it more OK for you to work from home, a mansion, nonetheless?

  17. AnonymousaurusRex*

    This is possibly the opposite of a horror story. I work from home one day a week; my company allows WFH Wednesdays for many workers who commute over an hour each way. Recently we changed our WFH policy so that we now have to email our supervisors on Tuesday afternoon a list of tasks we plan to get done from home the next day. Then at the end of the day on Wednesday, when we are finishing up work for the day, we send an email to our supervisors with a list of what we actually accomplished. I usually link up documents to this. At first I thought this system would be really onerous and felt like “policing” — but now I really love it. It keeps me on task while I’m at home, and I feel super accomplished and productive at the end of the day when I list out everything I got done. We also have an expectation that you are available and responsive during all “core hours”, which are 10am-4pm, unless you have something blocked out on your calendar. Overall, it’s a better system than expected.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      When I worked at a strongly-remote-worker-supportive company, we used to have to do this for the week. We’d list out what we called “Achievements and Objectives” each week.

      I did enjoy the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the week.

    2. Future Analyst*

      This sounds like someone finally realized they needed to manage their reports, rather than just hanging out and hoping they got work done. Since you’re not feeling oppressed by the new rules, I think this counts as a win!

    3. Cristina*

      I did this the first time one of my more junior reports wanted to work remotely for most of a week. (He was going to be out of town visiting someone but free during the days.) He listed out the projects he would be working on and what milestones he was committing to. And then we reviewed them when he got back. Working from home is not uncommon here (Silicon Valley tech companies), but it tends to be less available for employees in their first few years of work. As people demonstrate that they’re able to handle their workloads remotely the close scrutiny subsides a bit.

  18. VictoriaHR*

    I’m not proud of this, to be honest. I had undiagnosed sleep apnea and a 4-month-old baby who wasn’t sleeping through the night, and I fell asleep while working from home. I missed a meeting with my manager (who worked in another state) and woke up to my IM beeping from frantic coworkers saying “OMG log in now, he’s looking for you!” I did get fired over that, as I’d missed an SLA and the client thought me unreliable. It was a good thing in that I got my apnea diagnosed and I’m in a great job now, but it wasn’t a fun experience to go through.

    1. MegEB*

      Oh no. I’m sorry you had to deal with getting fired in order to find out you had a medical condition. I’m glad it worked out though!

    2. Sleeping anon (for this)*

      I had a terrible night this week and slightly fell asleep. At my desk. In work. While audio typing.

      Only for a second. And I don’t think anyone noticed. But it was mortifying.

      1. Hlyssande*

        I can beat you there.

        A few weeks ago, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep while running a training session via WebEx. While talking.

        I still don’t know if they noticed or not and I think I recovered well. but still.

    3. Connie-Lynne*

      I had just finished a huge, months-long project that involved 12-16 hour days and was enjoying my first “regular” work day after closing up the project.

      Other than morning team meeting at 10am, I had no other “scheduled” time until a manager 1:1 at 3pm. At 2:45, I put on my headphones, settled into my comfy chair, and IMed my team that I’d be in a meeting shortly.

      At 5pm my husband woke me up when he came home.

      Luckily my manager understood!

    4. jmkenrick*

      I once tried a new form of the pill and it was wreaking havoc with my sleep schedule. I was tired. all. the. time.

      I dozed off in a meeting. No one noticed as far as I can tell – I say sleeping, but I had my eyes open – I think my brain just switched off. It’s like we all sat down, the meeting started and two minutes later everyone was standing up and heading out. When in reality we had been there 30 minutes. It was a really disconcerting experience.

      I switched birth control shortly after that, and thank God I was just there to observe and no one needed anything from me.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Last year was trying a new sleep aid (remeron) and a couple weeks in took one on a night I had a drink with dinner. Fell asleep for half a second the next morning while DRIVING to work, on an interstate. Went off the road, the car and I were miraculously unscathed but you can bet I’ve never taken that med again :(

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          I once drove to Taco Bell and then crashed my car on the way home after taking Ambien. I parked the car in a drugstore parking lot and walked the rest of the way home. And I have absolutely no memory of any of it. So much so that when I left the house the next morning to go to work, I freaked out when my car wasn’t in the garage and called the police. Filed a “stolen car” report and everything. When they found the car in the nearby parking lot — and I discovered a bunch of Taco Bell leftovers in my fridge and my coat on the back of a chair (instead of in the closet where I’d left it) — I was able to guess at what had happened. Very scary. And the last dose of Ambien I ever took.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            So it turns out that they don’t make a point of testing medicine in women. And women metabolize Ambien slower than men. You’re not even remotely alone in having that kind of experience with it, which is really scary.

          2. salad fingers*

            Wow, late here, but this is horrible. I’ve heard so many scary Ambien stories that I struggle to understand why it is prescribed. My sister’s ex boyfriend woke up in a hospital bed with a very serious head injury one morning after taking it. No memory of what happened but his tv and lights were on, door open, and he was wearing pajamas when he walked into the ER. Another friend who is a trauma surgeon makes regular jokes about the snacking and texting she never remembers doing post Ambien. I suppose the benefits outweigh the costs for the seriously sleep deprived- glad I’ve never had to make that choice.

            1. Can Do*

              I once took a sleeping pill and woke up the next day to find i’d done all my ironing. I hate ironing so was initially pleased, but using an iron with no memory of it was shocking. That was the first and last time i took that medicine.

              1. jmkenrick*

                It’s so disconcerting! My incident with the pill sounds less serious than what other people are describing here, but it was a really weird experience to just lose 30 minutes of my day all at once.

            2. nonegiven*

              I wish that stuff worked on me. I took one and went to sleep, for one whole hour. I was up and down all night, after the first hour, it was like any other night.

    5. Pipes32*

      Blah, what a terrible experience. I consider myself very lucky. I work from home every day. We need to be available during business hours but ultimately (being in sales), as long as I’m doing what needs to be done and getting things sold, I can chunk my time how I want. Today I am, for some reason, exhausted, so I took a 40 minute nap. It is awesome to have that freedom for sure.

  19. Jubilance*

    A couple years ago my company started touting working differently and making it easier for employees to work remotely. Coming from a lab environment where there was no way to work from home, I was excited to have the ability to WFH when the weather was bad or I wasn’t feeling the greatest. My biggest obstacle was my manager at the time – he was a micromanager and he didn’t feel like he had enough control if you weren’t in the office. As soon as I would sign into work, he’d IM me asking if everything was ok, if he could do anything, etc. It was clearly a ploy to check and see if I really planned to work. He would randomly IM you throughout the day to spot check if you were at your laptop. He also only subjected the women on his team to his treatment – the men never got random IMs or grief about working from home.

    1. Qmatilda*

      One of my old bosses assumed that whenever I wasn’t in the office I was shopping or getting my nails done. I was 99% of the time somewhere he had sent me. The assistants didn’t help as they wouldn’t pull up my calendar and would say things like, “I don’t know, she was talking about pedicures the other day” (The pedicure conversation had been because one of the assistants had just gotten a fresh new pedicure) BLRGH!

      Gee, I wonder why no women advanced there.

  20. Macedon*

    Happened to me many years ago and admittedly fed my private and irrational aversion of remote work – I was a beat reporter under a breaking news editor who worked from home. We would turn in copy to her, she would sign off on it, and only then would it be allowed to go online.

    There was a strong emphasis on being the first platform to break news, and we hustled ridiculously to get our quotes and pieces done even five minutes before the competition………………….. only for it to reach the editor, who would not get to it for 20-25 minutes on the regular. We lost first post on a lot of stories for that, and a lot of us grew the habit of calling her as soon as we sent her copy and hounding her to get on it. Every time she delayed, she would turn in some cutesy excuse about her five-year-old needing his bedtime story, or some other child-rearing chore that had needed urgent attention (this isn’t to say all parents make poor employees or that all parents who work from home do the same – just that she was terrible at managing her responsibilities).

    To top it all off, whenever the managing editor called a meeting and asked why we’d underperformed on breaking news first, she would join in on his rant and berate us for not having done so. The few times we formally brought up that we’d submitted copy to her at X (with e-mail cap proof), she defended that there must have been a lag in e-mail communication (this was still a semi-legit excuse years ago) and that we should have learned to account for that and send her copy even earlier.

    Utter nightmare.

    1. Ad Astra*

      The breaking news editor was ALWAYS working from home, not just some days for specific reasons? That seems untenable. I can’t think of anyone who *needs* to be physically present in the newsroom more than a breaking news editor. There are police scanners to monitor and conversations to overheard and urgent information being shouted across the room. And when (ok, IF) a breaking news editor goes to lunch or runs an errand or something, someone has to cover for them.

      1. Macedon*

        She was working from three or four days a week. It was a completely dreadful arrangement that everyone in the newsroom loathed. She was friends with the managing editor, and she did a good job when she was ON something, but…

        I wish I could say someone saw the light and addressed this situation, but she was still going ‘strong’ when I gave my notice.

    2. baseballfan*

      “Every time she delayed, she would turn in some cutesy excuse about her five-year-old needing his bedtime story, or some other child-rearing chore that had needed urgent attention (this isn’t to say all parents make poor employees or that all parents who work from home do the same – just that she was terrible at managing her responsibilities).”

      This reminds me of one of my major pet peeves with work at home arrangements – when parents think that working at home means the freedom to attend to children. It appears that this is a situation where people are working outside of normal office hours – but to me, the same principles still apply; regardless of your work hours, you should be giving full attention to the job. My last employer had a requirement that anyone on a telework arrangement have full time childcare. Personally I think everyone should require the same.

      1. K.*

        I agree. My best friend’s SIL works remotely full-time (she lives halfway across the country from her employer) and all remote workers are required to have care for any dependents and to show proof of such. Her toddler has been in day care since she went back to work, although now they live closer to family so I think they help. Regardless: she drops the toddler off somewhere and then goes home to work.

      2. Macedon*

        In ‘fairness’ to a crummy situation, this was before working from home became so common and most companies instituted ‘safety policies’ the likes of… “bring proof that, if you have children at home, you will not be required to consistently are for them during work hours.’ So she got away with what I think a lot of parents wouldn’t nowadays.

      3. NickelandDime*

        Work from home is not a substitute for not wanting to pay for daycare. Work from home is great when your kid has a cold or something, but full time care for very small kids and trying to work full time remotely? It isn’t going to work.

      4. Future Analyst*

        Agreed. Just like you wouldn’t expect to get any real work done if you brought your kid to the office, you shouldn’t expect to get much work done if you’re attending to your kids while at home. Childcare is a must if you’re serious about producing quality work.

      5. Angela*

        My kids go to a daycare when I WFH. Could not imagine getting anything done otherwise!

      6. Meghan Magee*

        I’ve actually been able to manage this. I WFH 100% and have since 2007. My daughter was born in 2013. When she was younger and required more time, I would start work about 3.5 hours before my husband left for work and sometimes finish stuff after he got back home. But my job is completely ‘as long as you finish the task by the project deadline’ oriented. So I’m around online for more than 40 hours a week to get my work done. But I can do it without shirking. Now my daughter will ‘work’ with me in my office. She colors and pretends to take calls. The only embarrassment is that she can tell when I am on s meeting that is wrapping up and will join in the round of bye-byes! I’m also super efficient. My boss told me that prior to my child, I produced about three times what my next nearest coworker did and after baby I might be down to twice as much.

    3. Act Casual*

      Off topic, but I would love to hear more about this profession from you (and Ad Astra, if you have stories). Alison, any chance of doing an interview on that like you’ve done with some other interesting jobs?

      1. Macedon*

        Can’t speak for Ad Astra, but in my experience, you’ll find the nitty-gritty of the real-time news industry surprisingly unexciting and fairly unglamorous. It’s an environment of primarily overworked, underpaid Alpha-type adrenaline addicts who perform to a countdown. Few of them age well in the industry – most retire into PR, recruitment and content editing roles by their forties.

        Management-wise, you encounter the same issues as anywhere: targets to meet, money to make, standards to grow, operations to expand. And then you’ve got the people.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Sounds about right. These days, most of the journalists I know switch to marketing or PR before they’re even 30. I did online stuff for a not-particularly-large newspaper until our corporate overlords did a re-org in our market (and, eventually, all the other markets) that came with a 15 percent reduction in staff. It was like getting laid off, except first you got to apply and interview for your own job (or someone else’s). That kind of forced me into marketing, but I was burnt out anyway.

          News can be a really exciting industry if you’re in an interesting market, but the combination of crappy pay and insane hours makes it untenable for most of us. The people I know who’ve stayed in the business more than 5 years are the uber-talented, crazy successful people who work at places like the New York Times, LA Times, and a couple of former classmates who covered the Super Bowl for different organizations last year. They still make less money than a similarly successful person would make in most other industries, but they get by.

          1. Macedon*

            Money’s better in financial newswires these days, actually. Best at places like Bloomberg and Reuters (talking about regular journo – editors can get on at regular titles too.)

            But you’re always going to be working broker/lawyer hours for 1/10th the pay and genuine safety risks. Them’s the ropes. It’s a lifestyle more than a job, and speaking as someone defective enough to have stuck with it, you gotta embrace its many flaws.

    4. Future Analyst*

      It baffles me that any parent thinks they can work while their kids are around. My kid plays really well by himself, but I wouldn’t plan on doing anything by myself for longer than 3-5 mins at a time if he’s around.

      1. Macedon*

        I don’t like to generalize, because some kids are angels, some parents juggle – but she was stupefyingly bad at even pretending she was trying.

  21. If you are working from home today, why aren't you answering your phone?*

    I just wish when people worked from home, they actually *worked*. We have so many issues with people who are supposedly putting in a full 8 hours at home *working*, but it turns out they’re “working” – doing errands outside the house, in one case overseeing the construction of her new house (!), non responsive to calls, emails etc.

    My most recent and most frustrating case is someone who “works” from home regularly – never with advance warning – and always puts their cellphone on their out-of-office message (if it’s an emergency, please call my cell). However, we had a genuine emergency at work and when there was no response to emails, I called the cell number – and he didn’t pick up. Not then, not 15 minutes later, not 30 minutes later, not an hour later. It turns out he’d planned a medical appointment midday, and instead of taking time off for the appointment, he decided he handle it by working from home that day. And we have extremely generous medical time-off allowances, so it really wasn’t necessary.

    Of course, this person has continued to abuse being able to work from home, and since there have been no repercussions, it’s starting to spread. People are beginning to show up late because they were “working from home” prior to coming into the office. People are leaving early saying “I’ll work from home this evening”. And while I can’t say that everyone is abusing it – when it’s the same people over and over again and they are rarely responsive while working from home, I really wish the managers would address it with those problematic individuals. Because I can see a blanket ban on working from home, and as someone who actually *works* while at home, that would really make me grumpy.

    1. NickelandDime*

      I laughed when I read your name for this post, then I read your post. Now I’m sad for you because you can bet your bottom dollar they are about to end this completely. I’ve seen it too many times when people abuse work from home privileges. It’s very unfair.

      1. If you are working from home today, why aren't you answering your phone?*

        On the other hand, a great “working” from home story about a former colleague – the one who was supervising the building of her new home while supposedly putting in an 8 hour day at home working at her real job. I had massive amounts of holiday time built up, and negotiated a day off mid-week for several months with my manager (this was so that I could do research and writing for a personal project). Because I was doing it mid-week, promised flexibility if I really needed to be in for a meeting or a crisis, and had so much time off, my manager said it was fine. When my house-building colleague found out that I was “getting” to take time off, she said to me “why didn’t you just ask to work from home on Fridays, so you could have a 3 day weekend?”. Ummm…

    1. Dawn*

      That is the most genius thing I’ve ever heard… other than the really stupid way he got caught!

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Wow. It’s actually pretty depressing that a Chinese developer could make so much less. Not good for anyone – not the Chinese developers who are being screwed over or the American or other Western developers whose jobs are jeopardized (partly because of scuzzbuckets like this guy).

      1. Marcela*

        Yes. I remember my sadness when my boss told me with enthusiasm that we were going to outsource pieces of our code to Mexican developers. I am Latina too, and I was kind of surprised when he told me how great that was, because we could get developers for less than a third of the salary of an American developer. The kicker is that I was underpaid, because I was hired as a scientist doing software development instead of a software developer like my boss, and I was earning about one third of my boss, so it was truly a WTF moment.

    3. Erik*

      I remember that story. As a software engineer, I admire his creativity. If that guy was smart, he wouldn’t have kept the invoices on his work computer.

  22. EarlGrey*

    I work from home full time, have been for a few years, and normally it’s great. My own space & setup, quiet time when I need it, productivity > face time, no fridge or bathroom drama. I’m looking forward to working in an office again for other reasons, but the tradeoffs are pretty nice.

    The one absolutely ridiculous thing? We’ve had a sizeable percentage of remote staff for about 6 years now, and the teleconferencing software Has. Not. Improved. One. Bit. I’ve left so many mandatory meetings after 10 minutes of struggling to hear, and sent so many follow-up “hey, if we needed to attend that meeting, maybe have a remote-only session and not a phone line to a big, noisy room?” emails. No change. Not even the in-house folks running meetings remembering that the mute function exists.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I feel so bad when we have in house meetings with off site employees video conferencing in. Our software is so complicated! It is top of the line, super fancy conferencing software, but we can never get it to work. We end up just putting someone on speakerphone.

    2. Alex*

      Agreed. I hate the conferencing technology adopted by my institution. I am the only remote worker for my office (but there are others for the institution overall) – working remotely was new to our office’s leader and took some convincing (I was moving out of state for my spouse’s job) and overall, it’s been great. I do miss the office interaction (I’m an extrovert so I schedule regular lunch dates with friends) but I’ve managed to make the flexibility work awesomely for me with being able to work out during a daytime “mental slump” and staying productive overall while being able to manage our household (not childcare, that was part of my initial remote work agreement with the office – I don’t know how anyone would be able to get a full work day in in combination with a toddler). I would say that the tricky part is managing my direct report but some of that is due to my own shortcomings in being direct about expectations. I’m working on that!

  23. AndersonDarling*

    I was working from home one night at “old job” and while I was working, I was typing up a grievance letter for HR about my horrible boss. After wrapping everything up at midnight, I hit print to send the letter to my printer. I stared at the printer as nothing happened. Of course, I was on the VPN and the nasty letter went to the copier in the copy room in the office. I had to drive 15 miles in the middle of the night and wander through the dark office, just so I could pick up the page I printed. Thank goodness it was still on the printer and no one was working late.

    1. Lizzy*

      I am not going to lie, this made me laugh. Glad you were able to cover your tracks before anyone could see it.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I still feel a little terrified thinking about it! It was years ago, but I still check the printer every time I print something, even when I am in the office.

    2. JAM*

      My coworker was working from home and accidentally printed out an email with directions on how to be admitted to the car park for his interview that afternoon on the office printer!

    3. Steve G*

      Ha ha! I remember one time I had to go to Manhattan at midnight because I printed a cover letter, resumes, and references on my work computer and forgot to bring them with me! I had taken the next day off for an interview, and my coworkers would have definitely found the stuff at 8am the next morning. It was a PITA because the subways run sporadically past midnight, even in NYC

    4. Something Professional*

      You’re just lucky you didn’t walk in on a couple of colleagues “quacking” in the copy room!

    5. AT*

      Bahahaha! You need your own Hans Zimmer soundtrack for that! :D

      I held a data-entry job in someone’s home office for a few weeks a little while back, and had all my devices set up to automatically connect to their wifi. Job ended, I started somewhere else, but a few weeks later, ended up walking past the person’s house late at night with my dog. Little did I realize that my phone in my pocket, which I’d pressed go to print something for a roleplay group when I got home, went “ooh, hello – there’s a wifi I recognize!”

      Cue bewilderment and alarm from the ex-employer, on hearing their printer start up in the middle of the night and coming down to find Narvin’s ID card for the Celestial Intervention Agency of Gallifrey sitting on their desk.

  24. K.*

    My old company’s WFH policy is that there is no policy – it’s at your manager’s discretion. There were some teams where everyone worked from home one day a week, other teams where it was not allowed, full stop (even in blizzards – those people had to use PTO), teams who were all remote (sales teams), and others where it was on an as-needed basis. My team’s manager changed four times in the three years I was there (none of those managers OR the team still work there) and all of the managers happened to live an hour-plus from the office, so they typically worked from home once a week and allowed the team to work from home as needed – doctor’s appointments, bad weather, etc.

    There was one guy, not on my team, who lived something like 70 miles from the office. He was always complaining about his commute, which did indeed suck but was his choice – he knew where the company was when he took the job. He started working from home all the time without permission. We never knew where he was going to be. He scheduled a call with me and then just straight up did not take it – no call, no response to email or IM, nothing. His boss popped over and asked if he’d done the call and I had to reply that he hadn’t (note that this was a call HE had scheduled). He also told me once that he’d be at home but his “internet was going to go down halfway through the day” so he could take his kid somewhere. He had a second child and he took some legit time off and then “worked from home” for another week, although no work got done.

    His boss was fired before she could fire him (and I think she would have; she was a no-nonsense sort of person and when she was initially hired, she basically scrapped the old failing team and started over so she wasn’t afraid to fire people) and then my team was laid off not long after that, so I don’t know if he’s still there. He was responsible for a niche thing so I’m guessing that’s why he’s still around, although in my experience he does very little.

  25. some1*

    A company I used to work for was acquired twice before I came on. The original company was located in a podunk town an hour and a half away from the metro area where I live, but through acquisistions they had moved their offices to the city. Consequently, many of the orginal workers lived pretty far away from where the office ended up.

    The company had one purchasing manager and she lived almost 2 hours away and when the office moved to it’s final spot, she started WFH almost exclusively. Apparently where she lived didn’t have reliable internet service so she almost never answered emails. She didn’t answer phone calls. She didn’t post her POs on the server (I don’t think she would have known how to, anyway), she only had hard copies at her house. She refused to bring the POs to the office. We had a restructure, and her new manager asked all her new reports to write a job description to find out what they do and she refused.

    Instead of management demanding that she do the above or find another job, they decided to make a blanket no WFH for anyone, hoping this particular woman would quit/retire. She didn’t, but good people quit who relied on the WFH arrangement and succeeded at it. They finally ended up laying her off.

  26. CK*

    I once had a telecommuting employee who agreed to work business hours (8:30am-4:30pm) from home. One day she informed me that she was heading out of town, but assured me she’d have internet access and be able to do her job from her alternative destination. For 3-4 days I couldn’t reach her. She then emailed me on the 4th day of her trip saying, “You are ruining my vacation with work related emails. I am on vacation.” I forwarded her the email in which she said she could work-from-home while out of town and asked her if I misunderstood her note. She responded, “I changed my mind. It’s too hard to work while I’m here.” After explaining to her that vacation leave needs to be approved ahead of time and that her no-show/no-communicate situation is completely unacceptable, her only reply was, “I better not get fired for this.”

    Since then, our company has enacted a strict policy of no telecommuting and we believe it is one of the best policy changes we’ve ever made.

      1. moss*

        I mean really. She should have been. How is the policy better than actually managing her?

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Yeah, ordinary telecommuting is not the same as working while you’re out of town. I’ve done the latter and it’s hard; your routine gets all messed up. Did the company first try a policy of not allowing “working from home” when people were away?

    1. Come On Eileen*

      Please tell me you fired her for this. Please tell me you fired her for this. Please tell me you fired her for this.

    2. NickelandDime*

      “I better not get fired for this.” I would have screamed, “Or what?!” Please tell me she was fired on the spot. I would have done it because she basically DARED me to do it.

    3. Observer*

      It sounds like you deserved each other. Her behavior was totally out of line. But, banning WFH because of something like this is akin to using a howitzer on a gnat. And, if you find it to have been “one of the best policy changes” you have ever made, it does not say much for your management team, in my opinion.

  27. Lizzie*

    I have to admit: I was a horrible telecommuting employee (mostly as a result from anxiety/depression, which I’ve since worked through). Now I work at a place where I work 70% at home, 30% in the office with a completely flexible schedule. It works really well for me; I can run errands during the day but then get work done when I have insomnia, and my bosses get to see me most days of the week when I pop into the office.

  28. NickelandDime*

    I was told a tale of a new IT manager that came into a new role, and inherited an employee that hadn’t been in the office in YEARS. She decided to make working from home a permanent arrangement so she didn’t have to pay for daycare. Shady!

    1. Artemesia*

      A minimally competent manager makes sure any work from home people have child care arrangements during WFH times. This is ridiculous. Of course, they may want to allow WFH when there is a sick kid rather than a vacation or sick day, but for routine day in and out WFH child care is a must and should be documented.

      No one can be a productive employee full time while caring for a young child. And if they are, well then, poor kid.

        1. NickelandDime*

          I think what made it really bad is that this wasn’t anything she discussed beforehand. She just did this. It was wrong.

  29. MaryMary*

    OldJob had a generous work from home policy, and for the most part it worked out really well. Performance issues were managed pretty closely in general, and I knew of at least one person who was let go because they were only “working” from home. However, these are my two favorite WFH gone wrong stories:

    Lots of remote employees = a lot of conference calls, and I once clearly heard someone ordering McDonalds while on a call. The mute button is your friend, people. Especially if you’re ordering a McMuffin during a call.

    The second, a coworker logged in from home on Super Bowl Sunday to tell his team that he’d be working from home on Monday. The weather was really bad that year, and it wouldn’t have been a big deal. However, my coworker got interrupted when he was halfway through the email and left the his laptop open and logged in, and one of his drunk buddies thought it would be super funny to email the team “I will be working from home on Monday so I can pleasure my wife.” Except some other terms were used instead of pleasure. Coworker was distracted by the game and the party so he didn’t get back to his laptop until later the next morning, well after the email had been sent and read by several people. I think the only thing that saved his job is that he called his manager immediately, drove into the office, and personally apologized to everyone who received the email. I also heard that his wife banned that “friend” from entering her house ever again.

    1. Dawn*

      Wow…. wow. Just wow.

      That’d be a “the neighbors are calling the cops because there’s a fight going down in the street” kind of situation for me.

    2. Chinook*

      “Lots of remote employees = a lot of conference calls, and I once clearly heard someone ordering McDonalds while on a call. The mute button is your friend, people. Especially if you’re ordering a McMuffin during a call. ”

      I could so see this happening to one of our field supervisors. They don’t work from home but are rarely in their offices. They have been known to schedule their day so that they take conference calls in their work trucks while driving between work sites or the office (hands-free, of course). Then again, they work in places too small for a McD’s, but I won’t bat an eye if we heard them ordering a double double.

    3. The Strand*

      Why would his “wife” have to ban that “friend”?

      If my friend did that to my husband, I’d ban him or her from our lives – period!

      1. MaryMary*

        I think the sentiment was mutual between husband and wife. If I recall, he was not a close friend (friend of a friend, fraternity brother, something like that). It was more of a general announcement to all their friends and acquaintances that this jackass was not welcome in their home.

      2. TL -*

        My guess is the wife said something along the lines of, “Your friends are your business, but if you want to see him again, it better not be in our house.”

        Can’t really ban someone from having friends or seeing someone, but you can ban them from your space.

    4. Melissa*

      What kind of grown adult “friend” would think it’s a good idea to send that kind of email? Good for his wife!

  30. Ed*

    I work in IT for a Fortune 500 company and by far the top request we get is from mangers that want “proof” their telecommuting employees are actually working. It’s not always easy to gather that evidence but we can usually dig up enough data to show the employee’s work habits. For example, there are a few ways into our network from the Internet but all of them are protected by RSA two-factor authentication (those little key fobs with a digital readout that changes every 60 seconds). I had a contractor just yesterday that I found out hasn’t used his RSA key fob since February. He is supposedly working on a project using resources located inside our network but always has an excuse why he doesn’t have anything finished.

    At a previous job, a manager complained that her employee never did anything even though IT had verified she was logging into a Citrix desktop every day from home. So I wrote a script that connected to Citrix every 15 minutes and grabbed a list of all programs running under her account. The top program? A screensaver, because her session was idle most of the day.

    At yet another job, we allowed telecommuting but staff primarily worked at the office. We were trying to save money so the owner announced he would not be reimbursing people for their Internet anymore. Everybody threw a fit about how unfair that was because an Internet connection was required to get in from home and they are constantly logging in at night and on weekends to handle issues. As usual, the highest paid employees yelled the loudest. The owner asked me if I had logs and I showed him that about 90% of the office hadn’t logged in from home in 6 months. Just as he suspected, a handful of employees routinely do extra work at home and nobody else ever did.

      1. AMT*

        If there’s any overarching lesson to these horror stories, it’s that managers need to base their decisions on whether things get done, not whether butts are in chairs.

        1. Future Analyst*

          +1. Managers need to actually pay attention to tell whether or not things are getting done, but that’s asking too much for some.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Which means THEIR managers aren’t managing — if the person under you is a manager, and they’re unable to tell if their people are getting work done, they aren’t doing a good job. Do you, their manager, know that? Are you going to do anything about it? If not, then your manager should do something about you.

            Although, in places like that, it’s usually seagulls all the way up.

  31. Lia*

    I have had a couple of high % working remotely jobs (sales) and in the first one I got, replaced someone who apparently had completely falsified ALL of her work for months. She’d made up trip reports, inventory reports, everything!

    1. K.*

      If she was going to put forth that much effort to falsify her work, you’d think she could actually do some work!

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I’ve heard this story ten times over at least. I wish I remembered enough details from them to put together one really good one for Alison.

      In our industry, all of our vendors have nationwide representation so it just happens now and again and is always a good horror story.

      Same deal: no work, faked call reports, etc. etc. If you are living in Texas working for a company in Mass and your job is to be on the road and you are willing to lie in your weekly reports, you’ll get away with it for awhile.

      1. Lia*

        How do they tend to get busted in your experience? In my case, the regional manager happened to be in the area of one of the accounts and stopped by. The secretary said “oh, we haven’t seen AWOL Rep for awhile!” Boss checked the log book for guest sign-ins, and found nothing by AWOL Rep for months, yet AWOL claimed she’d been there several times. They busted her by going to a couple of other places and finding the same thing — no sign-ins. In our field, you absolutely had to sign-in when you got to a client site, so pretty easily verified.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          That’s pretty much it.

          It’s the faked call reports that trip them up, eventually. Something happens where it comes to light that one account they’ve claimed to have visited didn’t see them, and then all it takes is a couple of hours on the phone to determine what percent is fake.

          The stories that get back to me are the completely faked ones, because that’s the most interesting story. I’m sure there are partially faked ones also.

  32. Connie-Lynne*

    I managed a remote 24-7 team once, and suddenly I started to get complaints about one of my strong, solid performers: he was frequently late to shifts, his breaks went from 15 min to 45 min with no warning, and he was unresponsive for long periods of time.

    Not wanting to lose someone good, I sat down with him and asked if everything was OK. He said he had some personal stuff going on. I offered to let him go on leave until the stuff was resolved — he was an agency contractor, but he’d been with us for a year and he was really good. He said no, he’d deal with it. A week later, problems haven’t improved, same offer. I even looked into getting him paid during leave, in case that was the issue. Nope, says he, he’s fine, he’ll do better. We talk about some strategies and specific areas that need to improve.

    The next week is our company Christmas party. I don’t drink at the party, because work party, but I do end up chatting until 2am with some other coworkers. At 4am my pager goes off, it’s the backup on-call: “I just got an escalation. It looks like Contractor didn’t answer calls for two hours, then, when I finally did reach him, he said he had fallen asleep. Can you step in?” So I get online and Contractor tells me, “I guess I quit? It seems like I’ve really screwed up here.” I set a time to call him back and tell him we can talk about it after I’ve resolved the immediate crisis and had some sleep.

    Later that day, we talk, and I find out what’s been going on: he has a new girlfriend who doesn’t like that he works nights. So she’s been *turning off his alarm* and *deliberately keeping him awake during the daytime.* I resist the urge to scream out “GO FOR THE JOB NOT THE OBVIOUSLY BAD-FOR-YOU GIRLFRIEND!” because that’s not Good Boss Behavior. Instead, I calmly ask him whether he wants to move to days, with the understanding that it will take a couple weeks and that his performance needs to be good during the transition, even when he works nights.

    He says he guesses he should quit because New Girlfriend won’t put up with that. I thank him for his good work and encourage him to keep in touch should his situation change.

    After writing it out, it doesn’t sound so horrible, but at the time, the “sudden wake-up, deal with a crisis on two hours’ sleep, oh BTW one of your best people just quit without notice” was pretty nightmarish.

    1. thelazyb*

      No, that does sound horrendous. The worst part is he seems like a good guy as he obviously knew how badly he’d screwed up. I hope he got sorted in the end.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Wow. The girlfriend’s attempts to control his life sound downright abusive. That’s what abusers often do – try to sabotage your job so you’re dependent on them.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I know! I tried to be very clear that if he got his time stuff straightened out, he was welcome back. I couldn’t, as a boss, figure out a work-appropriate way to point out that his GF’s behavior was abusive.

        1. qkate*

          I think you handled it pretty well, actually! It was great of you to make sure he knew he was welcome back if his situation changed, and leave that door open for him. I’m not sure if I would’ve thought of anything to say about the abusive situation either–wouldn’t have felt like it was my place.

    3. Artemesia*

      I’m not that demanding a partner but I think ‘my guy doesn’t actively sabotage my career’ is on the list.

    4. Future Analyst*

      Wow. That girlfriend sounds like a piece of work… but how did he not react more strongly to her being so controlling?? That just seems crazy.

      1. Helen of What*

        You’d be surprised what lonely people will put up with. And some bad gfs/bfs are very good at making it seem like YOU are the problem. UGH.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        Well, he was very young, was a lot of it, was my guess.

        We all make a lot of mistakes when young and lonely.

    5. WFH skeptic*

      Any proof that there really was a new GF? Seems to me that she (or her behavior) could just be an invention to shift blame.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I suppose that’s possible, but up until this happened, the guy was a solid performer who didn’t lie.

        I mean, yes, his behavior had changed dramatically and rapidly but I still prefer to believe he wouldn’t have just made up a random lie.

      2. catsAreCool*

        Also, it seems like such a crazy excuse, it doesn’t seem like he’d use it unless it was true.

    6. zora*

      that DOES sound horrible: He quit a job because his girlfriend didn’t ‘like’ his schedule??!!??? That is so beyond cray. and super depressing

    7. Observer*

      That’s not a telecommuting horror show – that’s a relationship horror show. It’s kind of sad that you didn’t feel like you could point out to him just how outrageous the GF’s behavior was. Do you have any idea what eventually came of that situation?

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I don’t, Observer, and I wish I did.

        You make a good point about that story having zero to do with telecommuting! Ha! I guess I’ve always thought of it as a telecommuting story because he telecommuted, I telecommuted, *and* I was away from home for the Christmas party (which was held close to one of the offices) in a hotel, so I was even telecommuting away from my usual telecommuting location!

  33. AnonMarketing*

    I had a really controlling manager who once told me that I needed to take 30 minutes of paid time off for a doctor’s appointment I literally took thirty minutes for during my lunch. I also had her ask me why my Lync status was yellow for five minutes and I had to explain to her I was in the bathroom and I’d be sure to bring my laptop with me to the John the next time I went.

    1. AnonMarketing*

      ETA: I’m also the person who asked last year what to do about the co-workers who heard my roommates above me having sex during a conference call.

  34. Jeff A.*

    One of my good friends was moving 5 years ago and told his company he would need either a 25% raise or else telecommute 100% of the time to stay there (even though he was actually moving *closer* to their offices). They gave him the green light to telecommute. Shortly after, his manager left and was replaced by someone else who…apparently never bothered to check up on what it is my friend does for the company. So now, years later, my friend basically works one week a quarter to compile reports. Otherwise, he’s logged in, but only works (by his own estimation) 2-3 hours a week, mainly just responding to questions co-workers send him about how to do X, Y, or Z. It’s unbelievable. And he gets paid somewhere around $60k a year to do this!

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Yes! I know some of these people, and you’re always thinking how do they hang on to their jobs? Seems they eventually do get let go, but come on, it was probably totally worth it for the *years* it goes on.

  35. Cake Wad*

    As a telecommuter, I was forgotten multiple times when a surprise holiday or half-day was given to all staff. I’d find out the next day when I’d hear from my boss something like, “Why did you send me that report yesterday? I hope you still had a chance to enjoy the day off!” And they would never let me make up for it with a different day off.

    1. Judy*

      I worked remotely from my team, in another company office two states away. Once when I was on a trip to the town the rest of the team worked in, Wednesday afternoon everyone disappeared. Apparently that manager would not send me emails when they had team building that they were not asking me to travel for, so that I wouldn’t get upset. Several people pointed out that I wasn’t there (at a matinee minor league baseball game 5 miles from the office) but the manager told them to not call me.

  36. Sabrina*

    Sort of a horror story? Also at Old Job mentioned up thread, for many many years the company forbade Admins from WFH. Everyone else was allowed to do it (except like mail room people and the receptionist) but not Admins. No reason given, just that we need to be in the office. So the people who were paid the least, and thus had to live the furthest away since our office was in a pricey suburb, had to either burn PTO or drive 3+ hours during a snowstorm. Once they did start allowing it, we weren’t permitted laptops, so we had to install everything on our personal computers. I wasn’t going to sully my home PC with Lotus Notes, so I never took them up on that.

    1. moss*

      Software on your personal laptops? Insanity. An IT nightmare. There is no reason for that.

      1. TheLazyB*

        I’ve just started a new job, but before that I’d been usingLotusNotes for over ten years in two different jobs.

        SOOOOOOO glad I’m now on outlook :)

    2. einahpets*

      Question out of interest for others reading through — Is it really all that common for companies to provide computers for employees that work from home parttime?

      My company lets us work from home 1-2 days a week, and everyone is expected to use their own personal computer (that logs into Citrix and a remote desktop). Our completely remote employees get a desktop box but nothing more. It seems odd to give out computers to employees that already have a computer at the office to me?

      1. Angela*

        I only WFH 2 days a week and my company gave me a laptop. However, it violates our security policy to use a personal computer so they had to give me a computer if they wanted me to work from home. WFH was my supervisor’s idea. I enjoy it, but would never have guessed that it would have been approved so I wouldn’t have requested it myself.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        My organization’s WFH/flextime policy is “Visit your clients regularly, stay in regular contact, and log x numbers of billable hours per week, but you can do your paperwork when and where you want to.” So nobody works from home all the time but most people do at least occasionally. We all have company-issued laptops and no other work computer, and our work numbers are for company-issued cell phones.

  37. Dawn*

    At my last job one of the things I did was research companies that my company might want to develop partnerships with. I was screening four or five contracting companies to pick a good one that we might want to go with when developing a new line of teapots.

    So I set up a phone call with the co-founder of this one small contracting company, for something like 2pm on a Thursday which is the only day this guy can do the call because he’s going on vacation with his family the next week. Phone call comes, guy has me on speakerphone, and is like “Yeah I’m in the car with my family, I’m driving them to our vacation!”

    I was so, so, SO glad my boss backed me up after I said “I’m sorry but I cannot continue this phone call while you’re driving!” He was *so* confused as to why it was a deal at all!

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Everyone I work with takes calls while they’re driving, which frequently means on the freeway at 85 mph. I won’t talk while I drive, so they think I’m the crazy one.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          Oh my god. My husband drives so I can do calls.

          He says it makes him feel like he’s in one of those movies about high rollers.

        2. Chinook*

          “Everyone I work with takes calls while they’re driving, which frequently means on the freeway at 85 mph. I won’t talk while I drive, so they think I’m the crazy one.”

          Are they taking calls with hands free devices? Are they required to take notes or just answer questions? I could so see taking a conference call while driving if all I had to do was listen in to the conversation. It would be like listening to a radio talk show.

          1. Chinook*

            Then again, my perception is probably warped by DH taking calls all the time while driving. He jokes that he is a professional and that it isn’t unusual in his cruiser (his police force doesn’t have partners in the car) to be on the radio and looking up the details on his computer while racing to a call. I just counter with the fact he only got 8 hours of driver training at depot and none of it involved using the radio at the time.

          2. Turanga Leela*

            I’m talking about active participation in one-on-one or conference calls. As in, Lily is telling everyone about our strategy for X case, and then she interrupts herself to complain that someone just cut her off on I-95.

            No one has hands-free devices, although I would worry about people being distracted even if they did.

            1. bridget*

              This is really common with the lawyers I work with, and the judge I clerked with did it regularly. To be fair, I’m pretty sure everyone has had a hands-free device. Whenever I and my now-boss are driving to or from a hearing or a client meeting or whatever, we take a client call through the car’s stereo system probably 50% of the time. Gotta catch every billable minute, I guess. It’s never been a problem for me because I have a walking commute.

        3. afiendishthingy*

          Before I started my current position I didn’t understand how people could talk on the phone while driving a stick shift. Now I’m on the road a lot for work and do it all the time, and not with a hands free device. Probably not too safe.

  38. AntherHRPro*

    In a prior job, we had several people who pulled a “yahoo” (i.e., basically just stopped working their WFH jobs. And due to the autonomous nature of their work, it would not be discovered for weeks. Some folks had other jobs, others were just lazy slackers.

    I personally once had a WFH job and I really do not get why some people like it so much. I found it too isolating. But I was productive. Productive at procrastinating. My house was never cleaner! :)

    1. Bagworm*

      And see, I work a second job at home to avoid cleaning the house! I guess the procrastination can work both ways. :)

    2. catsAreCool*

      I work from home, and it does have its advantages. Fewer distractions, I can walk around barefoot, my kitties like to sleep in the room I work from and keep me company. I can listen to whatever music I want. I can have lunch at home w/o a long compute. In many ways, I think it’s easier to get more done when I work from home.

      That’s not to say it’s perfect, but I like it.

  39. Cath in Canada*

    I used to work with someone who joined an organisation I’ll call the Fandmark Loundation. They offer a series of what they call self-help sessions, with each level costing progressively more and more money, and seem to employ some pretty aggressive tactics to get people to sign up for the next level (I’m being careful here because they’re known to be litigious!)

    My colleague started to spend more and more time “working from home”. This was in an academic lab, and all her research was computer-based, so a) it was plausible, and b) there was very little oversight. The ratio of time in office to time at home shifted until we barely saw her at all, and then she stopped coming to our weekly team meetings.

    Around the same time, I went to a conference at which another group presented results that basically scooped her entire project. Now, this would ordinarily be devastating to a scientist – I got partially scooped and it was one of the worst days of my professional life; a friend got completely scooped and it permanently damaged his career prospects. But when I told her the bad news on one of her rare visits to the lab, she clearly just didn’t care at all.

    At this point, our boss demanded to see what colleague had been working on. Which turned out to be… spending all of her time volunteering for the Loundation in exchange for discounts on the next level of course. The boss was obliged to report this to the funding agency who were supporting this woman. Colleague stopped responding to all emails as soon as the funders started demanding some of their money back, and was never heard from again. I heard she married someone from the Loundation. I don’t know how she’s still in the country – she was on the same type of work permit that I had at the time, and if you weren’t working, you had to leave. It takes up to two years for a spouse to sponsor you. I guess she was here illegally for at least part of the time. My former boss hasn’t been able to get funding from that agency ever since (10 years now), although there’s no way to know if that’s really related or not.

    1. Java Jones*

      That Loundation terrifies me. I have had some acquaintances get swept up in it and I can almost always call it from FB posts using their common jargon — even before they reveal that they’ve become involved, which ain’t long, because there’s A LOT of proselytizing. I work with the public and have been propositioned to attend one of these meetings by regular customers 5+ times.


      1. The Strand*

        Can you specify the jargon? So I can be on the lookout, y’know.

        I’ve been really fascinated by the way that TV show “The Americans” has spotlighted EST (I guess formally, “est”) and its growth during the 1970s and 1980s.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Well, those folks and the est-outgrowth movements are all basically using the same mind-control techniques as cults, so, not terribly surprising.

        At least I hear you can go to the bathroom during Fandmark Loundation sessions.

        1. poetry in motion*

          *chuckles* Yeah, that was the thing that’s always stuck with me about EST – I was told they’d lock you in a hotel room with 8 or 9 other people and wouldn’t let you go to the bathroom. Say what?!

    2. Anonsie*

      Do you think that had anything to do with her project getting snagged or was that just a coincidence and her response was what was alarming?

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Her response was really alarming. If she’d been actively working on her project like she said she was, she would have been really upset that someone else got there first while she was working so hard on it. I agonised for hours about how best to break the devastating news to her, and I expected her to freak out like I and my other friend had when it happened to us. She acted like it was no big deal at all (which I guess it isn’t if you’ve put no effort of your own into solving the problem), which triggered the boss to start investigating what she’d really been up to.

        Who knows if she’d have got there first if she’d actually been trying. Maybe, maybe not.

  40. Kiki*

    This was a few jobs ago, but the VP of Sales worked remotely and was pretty much a ghost. None of the salespeople could ever get in contact with him– emails were ignored, calls went to voicemail and were never returned, etc. He never reached out to them to give them any sort of direction, so the salespeople were blindly trying to generate new business. To make matters worse, all of the salespeople were recent graduates who had never worked a sales job before. My colleague and I spent a lot of time helping them track down and follow leads.

    The only reason we knew the VP of Sales was even a real person was because he showed up at a quarterly all-hands meetings to inform the company that we had no new business and it was all the fault of the salespeople. My aforementioned colleague actually found him on Facebook (his profile was public) and we watched as he would post picture after picture of his nice vacations, gorgeous house, and luxury cars. We later found out that this VP was personal friends of the CEO and that’s how he’d gotten the job.

    Eventually the company was acquired and both the CEO and the VP of Sales were fired for doing literally nothing for the past 5 years.

  41. Alice*

    Back in college I did this internship with a small marketing company. It was just the owner, his one full time employee, and four interns. Anyway, one of my tasks was to interview potential web designers over the phone. I only worked there one day a week, and one of the web design candidates absolutely couldn’t interview that day. So I emailed with the boss and told him that I could absolutely could phone him from school, a coffee shop, or a library on another day . I got an all-caps, four paragraph email response from him ranting that remote working was “forbidden.” I still wouldn’t even consider a fifteen minute phone conversation remote working, but that was his perspective.

    I found it odd that he even had an office, considering that no one spoke to each other ever. Literally, my boss would email me my daily tasks as he felt face-to-face conversation was “unproductive.”

  42. K B*

    My fortune 500 company has restricted WFH policies (we expect in reaction to Yahoo’s policy). For those of us who can WFH, we have to have a valid reason, talk to our manager about it beforehand, and log the time in our timesheets. Repeated telecommuting will raise a flag with management.

    I’m okay with that policy for the most part. I wouldn’t say I’m less productive when I’m WFH, but I’m definitely more restricted. I have dual monitors at home, but our VPN is restricted to 1 monitor. I’d have to bring my laptop home, buy several special cables, unplug my desktop, plug everything into the laptop, and redo all of that when I’m done. It’s too much of a hassle. Most of my daily work tasks are far more efficient with dual monitors.

  43. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    When telecommuting options were in their infancy at Wakeen’s, we had one employee who requested a day WFH per week after returning from maternity. Corporate PTB were against telecommuting at all, so it was going out on a limb to start allowing some WFH. So we said yes.

    What was happening that I didn’t know about:

    This employee was not working during her work from home day, she was out running errands like, getting her car washed. One of her jobs was to enter new items into the system for reps as they had orders for them or needed quotes. These items had to be entered immediately but what she did instead was trade on her friendships with reps (who weren’t allowed to work from home) to cover for the fact that she wasn’t working! She’d actually tell them, hey, I’m going to the car wash, the dry cleaners and have a play date today so if anything comes up (use this work around), but don’t tell anybody because I don’t want them to know I’m not in my home office.

    This cover up worked for: over a year

    It wasn’t until we laid her off during a down turn that all the stories spilled out (as in about 5 seconds after she left the building for good there was a line formed to tell us everything.)

    This very nearly killed working from home for anybody period ever again, but, it didn’t. It did put in place a “high trust level” policy which exists today. Nobody gets to work from home unless you’ve worked for us for awhile and have established trust that you aren’t going to take advantage and cheat your co-workers/make more work for them.

    1. LizNYC*

      I’m surprised this scheme worked out so well for so long, considering how many people were involved. Like, it was never brought up in casual conversation (I’ve got 5 orders for Joan. Oh, she’s not home now, so I’ll take care of them. But isn’t she supposed to be home?…).

      And I’m glad it didn’t ruin it for everyone else. There’s always one person…

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I was pretty pissed off that nobody ratted her out. Falls under “I don’t want to get anybody fired” but I don’t think the reps considered that they were allowing her to steal from the company. They’d bitch between each other about it but not escalate. (Which is a management problem, if you think about it.).

        I don’t think that would happen today. That was a culture defining moment and we’ve all worked on it.

        1. Melissa*

          That’s the thing I don’t get. I might not rat someone out if they aren’t affecting me, but I can’t understand a group of people who willingly took on more work to help this woman steal a full workday once a week for an entire year. If you’re so upset and grumbly about it, then why not tell her to stop at the very least?

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            But then line up to tell us about it almost seconds after she was out of the building?

            The only answer we could come up with is culture problem. We worked hard to fix it and I think we did. I hope!

  44. Dasha*

    No horror stories here and I actually like working from home, although, I only do it occasionally.

    I hate that one bad apple ruins the bunch in so many offices. :-/

    1. AMT*

      I agree. I don’t see why a lot of these stories ended in “…and then no one was ever allowed to telecommute.” Why not “…and then only certain people with proven track records could telecommute”? Or “…and then telecommuters’ productivity was measured more carefully”? Or “…and then the people who abused the system were no longer allowed to telecommute”?

  45. long time reader*

    Oh, does this strike a nerve. Our team is fully remote and communicates largely by group chat. We’ve been trying to implement some improvements to our work processes and some of that implementation has been a little rocky, but it seemed like we were all invested in this process and it was to a positive end.

    During this time, I had been experiencing some tension on chat with one colleague in particular (it can be so much harder to control tone 100%, all the time in chat than email!!), and I was working on that myself to understand what I was contributing to that. My boss raised that he noticed the tension, and I tried to explain where I thought it was coming from and proposed some ideas about what to do about it. Then, shortly thereafter, my boss came to me saying my colleague was threatening to quit over this tension and, basically, what’s my problem? (Oh, and also, maybe these problems are all due to us being over processed and all the work we were doing might BE the issue.) This colleague never approached me directly, my boss never responded to the suggestions I offered when he raised the question with me, it was just–what’s going on with *you*?

    So that line about seething resentment exploding really resonated. I’m still reeling from all of this. I’m really interested in figuring out good ways forward for everyone involved, so if anyone has any suggestions, please share!

    (Please let me know if this might find its way into the column, I may be able to anonymize the details better.)

  46. AnonForThis*

    Moved to remote office to be closer to a big partner to work on big project, actually with a desk in their building. Their people were good to work with, but our management teams could never agree on anything. Partner never did any work on big project, never delivered anything remotely approaching what they’d agreed to… Partnership has since fallen apart and now we’ve brought back all those projects in house. Still at partner’s building but working on in-house projects, occasionally seeing people from partner company, wondering what I do now.

      1. AnonForThis*

        Luckily they mostly ignore us or forget we are here! Our desks are in a different area from most of the people we worked with

  47. NoName*

    I took a job at a tech company in a city a few hours from where I live, with ample assurances that after a few months in the office full-time to get to know everyone and get settled in my duties, I could work a mostly remote schedule. Those few months were spent repeatedly hearing how important the “open door policies” were to getting things done, seeing that in action when I had to literally stand over people to get any kind of response to my projects and questions, hearing HR harangue staff for taking work from home days, and watching the organization’s handful of other remote employees struggle to call in or be heard during meetings. And again, this was a tech company.

    I’m not looking for remote work any more, but needless to say, I ask much more pointed questions about office culture during interviews now.

  48. Anomnomynous*

    My story isn’t exactly a horror story about telecommuting, more about how lack of clarity and structure can cause problems.

    Our company is notorious for not having clear policies, or changing things at the last minute, or not intervening when managers are violating company policy. We had a standard work from home policy (do it if you’re feeling sick but well enough to work, if you can’t get in to the office due to weather/car broken down, with occasional allowances for people who had family emergencies out of state). Recently that changed to SOMETHING, but there’s no clarity, so now we have multiple departments with different policies, and teams within the same department who can’t work from home at all versus teams who have scheduled remote time for specific work reasons.

    My individual story with this is that I have one colleague who also reports to my manager. She runs a team. She was out of the office and worked from home due a minor health issue that would make it dangerous for her to drive and make it very uncomfortable to be in the office. Despite most of her work being in person, she was allowed to work from home with no issues. I have a couple of minor recurring health issues that can be very uncomfortable, but are usually fine if I don’t need to move (driving would also be quite dangerous with these, though). The day after she worked from home, I also sent in my information saying that I needed to be out of the office that day, but would be available; I don’t manage a team and 90% of my work is either done over email or independently. My supervisor said, “You can work from home for the morning, but if you can’t come in, take time off this afternoon. Deal?” I have a solid track record of being productive at home, including working remotely for a while due to personal reasons, yet somehow it wasn’t acceptable that day. I ended up taking a mandatory afternoon off and decided to use it to apply to companies where I might actually understand what my expectations are.

    The kicker? People who are sick aren’t allowed to work from home; we’re now expected to either be in the office or work from home. But heaven forbid your car breaks down – working from home then is totally fine. Our company also has a couple dozen remote employees who have never even been to our central office, but they work from home all the time. People who function in the same roles in the main office are required to work from the office, no exceptions.

    1. Anomnomynous*

      Sorry, at the end, after the kicker, it should say, “we’re now expected to either be in the office or take vacation.”

      1. Account exec*

        Does your office not give you sick days to use? If they do, I have to agree with their policy – if you are so sick you can’t come in, you are too sick to be productive at home. Sure there are some exceptions such as pink eye (highly contagious, but not debilitating). Letting people WFH while sick will create abuse of that policy.

    2. Karowen*

      I feel like I would develop chronic car problems…I mean, you said it yourself, your car is unsafe to drive when you’re feeling sick.

  49. Ad Astra*

    Work/life balance at Old Job went down the toilet when they switched me from a desktop to a laptop. In my case, it really helped the rest of my office become dependent on me. I taught everyone how to do some basic things so they could get by on the weekends, but I couldn’t get rid of the expectation that I would be available 24/7.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I have a company laptop and cell phone but luckily the company culture supports a healthy work/life balance. We work in human services and we deal with a lot of crises, but we’re not expected to be available outside of business hours. My 1:1 meetings with my supervisor are focused in large part on learning to compartmentalize and avoid burnout.

  50. Anonymusketeer*

    I have to assume people who prefer to work from home have much nicer homes than I do, with more reliable wifi. Only in very deep snow would I choose to work remotely instead of going into the office.

  51. processimprovement*

    There is a lot of flexibility in our office to work from home. I do once a week, as do most of my co-workers. In general there is no abuse.
    I conduct a lot of internal training on process and procedure (I know YAWN), in an effort to make the training classes more lively and fun, I give personal and professional examples to help them see the value in following the process. I encourage them to give examples too. In one class I obviously got too chummy with my students, on a break the topic of working from home came up, and one student said she does it all the time. Usually taking that time to do mandatory on-line training. Then she admitted to starting the training module, and just let it run, leaving her free to do other things! I was shocked someone would be so brazen… you are telling this story to the TRAINER, that you just met 2 days ago!

  52. Jake*

    Our set up is such that our project team works on site and the senior project manager works remotely, be that from his office at the corporate office or out of a field office that he is visiting.

    On my first project with this company the arrangement was annoying, but manageable. The senior PM was able to ignore issues that typically wouldn’t be ignorable when on site, which caused issues from time to time, but for the most part things went well.

    On the second project… wow. The senior PMs (this was a joint venture between two companies, each having a senior PM) were completely uninvolved. So much so that we had deliverables hinging on their input get into the 100’s of days late type of late with no explanation to the client beyond “sorry, its in corporate’s hands”. Both of those senior PMs have since been replaced, but the damage with the client is so severe that there is no correcting it. Now we’ve got a project that has about 8 months left where the client (rightfully) has no trust in us. One of the replacement senior PMs now plans on spending about two thirds of his time on site, which would have solved

    I guess this is just a different angle of how telecommuting can go horrifically wrong. Not that I was ever for or against telecommuting before, but after this, I’ll never work for a remote boss ever again.

    1. Jake*

      Oops forgot a key part that makes this whole thing relevant. The first sentence should say, “Our set up is such that our project team works on site and the senior project manager works remotely, be that from his office at the corporate office, out of his home or out of a field office that he is visiting.”

  53. Anon for This*

    Not a WFH horror story, but: At Old Job, a person supporting the events coordinator was hard to find everyday after lunch, like 2:30 on. It came out that for *at least* six months, she’d been arranging her chair to look like she’d “just stepped away” and fixed her computer monitor to always stay on (it going to sleep would have been a dead giveaway), and she’d go home early — like 3-4 hours early. And at first, she only chose days when her events coordinator boss was out of the office. Then she got greedy.

    1. zora*

      GAH! Now that I’m reading these I remember that I hate hearing about people like this when I’m un/underemployed. How do so many people get paid for doing literally nothing? Everyone is the worst.

    2. JenGray*

      At my old job we had an events coordinator who wouldn’t communicate with me who was supposed to be supporting her. And she was new on the job so actually knew nothing about our organization. It was sort of a perfect storm situation. She was hired right as one supervisor was retiring and another was hired. She actually lied to the new supervisor about what the old supervisor had told her about working from home. I of course found this all out later after I called her our on her behavior- which new supervisor & her actually blamed on me. Which is one of many reasons why I don’t work there anymore.

  54. manomanon*

    My last job had work from home as needed, kids were sick, pipe was broken etc. and some people were really great about it. Others, like my manager, were theoretically working but were completely unresponsive and MIA all day. This was problematic enough when I had things I needed to discuss/get approved etc but more than one occasion he no-showed for conference calls with donors and board members which led to our deputy director screaming at me for my boss missing things.
    Of the many things I have trouble with following that job teleworking is one of the biggest.

  55. A Jane*

    A previous manager worked from home on Fridays, and I hated it. He had the awful habit of gchatting me about incoming emails and asking me for the status as I was typing the status. It was incredibly frustrating because I didn’t even have a chance to respond or do any investigation. Thinking about it now, I realized it was symptom of an organization where people tended to escalate issues far too quickly.

  56. Alex*

    We actually just formalized a WFH policy (1 day per week, at your manager’s approval) even though there have been team members who WFH every day because they live in a city without an office, and in the past, we have been allowed to WFH on a case-by-case basis. The policy was just to formalize that and put some structure for across teams.

    I wouldn’t necessarily call this a horror story, but after it rolled out, one of the teams started working from home consistently (as they should) and my team got blocked by our dept head, who really couldn’t explain why they felt we shouldn’t WFH other than “reasons.” I think what was most frustrating about it was that our organization is usually REALLY good at trusting employees to try and fail instead of never allowing us to try at all. Our team still doesn’t WFH on a weekly basis, more on a case-by-case basis, but things have relaxed after our team discussed it with our dept head as a group.

  57. Kara*

    I don’t know that it’s a horror story, but it’s an annoyance.

    I work a 100% remote job, which I love. No issues there. I’ve been in this role for almost 3 years now and for the first 2 years I had a GREAT boss and grand-boss. We talked 3-4 times a day, they cc’d me on almost all emails, pulled me into meetings informationally just to keep me in the loop.

    Then at the beginning of this year we re-org’d and I got moved to a new boss. He is not used to working with remote teams at all. So now anytime new work comes in, he automatically hands it to the 2 guys down the hall from him instead of reaching out to me or my team. He forgets to invite us to calls, forgets to update us on things he and the other 2 guys are working on, doesn’t have a good handle on what we’re doing because he, essentially, forgets about us. Plus he’s one of those “I’ll do it myself faster” guys, so rather than take the time to hop on the phone or open a bridge and go over things, he just runs with them.

    This week has been hell on earth because he’s on vacation and has listed me as his backup while he’s gone. I’m getting inquiries about all kinds of things that the TEAM is supposed to be working, that I know nothing about and it’s making me insane. I’m trying to cover for him but it’s getting harder and harder as I’m having to say “John and I hadn’t had a chance to discuss that before he left.” or “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware of that project.” over and over again.

    I think there’s going to be a reckoning when he gets back and I’m not looking forward to it.

    1. EarlGrey*

      Yup, this. I’ve been asking for some time, “I’d like to get involved in other projects. What’s going on in the office that needs a hand?” Only to hear in a meeting six months later, “Thanks, in-house workers A and B for your help on the project!” Which I wouldn’t mind so much if it hadn’t been years of remote work on a large team of remote workers. I can’t help thinking how much those in-house staff must have been overwhelmed & pressed for time…

  58. FormerHigherEdManager*

    I worked for a university that was still fine-tuning a WFH policy. My manager lived in another state but had a vacation home in the state where the university was located. We would constantly hear from higher-ups, including the university president, about the critical urgency our work — yet, we never had anything to do. Our manager would blandly say that it just wasn’t a busy time for our department. We would often get to the office on time only to get an email from this manager hours later that she’d be “working from the cottage today.” And that would be all we’d hear.

  59. Vicki*

    I’ve often wondered about that “VPN” story from Yahoo!. I worked at Yahoo!. I often forgot to VPN in. I could interact with email without VPN. I could interact with co-workers by IM without VPN. I had work _on my laptop_ (which I had at home).

    Checking VPN to see if people are “working” when telecommuting is as bad as assuming they’re working n the office by counting “butts in chairs”.

    1. MaryMary*

      It depends. Without logging into VPN I can’t access any of our systems or shared documents. OldJob was really tight on security, I couldn’t even log on to my company laptop without entering a security code and logging into VPN. At CurrentJob, you might be able to get away with saying you spent a day working off VPN and communicating through email and phone (we don’t have IM, alas). Anything longer than that is pretty dubious.

      1. Green*

        But that poster worked at Yahoo!

        Also, same here. I don’t have to log into VPN for Outlook or Lync and have plenty of the documents I reference frequently on my desktop. So I could go weeks (or months) without logging in to VPN.

        1. ReanaZ*

          Yeah, I work from home reasonably frequently, and I couldn’t even get the VPN working for the first year or so I worked there. I’ve probably used it fewer than 5 times in the last 6 months. For most my team, ths might be a deal-breaker, but I manage basically all of our cloud systems and the times I need to access on-premise items is rare. Anyone monitoring my VPN use is going to have a very skewed perception of how much work I do.

    2. Marcela*

      Exactly. Or at least that’s how it’s for me. I work _always_ in my own computer: I have a copy of the code and the exact environment it’s going to run. Only after the code has been tested and retested, I needed to connect to the VPN to access the server and “install” it. Some weeks I could login to the server several times a day, while other times I didn’t need access for months. Checking my access to the VPN would not say a thing about what I did.

    3. Windchime*

      I can’t do any work at all without being on the VPN. Because I work for a medical facility, I need to be logged in to work with the database (which is 95% of my job). So checking to see whether or not I’m logging in is a good way to see whether or not I’ve logged in, but that’s about it. I could easily log in and then do nothing for the rest of the day. My productivity would take a huge hit but I suppose I could do it. I like my work-at-home day, though, so I’ll just keep on working instead. :)

    4. poetry in motion*

      At my company, we simply can’t access the corporate intranet – email, chat, etc – without going through a VPN. It’s actually a pretty good policy: our security guidelines prohibit using external service providers for anything but the most ephemeral of tasks or data. So, yeah, we can’t use Dropbox – we have to develop our own internal version of Dropbox. Etc. But it makes perfect sense to me: if I’m running a business, I don’t want random strangers accessing my biz data, plans, financials, etc.

      Anyway – checking the VPN logs *would* work at my company. But they never do. But the Yahoo! story (about people just Not Working) has always shocked me. My company doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary to monitor employees to ensure they’re working. But if you simply stopped producing results – it would be noticed pretty damn quickly.

  60. MM*

    Several years ago I had a boss who really encouraged telecommuting. I worked from home half time but quickly realized I was being left out of meetings that I really should have attended. I have since adjusted my schedule so that I work from home part of the day and in the office the rest of the day.

    The real problem was the boss who chose to almost never work in the office. He was very responsive when we would email him with questions but he was not available for consults with other department heads. It wasn’t very long before our department was left out of the loop on big projects.

  61. Daily Reader but Anon for This Post*

    So I’ll start by saying that my boss, the owner of the company, prefers to work with employees who can manage their own time, don’t require any supervision, are honest about the hours they work (we don’t have a formal clock in system), and are basically self-sufficient. Dream world? Probably. I’ve been working for the company for almost 3 years, mostly in a remote capacity unless I have to meet with a client or my boss. In the time I’ve been here we’ve actually had to completely eliminate a position due to our telecommuting nightmare. The company had a B2B telemarketing role a couple years ago; it’s what I was originally hired to do. I was successful in the role, and moved on to other marketing and strategic planning tasks that took up most of my time, so we decided to hire a replacement.

    Our first replacement seemed like she would be a good fit. She had the experience and personality required for the position. Turns out she didn’t have the time management skills, and for as moral a front as she put up, we discovered that she was posting time sheets for hours she didn’t really work (we looked at the phone records to determine this). Around this time she kind of just stopped responding to our calls and emails, and eventually we considered her terminated due to absenteeism, and sent her an email to let her know her services were no longer needed.

    The hiring process began again. This time we hired someone who was looking for a second job, had remote work experience, and was in school for marketing, so she really seemed to have the background for the position. Sigh. We were fooled again. This person even went as far as to send out our marketing materials “requested by the potential clients” that she wasn’t actually calling. My non-confrontational, mostly hands-off boss set up a meeting to let her go. In a passive aggressive move, he told her that we were letting her go because we were moving in a different direction (even after I caught her in a lie during that meeting about the hours she said she worked that past week). Technically, that was correct, because we decided not to hire another remote telemarketer and have basically eliminated that type of outreach from our marketing plan. It wasn’t the real reason she was fired though.

    For me and my work style, my boss is awesome. I don’t personally require micro-managing to complete my projects, so I love the remote, hands-off approach that allows me to develop my skills and complete tasks on my own time. As long as I’m productive, and I am, he never says a negative word. However, for certain people that approach obviously doesn’t work – to the point where it wasted several months of time spent writing training manuals and developing a system for a position (not to mention the thousands of dollars wasted by paying employees to do nothing) that has now been eliminated because of telecommuting nightmares.

  62. harryv*

    One time we were on a conference call when we heard a grinding sound almost like a belt going back and forth rubbing against something. Everyone kind a gasped expecting the worse. It turned out one of our team leads was on a trainer (road bike) while on the bridge and forgot to go on mute!

  63. Anonsie*

    Where I work, we’re no longer allowed to work from home unless we have some specific issue (and even then, rarely) because of someone who was here before I even started. Legends say she gradually inched up her WFH time over some months until she was at home all the time. They looked into it after someone complained and found she wasn’t actually logging in at all, I have no idea how it was discovered but it turned out she was working a second job during the day and clocking her time in both places.

  64. Nancy Drew*

    I’m sorry this is so long. It was actually a very short job, thank goodness.

    My last WFH job was as a part-time contracted web developer/graphic designer for one of the Air Force agencies. I was seven months pregnant and had a toddler, so working from home seemed ideal at the time.

    My new boss seemed normal enough at first. We’ll call her Danielle. Our first working meeting was at a coffee shop. I watched Danielle drive up in a sleek black Saab. From what I could see through the car’s windshield, she was young and beautiful. As she stepped out of her Saab, I could see that she was very oddly dressed in a dumpy blue skirt two sizes too big for her, white tennis shoes and fold-over socks, and a striped button-down shirt. (It wasn’t necessarily bad, it was just something my 85-year-old grandma would’ve worn and very strange to see on a young woman.)

    We talked for the next 30 minutes and she promised to send me the new written content for the website redesign as soon as she got back to the office. On first impression, Danielle struck me as being very competent, if not well-dressed.

    Over the next few weeks I mostly did hundreds of graphic design “tweaks” (as she called them) that Danielle sent as I waited for the promised content. I originally offered to do a mock-up that she could approve, but she said she felt more comfortable sending me emails with her tweaks as she thought of them.

    One day Danielle requested that I come to her office for a meeting. I was confused, as she still hadn’t sent me written content for the website or anything to meet about, but I went anyway because it was billable. She took me first into her co-worker’s office, introduced me to him, then proceeded to flirt with him outrageously for the next twenty minutes like I wasn’t even there at the door. She was rubbing his shoulders, hugging him, running her hands up and down his arms and cooing. I was so uncomfortable—I don’t know why I didn’t just walk out. Oh wait, yes I do. It was a secure area and I had to be within Danielle’s line of sight the entire time or risk being arrested by MPs.

    When she finally finished with him, we went on to meet some random office people—by “random” I mean women whom Danielle didn’t bother to stop for, she just simply called out their names as we passed on our way to the office of the next male co-worker. This one did not get the shoulder massage, thank god, she only flirted with him for ten minutes and touched his arms.

    We proceeded to the office of the third and final man, the real reason Danielle asked me there, she said—to the technical writer. He obviously had no idea we were coming, but was polite. Putting two and two together, I asked, “Oh, are you the person I’m to receive the written content from?” No, he said, he was on a different project. The uncomfortable silence that followed indicated that both he and I had simultaneously realized there was no purpose to our meeting.

    On my way out, I told Danielle that I really couldn’t proceed much further on the website until I received the written content from her. She assured me I would have it.

    The next day, I got an odd email from Danielle asking me to write a letter to her boss explaining why an Access database would be a better application to use than an Excel spreadsheet.

    “Uh…an application for what?” I asked. It turned out that Danielle wanted an Access database to keep track of trainee information, and she wanted me to create it. That sounded reasonable (and I needed the money), so I wrote the letter.

    Danielle left on vacation for a week, and I didn’t hear anything about it until I got a strange email from someone named Shelby. Shelby said that she worked with Danielle and was part of the project which I had written the letter for. She wanted to show me the data for the project, and could I come back to the office?

    Shelby took me to her office, and opened a spreadsheet on her computer. On it were the names, addresses, etc. of around 50 people. This was what they were currently using to keep track of student information, she said, and it worked very well. She said she didn’t understand why I thought we needed an Access database for this. I privately agreed (I mean, why create a database for 50 people? I was expecting at least a thousand.) but told her that she should take it up with Danielle.

    When Danielle came back from vacation, I explained to her what had happened. She became livid, and said that Shelby must’ve taken my email address from the letter so that she could talk to me behind her back, and that Shelby’s spreadsheet was “completely ridiculous”.

    So, at this point I was STILL waiting for the written content to add to the website. It was then that my husband got rear-ended at a stoplight and was badly injured. He couldn’t walk unsupported, and by then I was eight months pregnant and unable to lift him. I wasn’t sure if I could commit to finishing the website considering our uncertain future, so I emailed Danielle to explain the situation and tell her that she should start looking for another developer.
    She was very sympathetic at first, and said that she was willing to wait for me. I told her that I had no idea how long it would be—it could be months. She said that we could try it and see, then asked if my husband would be able to go to work with his injuries. I could work on it a little at a time, she said. I finally agreed, saying that I probably could not accomplish any work on the website, but if she wanted to wait a few months, then we could see.

    So, in the next few weeks she emails me the written content and a couple of inquiries about my progress, and I tell her that I have not worked on the website. Shortly thereafter (a month after my husband’s accident), I receive a surprise phone call from her, and she tells me that she is “very disappointed” in my work and that she “trusted” me.

    I was actually professional and told that I was sorry to hear that, but that she should look for another developer. In hindsight, I really really regret that I didn’t tell her what I thought of her in graphic detail. That experience killed my desire to work from home as a contractor.

    1. Steve G*

      She sounds like a hot mess, but how was the Access thing even a project? You can upload data from excel and make it into a “database” in like 5 minutes. I guess making a user form to enter new data would take a bit, but only an hour. I guess Danielle didn’t know that?

      1. Nancy Drew*

        I wondered that too. I think the Danielle’s “project” was actually to undermine Shelby. I left out Shelby’s appearance, because I didn’t want to be a meangirl–she was also very attractive, and wore a skin tight dress with a level of cleavage that would be inappropriate anywhere other than Hooter’s. I suspect those two were in competition over a lot of things…

    2. Alice*

      She “trusted” you? What was she, 12? This is my favorite post so far, although I’m sure it was infuriating at the time.

  65. Elizabeth*

    My worst experience with a remote worker wasn’t a colleague. It was the vendor support for a new software installation.

    A few weeks before our project started, H. found out that she was pregnant with her 3rd child. The younger of her older children was 14, and she was considered advanced maternal age. She also had 4 dogs and did rescue work.

    Every week, we had conference calls. We would hear all any number of dogs barking and whining on the phone, as she couldn’t bear to put them in the back yard while on the call, and she couldn’t possibly do the call not on speaker phone. Once in a while, she would take the speaker phone into the bathroom with her while she threw up from morning sickness.

    Very shortly, she found out that the pregnancy was high risk, and she had to have weekly doctors’ appointments, so she wasn’t available for one day a week. Only she was billing us for work on that day, almost every week.

    When summer came and the kids were out of school, when we could get her to answer her phone, we would hear teenagers and dogs in a cacophony behind her.

    After the baby was born (the project implementation had been delayed 4 times, largely because of her unresponsiveness & inavailability), we would be treated to the baby screaming, the older teenager yelling, her husband yelling and all of the dogs barking & whining in the background.

    She got pulled from the project once at our request, only to be returned to it when the company figured out that she was the only one who knew the system well enough to be able to implement it. We were only the 3rd customer to have ever purchased the software, so we were stuck.

    The whole thing left us with such bad feelings that we waited for 10 years to do major upgrades to the system, and even then we looked at all of the competitors before agreeing to the upgrade. I specifically requested that she not be assigned to us, because I found out that she is still with the company & still working from home, still doing dog rescue. She actually requested that she be assigned to our account when she heard we were upgrading, despite knowing we all hated her!

    1. TheLazyB*

      Hey, you’re considered advanced maternal age when you’re 35. I was when I had my first child.

  66. Hashtag*

    I’ve been working from home for about seven years, and nothing has ever topped this.

    I have a very obnoxious cat. She was very interested in my conference call, trying to climb on my laptop, meowing into my (muted) headset, and generally being an annoyingly lovable cat. My boss sends me an IM: “What do you think of this training?” My cat chose this moment to walk across my keyboard – most specifically on the P, O, and Enter keys. She sent the word POOP to my boss, and stepped on the Wi-Fi off button, immediately disconnecting me. I wanted to cry. Thankfully my boss had a great sense of humor, and more importantly, we both agreed with my cat’s assessment of the training.

    1. EarlGrey*

      That’s amazing. Points for kitty honesty! Definitely tops my cat sticking herself in front of the webcam during a presentation (internal only thankfully, I learned my lesson to lock her out if I ever had to webcam with a client).

    2. Peep*

      Aww, that’s adorable! If a little terrifying in the moment. ;D I’m glad your boss had a great sense of humor, haha.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I had a cat – and I miss him so, who would “give you a hug” anytime he thought you were depressed.

      I was “telecommuting” and doing a walkthrough-presentation, he decided halfway through to jump on me and give me a hug — I had a momentary delay, then decided – what the heck, turn on the camera so they could see what’s going on..

      It elicited a good laugh…

    4. catsAreCool*


      I have a cat who sometimes cries (she wants attention) when I’m on the phone, especially if I’m on speaker phone.

  67. A Kate*

    I was asked to work from home on the second day of an internship. My first reaction was obviously, “what kind of a crap internship is this??!” Turns out they were laying off 1/3 of their staff, so yeah, probably that would have been awkward to witness in person on my second day. Ultimately, the internship was surprisingly good.

  68. Josephiny*

    I was a WFH employee for 10+ years. I recently returned to an office (not by choice).

    There are many, many pros…….and contrary to,what a lot of folks believe, many cons.

    I truly enjoyed the freedom WFH allowed me. I could run errands, attend to Drs. Visits, school events, go the gym etc. The KEY being that my bosses had a very open policy of not caring about strict work times and they were also very family oriented. They also expected results, which I delivered extremely well.

    The cons for me were the isolation. I swear I never left the house to “do” anything. Weekend I wanted to get out, hubby wanted to chill in. I also had babies during this time which kept me closer to home during non-work hours and I felt like a her it. I was also often left off of important meeting, calls and discussions just because I was out of sight, out of mind. I never got to head up projects, or get promoted to other duties departments (they liked to rotate staff on projects yearly for experience), etc.

    The biggest con……I was one of the easiest employees to get laid off during our corporate massive restructuring!! I actually got the initial call via “text”. I had heard rumors of I,pending changes through 1 or 2 employees I was friends with but I truly had no idea of the depth of what was happening internally as I wasn’t privy to “water cooler” and “insider” talk.

    I could make a whole list of pros and cons. But rarely having room for promotion, new job duties and the fact that you are out of sight, out of mind will cause the most horrific stories

    On a lighter note, my cat spilled a glass of water on my laptop and shorted the whole thing out! I had to explain that to my boss and our IT department as the reason I had to get a new one!

  69. msmanager*

    One employee in our office of 15 is allowed to work from home. She was going to quit, and WFH was offered to get her to stay with the company. No other employee is allowed to WFH (even if they too threaten to quit). It’s cause a lot of tension, to say the least.

  70. Julie*

    I once had a boss who only worked from home, as in she worked from home every single day. I did not see her face during my last two years at the company. And this was a hands on boss who liked to have control over our small team and micromanaged everyone. Needless to say this caused a lot of turnover.

  71. poetry in motion*

    I’ve been WFH for 10+ years, and I like it a lot. No real “horror story”, except that my job and certain policies have changed, and (probably) starting next year I’ll have to begin going into the office at 2-5 days a week. It probably won’t be bad for me to get out more, meet real people, etc. My only regret is that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into my home workstation, and it’s gotten to where I really, really love it a lot – I’ve got a MacBookPro and a Lenovo notebook mounted on Ergotron swingarms, plus all kinds of other displays and peripherals. But it’s pretty seriously not something I’ll be able to take into the office with me :(

  72. Nutcase*

    Some of my coworkers refer to my WFH day as my day off which really irks me. One actually asked me today after my WFH day, patronisingly, if I “actually did any work yesterday” clearly not expecting me to have done anything. I actually really value my days away from the office because I get so much more work done than I do at the office but I do worry about how I’m perceived sometimes.

  73. AT*

    I reckon this warrants reposting from a comment I put up some months back – it’s relevant to the discussion now!

    Yay for teams assembled by an uninvolved person also working from home…

    Some years back in an email discussion group. I’ll call the participants A, B, C and D – a fairly new group who hadn’t known each other long. A is leading the discussion on how to organize a particular collaboration, and B keeps dropping in with comments like “oh, I can’t make that day, I have a meeting with my agent” and “no, I’ve got rehearsals that day” and “oh, I’ve been too busy learning my lines lately, that’s why I haven’t done that”. C is frustrated because she’s in a different timezone and is having enough trouble making the times as it is, but remains polite and tries to make it work. A continues making suggestions. D is mostly quiet, but drops in the odd “oh, that’s OK, B – we all know it’s important to you, I don’t think anyone would want to ruin it for you by making you miss anything for this”. Eventually, B goes “well, it’s not my fault I’ve got talent! It’s not fair – I always have so many people asking for me that I can’t make time for all of them!”. C silently facepalms, A tries to hastily steer the conversation back on track with another suggestion of a schedule, and D says “I know, B, you’re such an amazing actress, I’m so jealous of you!” Now here’s the kicker…wait for it…a few messages later, D sends an e-mail from B’s location. It turned out they were one and the same person. o_O

    1. AT*


      Since then, from what I’ve heard, she was for a while accepted into a very prestigious martial arts school (“sorry if I’m typing slowly, I nearly cut two fingers off with a dagger today” and “wow, I’m so tired this evening – bo staff fighting on horseback really takes it out of you!”), was getting a second PhD (I don’t even know which subject) and is now battling cancer while working 15 hours shifts to support her poverty-stricken family. Or something.

  74. dansette*

    I work in the public sector in the UK where it is common for parents to be given working from home rights. At my workplace when people return from maternity leave they are usually given 2-3 days WFH per week so that they can look after their babies. These people are largely uncontactable and do not appear to do any work but any questions about how much work they can do with a small child to care for at the same time are met with “but we have to be seen to be family friendly”. I do not understand why my employer pays people to look after their children. The right to WFH never goes away so there are people with now adult children who still WFH (ie get paid for more days than they are actually working).

    1. TheLazyB*

      Really?! I wonder if that’s location specific. I’m in the north east, have always worked in the public sector and have never heard of parents telecommuting, unless it was available for other staff too.

  75. JenGray*

    I have two stories from my previous job.

    My supervisor who was a very wonderful person would always work from home even though it wasn’t really allowed. When I first started there she would show up at the office at 11am with the excuse of she was on the phone or working on a grant. She said that it was easier for her to write at home (grants, reports, etc.) because it was quieter than the office. But it go to the point where she actually was make herself sick so that she could be at home- she had a knee replacement which 3 years after surgery was suddenly causing her so much pain that she couldn’t sit for long periods. Yes, I know that knee replacement can go bad but the dr. that did the knee replacement told her that there was nothing wrong with it yet she still used it as an excuse. Right before she “retired” (I think she was forced out) it got so bad that you would go to her house at like 2pm and she would still be in her pajamas.

    A coworker of mine supervised staff that was out in the field the majority of the time. One day she allowed one of the field staff to work from home doing some planning for her work in the field. Well, halfway through the day I was updating the company facebook page and happened to notice that this person was posting to facebook from Idaho. We are located in Montana. Apparently, working from home to her meant going to Idaho. She was probably a good 3 hours from us. Needless to say she didn’t get fired for this incident. My coworker didn’t even write her up and because of the way my coworker handled this situation the employee continued to take advantage until she finally quit. This situation was mostly the result of bad management on the part of my coworker.

  76. Anon Because Reasons*

    Horror Story #1
    I’d landed what I thought was my dream job. I was working for a non-profit on their product team, making software products for people doing good work. They seemed to explain the job well, so while some of my duties were up in the air, it seemed like it was a mix of all my best qualities and a super smart team of people. The interviews were 100% online audio and phone, not even a face to face call on Skype.

    After receiving my offer letter and accepting the job I got another offer letter stating “oops, we messed up the numbers, here is your lower salary”. I can’t imagine that would have ever happened in person without an immediate conversation with HR and a correction back to the original salary. Only, I had no idea who HR was yet or how to reach them or anyone higher up than the one person I was dealing with. It should have been a sign, but boy what a great cause it was.

    The next two weeks of my life were horrible and the full duration of the remote job.

    I didn’t get my computer until more than a week into the job. I think because the person who quit before me hadn’t mailed it back to the company. I had to use my 4 year old PC in the meantime. We were all supposed to be available 9-5 ish, but my first week on the job my boss was NEVER on IM and didn’t pick up the phone or respond to emails. One day he said he was sick and slept through his alarm. On the morning he was supposed to prep me for a phone call with the CEO he said he got a bagel and took his GF to the airport and showed up online 5 minutes before the noon call. When the CEO said things like “I’m sure you guys have discussed this.” I just said over Skype, yes of course, as not to throw him under the bus. The first two days of the second week I had nothing to do and no one to communicate with. I did my best to research related topics, but had zero contact with anyone. A week and a half in I was told about the company chat rooms.

    That’s where I found out I had to attend a week long retreat. Next week. In a house full of co-ed strangers in bunk beds. Starting on Father’s Day. No it wasn’t optional, no I couldn’t keep my plans with my dad. The cause and all. And I’d have to drive ten hours back and forth to get there. I’d mentioned in my interview I was happy to be working from home because my previous job had me on the road 100+ days a year. In the interview they told me there was one retreat a year around a certain fall date, which made sense for the job. I’m assuming if I’d interviewed in person I could have picked up on body language around that lie, or if I were in an office people would have talked about the retreat as they did in the company chat.

    A week after the big meeting (and after several conversations about the project) with the CEO outlining plans and duties and deadlines, I FINALLY got this guy on IM (not even on the phone or Skype) and said, “You know I’m worried about this deadline. I still don’t have the materials I need that you were going to provide, we haven’t had time to talk and work this out.” He replied, “What deadline?” I said, “The one we talked about on the phone with the CEO last week?” and he replied….”Oh, I must have dropped off the call before that. You should have told me.” He didn’t drop off the call, but certainly used that as an excuse more than once in the two weeks when he forgot to do things. I did tell him over email, too.

    I knew at that point I had to quit (well, really on day 3, but I gave it a chance, because the cause). Only, I had to write THREE resignation letters instead of having one conversation with HR or the CEO. I had to beg them to take me off their books before the insurance kicked in and before I lost my cobra coverage, emailing admins and HR and bosses instead of being able to walk out a door and make it clear and final.

    I just looked in my google docs, and over a year later I still have access to all their employee contact info. Have I asked to before removed off the shared doc? Of course I have.

    Horror Story #2
    At another job I wasn’t remote, but two or three members of my team were, depending on the week. They all lived in the same city about 1.5 hours from the main office. The boss started holding in person team meetings out there, and not inviting me. I only found out after a couple of months because the intern let it slip. It wasn’t an oversight, it was clearly intentional as the intern seemed mortified that he’d told me. Then in my review my boss noted how I didn’t really seem like I was part of the team.

  77. SoAndSo*

    My horror story isn’t so horrible compared to others, but here goes.

    I somehow managed to land a great job after temping for about two months. Normally jobs in this sector require some kind of apprenticeship–you can’t just walk into them like I did. That said, I do have a Masters degree so I’m qualified on everything except the experience, but there’s been such high turn over that I think they just went with me because I worked so hard and simply dove into everything I could.

    I worked well with most of my office (the secretary hates me because I’m more than half her age and seemed to easily pick this job up) and had a great relationship with my boss even though she was rarely around. My coworker and I were always expected to be in the office. We never thought anything of this situation. She wasn’t usually working from home, but she claimed to stay well past our normal closing time most days so we overlooked it. We weren’t given the option of working from home at all, even during the crazy winters here in the Northeast. She would even send us text messages about issues while the college was closed for the holidays so they could be addressed immediately.

    The spring term comes around and suddenly she has a billion and one problems with her plumbing at home. Problems that require her to work from home most days of the week and send us pictures of the work that’s being done (this only happened a few times). We didn’t think anything of it because we were really friendly with her. This went on for maybe three months where she’d be out for a whole week each month.

    Fast forward to summer and she drops the bomb on us that she’s leaving to go work at another college in the area. We were both blindsided. My boss gave a lot of notice and wanted to be a part of the hiring process for her replacement, but she was weirdly passive aggressive about the whole thing.

    It’s almost a year later and we now have an amazing boss who is steering our office in the right direction. It turns out that my old boss was barely doing any work, piling all the actual work on the two of us, and then taking the recognition for it all. She clearly didn’t treat us well either, but we somehow overlooked all that. My new boss now requires us to work from home at some point because we have big projects that demand all of our attention and we are constantly interrupted. Old boss tried to poach me to the new University too, in a position where I would be responsible for the part of my job that I hate the most.

  78. Vitriolic Vixen*

    There was one person who completely soured me on people working from home for all eternity (sorry). This was the dispatcher from my company who was responsible for employee travel arrangements. For some reason the company decided that working from home once or twice a week should be a perk for people at her level, whether or not it actually made sense for the specific job. She stranded more than one person by forgetting to turn on her forward before going to work at home, and since she was allowed to choose her days working from home, there were times when she’d be unavailable from Thursday night to Tuesday morning.

    So once, thanks to this person, I was stranded without an accomodation or travel in Anchorage. All commercial flights to my destination had been booked out for weeks, and the last plane to get me to where I was going was departing, so I had to decide if I was going to pay out of pocket to be on it, or pay for a hotel for the weekend and take the chance that the company would find a way to get me to the site rather than fire me come Monday. I was in tears as I phoned and phoned (until my phone card ran out) only to get her office machine; nobody knew how to get ahold of her, and of course no one else could help me.

    I wound up shelling out over a thousand dollars to get me to my rendez-vous… only to find out once I arrive that I would have to stay at a hotel until I could be picked up on Tuesday ($500 more). Monday rolls around, and I learn that because all the commercial flights were booked, the company was forced to charter a flight for its arriving personnel. Because I had taken an alternate flight, it was decided I was not eligible for reimbursement. For any of it.

    Did not matter that she had known (but didn’t tell me) about the chartered plane ahead of time, nor that I’d tried checking in multiple times in the preceeding week and always got her machine. I was treated as if I’d had a choice and disregarded it, and as if I’d had her assistance at my disposal the entire time. It’s not as if she had taken the day off or anything, she was just working from home!

    This was the last season I worked for that company, in large part because every last person who had their transportation paid for, had the nerve to wonder (to me) why I was being such a cry baby.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      I don’t understand…she was “working from home” but had her out of office on? It doesn’t sounds like she was working from home if she wasn’t even checking her emails!

    2. Observer*

      That’s an awful story. But that’s not a good reason to sour on the whole concept. This is about someone who is simply being irresponsible, and a management structure that enables it. Do you really think that if she were forced to be in the office things would have gone much better? Let’s face it, she could have given you the information you needed, working at home or not. She just CHOSE not to.

      1. Vitriolic Vixen*

        In answer your question, in my specific situation, if she had been in the office during actual office hours that day, the other employees would have actually been able to locate her if she wasn’t at her desk. I was not calling at midnight. I was calling at a time during the day when I should’ve been able to get a hold of anyone I needed. I shouldn’t have gotten, “Well she is working from home today, so you need to try her office line again because she isn’t here.” As if her forward was going to magically turn itself on the next time I called.

        Years after I left the company, they finally allowed the person holding that position to have a cell phone for such emergencies, but at the time these were still moderately expensive and the company feared abuse. For security reasons, she was also limited in the work she could do at home. I agree that the management structure allowed for diminished accountability, but it wasn’t until they started getting left on the hook for these mistakes that they did anything about it. I paid the price for these inefficiencies, and so did everyone else who found themselves in a bind and unable to get ahold of the necessary person because that person was “working from home”. It was their job to be available and they weren’t, but none of this was enough for the company to re-examine its work from home policies, or make necessary updates to actually facilitate it.

        1. Observer*

          These guys sound like awful employers. Of course you shouldn’t have gotten such a stupid response. And of course, if you are going to allow people to work off-site, you need to have the technology in place. But, the reality is that what happened to you is not about the technology, or about wfh.

          Here are a couple of things that jump out at me. You say that you were told to keep trying her office line even though she had forgotten to turn on her forward / was not picking up the phone. If no one could be bothered to go turn on the forward (and even on old clunker systems, turning on the forwarding was not all that hard), do you rally think they would have gotten out of their seats to find her? I doubt it (btdt, though with less serious repercussions.) Alternatively, why didn’t someone give you her home number? The company surely had it. And, given that her phone was forwarding to her home number anyway, what’s the big deal?

          You also mention that no one did anything about the issues till they started being on the hook for her mistakes. That’s the key to this story – they don’t (or didn’t) care about their employees or ethical behavior, and didn’t understand (or care about) the repercussions of mis-treating “low” employees. That’s going to be a problem no matter what the wfh policies are.

          You are 100% right that if you allow people to work off-site, you need to have policies and the appropriate technology in place. And you need to think through whether any given role can actually be done off site given your structure. But when a company is so dysfunctional that a person can repeatedly be unreachable on days that she is supposed to be working, that she repeatedly falls down on the job, then that’s a problem, no matter where the person is working.

          To be honest your quotes around “working at home” also jumped out at me as well. I would have put the quotes there too, because I don’t believe she was actually working. What happened to you – especially since it happened to multiple people, is not “diminished” accountability. It’s NO accountability.

          Based on what you have described, I’d be willing to bet that there were many, many other issues with this place.

          I’m glad you found a better job!

  79. Molly*

    I work from home Wednesdays and Fridays. I’ve only ever run into two issues:

    1) People in the office ALWAYS forget to open the conference line (grrrrrrr)
    2) I actually kind of miss my coworkers (well, some of them)

    I don’t mind being isolated, and I certainly don’t mind commuting 3 days a week instead of 5. But as much as I hate to say it, there IS something in the argument that face to face conversations can uncover creative solutions more easily than email or chat conversations. The days I’m out of the office I get more lights-on work done, but the days I’m in the office are the days I find myself having *ideas*.

  80. a.dani*

    I telecommute FT- 5 days a week and it is very isolating. I feel as though I have lost touch with whats going on with my team. There are things you learn by simply being in the office in terms of politics and my office is very political. So I feel as though I am extremely disengaged as a result of not really being able to tell what is important and what really doesn’t matter. I find that I am not as passionate about my work now that I am at home all day with no one to talk with. My former team mates are super busy so I feel like a bother just calling them up to shoot the brease, but I miss that daily engagement of 5 or so mins of banter in the morning and random chat throughout the day. I am sure this set-up would be a dream for most, but now I am looking for another job bc I am not motivated/engaged/connected enough to give my best anymore. I still get my work done, but Im just not engaged and oddly enough my boss is too busy to notice. Also, my team tries there hardest to keep me connected, but they forget to update me on things that they decided on outside of a formal meeting.

  81. Chrissi*

    The government agency I work for “encourages” telecommuting because of an initiative at the department level that pushes worker-friendly policies. My boss hates it. I pretty much never work at home (most people do it 1x/week at least) because of something she did to me last year.

    I hadn’t asked to work at home in probably a year and I asked HER boss if I could because the gas company needed into my apartment. She (my boss) was out on vacation. I emailed him a list of what I was going to do as we’re supposed to and he agreed. When we’re working, we don’t have to be online to do our work (specifically the part I told him I’d be doing that day). So I worked all morning like that, and logged in for the afternoon to check email/do admin tasks. I didn’t get any emails to respond to that day (a Thursday). I submitted the work I’d done at home (plus from earlier in the week) the following Monday – it was obviously 3 or 4 days worth of work.

    Three weeks later, boss calls me into her office and says because I didn’t turn anything in on the day I worked at home and received no emails from me she went to IT and had them check my history for the morning (I think 9am to 11am or something) and I hadn’t logged in that day so she was charging me AWOL. I vehemently told her I had been working, explained that I hadn’t logged on until the afternoon (which has always been perfectly acceptable) because there was no need, pointed her to all the stuff I’d turned in, pointed out that there were no emails to respond to, and told her to go back to IT and check again. She didn’t believe me and told me so, but I think her boss made her do it. A few hours later I got a very curt email saying that IT had confirmed I was logged in from 1pm to 6:30pm. No confirmation she wasn’t charging me AWOL and certainly no apology. I’m still angry that she accused me of lying, was proven wrong, and I never even got an insincere apology.

    Ever since then I just don’t trust her to think I’m working because I think she thinks I got away w/ something. The very few times I have worked at home any relaxation I got from not commuting was completely negated by the stress of trying to “prove” that I was working. I would end up working a bunch of extra hours because I felt like I needed to turn in twice as much work as a normal day or she’d accuse me of not working again.

    I apparently needed to get that off of my chest. I know that my continued resistance to ever work at home, even when it would be best for me is a bit irrational, but I really internalized the lesson that I should pay attention to what she does, not what she says, and I can’t seem to make myself get over the insult. As you can imagine, there’s lots of stuff like that w/ her – if we had a good relationship, I could see it as a one-off, but it’s most definitely not.

  82. Michael*

    I work in Advancement for a nonprofit. Small staff that, from time to time, shifted some responsibilities around. I was thrilled to find out that we had received approval to hire a grant writer, as this part of my job had become a full time job all on its own. We end up hiring a friend of a senior staff member who had a great background and great track record.

    At first, all seems great. There are phone calls to discuss what we have done, what we are hoping to do, etc. Everything you would expect with onboarding a new employee. I put together some organization overviews, blurbs on specific programs, samples of what I had been submitting and financial paperwork required. Still all good.

    About a week after this person first started, I got an email from my boss asking for a huge amount of reports/financials that this person felt they needed in order to get started. Seemed excessive to me, but I didn’t push back too hard.

    A couple of weeks later, this person just goes silent. Not responding to emails or phone calls for several days. It turns out he had decided to take a week’s vacation but didn’t tell anyone. After this, my boss finally started to get uneasy too. She asked to see a couple of proposals that were due soon so they could work out some details. The guy said sure…and then delayed.

    Flash forward to a week later. We all get an email that just says something has come up, and he won’t be able to work with us anymore. We ask for the in process proposals, prospect research and other related documents so the new person we hire can keep it all moving forward. Fast forward another week to us getting poorly written proposals, a list of deadlines that had passed where nothing was submitted and a prospect list that was actually shorter than the one I had provided initially.

    Pretty sure I just witnessed someone scam a nonprofit out of several months worth of salary.

  83. Anon for this*

    I worked for the largest Telco in a country that is not America, quite probably the largest employer this country had at the time.

    I had a staff member that had been made redundant and then reassigned and was then shuffled about until he landed under me on an org chart. He was 1500km away in another city and while he worked in one of the company’s buildings we didn’t have any other team there, so for some things (HSE audits etc) he was under a local team leader, but for anything actual work based he was under me.

    He took all week to do the work one of my other staff could do in half a day. (This was a reporting position, with simple Excel reporting functions.) I was instructed to drop my staff numbers by exactly one. I talked to my other staff, confirmed his work could be automated to the point where his work would take TWO HOURS a week… bingo! That’s which role goes. Sad, but I can lose him, or lose the staff member who knows how to automate everyone’s work, or the one who in a half time job does literally the job of two FTE because she’s so on the ball and diligent.

    Well… so I flew down to see him, but couldn’t tell him why I was coming (or he’d just call in sick and not show up possibly?) after I’d negotiated with my boss a date that meant he could take the early leave package and go in the current tax / financial year (because he was eligible for a sizable payout that would affect his tax position), or take the late option and go in the following year. It was a generous move I thought… I HAD to give him the paperwork within a couple of days to pull that off for him.

    So I cornered my other team members the night before I flew out and explained. They were horrified that I was telling them, and I quickly explained that this staff member was volatile, that I didn’t know how he was going to react, that I was in a difficult position because I was going to have to spend two days in this other city organising this redundancy and that I wanted them to hear this from me so they wouldn’t wonder if they were facing the same from me when I returned (this was a time of mass layoffs).

    I flew down, met immediately in a meeting room with the staff member, explained what was happening, sat through his first call to his wife which was brutal (for me, and her, all of us), and then he rang and abused my other team members. Glad I’d told them what was happening. He was angry, combative, difficult. He wasn’t going to go quietly… fair enough, that’s the way this goes sometimes. He never calmed down, he took the long option for the next year’s financial tax break (which was my olive branch) and never returned a call or message from me again. He barely did his two hours a week of work and I just transferred it over to be duplicated so I didn’t have to stress about him/it/the situation. He was on his way out and I could technically try to sack him first but where was the point in it?

    After I flew home my team mates thanked me for the heads up, they’d been surprised at his vehemence, I was relieved I’d called the situation accurately… it was one of those “Should I? It’s not the norm… but my instinct says…” situations.

    One day after his official leaving from the company he had a major heart attack. My team mates and I looked him up in the local telephone directory (so we weren’t using company information after he’d left) and sent him a card. It seemed appropriate. It was just an all round awful situation.

    1. Anon for this*

      And I want to add… there was no easy answer to this. I HAD to reduce by one, I only had a team of three at the time, and he really wasn’t doing a full load, not even close, he was doing far less than my half timer.

      There’s never a winner in this. It is an awful job to do, but part of the role I had. I still remember it deeply close to ten years later.

  84. anonymouse*

    I had a boss once with two kids who WFH every Monday. I didn’t know back then that “WFH” meant she still needed childcare for her kids because she absolutely did not have it, you could hear the kids running around during conference calls and she would mute her phone and be unresponsive for several minutes as she tended to them. It became really obvious one day when her computer stopped working one Monday and she had to bring it to IT and carry the kids along because there was nobody else watching them. And I had to watch the toddler.
    For one project, I really needed peace and quiet for uninterrupted stretches to concentrate, so I asked if I could WFH for a couple of days to finish it. She didn’t let me. Said it would look bad and she needed me in the office, except that wasn’t the case at all. Turns out she just didn’t want the WFH option to get her any unwanted attention.

  85. ReanaZ*

    I mentioned upthread that I am not a great telecommuting employee. I make up for this by telecommuting only rarely and working extra hard when I’m in the office to make up for days I know I’ll be home (meet the handyman, etc.) and inevitably be a bit slack. I think it balances out and I’m overall a high performer.

    But I have one story where I was a particularly terrible telecommuting employee. I’m not proud of it, but… here it is.

    I was working for a nonprofit in the States where one of my benefits was they I could telecommute anywhere in the world for up to 4 weeks a year, although usually only in 2-week chunks. I had been in involved in a huuuuuuuge project that had be working outrageous hours–I pulled my first all-nighter in my entire life (including uni). Then a second one. Madness. I had also just been promoted to be 50%-time in another department I had unofficially been doing a lot of work for, which went into effect once I was back. So I negotiated a whole month away from the office, a mix of vacation and telecommuting, and took off to another country for a while.

    The major piece of work I had to accomplish while I was gone was skilling up for the promotion (which had tangible deliverables), along with a few things for my old department. I was actually being responsible and finding a good balance of getting work done and holiday… until the day I had my regular check-in with my boss. Whereupon he decided it was an appropriate time to tell me, in the most demoralizing way possible, that there had been some political maneuvering while I was gone and that he thought it best if I no longer sought the new promotion. When I said I was still very interested in taking it and pointed out I’d already officially accepted it (in writing), had been doing a lot of work for it, had had zero complaints about my work and excellent performance reviews, etc. (also, I had *bought a car* to take the position, which was required and I which I would not have done otherwise), he basically told me that he was being polite by asking me to step back from it but that they were taking it away regardless.

    I. Was. Livid. I was supposed to work the rest of that day, but I was so “Screw it” that I left the hotel immediately without any way of being contacted and went to an interactive zoo to play with baby native animals instead. Again, not proud of it, but somewhere in playing with tiny fuzzy things I snapped and decided if several years of perfect professionalism and high-quality, high-volume work output wasn’t sufficient in order to get advancement and basic respect from them, then screw it. I did literally no more work that entire month (granted, part of that was scheduled vacation but not all). I’m not even sure I responded regularly to emails. But I had a heck of a time traveling!

    The story has a happy ending, though. I came back sufficiently calmed down to wrap everything up and train a successor over the next few months. Then I put in my 2 weeks’ notice and moved to the country I had telecommuted from two weeks and one day later! I’ve been here nearly 3 years and have a great job at a wonderful nonprofit who’s sponsoring me for residency soon. And I make nearly double the money!

  86. Meghan Magee*

    So…it sounds like the majority of the problems stem from partial WFH. My entire team is home. All the other teams I work with are home. All the PMs are home. All the managers are home. No one is forgotten because we’re all remote all the time. So when people don’t work, they likely wouldn’t have worked in an office either because it’s just a management issue.

  87. Ham Sandwich*

    Not sure if this counts as a telecommuting horror story, but here goes.

    I typically work from home all month and go in to the office once a month. The “office” is my boss’s house. My boss tells me which day to drive in and I get there at a normal start time, say 9:00 AM.

    One day I drove in for my monthly “office” work day and when I arrived and opened the door, my boss was walking around his house in his underwear. Even though he told me to go to the office that day. Yeesh.

  88. Blynn*

    I have a different issue. I was approached by a company for an operations position. I was currently employed by a great company as a remote worker. Great benefits. Pay was ok. I was very interested in the new position. However, there was an hour commute each way. I explained that the company I currently worked for paid me roughly the same to work from home. The VP of the new company then tells me this is a work from home position as well. I accepted as I was wanting to shift my career in an operations direction. I have been with them for 6 months. I am only allowed to work from home a short period of time daily, I must come in to the office M-F and use my break/lunch for half my commute. I am getting no increase in pay over my agreed WAH rate. I am constantly having to fight to keep what meager portion of the arrangement that caused me to take the leap. I did read reviews on this company before making my decision. There should be recourse for companies who do this to people. This is costing me about $800 a month in childcare and transportation that I did not plan on based on the offer presented.

  89. SSS*

    I was on a conference call with a coworker that works across the country…. It was all going normally and suddenly from his side I hear a bloodcurdling female scream in the background, the sound of his headphones being dropped on a surface as he disappears to find out what happened… He came back a few moments later and anxiously said… ” I have to go, the snake has escaped.” And he logged off.

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